Is it a conflict of interest when an ordained pastor whose call is in question presides over a meeting in which his call is the topic?
Second question: Is it a conflict of interest if this pastor also votes to dismiss a complaint against the circumstances of his call which challenge his installation?
Midway’s Session called a special meeting on July 28, 2020. Session minutes indicate that the purpose of this meeting was hearing the respective complaints against the Session which were in regard to the procedures occurring at the Congregational Meeting of July 19, 2020.
The specifics of the multiple hearings that occurred on July 28. 2020 are unknown, but the minutes reveal peculiarities worthy of noting. The stated purpose of the meeting was (according to the minutes) “hearing the respective complaints against the Session…in regard to the procedures occurring at the Congregational Meeting of July 19, 2020 called for the purpose of recommending to the congregation that the pastoral relations (BCO 22) of the existing Assistant Pastors, Marc Harrington, David Barry and Mic Knox, be changed to that of Associate Pastor.”
FAIRNESS, OR BENDING THE RULES?
This unto itself is not strange, but the minutes also record that “Pastor Hall stated that BCO 22-2 provides that associate pastors are voting members of the Session immediately upon their election to that office by the congregation” and “Pastor Hall yielded the chair to Rev. Harrington to serve as moderator of the meeting.”
One might find it strange that the moderator of the meeting was Assistant Pastor Marc Harrington – one of the men whose election was seemingly being questioned that night by multiple members of the congregation. It is unclear how Pastor Harrington could serve as the moderator of the hearings.
It is not known if the members presenting their complaints objected to this procedural action or not. Nor is it clear if Senior Pastor David Hall’s affirmation of the three other Teaching Elders as voters was proper or allowable under the PCA Book of Church Order.
The details of the hearing are unknown publicly outside of what appears in the minutes of the meeting. It would seem that the affirmation of these men, by the Senior Pastor, as voters prior to installation was a not-so-subtle message about his opinion of the complaints.
A second peculiarity also occurred. All three Assistant Pastors voted to dismiss the two complaints heard that night. Further, Pastor Marc Harrington was appointed as a responder “should the above Sessional actions be appealed” (referring to the dismissal of the complaints). All three Assistant Pastors voted again on this action.
THE VOTING DIDN’T STOP THERE
The Session minutes show yet another action taken that night. The minutes state: “A motion was made, seconded and passed unanimously to appoint Ruling Elders Garmon, Richardson and Whitaker as commissioners to the August 15, 2020 meeting of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery. Pastor Hall stated that a committee from the Northwest Georgia Presbytery would install Rev.’s Barry, Harrington and Knox as associate pastors at the evening worship service of August 2, 2020.”
These official church records beg the question as to whether or not the Session on the night of July 28, 2020 was improperly established. As the minutes themselves acknowledge, the three Assistant Pastors had not yet been installed as Associates. Despite this, they were permitted to preside over, vote in, and be appointed to represent the Session in future judicial actions on a matter for which their own election was the subject.