Midway Session Removes Elder’s Wife From Her Husband’s Side to Conduct Secret Trial

The transcript of the interaction is posted below…

In a sad chapter in Midway history, upon moving to conduct a secret trial in the case of RE Dudt, the Session forced even RE Dudt’s wife, Sue, to leave her husband’s side during the ordeal. This appears to be a complete disregard of the sanctity of marriage. In addition, the elder that made the motion for executive session cited in defense BCO chapters that have nothing to do with the ability of congregants, much less the accused’s wife, to attend a trial.

Those BCO paragraphs are quoted at the end of this article.

Moderator Hall: Is Mrs. Dudt an ordained elder on the Session?

Here is a partial transcript of the trial’s opening minutes. It contains the Session’s motion to enter executive session, first to remove the several dozen congregants who showed up to support RE Dudt. And then, Mrs. Dudt.

WARNING: This transcript may be disturbing to some readers.

RE Hawley: Mr. Moderator

Moderator Hall: Yes?

RE Hawley: I have a motion regarding executive session I’d like to present. I move that this phase of the trial continue to be held in executive session providing for the recording in accordance with BCO 35-7, limiting those in attendance to the current members of the Session including the prosecutor, representative of the accused, and one witness at a time when called to be questioned. Further that the judgment phase of the trial be limited to the qualified judges excluding the prosecutor, representative of the accused, and the accused. Is all of that in accordance with BCO 35-11 and 32-19, 31-11 and 32-14. I have a copy of that motion for the clerk. 

Moderator Hall: Is there a second for that motion?

RE Richardson: Second.

Moderator Hall: Discussion of that motion?

RE Dudt: Yes.

RE David: Go ahead.

RE Dudt: Mr. Moderator, as the defendant, court proceedings, I am gonna quote Gresham Machen: “Court proceedings ought to be open and above board. That right is accorded to the most degraded criminals under our civil laws, if men are deprived of it in church courts that means that the church is standing on a lower moral plain than the world at large. Religion will seem to many people to be little more than a delusion and a sham when it is made the cloak for tyranny such as this.”

RE Keesee: Call the question…

RE David: Mr. Moderator…

Moderator Hall: The question has been called, we will vote on that first then I’ll call on you. Is there…

RE David: There’s a point of order though.

Moderator Hall: Ok I’m sorry I didn’t know what that was.

RE David: We can’t take motions and take actions in executive session. If there is a dispute on anything, then that is an action that will have to be voted on by this body. That can’t happen in executive session. 

Moderator Hall: The chair understands that to be correct and there will be a time when you arise from executive session of course. That’s when you adopt the motion. The question has been called for, all in favor of calling for that question to go in executive session please say aye.

Majority votes “aye”

Moderator Hall: Votes opposed?

RE David & RE Dudt & others: “No.”

Moderator Hall: I will see a show of hands and Mr. Dudt you are not able to vote on this I am sorry. I let you speak and I am glad you did, thank you, it is always wonderful to hear from Gresham Machen. So all in favor of going into executive session raise your hand.

RE Wolff: David, point of order we should be voting on calling the question…

Moderator Hall: That is what we voting.

RE Wolff: Oh, I thought you said in favor of going into executive session. 

Moderator Hall: I’m sorry, of calling the question to go into executive session.

TE Harrington: Can I see the hands, I’m sorry.

Moderator Hall: It clearly has the 2/3rds, so now, now the question has been called for we will vote now of going into executive session. All in favor of now going into executive session please raise your hand. Opposed? That motion carries. To our kind guests, I have to thank you, but I have to dismiss you. Thank you for your interest, and do please keep your elders in prayer. So all who are not on the court, need to withdraw at this time.

RE David: Mr. Moderator, we will be coming in and out of executive session potentially. So do they have to leave, or can they wait for when we are not in executive session?

Moderator Hall: I believe the motion specified to remain in executive session through the testimony part…

RE David: You can’t remain in executive session if there’s going to be any rulings on an evidentiary matter, that’s a vote by a court and it cant be done in executive session.

Moderator Hall: I appreciate the point of order but it has to be overruled. Sorry. Would all who are not members of the court please withdraw at this time. Thank you. We appreciate your help and assistance.

RE Scott: Mr. Moderator, I’d like to make an exception for Mrs. Dudt that she be allowed to stay.

Moderator Hall: Ok. That was not in the motion. So, the motion has been called for and passed…

Deacon Crouse: That’s shameful David (Hall).

Moderator Hall: Brother…

Deacon Crouse: This is a secret trial! You should be ashamed of yourself. You need to be ashamed of yourself. Let her stay at least.

Moderator Hall: Mrs. Dudt I’m sorry I have to ask you to withdraw.

RE Dudt: If I were on trial… if I was on trail in a criminal court… I’d be allowed to… she’d be allowed to be here.

RE David: Just wait Phil, give me a second.

Moderator Hall: Let me review where we are, and you’ll close… yeah if you’d like to speak to this, let me clarify where I think we are. Again, you are welcome to overrule the moderator by a majority vote, but we have moved to go into executive session. The motion specifically excluded all who are not judges or potential judges and specified when that would end. Go ahead sir.

RE Dudt: I am on trial. Philip Dudt, is on trial, and goin to be excommunicated from this church. By extension, my wife, is also on trial. Thats why the Book of Church Order does not allow a spouse to testify against their spouse. She’s not allowed to… she can’t be forced to testify against me. I cannot be forced to testify against her. The Scriptures are clear that the two shall become one flesh. Two shall become one flesh. The Book of Church Order is clear on this, too. She has every right to be here.

Moderator Hall: I appreciate that point. Is Mrs. Dudt an ordained elder on the Session?

RE Dudt: Is Philip Dudt an ordained elder?

Moderator Hall: Yes you are.

RE Dudt: That’s my wife. Susan Dudt is my wife.  

Moderator Hall: The Moderator will rule, and I ask for your help, I ask for your assistance, I ask for your cooperation, to follow our rules, the majority has voted, and I believe our dear sister Dudt needs to withdraw, and I’d like to ask you to help us on that. Because the Session has ruled, and we have a lot of things we’d like to discuss tonight. Matters of substance, so if you would kindly assist us, that would help.

Sue Dudt: I took a wedding vow… 

Moderator Hall: I’m, I’m sorry, I…

Sue Dudt: …for better or worse…

Moderator Hall: I appreciate that, I’m sorry, but we just cannot…

Sue Dudt: …I don’t know what this is…but this is somewhere between for better for worse, or the extreme end of for worse. I need to stand by my husband. I took a vow to stand beside him in every area of life. He has stood beside me in every area of life. I beg the court to reconsider and make an exception and find a way that will release you from the decision that you just made about the other people who love Phil. They did not make a vow to Phil; he made a vow to them. I made a vow to my husband on March 28th, 1987, and I will not release myself from that vow to be beside him in everything. I will not. Please find a way. He is my husband. 

Moderator Hall: Is there a motion?

Sue Dudt: Someone please make a motion…

RE Barnett: Mr. Moderator is there any motion I can make that would allow Mrs. Dudt to stay?

Moderator Hall: I believe a motion to reconsider?

Sue Dudt: Thank you.

RE Barnett: I would make a motion to reconsider, and flesh it out, that would allow Mrs. Dudt to stay.

Moderator Hall: Motion has been made to reconsider, is there a second?

RE Scott: Second.

Moderator Hall: Any discussion of that?

RE Wolff: I would like to ask, that the issue in my mind is one of confidentiality. And Sue, I can support that motion, if you can take the same <incoherent> we take as Session members, not to talk to the congregation about what happens in executive session. If you could make that pledge to us, I could support your staying.   

Moderator Hall: The motion has been made to reconsider. I’ll ask your question on that. All in favor of reconsidering, say “aye”

others: “aye”

Moderator Hall: Opposed?

others: “No.”

Moderator Hall: Motion fails. 

Sue Dudt: I didn’t answer the question. 

Moderator Hall: Please do. You have plenty of time.

Sue Dudt: I… I will maintain that confidentiality. I can assure you of that. I don’t know if you know what I’ve done in my prior job at my university, but I was the Director of Student Conduct. I honor this process, and I will vow that I will not speak about what goes on in executive session. 

Moderator Hall: We have reconsidered the motion once… can’t reconsider again. Does anyone else have any better ideas?

RE Wolff: I didn’t vote the first time, can I make a motion to reconsider the reconsideration?

Moderator Hall: You can’t do that. You can only reconsider once.

Sue Dudt: And, may I say one more thing? Please ask yourself what each of your wives would want you to do.  

TE Harrington: I’ll make a motion, that she be dismissed, but that Phil gives us his assurance that he’ll speak only with Sue about what takes place in executive session. I don’t, I guess I… 

RE Dudt: The courts…

Moderator Hall: Could you say… Could you say what your motion is?

TE Harrington: I’m asking that Sue be dismissed but that Phil be allowed to speak to her privately about… 

Moderator Hall: informally… 

TE Harrington: …about the the proceedings.

Moderator Hall: Is there a second to that?

RE Scott: Second.

TE Harrington: I just want to take… I, I understand that you’re his soulmate, and he’s yours, and I think that this is an effort to help you in that area. I don’t want your opinion of what goes on tonight to be shaped for the rest of us who don’t necessarily agree with everything that has happened. I don’t want your opinion of us to be indelibly imprinted from this meeting. We’ve got a lot of history together, and ya know, I don’t have any ill will or any angry feelings. But I think there is a reason for executive session, and it’s not just that you would go somewhere else and tell other people, though we have a lot of that going on. But I do respect marriage and I do respect what a soulmate does, and for that reason I would be happy to concede that, but I’m not in favor of you being here because I think it would really would hurt your view of your elders, whether we deserve it or not. This is a very, very inflammatory, difficult situation, and I think that’s another reason why we go into executive session. 

Moderator Hall: If I understand the motion, the motion is to exclude Mrs. Dudt.

The BCO sections cited by RE Hawley are below, along with their content. As you can see, none mention executive session or excluding members from trials.

BCO 35-11:

A member of the court shall not be disqualified from sitting as a judge by having given testimony in the case, unless a party makes an objection, and the court subsequently determines that such member should be disqualified.

The elder against whom the objection has been made shall retain the right to vote in the determination of qualification. A member of the court who is the prosecutor in the case (BCO 31-2) is disqualified from sitting as a judge.

BCO 39-12:

No professional counsel shall be permitted as such to appear and plead in cases of process in any court; but an accused person may, if he desires it, be represented before the Session by any communing member of the same
particular church, or before any other court, by any member of that court. A member of the court so employed shall not be allowed to sit in judgment in the case.

BCO 31-11:

In the discussion of all questions arising in his own case, the accused shall exercise the rights of defendant only, not of judge.

BCO 32-14:

On all questions arising in the progress of a trial, the discussion shall first be between the parties; and when they have been heard, they may be required to withdraw from the court until the members deliberate upon and decide the point.