It has been 18 months since the decision was issued in 2019.
David Hall, at the end of Sunday’s lesson on the Westminster Confession of Faith, provided a few minutes of discussion to summarize the events of the recently held General Assembly. He took the opportunity to discuss the GA’s approval of Overture 18, which clarifies session discretion on when it can disqualify nominees to office. The revision states: “Notwithstanding the above, the Session may render a decision on Christian experience at any point in the process, and based on that decision, may judge him ineligible for that election.”
He noted that Midway had been involved in issues associated with this overture (go to ~48:15 in the video to listen). He then described the SJC’s ruling against the session and the Northwest GA Presbytery as a “slap on the wrist” about a “technicality.”
This is possibly the first time the senior pastor mentioned SJC Case 2019-03 in public to the congregation. Unfortunately, and the format of the venue may have been a limiting factor, but it was an incomplete presentation of the issue.
The SJC decision in 2019-03 explains that the Session pre-screened Deacon Crouse and disqualified him based on the results of that pre-screening.
The active deacon who filed the complaint was not told on what grounds he was disqualified.
First, the SJC explains that the Session did not examine the candidate, who was an active deacon in good standing at the time: “In adding a peremptory review process without providing the Complainant, an elected Deacon, the benefit of any examination, the Session erred.”
Second, the SJC explains that the Session did not reveal why they disqualified him: “At the hearing, neither party could identify any portion of the record in which the reason for the setting aside of the Complainant’s nomination were articulated. Further, the nominee contended (and the Presbytery did not refute the claim) that the Session did not communicate any rationale to the Complainant for setting aside his nomination at the time it did so.“
This issue has been addressed by the PCA before, much earlier in its history. Documented in the 1979 Minutes of the General Assembly (page 180) is a response to a question about the officer nomination process. The Committee on Judicial Business stated that “The Session does not have the authority to delete names of nominees prior to their examination.” In a response to a separate set of questions, the committee stated “that pursuant to BCO 25-1 all nominees shall be examined by the Session,” and that “Under BCO 25-1 names properly submitted for nomination cannot be ignored by the Session but ‘shall be examined’ by the Session.”
The SJC severely criticized the Session’s treatment towards their brother in Christ: “While BCO 24-1 does not specifically prescribe a process for such communication, fairness and equity suggest a Session should communicate the rationale for its action to remove a man from further consideration promptly and directly to the man.“
The revised wording proposed by Overture 18 at the 48th General Assembly apparently would not excuse the Session’s actions even if it had it been in effect in 2018. The minutes from the 1979 GA show 30 years of consistent interpretation regarding the nomination process.