Moderator Refuses to Invoke Unifying Statute During Divisive Midway Congregational Meeting

With a large minority of opposition like on July 19, the BCO directs the moderator to push for unity…

During a divisive Congregational Meeting on July 19, 2020, the question before the church was whether or not to elect three currently serving Assistant Pastors to the office of Associate Pastor.

Despite persisting questions about the method of voting used, the recorded vote was 127 to 93 in favor of taking the proposed action. It was clear that there were strong beliefs on both sides of the issue. The constitution of the PCA (The Book of Church Order) has a statute in place for such an instance, the purpose of which is to maintain unity in a church body divided by a contentious pastoral election vote.

BCO 20-5 states:

On the election of a pastor, if it appears that a large minority of the voters are averse to the candidate who has received a majority of votes, and cannot be induced to concur in the call, the moderator shall endeavor to dissuade the majority from prosecuting it further; but if the electors be nearly or quite unanimous, or if the majority shall insist upon their right to call a pastor, the moderator shall proceed to draw a call in due form, and to have it subscribed by them, certifying at the same time in writing the number of those who do not concur in the call, and any facts of importance, all of which proceedings shall be laid before the Presbytery, together with the call.

A member read BCO 20-5 aloud to the congregation during the meeting after being recognized by the Moderator, Senior Pastor David Hall. Despite the circumstances fitting the intent of the BCO statute, the Moderator did not invoke BCO 20-5, stating that it did not apply.


Rather he stated that it was his “duty as a pastor” to implore the minority to stand and change their vote to comply with the majority. This action further divided the congregation. Readers may note that the Moderator was an author of a Standing Judicial Commission decision 92-4a which included the following statement “The admonition in BCO 20-5 is properly construed to apply only to Congregational Meetings for the election of Pastors.”

The divisive congregational meeting has resulted in at least two complaints to date. It is unclear whether the failure to invoke BCO 20-5 will force the vote to be declared invalid, resulting in the election of the Assistant Pastors to Associate Pastors to be recalled.

Readers may note that BCO 43-4 states that “Notice of complaint shall not have the effect of suspending the action against which the complaint is made, unless one-third (1/3) of the members present when the action was taken shall vote for its suspension, until the final decision in the higher court.”

Morton Smith however does interestingly recommend a salient exception regarding pastoral elections:

Suspension of the action complained against does not automatically take place. The court shall be asked whether the action is to be suspended until settled by the higher court. One third of those present may effect the suspension. A vote to suspend by members of the court does not mean that they agree with the complaint, but that they consider it would be better for the peace of the church that the matter be clarified before putting the action into effect.

For example, if the ordination of a minister was in question, due to the possibility that the complaint could result in the overturning of the this action of the presbytery, it would be better to wait for the decision of the higher court prior to going ahead with the ordination, which could later be withdrawn.

Time will tell whether the pastoral election in question will be overturned by the presbytery in the future. One could surmise in any case that the invoking of BCO 20-5 could have restored confidence in process and promoted unity among disagreeing members even if it delayed a future pastoral installation.

As it stands, it seems that the failure to invoke BCO 20-5 falls in line with the rushed nature of the entire election process this past July which has been a source of controversy among Midway members.