Rev. David Hall rewrites Psalm 51 in jest. Given the ironies of his behavior, it isn’t funny. It’s just sad.
As it has been 99 days without an apology from Senior Pastor Hall or his Session to RE Philip Dudt or to the members of the church for the false charges they schemed to form and brought against RE Dudt in a most prejudicial manner. The Editorial Board of The Midway Guardian points its readers toward the importance of repentance. It just so happens, that Senior Pastor David Hall’s first sermon after a controversial congregational vote to retain his call was on this very topic. As readers might surmise, the hypocrisy was so heavy that it is a miracle that the pulpit didn’t collapse under the weight of it.
In supposed reference to the many members of the church who were driven out, deleted, or are refusing to return after the vote to retain his call, Senior Pastor David Hall stated “…as we begin some new chapters as a church, this series, remember is not for the person who is not here, but for all of us who know we are sinners.”
Senior Pastor David Hall had an opportunity to begin to heal his church after a split. To model humility and repentance. He chose poorly.
The Hypocrisy of “Sinology”
Right after a most dramatic split of Midway Presbyterian Church (for the second time under his tenure as Senior Pastor), one might think that David Hall would take some time to reflect on how his leadership has contributed to these repeated shameful outcomes. His sermon began with him stating that “Most churches need a season of self examination. We are no exception.” How true. Especially on what he declared to be “renewal weekend” at Midway. Sadly, as the sermon on what he called “Sinology” demonstrated, it turned out to be a renewal farce.
David Hall continued regarding the confession of sins, “…we might even think of this sermon today, the first one in this series of several, to be like a website’s FAQ, frequently asked questions. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to find a church that posted such on its internet site although I don’t know that I’m quite that courageous.” Readers may find this admission humorous since, as the The Midway Guardian has reported in the past, that it was David Hall who praised the Westminster divines in his book for their willingness to publicly admit sin before the assembly. Consider the hypocrisy of a pastor who praises the divines for their willingness to confess sin saying “these divines were not afraid to confess their sins… Charles Herle was not afraid to admit the sins of the Assembly publicly and arranged a list of offenses of the Assembly in order to expedite confession.“ Those damaged by David Hall’s abusive ministry will likely be waiting a long time for such an FAQ from Midway. Thankfully, The Midway Guardian has documented Midway’s abuses of authority, the church courts, the civil law, and Christian charity – and will continue to do so.
David Hall preached, “…as we grow we can honestly face our own sin. This is not a series about the sins of others, so let us look at ourselves.” Good idea.
Nobody is Above the Law
Referring to King David, David Hall reminded the congregation “…even if the king committed sin, the king needed public repentance. Imagine public singing about ‘no one is above the law.’” Without the last name “Hall” to distinguish, a third party observer might get confused as to which “David” David Hall was preaching about as he said, “…and David’s only concern is about himself. You will note how recalcitrant David had become. He denied and denied his sin and the truths of God. Not only would he not admit his guilt, but he worked all the more diligently to cover up his sin…sometimes the saints of God can become so callous that they don’t understand their own sin, they don’t admit it, don’t be that way. Don’t be the kind of person who lives a life of self-justification while you are sinning blatantly.”
“…such was David’s predicament. He put himself in a bad state. His conscience was unresponsive and he needed God’s messenger to awaken him from this comatose conscience.”
“you realize about your sin, that no matter how much your sin hurts others, it is even more hurtful to your relationship with God.”
As other writers have observed, “David Hall’s stubborn refusal to apologize damages the witness and credibility of the church at large as non-believers would be right to scoff the hypocrisy on display.”
Dramatic Irony: Rewriting Psalm 51
To illustrate the difference in approach to repentance from King David’s day and modern times, David Hall read to the congregation his modern rewrite of Psalm 51. Calling the passage a “portrait of true repentance. We seldom see this today.” Consider his rewrite below, where he started “If we were rewriting Psalm 51 in modern terms it might say something like this:”
"Please let me off the hook and do not punish me oh God according to your vacuum of justice, redefine my sin. Surely it's not as bad as the preacher and those other old fashioned moralists suggest. After all, forgiveness is always granted unconditionally. I know that like all other imperfect people I have been tempted, yet the temptation itself means that everyone is susceptible. Sure I've done some evil, but no one's perfect. I am after all, in my inner turmoil, a victim of sorts too. I have learned poor emotional responses and habits, my coping skills are not high, I am too docile and go along with the crowd (we might rewrite), and I need some sense of closure. Can't we just put this behind us, and move ahead. Chalk it up to whatever forces you want, but please don't subject me to public ridicule and all that confession stuff is probably over-emphasizing the negative when we need more positive stories. How about the part about my large contributions to the church? Please don't hold it against it me (the modern day David would pray) since I was raised in a dysfunctional home, nor continue to focus on this one blight in a long life of service. You know how easy it is, after all, for the male libido to get out of control, you made us. Sustain me in the eyes of others, whatever happens. Woe is me, I am a modern tragic figure, I am a victim of my own drive, help me to not fall off the wagon again, but if I do, comfort me and don't alienate me for we all sin, then I will teach transgressors how to get away with it."
One has to wonder if much of the aforementioned rewrite is not the most ironic words to ever leave David Hall’s mouth. Is it his own confession? Maybe he thinks so – since he presided over communion (presumably with a clean conscience and in a worthy manner?) immediately after. This creative rewrite might remind readers of David Hall’s pleadings in executive session to the Northwest Georgia Presbytery where he cried “We’re happy to be corrected. I’m happy to apologize, you can bring charges against me, flog me, please do…” but these words didn’t make it into his Psalm rewrite…
In the end, David Hall stated that Psalm 51 is “so much better the way God wrote it.” The Editorial Board of The Midway Guardian agrees and wishes fervently to see this proud man repent. But even so, as the Puritan Charles Herle also declared, “True repentance is never too late, and late repentance is seldom true.“