Northwest Georgia Presbytery Apparently Violates PCA Constitution By Refusing to Hear Deacon’s Complaint

It is uncertain whether the NWGP will be held accountable for this action…

At the April 13, 2021, stated meeting of the NWGA Presbytery, the Presbytery voted by voice to deny Deacon Dan Crouse’s latest complaint against Midway without hearing the case. This seems to have bypassed the procedures set forth in the Book of Church Order. 

BCO 43 defines the procedures that a higher court shall follow when a complaint is elevated to their court. Normally, this involves a hearing.

BCO 43-8 and 43-9 states:

43-8. Subject to the provisions below, after the higher court has decided that the notice filed with its clerk was timely and that the complaint is otherwise in order for it to be heard by the higher court, it shall hear the complaint, or in accordance with the provision of BCO 15-2 and 15-3, appoint a commission to do so. Ordinarily the court or its commission shall schedule a hearing in a manner that reasonably accommodates the schedules of the respective parties and affords each party a prior opportunity to file a written brief upon such terms and in accord with a briefing schedule established by the court or its commission in the reasonable exercise of its discretion.

43-9. At the hearing, after all the papers bearing on the complaint have been read, the complainant and respondent will be given the opportunity to present argument, the complainant having the right of opening and closing the argument. After the hearing has been concluded, the court or the commission should go into closed session, and discuss and consider the merits of the complaint. The vote should then or later be taken as to what disposition should be made of the complaint, and the complainant and respondent notified of the court’s decision.

Deacon Crouse was not afforded a hearing by either the full presbytery or a commission as required in BCO 43-8. He was not given an opportunity to submit a brief or make opening and closings statements as required in BCO 43-9.

As in the January 2021 Presbytery meeting where alleged unconstitutional proceedings were reported to the General Assembly by thirteen ordained men within the Midway congregation, the Presbytery once again apparently sidestepped the Book of Church Order.

After the Clerk of the Presbytery stated the complaint was in order, a motion to deny the complaint was made by former Midway Assistant Pastor Joel Smit. Here is the text of TE Smit’s statement:

Brothers and Fathers, I rise up to make a substitutionary motion because the complainant has already signed his name to the February 14th letter, which we could probably affectingly call “the love letter,” written against this presbytery where it states very clearly that this presbytery has both enabled and fostered a culture of constitutional violations, and that quote is “that its most influential operators may have converted the Northwest Georgia Presbytery into a convenient mechanism for unjustly muting the congregational voice.” It seems apparent, at least to me, that this complainant does not believe that this presbytery can render a fair and impartial judgment or judicial hearing and therefore it would be best for the complainant to have his complaint denied by us and to further pursue his complaint through the judicial process of our judicial constitution, other-words, BCO 43-3.

Many of you are familiar that this complainant is not unfamiliar to us. In fact, this is his third complaint to us in the last three years and each one of those he has appealed beyond us. And he made his intention known by writing this letter, or signing this letter, that his desire is not to hear us again and that he wants to have it go to the next level. So instead of wasting endless man-hours and appointing a commission to look into this and to come up with our ruling, only for it to be ignored by this complainant, I would say “Why waste our time?” and let us deny the complaint, and let him go to the next level; other words, if you appeal to Caesar you should go. So let him go off to the next level of the SJC and let them deal with this complaint.

The Standing Judicial Commission stated in its SJC 2019-11 ruling sent directly to the NWGA Presbytery:

The right to seek redress of improper actions by complaint or appeal is foundational to our Constitutional system. Both due process and basic charity demand that no member or officer should be ostracized or penalized for the mere filing of a complaint or appeal. The filing of a complaint or appeal may never, standing alone, constitute proper grounds to deny any privilege of membership or office in our church.

A 40-5 letter is simply another vehicle that congregants can use to seek redress of improper actions of a lower court. The fact that Deacon Crouse signed a 40-5 letter, along with twelve other ordained men in his congregation, should have had no bearing on this complaint or the NWGA Presbytery hearing the complaint. Once again, the NWGA Presbytery failed to follow their church constitution and therefore denied Deacon Crouse a “privilege of membership” in our Church.