It began at 7:30 pm in the school cafeteria after the conclusion of the Pastor’s Wednesday night Bible study…
The trial started by expelling dozens of congregants that showed up to support the besieged elder, including Mrs. Dudt. It ended nearly twelve hours later shortly after hearing the testimony of State Senator Lindsey Tippins in support of RE Dudt.
However, before the sun rose on the morning of November 12th, the Midway Session convicted RE Dudt of the questionable charges laid out in the October indictment of RE Dudt. RE Dudt immediately submitted the “Notice of Appeal” in accordance with BCO 42-6.
BCO 42-6 states: Notice of appeal shall have the effect of suspending the judgment of the lower court until the case has been finally decided in the higher court. However, the court of original jurisdiction may, for sufficient reasons duly recorded, prevent the appellant from approaching the Lord’s Table, and if an officer, prevent him from exercising some or all his official functions, until the case is finally decided (cf. BCO 31-10; 33-4). This shall never be done in the way of censure.
Unfortunately, the Session apparently sidestepped the Book of Church Order by sending out this email to the Midway Congregation within two hours after the trial ended, despite Notice of Appeal having been given:
We regret to inform you that our brother, Ruling Elder Philip Dudt, has been indefinitely suspended from office by the Session. This was not a decision that was taken lightly or with haste, neither was it a retributive response to his congregational communications. To the contrary, the judgment was that he violated his ordination vows. This notice concludes the Session’s public discussion of this matter.
Five days later, when it was pointed out to the Session that they, once again, may have violated the BCO, this email was sent to the congregation:
REVISED SESSION STATEMENT REGARDING ELDER PHIL DUDT
Because the Statement of November 12 published to the Midway congregation was approved by the Session prior to the filing of an appeal by Elder Dudt, it must be revised to accurately reflect the status of Elder Dudt as well as to clarify the basis for discipline.
First, Elder Dudt is not under censure pending appeal and is accordingly not suspended from office. However, he is prevented from performing his official functions as Elder pursuant to BCO 31-10.
Second, the prior Statement was unclear in stating, “neither was it [the decision] a retributive response to his congregational communications.” Indeed, the Session’s decision was not retributive and in no way intended to be punishment. Church discipline should never be considered punitive, and it was certainly not the Session’s intention to punish. Church discipline has other purposes, which are clearly set forth in scripture and the Book of Church Order. That said, the Session’s decision was related solely to the violation of Officer Vows 5 and 6 occasioned by Elder Dudt’s correspondence to the Midway membership in connection with the subsequent congregational meeting. That decision is suspended by Elder Dudt’s appeal.
The Session realizes that members may be confused and even unhappy with the Session’s actions and decision. Church discipline is always difficult for all concerned and, in this particular case, complex due to the implications of Officer Vows 5 and 6.
If anyone has any further questions or concerns in this matter, we would encourage you to reach out to your Shepherding Elder for clarification.
The Session apologizes to the congregation and Elder Dudt and his wife for the confusion caused by our previous communication.
We humbly seek your prayers for the Church, elder Dudt and his family, and the Session in this matter.
—Midway Presbyterian Church Session
The Session also appointed TE David Barry, the author of the “Believe Also In Me” article, as the chair of the restoration commitment to deal with RE Dudt. This is an interesting choice considering TE Barry is half the age of RE Dudt.
In addition to studying the BCO in accordance with their vows, the members of the Session should review all the Westminster Larger Catechism questions on the fifth commandment.