Rev. David Hall’s Allies Terry Johnson and Dominic Aquila Team Up to Smear PCA’s Highest Court

TE Johnson accuses SJC of “damaging” Midway by upholding justice…

On June 19, 2022, TE Terry Johnson stood as a guest in the pulpit of Midway Presbyterian Church and gave a passionate plea for the members of the church to either “follow” or “fire” their pastor, but stated that it was not appropriate for them to “fight” their pastor. His message was received as offensive by many in the congregation and has been widely regarded as an attempt to use a worship service to defend TE David Hall’s ongoing divisive behavior to a captive audience.

In a stunning attempt at gaslighting an even wider audience, TE Johnson has doubled down on his support of TE David Hall’s divisive behavior in an article submitted to The Aquila Report (which is operated by TE Dominic Aquila and financially supported by TE David Hall and the leadership at Midway Presbyterian Church).

In the Midway “sermon,” amid the culture of spiritual abuse in the church (including the recent Southern Baptist Convention), TE Johnson declared that it is more common that congregations abuse their pastors than it is that pastors abuse church members. Even though he is the religious establishment of his day, like the Pharisees of Jesus’s time, he implies in his recent article that it is the laymen who are manipulating the “process.”

Readers may recall that it was TE Aquila who tried but failed to dissuade the PCA General Assembly from deleting the unanimous (47-0-0) recommendation made by the Review of Presbytery Records Committee (RPRC) to bring the Northwest Georgia Presbytery before the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) to answer for their implementation of “constitutionally deficient” pastoral calls. (Readers can view the written, false attestations made by TE David Hall related to these calls by clicking here.)

Congregation Takes Action

Since that time, a petition to call a congregational meeting to discuss the dissolution of the pastoral relationship of TE David Hall and Midway Presbyterian Church was submitted to its session. TE Johnson recommended following this constitutional process when he spoke from Midway’s pulpit. Maybe he didn’t think the membership would follow through. Maybe he was told by Midway leadership that the dissatisfaction with the Session’s false charges under TE David Hall’s leadership was insignificant. Maybe he is just ignorant of the facts. The Editorial Board of The Midway Guardian doesn’t know for sure. 

What is known, however, is that TE Johnson’s hard words for the SJC are misplaced as is his understanding of what is actually going on at Midway Presbyterian Church. The Editorial Board is pleased to present the following fact-based response to TE Johnson’s article titled “A Review of SJC Case 2021-13, Dudt v. Northwest Georgia Presbytery” with the tagline “This is the heart of the issue: The church has a process by which minority opinions can be voiced without them becoming causes for disturbing the peace of the church.”

Line by Line Analysis

In reviewing the Standing Judicial Commission’s (SJC) handling of case 2021-13, Dudt v. Northwest Georgia Presbytery, I was dismayed with the way the SJC handled the case. In its decision, the SJC reversed the unanimous decision of Northwest Georgia Presbytery which had rejected all forty allegations of error in the complaint, and behind that a majority decision of the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church. To its credit, the SJC did deny twenty-six of the forty alleged errors, but failed to deny all forty. I have carefully read the SJC decision and my dismay has deepened. My disappointment falls into four categories.

TE Terry Johnson –

TE Johnson appears to be dismayed at the proper exercise of justice in a properly-functioning Presbyterian system because he has a predisposition toward the leadership of the church that the case found to be in error. He claims that the Northwest Georgia Presbytery rejected all forty allegations, but a reading of the actual SJC 2021-13 decision indicates that the presbytery failed in its duty to even address all forty points of appeal. A “careful reading” actually refutes TE Johnson’s concern.

First, I wonder if the SJC is capable of recognizing the larger context within which this complaint was made. The SJC decision seems to have been made in a contextual vacuum. Was the SJC aware of how long the contentious minority that had filed the complaint had been battling with the will of the majority? Was the SJC aware of the damage that has been done to the ministry of the church as the majority must contend with the public attacks of the minority? What may seem like a premature decision by the majority seems to have been preceded by destructive behavior by the minority with whom the said elder is associated, patiently tolerated by the majority for months. Not every detail may be found in the ROC requiring that the SJC pay more attention by further investigation to the larger context.

TE Terry Johnson –

The Editorial Board wonders if TE Johnson is capable of recognizing the larger context within which these (and other) false charges have been brought against no less than four Ruling Elders on the Midway Session under the guidance of TE David Hall.

Is TE Johnson aware of how long the contentious TE David Hall has been battling the constitution of the PCA in his operation at Midway? Is TE Johnson aware that the Midway Session continually ties all of its recent cases back to the 2018 issues surrounding its improper officer vetting? The SJC’s statement of facts begins its timeline in July of 2018, which is almost four years before the final Dudt decision was approved.

Is TE Johnson aware of the damage that has been done to the ministry of the church as the membership has had to contend with Johnson’s own misuse of Christ’s pulpit in their church to defend TE David Hall? What may seem like simple commentary by TE Johnson on an SJC decision seems to have been preceded by destructive behavior by himself at the very church that is the subject of the decision. Readers should note that not every detail may be found in TE Johnson’s slanted article.

Deficient of a Real Understanding of the Facts

TE Johnson seems quite concerned with the will of the majority being upheld. In this way he completely misunderstands the basis of the false charges brought against the Ruling Elder that were overturned. It was the conscience binding, Confession violating, and divisive so called “Talley Resolution” on officer vows (passed by the Midway Session after the Ruling Elder’s supposed sin) that insisted on submission or discipline. The SJC properly overturned and repudiated this resolution as “needlessly divisive” and “invalid.” It is convenient that TE Johnson’s criticism of the SJC decision leaves out this important and foundational detail.

The Editorial Board finds TE Johnson’s accusation of “public attacks” ascribed to the Ruling Elder now exonerated to be conveniently unspecific and without evidence. Perhaps because as the SJC determined, the Midway Session was wrong to convict a Ruling Elder without any evidence, to find lies where there were none, to assign malicious motive in a wrongful conviction, to block evidence clearing the defendant, and to err by adding additional evidence after the trial to bolster their conviction (just to name a few). The SJC also ruled in 2021-13 that TE David Hall exhibited bias as Moderator in the trial. Perhaps TE Johnson would have done better to specifically address how the SJC got these very black and white rulings incorrect.

The only attacks known to The Editorial Board of the Midway Guardian are at the hands of a defiant TE David Hall and his Session that have to date failed to disclose the contents of SJC 2021-13 to their congregation. Meanwhile, they continue to charge Ruling Elders for exercising their right to submit a credible report under BCO 40-5 and bully congregants who exercise their right under BCO 25 to discuss the dissolution of a pastoral relationship with one they deem to be spiritual abuser.

Becoming the Thing He Despises

Since the ruling 2021-13 was accepted 19-0 by the SJC, The Editorial Board asks TE Johnson why he has joined TE David Hall in “battling the will of the majority?” It seems that TE Johnson is very comfortable criticizing a Presbyterian system to which he does not even subject his own congregation. As Independent Presbyterian Church’s Facebook page states “As our name indicates, IPC is “independent” of denominational connection or control. However, all of our ordained pastoral staff are members of the Presbyterian Church in America and are themselves accountable to that government.

In his church, falsely charged members have no independent higher court to which they may appeal their ruling, which is a fundamental principle of biblical government and presbyterian government.

In other words, TE Johnson is casting aspersion on the supreme court of the PCA related to matters of appeal to which his own church denies its members access…

Second, the SJC made important appeals to the lack of evidence in the Record of the Case (ROC) (e.g., p. 2169, line 6, line 8, line 30). Arguments from silence are indulged in specifications 4, 5, 6, 14, and 24. As with the previous point, additional investigation should follow when the majority affirms that which the SJC thinks it ought to see in the ROC. The benefit of the doubt, or shall we say, the presumption of innocence, should be given to the majority in the local lower courts.

Third, technical errors of process (specifications 23, 25, 30, 31, 33, 34) should not be given undue weight, particularly in light of the larger context. The “weightier matters” of church unity and peace trump minor details of process.

TE Terry Johnson –

TE Johnson must not understand how a biblical court of law works. All witness testimony was transcribed and included in the case record. All papers, emails, and other documents presented in the trial were included in the case record. If evidence does not appear in a trial, then, judicially speaking, it does not exist. This is not “indulging” an “argument from silence.” For a court to convict someone on evidence they claim exists but which they cannot or will not produce is seriously wicked. The Apostle Paul quoted the law to the Corinthians: “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2 Cor. 13:1).

What could be a “weighter matter” than uncovering that a Senior Pastor (in this case TE David Hall) and his Session were incapable of discerning what constitutes a sin using scripture. A church leadership concerned with “unity and peace” would not have held a trial in secret that lasted all night, nor would they continue to do so for other Ruling Elders, nor would they suspend Ruling Elders and then fail to begin process months and months later! Nevermind that the lower court in this case that TE Johnson believes should be given such deference has been shown to have schemed against the Ruling Elder in question, and even now exhibits a pattern of abusing those with alternative viewpoints. How does TE Johnson reconcile one Teaching Elder’s (with direct personal involvement in the case) report that what was perpetrated against RE Dudt in the case was “nefarious and wicked“?

It would appear TE Johnson is speaking out of his depth and would do well not to meddle in the affairs of another church without the facts. One might wonder if his own congregation might think his recent preoccupation with Midway Presbyterian Church is a distraction from his own local ministry.

Fourth, the SJC failed to deal adequately with the problem of officers and members circularizing the congregation. The concurring decision recognizes this problem and explicitly raises it twice:

It would be unfortunate for anyone to conclude, that because this Appeal was sustained, it is appropriate for a Session member to email his congregation expressing disagreement with a Session decision. Such conduct would rarely be wise or appropriate (p. 2182, lines 16-18). There are few things that disturb the peace and unity of a church more than individual elders bringing to public attention their disagreements with Session decisions (p. 2182, lines 46-47).

This is the heart of the issue. The church has a process by which minority opinions can be voiced. An elder has the right to submit a minority report from the session to the congregation. He does not have the right to send private communication without the knowledge of the session, especially one which contradicts, and in the contradiction denigrates the session. I fear that the SJC has unleased the furies of division and conflict throughout the PCA by its failure to deal with the bigger picture of the factionalism and schism that appeared to be on the Midway session.

TE Terry Johnson –

TE Johnson’s assertion RE Dudt sent a communication that denigrated the Session of Midway is a lie. The SJC examined the facts and determined that the Session’s claim was false.

TE Johnson claims to have identified the heart of the matter and cites the SJC concurring opinion. Interestingly, he omitted other conclusions from the concurring opinion that provide more of that “context” he so desperately wishes was considered. The opinion also comments on the reasonableness of a trial lasting all night saying:

"That is a highly unreasonable way to conduct a trial. An overnight trial is extraordinary, and so is a court discussing the verdict and censure during the wee hours of the morning. The Record does not indicate time was of the essence in this matter. The trial court committed a clear error of judgment in this procedure, despite the defendant’s failure to object."

Maybe TE Johnson’s commentary and opinions on SJC 2021-13 fail to “deal with the bigger picture of the factionalism and schism” that the Session at Midway under the leadership of TE David Hall have fostered and fanned into a firestorm.

Moreover, the SJC decision has seriously injured the ministry of a veteran, faithful and devout minister. He has sustained constant, false, and destructive attacks, from an organized and determined minority. At the foundation of their bitter opposition was an orderly process whereby the session voted to nominate assistant minsters to serve as associate ministers, and the congregation voted to concur with the recommendation to call the assistant ministers as associates. The minority did not like the decisions or the processes, though both were in order. They simply refused to submit to the majority. Among this hostile minority are those who have published online “The Midway Guardian,” continually attacking the minister, session, and members of Midway.

We all know that process can be manipulated. The Pharisees were masters of external conformity combined with internal corruption. Somehow the work of the SJC must take into account the destruction that can be wrought in the life of a church by a determined minority circularizing the congregation with defamatory information while misusing and manipulating the judicial process.

TE Terry Johnson –

TE Johnson has repeatedly referred to the appeal in the Dudt case as a “complaint.” The Editorial Board commends BCO 43 to him so that he may see the difference. Also, The Editorial Board agrees that processes can be manipulated, which is exactly what TE David Hall did at a meeting of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery that effectively stopped the adoption of a judicial ruling that determined that the pastoral election referred to was unconstitutionally carried out and that TE David Hall himself divided his congregation by violating BCO 20-5. It is this very manipulation that led the credible report that RPRC recommended that the SJC cite the Northwest Georgia Presbytery to answer for. TE Johnson has a strange definition of “in order.”

Despite TE Johnson’s appeal to TE David Hall’s “faithful” and “devout” service as a minister, the only person who has damaged TE David Hall’s ministry is David Hall. The SJC had nothing to do with it.

Perhaps TE Johnson’s dissatisfaction with the outcome of case 2021-13 is less about the SJC, and more about discontent that a member of a congregation was able to successfully challenge and overturn an injustice by properly utilizing a Presbyterian court system. Perhaps there is a culture of discontent among certain Teaching Elders with the idea that congregants, if they learn and exercise their rights, could in fact find justice and accountability for out-of-control spiritual “leaders.”