Two brand new elders comprised half of the signatures on the indictment of three veteran elders with over a century of service to Midway between them.
Like the indictment of RE Phil Dudt, four elders signed the indictment of James Scott, Don Barnett, and Clay David. Two were brand new elders with only a few months on the job. RE Paul Fish and RE Russ Knight had only been on the Session a few weeks when the Elders Scott, Barnett, and David joined RE Lindsey Tippins and nine other ordained men from Midway that signed the BCO 40-5 credible report that was sent to the Stated Clerk of the PCA. The firestorm on the Session started almost immediately. Rookie Elder Paul Fish appears to have led the way by making a motion to “study” charges against these men.
The contrast between faithful servants Scott, Barnett, and David and these rookie elders is truly astonishing to anyone that has been a member of Midway for any amount of time. The new elders’ only significant accomplishment has been indicting James Scott, who served as Clerk of the Midway Session for over 50 years. Neither of these rookies had even served on the Diaconate at Midway before becoming elders.
A wise and experienced elder would have sought out the thirteen men, all ordained and older than sixty, and asked them why they signed the letter. Those signers have over 250 years of service to Midway between them as officers. Instead, the rookie elders chose another path. At no point during their “study” did REs Fish or Knight talk to any of the ten non-serving ordained men that signed the letter. It should be noted that REs Fish and Knight are the youngest members of the Session and younger than any of the officers that signed the 40-5 letter. Maybe the rookie elders can use their youth and inexperience as an excuse.
On the other hand, the other two elders that signed the indictment have been serving for nearly a decade each. RE Bob Whitaker and RE Ernie Hawley are both in their second term as elders. They should have known better.
An interesting side note is that all four of the elders currently under suspension were trained by the legendary Todd Allen, former Midway pastor and a founding member of the PCA. None of these men that signed the indictment had that privilege.
As with the Dudt prosecution, once again BCO 31-2 was not followed. There was no proper investigation and there was no strong presumption of guilt. Under those circumstances, bringing false charges against their fellow officers could backfire. Dr. Morton Smith points out concerning those that bring charges “He must show probable cause made against the accused, or he himself will become subject to process by the Court as a slanderer.” This could also be concerning for the deacon that is prosecuting the cases.
One question that the Presbytery’s commission that is investigating the disorder at Midway may want to find out is whether the suspension of these veteran elders was a scheme orchestrated by the Senior Pastor to purge the Session of the minority voice. The evidence is mounting that the purpose of the contentious congregation meeting and the subsequent suspensions of four elders was to do exactly that.
Unlike the rookie elders, REs Whitaker and Hawley should have known better. Instead they did as they always do … what they are told by the Senior Pastor. Someone needs to remind them that Elders are to Rule and Pastors are to Preach.