Ruling Elder and Clerk of Session James Scott Warns Midway Members Ahead of Upcoming Church Meeting

Elder James Scott sent the following email to members of the Midway Congregation:

I have served on the Midway Session for over five decades and have never before sent any kind of missive to a significant portion of the Midway congregation; however, due to the gravity of the issues involved in the Congregational Meeting that has been called for this Sunday, July 19, 2020, I felt that I must set forth why I feel the meeting is so important to the future and well-being of our church.

Major Change in Structure of Church Governance

First, let me unequivocally state that my concerns have nothing to do with the character, abilities, or godliness of Assistant Pastors Harrington, Barry, and Knox.  I think very highly of each of these men and feel that Midway is indeed fortunate to have such a fine cadre of young men ministering to our congregation.

My concern is that the governance and direction of Midway will be forever changed should the motion pass to call these men as Associate Pastors which, by virtue of their being Associate Pastors, gives them a vote on your church Session.  To imply, suggest, or state that these Assistant Pastors do not have input into the decisions that the Session makes is simply wrong.  They are not prohibited from speaking and have often submitted proposals to the Session for its consideration.  To receive this input and advice is one thing but to grant them a vote is an entirely different matter, because it will effectively move our church to a more hierarchal model and away from the representative form of government which is one of the hallmarks of Presbyterianism.

Effect of a Block Vote by the Church Staff

The designation of these men as Associate Pastors will give them each one vote, and could, with the vote of the Senior Pastor, grant the church ministerial staff four votes on the Session.  Realize that these men, unlike ruling elders who stand for election every six years, will be voting members on your Session either for life or for as long as they are on the church staff.  The only way that they can be removed from office involuntarily is through congregational action taken at a congregational meeting.  Such action has the potential to be very divisive to a church body.  The ending of the relationship with the only Associate Pastor ever at Midway caused a split in the church, the only split ever to occur in Midway’s 170-year history. I would submit to you that Midway has never recovered from this split which caused the loss of over 250 communicant and non-communicant members many of whom were in the church demographic which could now potentially be in the leadership positions of elder, deacon or teacher.

The primary reason that I oppose this action is that it will effectively give the church staff a four-vote block.  Yes, in theory, each one of these four men could vote independently, but as a practical matter, they will vote with their superior, the Senior Pastor.  You may hear it said that the Associate Pastor is accountable to the congregation, and although technically true, the reality is that they report to the Senior Pastor.  We would be very naïve to think that the Associate Pastors would not follow the lead of their superior, the Senior Pastor.

Why does this four-vote block concern me so?  The reason is that a majority of the 12 ruling elders, seven, could be outvoted by virtue of the staff having four votes.  The vote of a majority of the ruling elders that you elect every six years could be negated and this simply is not right and, in my opinion, does not serve the congregation well.

Why the Hurry?

Lastly, I would ask you to consider, “What’s the hurry?”  This Congregational Meeting was called in a Session Meeting with only four days’ notice given, with the entire Session being totally aware that one of its members was out of town and could not be at the meeting to be part of the discussion on this most consequential issue. The Congregational Meeting was then called for the soonest date that it could be.  Why?

I had a senior saint call me and ask if he could vote absentee. According to the Book of Church Order only those present can vote.  This gentleman and his wife are literally at church each time the church doors are open – Sunday School, Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening, Wednesdays – and we are going to deny him and many others like him the ability to cast a ballot?  This isn’t right.  It is neither fair nor equitable to our older members who are concerned about coming out due to the COVID-19 virus.  Why not, at least, defer this vote until the pandemic is passed?  Why the hurry?  Honestly, I cannot tell you why and I think it speaks very poorly for us to deny long time, faithful members a vote in this matter which is so critical to our church.


In no way do I want to do anything that is divisive to our church and I hope that this communication is not such, but I literally could not live with myself if I let something as potentially detrimental to our church as this proposed action occur and not voice my concerns to you, my shepherding group and my Sunday School Class.
In closing, I would ask that you commit this to prayer and cast your vote as directed by God’s Holy Spirit in doing what is best for your church.