Session Charges Against Elders James Scott, Don Barnett, and Clay David Are Clearly Unconstitutional

The September 20th charges lodged against the three longtime elders are related to the BCO 40-5 letter filed with the Stated Clerk of the PCA on February 14, 2021. 

These men, along with ten other ordained members of Midway, signed that letter. The letter outlined important delinquencies and grossly unconstitutional proceedings in the matter the Northwest Georgia Presbytery handled the installation of the associate pastors especially relating to the Michelson complaint of the July 2020 congregational meeting which elevated those pastors to associates. 

You can read the BCO 40-5 letter here

In addition to outlining numerous violations of our ecclesiastical constitution, the letter stated that the Midway representatives circulated the court by sending a proposed motion to the entire presbytery on the eve of the January Presbytery meeting which in effect would stay the decision against the session made by the Presbytery’s judicial commission earlier that week. 

This type of interference is a clear violation of the Book of Church Order whereas BCO 43-2 states “No attempt should be made to circularize the court to which the complaint is being made by either party“.

The following day, the same representatives once again ignored the BCO and “sat, deliberated, and voted” on the motion they raised to successfully delay the judgment of the judicial commission for months.  

Session members participating in the debate and then voting on a complaint to which they are a party is prohibited in BCO 39-2. Thirteen ordained officers in the Midway congregation, including the three elders being charged, filed a BCO 40-5 letter with Bryan Chapel, stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church in America. If you are curious about what a BCO 40-5 matter is, click here.

Filing of complaints and appeals is a right afforded to every member of our domination (BCO 43-1).   In the case of Crouse vs NWGA Presbytery (SJC 2019-11), the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA stated:

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.

The Midway session was a party to that SJC case and is bound by their officer vows to submit to the SJC decision whether they agree with it or not. But it appears they are in defiance by now ostracizing and penalizing Elders Scott, Barnett, and David for filing the 40-5 letter.

The Session is saying that their convoluted resolution of September 2020 requires officers to resign before joining a complaint made by an officer not currently serving on the Session. Their argument is that a serving officer cannot discuss any session errors with anyone not currently on the session. The problem with their policy is the Book of Church Order states it is the “right” of any member to file a complaint against any court they are subject to (BCO 43-1). The session does not have the authority to abridge a “right” guaranteed by our ecclesiastical constitution or even set terms on how that “right” can be exercised.

The BCO 40-5 letter was initially signed by Elder Lindsey Tippins. The three besieged elders, along with nine other ordained Midway men not currently serving, signed the letter. None of those three elders charged were involved in writing the letter, but they did agree with the contents and signed it. Those that were involved in writing the letter chose not to ask any of the currently serving deacons to sign the letter because of possible persecution those young men would almost certainly receive at the hand of some on the session. 

The fact is that signing such a document is protected by the constitution of our denomination. The Session members bringing such charges need to remember officer vow #3 is made to Christ while on their knees in front of the congregation. This session demands submission, but they need to look inwardly and ask if they are in submission to Christ. If they are willing to violate officer vow #3, then they need to examined their hearts, repent, and resubmit to our Lord.

It is curious that the Session chose this course when four Midway cases are currently before the SJC including the consideration of the 40-5 letter (SJC Case 2021-02). James Scott, one of the persecuted elders, made a “motion for peace” during the summer which asked the session to stop the divisive arguments until these cases were decided by the higher courts. The session voted down his motion for peace, and now chose to plunge the church into many more months of trials and tribulations.

If these cases go forward, Midway could have seven cases before the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA in less than one year, an uncommon feat in PCA history. Would not a wise and just session wait for the current cases to be adjudicated by SJC before moving forward with charging three more elders?