SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority “Clearly Erred in the Judgment” and Wrongly Assigned Motive

Not only was the charge against RE Dudt sinful, it was fallacious!

In the SJC Panel decision that overturned the false charges made by Midway’s Session against RE Dudt, and upheld by the Northwest Georgia Presbytery, one can observe:

In the 6th specification of Session error, Appellant alleges that Session erred in finding RE Dudt guilty of the second charge of the indictment, to wit, violating the ninth commandment, by the July 12th email as a whole. Appellant alleges that Session, without evidence, found that “The purpose of the Letter (specifically, his use of the SJC decision) was to challenge the competency, credibility, and trustworthiness of the Session. Mr. Dudt did not accurately represent the Session’s process or position. He employed partial truth to bias the congregation against its elders in order to defeat their recommendation at the forthcoming . . . congregational meeting” [ROC 190].

This specification of error is sustained.

A Minute Explanatory. Appellant’s purpose in the letter is clearly stated: “I am asking the congregation to support a substitute motion to postpone this meeting until January 2021 to allow the congregation reasonable time to prayerfully consider the church’s needs, the men’s qualifications, the establishment of a pulpit committee, and the subsidence of the global pandemic to allow for a greater congregational participation.” [ROC 19]. This purpose is misstated in the Session’s indictment: “ in order to defeat their recommendation at the forthcoming . . . congregational meeting.” The Session clearly erred in the judgment made about the content of the email. The ROC does not sustain the claim that Session showed that RE Dudt’s email to the congregation constituted an offense as defined by BCO 29-1.

SJC Panel Decision 2021-13

Guilty No Matter What!

Leo Cullum, The New Yorker

It sure seems as if the Midway Session Majority suspended basic Christian charity, their obligation to RE Dudt as their equal, and failed to love him – forgetting completely the exhortation in I Corinthians that love bears and believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. Since evil motives were assigned to RE Dudt in the indictment without any evidence. The Session majority, with pastoral support, and supplying no evidence apart from their own words, actually claimed that RE Dudt’s intentions were other than what he stated clearly!

Talk about assuming the worst about your brother! How could Senior Pastor David Hall and his fellow pastors allow this to happen one might ask. Under normal circumstances it might not have – but in this case because members of the Session were scheming to punish RE Dudt, he had to be guilty no matter what – even if that meant assigning evil intention to his actions when there was none.

Reformed Theologian and blogger Tim Challies says of assigning motive, “It is sinful to assume bad motives; it is sinful to not assume good motives….Think of that person as a brother or sister in Christ and choose to look for the best possible, not the worst possible, explanation. It’s good to make assumptions if the assumption is that a person’s motives are good; it’s sinful to make assumptions if the assumption is that a person’s motives are bad. When we look at other Christians—their beliefs, their words, their deeds—love calls us to assume the best rather than the worst. Love calls us to regard them with hope rather than suspicion. Out of love for God and our brothers and sisters, we ought to grant them the same mercy, the same grace, the same hope we grant ourselves.

Fallacious Argumentation

Putting aside the sin of assuming the worst about their fellow brother elder on the Session, the pastoral staff at Midway and their supporters in the conviction of RE Dudt managed to represent multiple logical fallacies at the same time.

The Session Majority actually assigned motive to RE Dudt’s letter to the congregation and then attacked that motive! Their fabricated motivations assigned to RE Dudt are a strawman in that they assign a motive that does not apply and then they attack that motive as sin. They also represent an ad hominem attack on RE Dudt. The Session Majority’s bulveristic behavior against RE Dudt is a disgrace.

If one is looking for things throughout this process that have challenged “the competency, credibility, and trustworthiness of the Session” – look no further than their own sinful and fallacious act of assigning motive in their false charges against RE Dudt.