He was charged and convicted of violating their “express” will, but it never was so expressed…
The indictment’s first charge against RE Dudt alleged that he was guilty of “distributing the SJC case 2019-03 to the entire congregation against the express will of the Session.”
CHARGED WITH EXPRESS, CONVICTED OF IMPLIED
However, as the Appellant expressed in his appeals, there never was such an express will given or evidence of such a thing proven in the trial. If it was never given, then how could he have been convicted?
The SJC Panel had much to say on this error. They started by quoting the definition of express from the dictionary:
“Express” is defined as “Directly and distinctly stated or expressed rather than implied or left to inference: not dubious or ambiguous: definite, clear, explicit, unmistakable.” (Webster's Third New International Dictionary (1976)). The ROC did not provide any evidence of such an express will.
The SJC Panel then explained that, just because the Session chose to hide the decision from the congregation, does not mean that they could also prohibit RE Dudt from doing the same:
An action by the Session to decline itself to distribute a document does not imply that a Session member is prohibited from such a distribution.
It then pointed out how the record shows that zero evidence appeared in the trial:
In fact, the ROC shows that during the trial, defense’s questioning witnesses on this point was repeated so frequently, with no evidence forthcoming, that the Moderator sought to preempt further pursuit of the matter with witnesses to come: “May we try something on that line of questioning? May we by common consent agree that on that series of questions, there was no explicit mandate to Elder Dudt? Is there any objection? So we will stipulate that there was no explicit mandate to Elder Dudt not to distribute. . . .” [ROC 397; cf. 419] Apparently, before he could rule, there was objection voiced; however, the Moderator’s proposal is a clear indication of the state of the evidence-gathering, at least at that late point in the proceedings.
Then, they pointed out that the Northwest Georgia Presbytery even conceded in their written judgment that no express will was given:
Further, the Presbytery Judicial Commission’s written decision plainly grants the point: “In this case, the will of Midway's session, regarding how SJC 2019-03 was to be handled by the leadership of the church, was consistent and recognizable, even if it was not explicit. . . .” [ROC 671] The charge in the indictment, however, was that the action was “against the express will of the Session.” [emphasis added. ROC 190]
Ultimately, the SJC Panel came to a very straight-forward conclusion:
Session clearly erred in finding RE Dudt guilty of the first charge of the indictment.
The Bible lays down a basic principle of justice in multiple locations: “One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established” (Deut. 19:15; see also Mat. 18:16 and 1 Tim. 5:19).
Four witnesses signed the indictment against RE Dudt. Neither these four witnesses, nor any others, much less the two or three required by the Bible, could bring forth any evidence whatsoever to support this allegation against RE Dudt.
And still, the Session Majority voted to convict, including pastors Hall, Harrington, and Barry.
Is this the kind of judge and jury you want to sit under in your church? Is this justice in accord with that of the Lord Jesus Christ?