Rev. David Hall survived the vote on his call, but will his legacy similarly survive?
Now that Midway Presbyterian Church Senior Pastor David Hall’s ministry of subtraction has been affirmed by a vote where those abused by his rule were prevented from exposing his behavior in debate, many are asking what comes next for his ministry and the church?
Like the infamous World War II “Battle of Midway” that historians agree was the turning point in the war of the Pacific, many might wonder if yesterday’s congregational meeting is a turning point for Midway Presbyterian Church. Supporters of David Hall hail the outcome as a return to normalcy – the “evil” Ruling Elders and their supporters who opposed David Hall’s iron fisted rule having been repudiated in a vote that most likely split the church. In the short term, nearly 200 people may leave the church. The celebration of division has already begun across social media throughout the church body as those beholden to the cult of personality that is David Hall shamelessly flaunt what they perceive as victory over their brothers and sisters.
Outside of the apparent lack of Christian charity, there’s another problem: Might doesn’t make right. The normalcy these members celebrate is ultimately self-defeating and will result in continued contention and division.
Having Not Learned from History, Midway will Inevitably Repeat It
Senior Pastor David Hall held on to his call at Midway Presbyterian Church, but at what cost? This shepherd now goes down in history as the prideful prelate he always has been. He will forever be remembered as the man who split the same church twice in a single career. Who knows – given enough time in the role, he may yet succeed at a triple crown. With each split comes the destruction of Christ’s witness on Earth, hurt families and feelings that last decades, and of course the consequence of a spiritual abuser continuing to abuse unchallenged.
The Midway Guardian has repeatedly asserted that David Hall is not actually a Presbyterian but an authoritarian. He has been content in the past to adopt the mantle of a Presbyterian because the angle worked — up until members of his own church and Session began to try to hold him accountable under the system he was affiliated with promoting. From manipulating courts to avoid judgments, concealing rulings against his actions, and even just deleting members from the church roll to disqualify them as his challengers – his track record is pretty poor in submitting to the higher authorities of a Presbyterian system or acknowledging the voice of the people this Biblical form of polity espouses.
The Presbyterian icon Rev. Charles Hodge said in 1855 that, “There can, therefore, be no doubt that Presbyterians do carry out the principle that Church power vests in the Church itself, and that the people have a right to a substantive part in its discipline and government. In other words, we do not hold that all power vests in the clergy, and that the people have only to listen and obey.” and “If the clergy are priests and mediators, the channel of all divine communications, and the only medium of access to God, then all power is in their hands; but if all believers are priests and kings, then they have something more to do than merely passively to submit. So abhorrent is this idea of the clergy being the Church to the consciousness of Christians, that no definition of the Church for the first fifteen centuries after Christ, was ever framed that even mentioned the clergy.”
As Senior Pastor, David Hall has promoted a system where Presbyterianism is preached, but blind submission to the clergy is demanded. He has carefully crafted a Session that similarly adheres to this dangerous idea. Look no further than their submission-demanding “Talley Resolution” on officer vows (which the Standing Judicial Commission (SJC) of the PCA utterly rebuked). These erroneous beliefs about themselves as leaders of the church have made them susceptible to the leading of David Hall in misusing church discipline. Those who don’t submit must be punished. In reality, the ones they persecuted for not being in submission were only exercising what Charles Hodge expressed as their “right” as Presbyterians being “bound to take part in the government of the Church, and in the preservation of its purity.”
It was these very attempts at preserving purity in Christ’s church that resulted in a variety of judicial matters that the higher courts of the PCA are still studying. Any one of them could bring accountability to David Hall and his Session. In other words – justice is still possible, and perhaps likely (their abuse being so naked).
So what happens next? David Hall and his Session will continue their authoritarian brand of church polity – emboldened by what they perceive as a mandate from the congregational vote to retain the Senior Pastor’s call. Their misunderstanding of the system they rule will continue to crush dissent and hurt people. Each time this happens, more and more people will realize who David Hall is and how his system works. New generations of opposition will arise. Unlike the “opposition” he preaches against and couches as “opposition to the Gospel,” it will be, (as it always has been at Midway) opposition to the abusive system he enables. History will repeat because the problem (David Hall) remains.
Fugitives from Justice? Leaving the PCA?
The Midway Guardian has surveyed the history of Midway Presbyterian Church – past and present. It’s historical positioning with the Presbyterian Church in America is well known. What is David Hall to do as even now the threat of justice from multiple higher courts continue to hang over him for his actions? Given that he and his Session clearly believe that the Session is and ought to be the highest court of the church – the rumored departure from the PCA may be the logical next step for Midway’s leadership to take.
The independent nature of David Hall ally TE Terry Johnson’s “Presbyterian” church must be attractive to those who at every turn historically have scorned accountability to the necessarily hierarchical system that is actual Presbyterianism. Far better to build a system where the Session is the final arbiter of “justice” in all matters – which enables the radical abuses of church discipline which are central to David Hall’s power structure. Meanwhile, the average members of such churches have no appeal to neutral higher courts for justice.
The Editorial Board of The Midway Guardian believes there is a high likelihood that Senior Pastor David Hall and his Session will announce a departure from the denomination their church was a key player in founding in the future. The excuse will of course be that “the liberals” have ruined it, or the heretics espousing Federal Vision have taken over, or the so called “Side-B” Christians have opened to the door to endorsements of homosexuality… if this happens, make no mistake – the real reason will be the avoidance of accountability so that a whole new class of unchecked abuses may abound.