Cancel Culture comes to the Church. Your opinions may be forbidden…
On December 5, 2021, Senior Pastor David Hall of Midway Presbyterian Church brought a message titled “The Costs of Opposing God” centered on Acts 12 and Herod’s persecution of church leaders James and Peter. In it, he emphasized the point that “there is a steep price for opposing God.”
Many families at Midway may be wondering if there is not also a steep price for opposing David Hall, who is engaged in an ongoing campaign of division through church discipline whereby he is attempting to purge church leaders who have opposed his apparent abuse of his position. Most recently some Ruling Elders shined a light on the false attestations David Hall made regarding the three Assistant Pastors he sought to appoint as permanent voters on his Session. The punishment for exposing error at Midway is judicial process. Ruling Elders Clay David, James Scott, and Don Barnett join Ruling Elder Philip Dudt in the not so exclusive club of those suspended by the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church for opposing David Hall’s orthodoxy.
Departure from the orthodoxy of David Hall comes at a cost…
In his sermon of December 5, 2021, Hall called for strong leadership in the church. Leaders that follow God’s standard and are not influenced by the world. Oh that Midway might again have such leaders! For too long the leadership at the top of the Midway’s power structure have put worldly procedure over Christian charity, chosen persecution over reconciliation, and have sought to rewrite the rules to justify past abuses. Each church leader who has abused church discipline will answer to a Holy God for how they either disagreed with their sheep lovingly, or sought to banish them prejudicially.
Strong Biblical leaders admit when they are wrong, are humble, and seek to unite their church. They go out of their way to avoid every opportunity to divide it. Strong leaders of Christ’s church put their own interests second and respect their covenant family. This is not the culture at Midway Presbyterian Church, and readers would be correct to think that when God looks down at the church that He is not smiling.
Midway needs unity seekers at the top, not prosecuting attorneys who subject the church to months of ongoing secret trials against those who dared to disagree. The leadership team’s actions have caused “no small commotion” in the church.
Herod or Hall?
Referring to Herod in Acts 12, David Hall said “…and the response should have been to say ‘Yes Lord! I have been wrong! Yes Lord I worship you!’ The response should have been to admit that God has been right, and this person has been wrong. But Herod cannot do that.”
Hall went on to decry Herod’s pride and lust for power and once again emphasized the costs associated with rejecting God. Listing a number of areas in which men oppose God’s teaching he mentioned bearing false witness – which for many may evoke thoughts of the false charges that have been brought against Midway’s Ruling Elders by David Hall’s Session.
He ended these remarks referring to the “rampage” of Herod, “arresting and persecuting church leaders” and the amazing reversal of the church’s seemingly bad situation at the hands of the tyrant Herod saying “Such is the power of God to overthrow hostile human plans and to establish his own plan in their place. Tyrants may be permitted for a time to boast and bluster, oppressing the church and hindering the spread of the Gospel, but they will not last. In the end, their empire will be broken and their pride abased.”
A relevant warning indeed to anyone who would tyrannize their fellow brothers on the Midway Session with the sword of church discipline.
Midway readers: will you pray that wherever hostile human plans are being perpetrated against your covenant family that they would be overthrown? That the oppressive boasting and bluster of a power structure modeled after worldly ambitions and not Biblical church government would be broken?
A Humble Pastor’s Example
David Hall asked closing his sermon “What cost are you incurring? If you oppose God, you may temporarily win. But you will finally lose, and lose big. On the other hand, if you stand for the Gospel, you may temporarily lose, but you will finally win, and win big.” No doubt the cost of David Hall and his Session’s stubbornness and insistence on church discipline for their own Ruling Elders is division. They are responsible for that outcome. But it doesn’t have to stay that way.
Those familiar with Georgia state history may know of the Pastor Jesse Mercer whose ministry was impactful in the 1800’s. He participated in the founding of Mercer University and was influential in the formation of the Georgia Baptist Convention. Mercer was widely acknowledged as a prominent preacher, proponent of Calvinism, and successful businessman with a passion for missions and is credited for his ministry to slaves and the Creek Indians.
But he fell into the sin of abusing church discipline.
According to records from the Christian Index of July 13, 1863, he was involved in using church discipline against a member of the church who had allowed dancing at his daughter’s wedding. The concept of discipline for violating manmade offenses not found in Scripture is nothing new. The “offending” party confessed but expressed tactfully that there were other issues in which the church leadership under Mercer were in grave error. Mercer invited the accused to “bring to public notice any want of conformity to the discipline, or any palpable departure from the rules of church government.”
In a blessed act of accountability, the accused member called Mercer to public repentance for violating the Sabbath Day, favoritism, and allowing inappropriate conduct among church members. In an act of repentance worthy of imitation, it is said that Mercer:
“rose in tears and said, that he felt like it was good for them to be there; and he would invoke the prayers of all present to follow him in an humble, sincere address at the throne of heavenly grace, that God would turn this trial and its incidents into a good account, and make it the occasion of a gracious outpouring of his Spirit, of burying all animosities and ill feelings towards the offending brother, and that while they forgave, they might also be forgiven. Whereupon the moderator offered up a most appropriate and feeling prayer, after which the brethren rose up to greet and shake hands with the offending brother and to sing and rejoice together; — and that was the commencement of the most signal revival ever at that church.”Piety Above the Common Standard: Jesse Mercer and the Defense of of Evangelistic Calvinism” page 93
Mercer was humble. Mercer knew it was possible he could be wrong. Mercer knew he might have to repent. He was open to correction, and invited it – even from the “accused”. The result was reconciliation and the expansion of the Gospel.
Could it be that the blessing of revival is being withheld from Midway because the Senior Pastor, like Herod, cannot repent?
Could it be that blessed reconciliation as described above is withheld from the church because the Senior Pastor and his leadership team cannot be wrong?
What if they made dialogue possible?
What if they were open to the idea, like Mercer, that they may be incorrect in areas?
What if God placed certain men who saw things differently on the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church to call the leadership to correction and enhance Reformation?
One thing is certain. Unless something changes dramatically, Nathan the Prophet would not be granted an audience in Midway’s courts – and the persecution and suspension of any church officer opposing David Hall’s errors (alleged or actual) will continue.
How many more Ruling Elders can Midway afford to cancel?