The Sins of Equals

At Midway, apparently some elders are more equal than others…

Over the past year, The Midway Guardian has documented the corrupt leadership, dishonest court proceedings, false charges, and the divisive secret trials at Midway Presbyterian Church. The Midway Guardian Editorial Board believes that the people are responsible for the conduct of their leaders, and therefore will continue to inform on these topics and share relevant news.

The aforementioned topics have been identified as an expression of a deadly narcissism that has come to characterize the leadership of the church. Midway’s Session has been categorized into factions of “good elders” and “bad elders” by Senior Pastor David Hall in the past. In recent times, it has gone a step further. The “good elders” have been weaponized against the “bad elders” through prejudicial church disciplinary proceedings. Ordained men are equals. The Bible teaches, and the Westminster Larger Catechism affirms, the duties of equals. In the PCA, all elders are equal under our church government, but apparently some are more equal than others at Midway., and those with dissenting opinions are being purged as a matter of policy.

A screenshot from the 1954 film adaption of George Orwell’s classic “Animal Farm”

Duty Abandoned

The Westminster Larger Catechism questions 131 and 132 are worth consideration.

131. What are the duties of equals? The duties of equals are, to regard the dignity and worth of each other, in giving honor to go one before another; and to rejoice in each other’s gifts and advancement, as their own.

132. What are the sins of equals? The sins of equals are, besides the neglect of the duties required, the undervaluing of the worth, envying the gifts, grieving at the advancement or prosperity one of another; and usurping pre-eminence one over another.

Powerful and true – these words express well the responsibility that ordained men (elders and deacons) have to one another. These duties summarized above are reflective of the brotherly love described in I Peter and Romans 12. The sins summarized above are reflective of the failure of these duties warned against in Romans 13, II Timothy 3, and Galatians 5.

The members of Midway’s Session that have brought false charges against their fellow elders need reminding that they had, and still have, a specific duty to their fellow ordained officers. This duty was abandoned when they refused to accept apologies issued by their brothers, when they assigned motives to their actions (which are constitutionally protected rights afforded them under the PCA’s constitutional system), and when they forcibly subjected them to secret trials against their will – even refusing their spouses access to the proceedings. 

Does the above sound like “brotherly love”? Or does it sound like the “good elders” on David Hall’s list have joined him in “neglect” of their duties to one another as they sit over their brothers in secret judgment? For elders on the Session who often remind their congregation of the “double honor” they believe they deserve under the terms of I Timothy 5, it sure seems quite dishonorable to disregard the “dignity and worth” of their brothers by letting their reputations (and their families’ reputations by extension) suffer publicly for months during seemingly never ending secret trials that even extended into the week of Christmas

“Honoring Elders”

Members at Midway Presbyterian Church have been reminded again and again in writing, from the pulpit, and in Bible studies across the ministries of the church since the controversial July 2020 pastoral election, where 3 pastors were elected unconstitutionally as voters on the Session, that “double honor” is due to the elders of the church. Consider the actual words of I Timothy 5:17-21, and decide for yourself if the Midway Session’s prejudicial mistreatment of its own elders qualifies as “ruling well”:

“Let the elders who rule well be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer deserves his wages.” Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses. As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear. In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of the elect angels I charge you to keep these rules without prejudging, doing nothing from partiality.”

Where are the witnesses against the 3 elders currently under secret trial? Maybe they are found only in the Session’s secret report on the charges? If their sin is “public” in nature, then let the Session come forth and try the men publicly and let all see their guilt openly. Let everyone know from the mouths of two or three witnesses that the Session has judged with “right judgment” (John 7) in charging their brothers. This of course will not happen, the “justice” they seek is no justice at all. It is the eradication of the dissenter. It is a gross manifestation of shameful mistreatment of one another. Consider the warning in Leviticus 19:15:

“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.”

Also consider Romans 12:16-21:

“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave itto the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The elders on Midway’s Session have failed their brothers in respect and fellowship. They have failed them by dealing with them dishonorably and continue to do so with each new instance of the ongoing secret trials. They have chosen not to live peaceably with their brothers and now sit in haughty judgment over them in secret. They have not “ruled well.”

These are hard words. But one can remember that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3), and that Jesus Christ offers “repentance unto life” (what the Westminster Confession of Faith calls “an evangelical grace” in Chapter 15). Men will sin and human leaders will always fail. Members of Midway Presbyterian Church should not begrudge their leaders for failing, but they should hold them accountable, forgiving them as brothers and offering the hand of restored fellowship to the truly repentant.

Will you make that your prayer in 2022? That those who are (either willfully or out of ignorance) persecuting their brothers at Midway repent and seek restoration with their covenant family, and that all who have been offended may reflect Christ in their willingness to forgive those who have sinned against them. Relationships restored are strengthened when there are repentant hearts and Christ is honored.

For too long, the power structures of man, the cult of pastoral personality, and perversion of the courts at Midway Presbyterian Church have been allowed to overshadow loving one another like Jesus loves. The ministry’s disciplinary hand has been put in front of relationship instead of allowing relationship to flow from the pure ministry of the church – where no man considers himself better than others.