The troubling allegations originated with the controversial Midway church meeting of July 19, 2020 and the related events that followed.
In accordance with BCO 40-5, thirteen ordained men, all current or former officers of Midway PCA, signed a letter written by Elder Lindsey Tippins outlining the many unconstitutional actions of the NWGA Presbytery relating to the installation of the associate pastors and the handling of the complaints relating to the July 2020 congregational meeting.
BCO 40-5 states “When any court having appellate jurisdiction shall receive a credible report with respect to the court next below of any important delinquency or grossly unconstitutional proceedings of such court, the first step shall be to cite the court alleged to have offended to appear before the court having appellate jurisdiction, or its commission, by representative or in writing, at a specified time and place, and to show what the lower court has done or failed to do in the case in question. The court thus issuing the citation may reverse or redress the proceedings of the court below in other than judicial cases; or it may censure the delinquent court; or it may remit the whole matter to the delinquent court with an injunction to take it up and dispose of it in a constitutional manner; or it may stay all further proceedings in the case; as circumstances may require.”
The Stated Clerks office promptly opened an investigation which is ongoing.
Here is the full letter as submitted to the Stated Clerk’s Office:
The Presbyterian Church in America February 14, 2021
Office of the Stated Clerk
1700 North Brown Road
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
To the Stated Clerk of the PCA:
We the undersigned, in accordance with BCO 40-5, hereby make this report to the stated clerk’s office of the Presbyterian Church in America concerning important delinquencies and grossly unconstitutional proceedings of the Northwest Georgia Presbytery:
• On July 8, 2020 the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church called a congregation meeting for the purpose of calling three assistant pastors to the position of associate pastor. The decision to call the congregational meeting was not unanimous. The Session never called a congregational meeting for the purpose of electing a pulpit committee (BCO 20-2).
• The congregational meeting took place on Sunday, July 19, 2020 after the morning worship service. The recorded vote was 127 for and 93 against changing the call of these men. The men were voted on as a single slate. Abstentions were not counted, and ballots were not used, in violation of BCO 20-4.
• Two complaints were filed within hours of the vote that challenged its constitutional conformity. These complaints questioned the adherence to BCO chapter 20, specifically BCO 20-2, BCO 20-4, and BCO 20-5 in the Session’s conduction of the congregational meeting. Both complaints were denied by the Session on July 28, 2020.
• On Sunday, August 2, 2020 the Presbytery’s Credentials Committee, acting as a commission whose proper establishment is questionable, met at Midway Presbyterian Church 30 minutes before the evening worship service for the purpose of approving the call of the three assistant pastors to the position of associate pastors.
• The Credentials Committee erred in their conduction of this meeting by accepting commissioners from Midway that were not appointed by the congregation in violation of BCO 20-7 & 20-8. The Midway congregation never held a public vote to appoint commissioners to present and prosecute its call.
• The Credentials Committee erred in not requiring “any facts of importance” to be laid before them as required in BCO 20-5. Furthermore, the committee acted to approve these calls even though two members of the committee, as members of the Midway session (who heard the two complaints that previous week which raised serious questions about the Congregational meeting), were well aware that the calls were alleged to have been unconstitutionally formed.
• The Credentials Committee erred in not confirming “that the persons who signed the foregoing call were authorized to do so by a vote of the congregation.” Had they attempted to do so, they would have discovered that the commissioners were not actually appointed by the congregation, despite the moderator’s attestation that they were, in violation of BCO 20-6. The unconstitutionality of the proceedings would have become apparent.
• The Presbytery erred by permitting the Credentials Committee to approve multiple simultaneous calls when only the Presbytery can act on a call, thus violating BCO 21-1. It should be noted that the Credentials Committee approved the calls at a meeting starting 30 minutes before the evening service where the three pastors were installed as associates. The Presbytery did not affirm these calls until their next stated meeting on August 15, 2020 after these men were installed.
• On August 10, 2020, one of the two complaints was elevated to the NWGA Presbytery. The second complaint was elevated August 22, 2020.
• On August 15, 2020, the NWGA appointed a Judicial Commission to hear the first complaint.
• On Tuesday, January 12, 2021, after five months of careful study, a hearing, and deliberation, the Judicial Commission voted that the Midway Session did indeed violate BCO 20-2, BCO 20-4, and BCO 20-5 in their conduction of the July 19, 2020 congregational meeting.
• On Wednesday, January 13, 2021, the Judicial Commission sent their written judgement to the respondents and the complainant, stating on lines 206-207 that “The case is remanded for adjudication consistent with this decision, and we recommend that the session offer an apology to both Mr. Michelson (the complainant) and the congregation.”
• On Thursday, January 14, 2021, contrary to the statement made by the Stated Clerk in his email to the complainant that “Presbytery will receive the same notification later today,” the Presbytery sent a different written judgment to the Presbyters. In that judgment, lines 206-207 were replaced with a remedy that stated that the three pastors shall remain associates. Whether this change was made by the Judicial Commission chair or the full Judicial Commission is not clear. Whether the Judicial Commission or any member of it was asked to make this change is also not clear. This updated judgment was not sent to the complainant in violation of BCO 43-9.
• On Friday, January 15, 2021, the respondents from the Midway Session circulated the court by distributing a motion to the Presbyters of the NWGA Presbytery 24 hours in advance of the upcoming Presbytery meeting asking the presbytery to take an action that would misapply BCO 15-3 by sending the complaint to a study committee in lieu of voting up or down on the judicial commissions judgment. Any attempt, by either party, to circulate a court is a violation of BCO 43-2. Note that, when they took this action, the Midway respondents were well aware of the proposed judgment of the Judicial Commission was not in their favor.
• On Saturday, January 16, 2021, this series of delinquencies and unconstitutional proceedings culminated at the stated Presbytery meeting, when the seven respondents from the Midway Session 1) made a motion to send the first complaint to a study committee in lieu of voting on it up or down without debate; and then, 2) the Midway respondents sat, deliberated, and apparently voted to pass their own motion 27-11 in flagrant violation of BCO 39-2. The Session’s actions at this meeting were a clear conflict of interest that unjustly allowed them to interfere with and tip the scales of justice to their favor. The complainant was barred from the deliberations by the moderator of the Presbytery by entering executive session.
The preceding circumstances and the Presbytery’s role in them have enabled and fostered a culture of apparent constitutional violations by the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church. We are concerned that its most influential operators may have converted the Northwest Georgia Presbytery into a convenient mechanism for unjustly muting the congregational voice. If true, the Presbytery has abdicated its duty under BCO 13-9 to exercise proper church authority under our constitution.
This is why we are requesting the high court’s assistance in addressing these issues to help bring resolution to this long chain of troubling events.
Therefore, being that all of the undersigned ordained officers are currently members in good standing at Midway Presbyterian Church and none were delegates to the January 16, 2021 stated meeting of the Presbytery, we now ask that the next higher court above the NWGA Presbytery accept this as a credible report and use that authority given to it by the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America to correct these important delinquencies and grossly unconstitutional proceedings of the NWGA Presbytery and bring that court into compliance with our ecclesiastical constitution.
Seeking decency and order in the affairs of God’s church,
Lindsey Tippins, Ruling Elder
These ordained Midway members are joining Elder Tippins in submitting this report:
Don Barnett, Ruling Elder Mike Kline, Ruling Elder Dan Crouse, Deacon
Jerry Blades, Ruling Elder Ed Knox, Ruling Elder Reggie Harris, Deacon
Clay David, Ruling Elder James Scott, Ruling Elder Ken Joiner, Deacon
Larry Judy, Ruling Elder Mel Bokhoven, Deacon Fred Warren, Deacon
A. August 2,, 2021, NWGA Credential Committee Report and Calls (Pages 14-18 of NWGA Presbytery Minutes of the August 15, 2020 Stated Meeting).
B. January 13, 2021, Original Judicial Commission Judgment.
C. January 14, 2021, Restated Judicial Commission Judgment with Revised Remedy.
D. January 15, 2021, Correspondence to the NWGA Presbyters by the Respondents.