The full Standing Judicial Commission of the Presbyterian Church in America has unanimously cleared RE Dudt of all wrongdoing…

May 4, 2022 – This is truly a day of answered prayers and received blessings! The SJC has restored RE Dudt to the full exercise of his office! In their words:

The decisions of the Session of Midway Presbyterian Church and Northwest Georgia Presbytery are reversed in whole. The SJC renders the decision that should have been rendered, to wit, not guilty. RE Dudt is relieved of his conviction and censure and is restored to the full exercise of his office.

In accordance with BCO 15-5b, “The judgment shall be effective from the time of its announcement to the parties.” Five hundred thirty-nine days following the trial on November 11, 2020, the decision has been announced to the parties and is therefore effective immediately.

The final vote was 19-0-0. There were no dissenting votes, one disqualified vote, no abstaining votes, and three absences.

Click here to read the full and final decision.

**July 7, 2022 Update — A concurring opinion was issued and has been posted at the end of the article in order to keep them together in one location.**

Further, the SJC identified how severely the actions and judgments of the Midway Session and the Northwest Georgia Presbytery are out of line with the PCA Constitution:

“The specifications of error sustained, taken together, demonstrate clear error on the part of the lower courts [Midway Session, Northwest Georgia Presbytery] with respect to factual findings and matters of discretion and judgment, as well as violations of the Constitution of the PCA, all of which vindicate the Judgment of the SJC in this case.”

Standing Judicial Commission, Decision on Appeal of RE Phil Dudt v. Northwest Georgia Presbytery – April 27, 2022

The SJC upheld all 22 constitutional violations and errors committed by the Midway Session and the Northwest Georgia Presbytery that were identified by the SJC Panel in its proposed decision. The unsound, incompetent, uncharitable, and wicked judgments of both the Midway Session and the NWGP are itemized and analyzed on the Midway Guardian at the following links:

  1. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Had No Right to Ask RE Dudt to Suppress SJC Decision
  2. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Convicted RE Dudt Without Any Evidence
  3. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Found Lies Where There Were None
  4. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority “Clearly Erred in the Judgment” and Wrongly Assigned Motive
  5. SJC Panel:  “Talley Resolution” is Divisive and Clearly Unconstitutional
  6. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Assigned Malicious Motive to RE Dudt
  7. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Violated BCO 32-3
  8. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Violated BCO 32-19
  9. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Violated BCO 31-8
  10. SJC Panel: Moderator in Dudt Trial Exhibited Bias
  11. SJC Panel: Midway Session Blocked Relevant Evidence in Dudt Trial
  12. SJC Panel: Moderator Was Unclear Where Burden of Proof Rests in Dudt Trial
  13. SJC Panel: Midway Session Majority Violated BCO 42-6
  14. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Permitted Midway Session to Add Evidence After the Trial
  15. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Violated BCO 42-4
  16. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Erred by Endorsing Midway Session’s Premature Announcement of Censure
  17. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Failed to Properly Respond to RE Dudt’s Appeal
  18. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Was “Clearly in Error” For Agreeing with Midway Session
  19. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Wrongly Agreed with Midway Session on Accepting Biased Evidence
  20. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Wrongly Concluded that Midway Session Indictment Against RE Dudt Was Scripturally Supported
  21. SJC Panel: Northwest Georgia Presbytery Was Wrong to Accept Midway Session’s Assignment of Malicious Motive to RE Dudt

The proper Biblical response by the Midway Session is for every man who voted to convict RE Dudt to immediately resign his office, especially Senior Pastor David Hall, who oversaw and possibly orchestrated the whole sorry travesty of justice to begin with and who actively proceeds in more unjust prosecution of three other upstanding Midway elders.

This is the only Scriptural response any concerned Midway member should accept. “Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you” (Deut. 19:19).

Click here to read the full and final SJC decision.

A concurring opinion was released and has been published below in its entirety, taken from the 2022 Commissioner’s Handbook:

                  Concurring Opinion
Of RE Howie Donahoe, joined by TE Sean Lucas, TE Charles McGowan, TE Mike Ross, RE Dan Carrell, RE EJ Nusbaum, RE Bruce Terrell

We concurred with the Decision but believe two comments are warranted - one as a critique of a Session trial court procedure and the other as a general caution regarding individual elders emailing their congregations.

1. The Summary of the Facts indicates that on November 11, 2020, “The trial commenced at 7:30 pm and concluded at 5:40 am the next day.” The Record indicates the meeting concluded at 5:40 am, but it’s unclear when the defense and prosecution closing arguments occurred. Presumably, because there were three prosecution witnesses and defense witnesses, it was probably well after midnight. That is a highly unreasonable way to conduct a trial. An overnight trial is extraordinary, and so is a court discussing the verdict and censure during the wee hours of the morning. The Record does not indicate time was of the essence in this matter. The trial court committed a clear error of judgment in this procedure, despite the defendant’s failure to object. 

However, because the BCO 39-3.1: “A higher court, reviewing a lower court, should limit itself to the issues raised by the parties to the case in the original (lower) court.” While we agree the SJC should avoid basing judgments on issues unraised by the parties, it is proper to raise concerns about a lower court error, nonetheless. Doing so helps to clarify that serious errors evident in the Summary of the Facts, and thus evident to the reader, are not necessarily judged as benign. 

2. It would be unfortunate for anyone to conclude, that because this Appeal was sustained, it is appropriate for a Session member to email his congregation expressing disagreement with a Session decision. Such conduct would rarely be wise or appropriate. 

It would be unfortunate if any elder feels emboldened by this ruling. Session members have several avenues for expressing disagreement with a Session decision, some wiser than others, depending on the circumstances. And ordination vows 5 and 6 certainly must have some bearing on the matter - #5. “Do you promise subjection to your brethren in the Lord?” #6. “Do you promise to strive for the purity, peace, unity, and edification of the Church?”

In addressing Appellant specification of error #3, the SJC ruled: “The Session had a right to refuse to distribute the SJC decision in question. The Session had no right to forbid RE Dudt from doing so, the 5th ordination vow notwithstanding.” We agree. The SJC Decision in Case 2019-03 Crouse v. Northwest Georgia was a General Assembly action and one which the congregation had a right to see, regardless of whether the SJC Decision found error in a Session action. (BCO 14-7)

But the Session’s decision declining to distribute the Decision was not the lone concern expressed by the Appellant in his July 2020 email to the congregation. He offered other critiques of the Session, including his disagreement with the Session’s decision to recommend the congregation promote three assistant pastors to associates and his disagreement with the Session’s interpretation of BCO 20-2.

The Decision ruled that the Appellant’s distribution of the Crouse Decision was not a censurable offense. (Charge 1; Appellant specification of error #3, sustained by the SJC) The Decision also ruled that the Session did not prove the email contained false statements or that the email “as a whole” violated the 9th commandment. (Charge 2; Appellant specifications of error #5 and #6, sustained by the SJC) Nevertheless, the propriety and wisdom of sending such an email to the congregation is, in our opinion, highly questionable.

There are few things that disturb the peace and unity of a church more than individual elders bringing to public attention their disagreements with Session decisions. And few things disturb the peace and unity of a church more than a Session putting an elder on trial for actions related to disagreements with the Session. Not many things divide a church more quickly.