Was the hastily called congregational meeting of July 2020 worth it?
Twenty months has passed since that ill-fated congregational meeting that started the chaos that Midway PCA is in today. It was at that meeting that the Senior Pastor, along with a few of his handpicked elders, orchestrated a power play to shift control of the church to the pastoral staff. The purpose of the meeting was to elevate three assistant pastors to associates giving them a vote on the Session. Senior Pastor David Hall promised in his letter to the congregation that it would “enhance stability and ministry for our church”.
RE Jim Wolfe, the architect of that congregational meeting, and RE Bob Whitaker surprised the Session by calling a meeting over a holiday weekend to, in turn, call a congregational meeting a few days later. The elevations were to make a major change to the governance of the church. One third of the ruling elders on the Session were against the hastily called meeting, but the majority prevailed. The majority went on to blindside the other elders, and most of the congregation, by deciding to use unconstitutional procedures to conduct the vote including not to use ballots, not to count abstentions, and to vote on the associate pastors as a slate. The presbytery’s judicial commission later concluded after lengthy study that the Midway Session used these procedures to “mute” the congregation’s voice and limit their input into the process to achieve the Session’s desired outcome.
At the meeting, well over 40% of the congregation was in disagreement, a number that most likely was much higher because ballots were not used and abstentions were not counted. But that significant minority did not deter those men who called the meeting. Since that fateful day, two of the three elevated associate pastors have resigned, but not before leaving a trail of destruction in their path.
With such a significant minority, did those elders expect such an act to “enhance stability”? Since that day, a total of six complaints have been filed, with three currently before the presbytery. But more disturbing is that the four elders that openly dissented to the elevation of the three pastors have all been indicted and suspended from office by the same pastors that were elevated. Right now there are Midway judicial cases before the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA, and the Northwest Georgia Presbytery, and what is left of the Midway Session. On top of that, the presbytery is being investigated by a General Assembly committee for their handling of the installation of those associate pastors.
Sadly, the morning attendance has dropped off significantly in the last twenty months. Sanctuary attendance in now averaging in the 300s, the lowest in years and a far cry of over twice that number when David Hall was called nearly two decades ago. Between the Session purging members and members leaving, the membership is also dropping. There are also rumors that a petition to remove Senior Pastor Hall is circulating through the congregation.
We now ask RE Jim Wolfe, was it worth it? Did your congregational meeting deliver “enhanced stability” as promised? His answer may be yes. The elders that disagreed with him on the Session are now sidelined and many on the Session may considered those that have left the church as undesirable. Maybe pruning the church was the intent. We may never know for sure whether RE Wolfe believes it was all worth it or not. It was common knowledge that RE Wolfe was planning to move away from Midway when he was working on the plan for the ill-fated congregational meeting. Late in 2020, after the fuse was lit, he left the church and moved out of state. A sad legacy indeed.