David Hall’s sermon opened with these words, but is it his leadership that’s failing as opposed to the arguments?
Senior Pastor David Hall’s sermon on the stoning of Stephen the morning of September 26, 2021 was opened with the following statement: “…you need to know that in the world that you will have enemies. As you have enemies, God gives you the Holy Spirit to speak to them, and in Stephen’s case he spoke, and when he spoke he knew he was speaking to hardened hearts…and when we speak to blind hardened sinners, this chapter teaches us that we should be prepared for opposition. People in this chapter as I read these verses to you had their hearts, as one commentator said, ‘ripping with rage’. You see, when arguments fail, smear campaigns are resorted to…”
The religious leaders of Stephen’s day persecuted him unto death as a messenger of truth. While truth telling was a capital offense in Stephen’s day, today the persecution for truth telling takes a different form. Given that Senior Pastor David Hall preached this sermon six days after a Midway Guardian exclusive broke that his Session charged three additional Ruling Elders, it is hard to separate the idea of smear campaigns from the ongoing turmoil at Midway Presbyterian Church. Ruling Elders Scott, Barnett, and David join Ruling Elder Dudt in the suspension of office. At the time of this writing, the Session at Midway has yet to inform the congregation officially that their shepherding elders have been suspended from office.
An analysis of this persecution in the context of Senior Pastor David Hall’s sermon about Stephen confronting the religious leaders of his day is in order. Was the alleged sin of Ruling Elders submitting a credible report to the General Assembly of the PCA citing verifiable facts the “opposition” David Hall refers to? Could it be that the hard hearts in this situation are on a Session that set aside time from ministry in West Cobb to study what charges could be brought against their brothers for stating truth about missteps of a lower church court? Or maybe the hard hearts are among a pastoral staff that cannot submit to the rulings of higher courts without attempting to use politics to delay or prevent consequence?
Persecuted by the “Religious Leaders” “Ripping with Rage”?
With the total (and growing) suspension list of duly elected Ruling Elders on Midway’s Session reaching 4, Midway members – is it time to ask yourself whether that many members of the Session really are such sinners that steps towards excommunication are warranted or whether they are being systematically victimized for speaking unpopular truths that expose error perpetrated by your religious leaders? If these men with access to the facts behind the scenes don’t speak up to challenge error, who will? Apparently it is acceptable for Senior Pastor David Hall and his pastoral staff to send reports to higher courts, but not for Ruling Elders at the church.
Of Stephen in the Book of Acts, David Hall said “Stephen did not pull these punches even though he was very polite and controlled and on message, the message was more important than the mob, or even the man that is presenting it. Will we have a church like that in the future, as Christ’s church has been in the past?” A profound question indeed. Surely those at Midway will not have a church like this in the future if men who expose error are penalized and placed under discipline for expressing “very polite and controlled” messages to higher church courts whose responsibility it is to assess and address the missteps alleged.
Senior Pastor David Hall emphasized in his sermon that the religious leaders of Stephen’s day were angry when faced with the truth stating “there we no words that could represent their repulsion” and with regard to their unwillingness to heed the truth they were “shrieking”, “yelling”, and exhibited “willful resistance” that was “stiff-necked” and “donkey-like”. Could this also characterize the strong motive-assigning language used by the Session in calling the elders who signed the credible report to repent? Given the discrepancies in their response, would it not have been wiser to wait for the courts to address the credible report as Ruling Elder James Scott’s “Motion for Peace” (which was rejected by the Session) suggested?
Does Senior Pastor David Hall and what is left of his Session not trust the higher courts to reject the credible report if it is false? Or are they fearful, as the religious leaders in Stephen’s day, that by the truth they would be condemned? With regard to the 40-5 credible report, should not Senior Pastor David Hall heed Gamaliel’s advice from Acts 5 where concerning the Apostle’s preaching of truth that “And now I say to you, keep away from these men and let them alone; for if this plan or this work is of men, it will come to nothing; but if it is of God, you cannot overthrow it—lest you even be found to fight against God.” Perhaps the enormous pressure of having four cases before the Standing Judicial Commission of the PCA involving alleged wrongdoing on Midway’s Session is preventing Senior Pastor David Hall and his Session from just letting the Ruling Elders they oppose alone?
Is the continued purge of Ruling Elders an action that would be taken by a Session innocent of wrongdoing or one attempting a “smear campaign” against their opposition, their arguments having failed?
The “Smear Campaign”
The educator Karl Raumer once remarked: “Every germinating truth is revolutionary against the opposing ruling error, every germinating virtue is revolutionary against popular contradictory lies.”
Those on Midway’s Session persecuting their brothers without attempting Biblical conciliation are the “ruling error” and they have seen fit to smash the truth by opposing it. It is hard to associate oneself with the trustworthiness of church office and yet oppose truth. Indeed it is true that when someone clings to multiple pieces of knowledge that are inconsistent with one another that cognitive dissonance forms. Human nature often attempts to resolve this conflict through self-affirmation to reduce the apparent inconsistencies. It would seem that the self-affirmation needed comes in the form of charges against Ruling Elders who express statements of truth that might be unpopular.
Truly, even if these erroneous charges were dropped by the Senior Pastor Hall and his Session today, the damage to the reputation of Ruling Elders who have dedicated decades of faithful service to Midway Presbyterian Church will remain. While some might surmise that the “smear campaign” referred to may be a reference to The Midway Guardian, the real smear campaign is the one ongoing against Ruling Elders Scott, Barnett, David, and Dudt.
Failed Arguments or Failed Leadership?
Senior Pastor Hall decries failed arguments, but is that really where the emphasis belongs? Is it possible to threaten reprisals, demand submission, charge and suspend 33% of your church’s elected ruling elders and call it anything other than failed leadership? It appears the flock is being driven by “fear and force.”
It is clear that Senior Pastor Hall believes there are members at Midway Presbyterian Church who are not in submission to the Holy Spirit. Evidence would seem to indicate that these are the men who have complained in the past (as he seemingly suggested, at the behest of devils) and those Ruling Elders on the Session who have attempted to challenge the failed leadership by exposing error. He ripped:
“One preacher I read this week said there are two ways to deal with a stiff neck. First it can be broken or secondly it can be bent by a yoke. Our Lord Jesus you may recall said ‘come unto me all you who labor and take my yoke upon you.” There may not be other alternatives. You may remain a stiff necked yoke-less person, who insists on your own way and demands that others do what you wish rather than surrender to God…[shouts and points] Might there be some of you here who resist the Holy Spirit and do not submit to God!? Instead you submit to your own will, and resist the Holy Spirit.”Senior Pastor David Hall, 21:20 https://vimeo.com/615443107
In this same sermon, Senior Pastor David Hall stated that “no one is indispensable to the ministry.” Quite true.