The report that resulted in charges against three Midway elders was taken back…
The “Committee on Charges” led by RE Paul Fish passed out its report during the Stated Session meeting of September 20, 2021.
As a result of that report and discussion, the Session charged ruling elders Scott, Barnett, and David and suspended them of their official functions in that same meeting.
This report supposedly contained the basis for entering process and suspending the three ruling elders. This report was allegedly passed out during the meeting for everyone to read and discuss, but it was taken back up before the meeting ended.
It is unknown at this time why the Session is maintaining the secrecy of the report’s contents, especially from the three men who were the objects of that report.
It is reported that it has not been made clear to the suspended elders exactly with what offenses they are charged.
DID THE REPORT RECOMMEND WISE BIBLICAL CONCILIATION STEPS?
The Book of Church Order contains an appendix on Biblical Conflict Resolution (Appendix I). It recommends taking several steps before proceeding to formal church discipline.
“Mediation” is recommended when personal peacemaking does not work, and the parties “should ask one or more other Christians to meet with them to help the parties communicate more effectively and explore possible solutions.”
The parties in this case are the Session majority who suspended the men, and the men who were suspended.
There has been no known attempt by David Hall as moderator, or the Session generally, to seek outside help to resolve this conflict. (If you know of otherwise, please contact us through our Contact page so that we can update this article for accuracy.)
“Arbitration” is a second option suggested by the BCO appendix that can be a legally binding process. “When two parties to a conflict cannot come to a voluntary agreement on a substantive issue, one or more arbitrators may be appointed to listen to the arguments and evidence of each side and render a binding decision.” It references 1 Cor. 6:1-8: “If you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church.”
WORLDLY RESPONSES TO CONFLICT
The BCO emphasizes that “every effort should be made, however, to resolve the conflict through repentance, confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation before formal charges are entertained by a church court…[E]very effort should be made to utilize private confrontation, mediation, and arbitration in order to reserve the use of formal church discipline, and the time of church courts, for those matters related to the purity of the Church and the keeping and reclaiming of disobedient sinners (BCO 27-1).”
It is unknown at this time if RE Fish’s report included these wise and important recommendations before proceeding to formal church discipline.
Exercising the rights afforded to sessions in BCO 41-1 to ask the presbytery for advice, especially in divisive and substantive issues as this, would be one way to apply these concepts to this case.
To date, there has been no evidence documented in past meeting minutes of any reference made by the Session to the Northwest Georgia Presbytery requesting their help in resolving this conflict.
Without first attempting mediation or arbitration before activating the church courts, the Session majority appears to be hastily rushing into conflict and unwisely thrusting the church into unnecessary turmoil.