For the first time since its reorganization in 1991, The Church of God in Christ is getting a real judge on its Judicial Board. The Honorable Judge Casandra Lewis, a sitting Cook County Circuit Judge won election and will be inaugurated during the 107th Holy Convocation in St. Louis.
The Chicago native earned a B.A. from Roosevelt University, going on to receive her J.D. from John Marshall Law School. She was admitted to the bar in 1991. Prior to joining the bench in 2002, Lewis practiced law for 12 years with an emphasis on criminal and family law. She began as an assistant state’s attorney, later going on to establish her own firm.
Judge Lewis possesses the type of professional credentials which just might make a difference for the denomination in an area that has been plagued with intra-denominational power struggles. The greatest obstacle to a pure judiciary operating in the COGIC will be to establish its governing independence from the suffocating influence of the General Board.
Judge Lewis is an active member of many legal and judicial organizations and has held various positions in the Illinois Judicial Council, including secretary of the Council’s Taskforce on Liberia; assistant treasurer; and assistant secretary of the organization. Additionally, for several years she has served as the Coordinator of the Law Day Program, which provides inner-city high school students with the opportunity to shadow judges for a day. Judge Lewis was the recipient of the Chairperson’s Award in 2005, 2007 and 2012 in recognition of her outstanding work with the students. Judge also received the Meritorious Award in 2008. [source]
The denomination’s ecclesiastical court was “established as both an ecclesiastical and appellate court, hearing disputes upon appeal from lower dispute resolution forums in the church and serving as the ultimate authority on matters of constitutional interpretation. This independent, objective branch of Church government shall have as its highest objective the protection of the rights of every member of the Church of God in Christ, Incorporated as set forth in the Constitution. The protection of those rights shall be without regard for official position or social station.” [source]
In our opinion, the vast majority of COGIC members are particularly clueless as to the Judiciary’s purpose, intent and applicable benefits available to them within the denomination. And COGIC leadership makes no attempt to educate or foster awareness. An uninformed constituency is most likely what leadership values most.
Report COGIC Abuse congratulates Justice Lewis amid hopes that her tested jurisprudence will translate to real justice for every member of the Church of God in Christ, especially victims of clergy sexual predators.
Serious sexual immorality charges emerge on Memphis COGIC pastor; no response from Linwood Dilliard or Bishop Brandon Porter
Serious charges of sexual immorality and possible financial malfeasance by a Memphis pastor have emerged but so far there’s been no response from the pastor’s immediate denominational supervisor nor his bishop.
Last week, popular Memphis “shock jock” Thaddeus Matthews made public information given to him about Pastor Frederick Smith of New Life Holiness Church alleging the pastor paid for numerous sexual encounters with another man.
Matthews published a profanity laden letter sent to him by church members who say someone placed it on their car windshields in the church’s parking lot. The anonymous writer alleges Pastor Smith initially picked him up and paid him $100 for sex. After that, the two met frequently for the same. Due to the graphic language of the letter, Report COGIC Abuse has chosen not to repost it.
The website of Tennessee Central Jurisdiction lists Smith and the church as members of the Memphis Southeast District under Supt Linwood Dillard.
In addition to the charges of gross sexual immorality, Matthews alleges that Smith lied or misrepresented New Life Holiness’s affiliation with the Church of God in Christ. An official bankruptcy document filed in 2012 with the Western District of Tennessee and signed by Smith identifies the church as a member of the Church of the Nazarene. But Report COGIC Abuse found a 2007 JO Patterson Memorial District Calendar which lists Smith and church as members.
Smith’s activities became public after he filed a report with Memphis police alleging he had been robbed, beaten and his wallet stolen. The incident happened around 930p on May 17th. Smith claimed he was at the Harbor Island Apartments because he thinking of moving there when a young black male came up behind him and struck him in the face, took his keys and wallet but not the car and ran.
Police arrested 22 year old Hezekiah Webb who admitted to the incident. Smith refused to press any charges against Webb. Webb now alleges the scuffle took place because Smith attempted to get sex from him.
Its not clear whether Smith is still operating as pastor of the church.
There was no evidence of an investigation provided and no indication as to who performed the investigation, nor how long it lasted, but an article in the Grand Rapids Times reported that the embattled former pastor of Davis Memorial Church of God in Christ had been “exonerated by the Church of God in Christ”.
RCA reported on the internal tempest at the church here.
The church alleged that since Bishop PA Brooks installed Eric Slack as pastor of Davis Memorial, Slack had discontinued paper bank statements, registered an online banking account, spent $13,000 without authorization and racked up $6,000 in bank overdraft charges. Typical of local COGIC churches seeking crisis intervention from the bishop, none came. Letters and calls to Brooks and Michigan SW 2nd jurisdictional officials went unanswered. The silence of their leaders forced the church board to file a police report and launch a criminal investigation. Subsequently, Slack was removed from office pending outcome of the ongoing investigation.
RCA discovered that SW Michigan Bishop Earl Wright and an entourage went to the church in an attempt to reinstall Slack. But that meeting ended with open threats and violence prompting police to forcibly disband the meeting. A handwritten sign on the church door read “Church is cancelled until further notice per board of trustees.”
The news report said that it was also Bishop Earl Wright who sent the exoneration letter clearing Slack of all the charges.
Despite the exoneration, Slack did not return to Davis Memorial, but instead started another church in the city. Slack sent RCA a copy of the article, but not the letter.
A COGIC Church in suburban Memphis is about to receive attention for all the wrong reasons due to the arrest of one of its ministers on Sept 22. WHBQ Fox 13 in Memphis identified the man as 40 year old Patrick Woods of St Luke COGIC in Olive Branch.
“A minister of a church in Olive Branch, Mississippi was arrested Monday evening. Patrick Woods is charged with sexual battery and statutory rape by an authority figure.
The 17 year old victim told investigators, she was sitting on a couch watching a movie in Woods’ Southeast Shelby County home, when he reached under a blanket and molested her. She said Woods children were in the room watching the same movie when it happened in May of this year.
Woods is being held on $50,000 bond. He is scheduled for a video arraignment Tuesday morning.
Woods is a minister at St. Luke Church of God in Christ located in Olive Branch, Mississippi.”
The police mugshot of Woods appears to match a photo of a man taken with youth from the church at COGIC’s 2013 “Southern Region Youth Explosion”. In the photo, Woods is wearing a wedding band. The police report states the victim said she was an “active member” of St Luke Church.
repost from September 9th, 2009 [source]
Yesterday, 143 years after the birth of Church of God in Christ founder Bishop CH Mason, ReportCOGICAbuse.com was launched (1) in defense and support of victims of COGIC clergy sexual abuse (2) in support of survivors of clergy sexual abuse and (3) to confront ongoing silence and inaction against such abuses.
Its understandable that some COGIC members would take immediate offense (although unwarranted), some will understand, but perhaps remain silent and some will try to sort out what they perceive as legitimate versus nonlegitimate information on the site.
As I’ve said here previously and on the site, this isn’t theory or conjecture on my part, as a survivor of sexual molestation while growing up in COGIC, I speak from painful past experience and intimately know what is like to be the object of someone’s untoward sexual desires.
That being said, I’ve agreed to answer the following questions posed by Julia Thuston who commented she was “very skeptical” of the new site.
There’s no real guarantee that the answers will satisfy her or anyone else, but unlike leaders of the COGIC, I will answer honestly and openly about this site and its intentions.
Thuston: The question would be what happens to the information given to these “watch dog” groups.
First, let’s orient ourselves to proper biblical terminology in regards to this effort. In the Old Testament, the term watchman or “watchman on the wall” was synonymous with a God-ordained position of trust. You can check Is 62:6, Neh 4:9, 2 Sam 18:24, Ezekiel 33:2,3 and more. Please note their specific duties. They had a mission to ensure safety and peace. Jesus commanded us to “watch” as well as pray that we enter not into temptation. In other words, beware lest you be fooled by deceitful people and situations. This is not an indictment on COGIC, but an indictment on sin which needs to be dealt with at the roots. Unfortunately it is our belief that the leadership of COGIC has failed miserably to do so. God commanded the watchman to set on the wall and to declare what he sees (Is 21:6). Not only have we seen it, we’ve shown proof of its existence. We are not “watch dogs” (a pejorative), rather we function as watchmen (an honorable service to the body of Christ).
Information given to ReportCOGICAbuse.com may come from many sources, but until they are vetted, with accompanying evidence, it will not appear on the site. If information is given to us of a current situation, rest assured we will immediately pass on the information to authorities. One of the factors which aid molesters to go undetected for so long is ignorance, whether willful or not. The other factor is opportunity. If we do not shine the light on this issue, it will only grow worse with time. The site is to serve notice to any man or woman stalking a child or another vunerable member of the church, if God so allows to expose you, we will gladly assist. Repent and turn now while God’s mercy allows it.
Thuston: Is this ministry or just slander?
Not one, single person or situation cited on ReportCOGICAbuse.com is remotely slanderous. All have been traced to official legal documents and or verified media reports (which also cite court records) and/or official COGIC documents. In addition, everything can be verified as all are matters of public record.
Slander is legally defined as making of defamatory statements by a transitory (non-fixed) representation, usually an oral (spoken) representation. Libel involves the making of defamatory statements in a printed or fixed medium, such as a magazine or newspaper. Biblically, both would be summarized as lying or bearing false witness.
It is ministry because the fundamental definition of ministry is finding and meeting needs. This is a need that has been rejected by COGIC’s leadership and God has given it to us.
Thuston: When do we actually do Galations 6.
Galatians 6 which states that spiritual members of the Body are to restore a brother who is overtaken in a fault is certainly to be considered in these cases. And no one is beyond forgiveness and restoration. We do need to understand the connotation of “overtaken” as opposed to pursuit and maintenance of a sinful lifestyle. However, sexual crimes pose a legitimate caveat for Gal 6. To wit, a sexual crime and a sexual sin ( or fault) are not automatically interchangeable, thus consequences come to bear. If a brother committed a sexual sin, forgiving and restoring him or her would be the sole jurisdiction of the church or at least those who are spiritual. Galatians 6 is applicable. If a brother committed a sexual crime which is also sin, the church does not hold sole jurisdiction and Galatians 6 is only applicable in part. While such a one can be forgiven, restoration (and restitution) is in the hands of the state. When we unjustly use scripture to protect individuals from facing the consequences of their crime, we become partakers of their sin and instead of facilitating the intent of Gal 6, we thwart it.
Thuston: Are the abused really helped on this sight [sic]?
Yes, they are. The site sends a clear, unwavering message that we do not support those who violate the innocent. Very few persons who are sexually abused jump out in the open and fight their abusers. The reason is because they have been conditioned by the abuser to be quiet and submissive. We stand in the gap and speak up for them. This helps them to gain confidence to go forward towards restoration. Unfortunately, confidence is not all they need. They need justice, they need compassion and they need compensation to handle counseling (and medical) bills in the wake of a plethora of emotional, sexual and relationship deficiencies that result from sexual damage. At the very least, if the guilt of the perpetrator is proven, why isnt grace, compassion and assistance extended by the church to the victims and their families? Are they somehow unworthy of this because they were forced to seek justice outside of the church? We have already cited how COGIC ignored and in some cases chastised the numerous victims and families of Bishop John Husband while they offered the guilty man help and an open door back to his position. Is that justice?
Additionally, we welcome the assistance of COGIC members in the legal, counseling and medical fields to offer their expert services to victims and their families. We need a healing support community to help with the intangible aftermath of sexual abuse. Its my belief that the Women’s Department could very easily absorb this responsibility given its natural function of teaching and raising children and young women. And we must not forget that there are many young men who have been sexually violated that have never spoken up yet they suffer the same.
Thuston: Will there be an actuall [sic] investigation of the situations that are reported on this sight[sic]?
If you take time to actually read each case cited, you will see patterns emerge. If you read the deposition of Enoch Perry (which is posted), you will see that COGIC is either in shambles or someone is clearly lying about the structure and governance of the church. Either one spells serious disservice to victims of clergy sexual abuse. We certainly hope Bishop Blake will direct and organize the appropriate persons within COGIC to deal with the problem. As you can see from the two year old public quotes made by Bishop Blake, he has no intention of doing so. Therefore, ReportCOGICAbuse.com became a necessity.
Thuston: Or will as the person cited every COGIC church and preacher be targeted by the actions of very few?
No, we have not speculated or entertained rumors nor implicated anyone not guilty. But the guilty, proven in a court of law, reflect negatively on the whole church. Its not ethical for the whole church to beam with pride over the positive accomplishments of a few, but divorce themselves from the criminal activity of a few. In most of the cases we cited, these men had been part of COGIC for decades if not more. While I agree that not every person in COGIC is directly responsible for the actions of its members, those who KNOW and remain silent are equally guilty. Furthermore, the scriptures warn us that it only takes a small amount of leaven to affect the whole lump. Incidentally, this warning was given as a result of leaders in the Corinthian church refusing to deal with sexual sin in their midst.
Thuston: Or will this just end up as another “National Enquire” gosip slander site?
No, your fears are completely unfounded. Gossip is sinful and deadly. Gossip is defined as habitually spreading intimate or private rumors or facts. What we have done is to gather already public information, archive it and present it as evidence that the problem is far greater than some believe it to be. Trust that we know much more that we are able to speak about at this time. But let judgment begin at the house of God. His house is to be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a place where sexual thieves find comfort. That is truly an abomination the National Enquirer could never come close to duplicating.
—Thanks for your questions.
Report COGIC Abuse launched on the birthday of COGIC founder Bishop CH Mason to highlight the need for holiness emphasis on sexual integrity among leaders
Charles Harrison Mason, undoubtedly one of the most influential spiritual leaders of the 20th century, was born September 8, 1866 just outside Memphis, Tennessee and later founded what has become the nation’s largest black pentecostal denomination.
The church he left upon his death in November 1961 has changed. Greed, avarice, pride, infighting, division and sexual immorality have darkened the spiritual legacy while “the show” of church continued unabated.
Because of growing incidents of sexual abuse of women and children by church leaders, and the coverup of those crimes, Report COGIC Abuse was launched 5 years ago. The site’s main goal is to empower the people of COGIC with reliable information, resources and a grass roots friendly instrument to fight the culture of silence and inaction which emboldens sexual predators to continue their devastation upon innocent men, women and children. We believe Bishop Mason would not have stood by silently in the face of such grave abuses of someone’s sexual sanctity. The site also raises up the profile and plight of victims and the families who are often quickly pushed to the side and forgotten.
We’re thankful, grateful and humbled by the changes that have been enacted since Report COGIC Abuse began its mission five years ago. But sadly, we must continue exposing wolves, fighting predators and crying aloud until victory is won.
Rest in peace Bishop Mason.
HOUSTON – Some members of the Williams Temple Church of God in Christ in Houston say that they are being bullied, threatened and even physically attacked by a woman who serves as a National Trustee of the denomination. And neither the pastor, bishop or national church has responded to any of their cries for support and justice.
Its a sad situation to report but when one looks at those in authority, it becomes very clear why little has been done to reel in Cari V. Barnes’ from attacking fellow church members.
Williams Temple was once a spiritual crown jewel COGIC congregation with a glorious history. Founded in 1919, the church saw several storied pastors, including Bishop CH Nelson and Bishop Robert Woodard, Sr. lead it to prominence in the 3rd Ward of central Houston. A 2 million dollar complex was built in 1989. When Bishop Woodard, Jr. died in 2001, Williams Temple’s membership hovered at over 1,000. Now, the church is a shell of its former self, having lost over 75% of its members, much of it a reaction to the sexual abuse arrest and scandal of its current pastor.
In December 2007, the church fell into the grasp of Bishop Charles Brown who was caught up in a storm of controversy after 3 female members of his family accused him of molesting them as children. After being arrested, Brown was removed from his position in the denomination but then quickly “reinstated” once the sexual abuse case was dismissed on a legal technicality.
Since Brown took control, according to church members, the congregation has suffered greatly. Cari Barnes is a product of the confusion and discord controlling the church now.
Barnes is granddaughter of the late Texas Women’s Supervisor Victoria Barnes and her husband the late Titus, Sr, a successful funeral magnate, trustee and deacon at Williams Temple. She was elected to the national church’s Trustee Board in 2012.
Documents obtained by Report COGIC Abuse show that Barnes’ out of control behavior at the church prompted complaints to be filed with the Houston Police Department, jurisdictional Bishop Rufus Kyles (see here for another Kyles legal controversy), and to Bishop Charles Brown but thus far, no corrective actions have been taken against Barnes.
According to a letter dated Aug 8, 2011 from Deacon Weldon Meeks, a former trustee who’s been a member for 33 years, to Bishop Kyles, Barnes used profanity and physical assault towards him in the church office after he asked another member about a check signature.
“You [the other member] don’t have to explain nothing to him”! I was not talking to you and you go to Hell, you go to Hell, you is [sic] a ignorant as Hell and you go to Hell! *sshole, that [sic] what you do go to Hell! Meeks said Barnes told him to “get the hell out of my way” as she “elbowed” him in passing.
Another undated letter to the church’s trustee board from its finance manager said Barnes accosted her openly in church in front of other saints and youth, loudly accusing her of attempting to sabotage relationships and deny compensation to a family member.
On another occasion, the finance manager wrote that Barnes confronted her because an announcement wasn’t read. Barnes told Bishop Brown to fire the finance manager and Brown did so.
“Cari Barnes consistently and constantly abuses and misrepresents the power entrusted to her by the congregation of Williams Temple COGIC, Inc. and is an embarrassment to the office of Trustee. I am sending my documented proof at this time, because previously nothing would be done about her out of control behavior by Bishop Brown. Now that we have new leadership whether it is temporarily or not, I am sending my statement so that a true picture of occurrences can be conveyed.”
On June 21st, Barnes was involved in yet another altercation in the church office with Deacon Robert Price. According to Price’s complaint sent to Bishop Brown, Price says after he refused to give Barnes a receipt she demanded, she “struck him in the back of the head and jumped on his back.”
Brown acknowledged receipt of the incident the next day writing in an email, “Robert and Cari
I am sorry to hear of this unfortunately [sic] incident between the two of you. I will set a meeting with you and resolve this problem. I will contact both of you for a time to meet! Thanks!”
Its unknown whether this meeting ever occurred.
Admittedly, internal church conflicts never benefit anyone. If Williams Temple is to stop itself from sliding into mausoleum status, it will have to resolve these conflicts once and for all. Perhaps part of the resolution is putting a leader in place that has the moral authority to bring peace and discipline offenders of the peace.