Has the Church of God in Christ finally realized it has a serious national problem on its hands? Has it glimpsed the littered trail of broken people spanning decades of church history? Has it recognized the need to acknowledge that much of the hurt, brokenness and devastation did not come from without but from within? Perhaps they have but it remains to be seen.
Earlier this month, the denomination, known for its pentecostal exuberance and flashy church attire, has launched a new ministry venture, one we hope will be what it is advertised to be. Called COGIC Ministries of Deliverance with the tag “Hope, Healing and Restoration”. EX-drug addict Bishop Roger L. Jones of Flint, MI was named National Director. Jones’ own story of descending into drug addiction while in office as a COGIC bishop may add a needed layer of authenticity to the ministry only if COGIC’s obsessive desire to institutionalize all of its departments doesn’t cause an early demise.
The ministry seems yet undefined. Is it a ministry geared towards leaders or a ministry for all COGIC members who have experienced various forms of brokenness?
On Jones’ facebook page, a graphic cites a quote from him inviting leaders to talk to him. “Leadership needs someone to talk to before we have another pastoral suicide. Therefore I’ll listen”, it says. Call 810-610-1713
But the official flier released by COGIC makes no references to the ministry being geared to leaders. A statement on the flier is attributed to Jones as well.
“This ministry is for those who are struggling and hurt, but need healing and deliverance. As a church we must be prepared to minister and witness to this deeply distressed and troubled world. As we continue to grow and expand in various ministries, we must be prepared to develop a process for recovery, total honesty and transparency in healing the hurts and restoring our congregations, our families and our communities.”
This could be very good news for the numerous victims of clergy sexual abuse. It could be good news to the untold numbers of young men who are struggling with homosexuality, some of them have had their sexual innocence stolen by church leaders. If you have been wounded by the church and still in state of brokenness, call Bishop Jones and see what’s really being offered. Other than the number on the flier, there’s no website, no plans, no nothing to give an indication that this ministry is ready for the work its advertised. For a denomination this size and with the damage so obvious and widespread, that’s not a good sign. We’re willing to give COGIC the benefit of the doubt, but healing broken people and returning them to wholeness requires more than just a flier. We will continue to watch…and report till victory is won.
“I want to briefly correct this post. I am officially stating that Frederick Smith , nor his Church, are operating under the supervision and authority of Church Of God In Christ . Sup. Linwood Dillard is not the person that told me that. Pastor Smith admits that he is not under the authority and supervision of COGIC. It is my opinion that Pastor Smith is very distraught . I spoke with him as a fellow clergic [sic] and in hopes of some healing in this matter.”
Just a week after Report COGIC Abuse published the story of COGIC Pastor Frederick Smith and allegations of financial malfeasance, misrepresentation on a legal document and gross sexual immorality , it appears that Bishop Brandon Porter has taken some action against the pastor and church.
The screenshot of the website taken before and after the report shows Smith and New Life Holiness church now removed from the official jurisdictional website which lists its member pastors and churches.
Its unclear at this point whether this action is to be viewed as punitive or evasive. Neither Porter nor Smith’s immediate supervisor Supt Linwood Dilliard (also president of COGIC International Youth Department) have made any public statements although the situation has received widespread attention. Has Smith been booted from the denomination? If so, it would seem to verify all the allegations against him.
Has Smith been put on lay low status until the controversy dies? If so, it could indicate his leaders are avoiding dealing with the obvious breaches to COGIC’s policy and doctrine.
Covering or Coverup?
How much about Smith’s sexual proclivities did Porter and Dillard know and when did they know it? Is this situation like many others in COGIC where even though leadership is aware of the serious moral and ethical failings of its pastors, they ignore it in their quest to build district and jurisdictional clout within the denomination? Or ignore it because a person has a position and can deliver emotional orations like deceased Bishop JD Husbands?
Records we found show that Smith initially began his COGIC career as a member of a district under the late Bishop JO Patterson, Jr as early as 2007. At some point, he transferred to the Tennessee Central Jurisdiction.
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.