Report COGIC Abuse, in partnership with I Am My Brothers Keeper Christian Advocacy Council, held Open Forum Discussion on Victims Advocacy Saturday, April 5th. The Forum was well attended and lasted for 2.5 hours. You can listen to the audio of the event by clicking here (Part 1, introductions and presentation by Pastor DL Foster) and here (Part 2, concluding remarks by Pastor DL Foster). Segments 3-5 of the event are available at Dunamis Word Blog.
A December 2013 ruling found that Bishop Enoch Perry III, the ex-Chief Counsel of the Church of God in Christ, Inc was ineligible to be seated on the church’s highest judicial council. The investigation found that the Board of Bishops violated Article VIII of the church’s constitution when it illegally advanced Perry’s name for election. According to church law, Perry was ineligible to sit on the Judiciary Board before and during the election. The investigation found that Perry didn’t even meet minimum requirements.
“This matter before the Court was referred by Chairman James W. Hunt. He asked the Court to “formally render a ruling concerning the legality of the election and whether or not the names that were received from the Board of Bishops should only have been Jurisdictional Bishops”. Following the November 11, 2013 election, other petitioners filed and raised concerns about various aspects of the electoral process. Among the issues raised were allegations of irregularities in the voting process, and postured that the election was invalid and should be set aside.”
The saga of Enoch Perry and COGIC justice is filled with shady dealings. For years, Perry had been at the center of a string of COGIC legal controversies specifically associated with high profile sexual abuses cases.
Perry had been COGIC’s chief behind-the-scenes architect of its sexual abuse “policy”. He piloted church leadership though numerous legal waters with ubiquitous ease, donning different masks depending on which court room he happened to find himself in. In November 2009, when Bishop Charles Blake dropped a bombshell announcement that his denomination spent on a yearly average $800,000 to settle sexual abuse claims against the church, he actually thanked Perry for his cacophony of supporting distortions.
Report COGIC Abuse obtained a copy of Perry’s 2008 Texas court deposition where he testified under oath that COGIC has virtually no control over its ministers or churches. But that admission quickly caught the former judge in a series of exchanges where he was less than truthful. The deposition occurred in early September 2008, almost a year prior to the approaching sexual abuse trial of Rev. Sherman Allen, a former top COGIC church official.
In a searing letter widely believed to be authored by the denomination’s COO, James Smith, Perry was cited for multiple legal blunders and massive incompetency.
“Regrettably, I must bring to your attention the ongoing dilemma which the National Church has dealt with for many years and will continue to face as a result of the grossly ineffective, entirely inadequate and extremely costly representation being afforded to date by our General Counsel, Judge Enoch Perry, III. As I will address more fully below, in less than a one (1) year time span, the National Church has paid out over $1,000,000 solely due to the lack of sufficient legal acumen and fatal errors in judgment by our General Counsel.”, wrote Smith who called for Perry’s resignation.
Perry was replaced with current counsel Ulysses Henderson and subsequently promoted to auxillary bishop.
The issue of incompetency was raised yet again in the report noting that “The candidate himself has a responsibility to ensure that he or she is fully qualified to run for the office he or she is seeking. In this case, we have a former General Counsel to the Church of God in Christ, Inc., who ran for the highest court in the Church and either did not know the requirements of Article VIII as it relates to who is eligible or did not bother to verify whether he was eligible or not.”
The investigating committee ordered the General Assembly to replace Auxillary Bishop Perry with a qualified candidate.
Read the entire report in our Letters and Documents section.
WREG reported that Bryant pled guilty to the charges and his church was shut down permanently.
Michael Bryant, pastor at Hour of Restoration COGIC in Memphis, was in general sessions court Thursday for what was supposed to be a bond reduction hearing.
Instead, defense attorney Art Horne says he and the prosecution worked out a plea agreement in a “criminal information” that will be brought before a judge in criminal court.
“The case is settled,” said Bryant’s defense attorney, Art Horne. “He’s pleading guilty to sexual battery by an authority figure and the sentence will be six years at 30 percent. And we’ll ask for probation.”
“We’re hoping that some good can come out of this, particularly getting this behind the family and allowing people some time to heal and move on,” Horne continued.
Horne says Hour of Restoration COGIC, a small church with 27 members, will shut down for good as of December 31, 2013.
Bryant remains locked up at 201 Poplar on $1 million bond.
According to an affidavit of complaint, Bryant had been touching a 16-year-old inappropriately for the past two years. She told her mother, but instead of calling the police, her mother and Bryant decided to pray together over the matter in hopes of driving the thoughts out of his head. If convicted as charged, Bryant could have faced between six and 15 years in prison.
Horne says Bryant pleading guilty may be what is best for everybody involved.
“We’re hoping that some good can come out of this, particularly getting this behind the family and allowing people some time to heal and move on,” Horne said.
COGIC did not publish the outcome of its internal investigation allegedly conducted by Bishop Brandon Porter.
The COGIC, Inc. has posted an undated, unattributed statement on its website denying a FOX News report that it was undecided about suspending Memphis Pastor Michael Bryant who was arrested for sexual abuse of a minor. In the past, the website has been unceremoniously scrubbed clean of such notices.
FOX reporter Greg Coy posted the story Dec 19, citing an email from “COGIC officials”:
In an e-mail to FOX13 News COGIC officials said they are very concerned about the allegations against Rev. Bryant but have not decided if they will remove him from the pulpit.
“The Church of God in Christ does not condone and takes a strong stance against sexual misconduct, especially acts targeting minors. Therefore, we are very concerned about the allegations raised against Pastor Bryant. Our local bishop is currently investigating the matter and once his fact finding is complete, the church will respond accordingly. Sexual crimes against children are very serious offenses and we earnestly pray for all of the individuals involved and, in particular, the victim in this matter.” — Uleses C. Henderson, Jr., Office of the General Counsel
But after increased attention on the story, COGIC responded with the following:
Last week, Michael Bryant, pastor of Hour of Restoration Church of God in Christ in Memphis, Tennessee, was arrested on charges of sexual battery against his 16-year-old stepdaughter. Pastor Bryant has since been suspended indefinitely from all of his ministerial duties. The Church of God in Christ does not tolerate such acts.
There has been a fair amount of inaccurate information in the media regarding this matter. The Church of God in Christ has never told the media that it had not made a decision as to whether Pastor Bryant would be removed from the pulpit. There is an internal process to handling matters of this kind that is being followed. We ask for your continued prayers for all of those affected by this matter, especially the teenage victim.
The Church of God in Christ has no further comment on this matter.”
FOX News updated its original story on December 24 “UPDATE: COGIC Pastor Bryant, accused off [sic] sexual abuse, has been suspended indefinitely according to church General Council.”
While the church denied that it was undecided about suspending Bryant, it didn’t clarify when he was suspended. Nor at what point after the church found out, did the suspension occur. Instead it re-emphasized an “internal process to handling matters of this kind”.
The church’s confusing application of its policies and resolutions may be at the heart of the problem with “inaccurate information.” A 2002 General Assembly resolution gave the Presiding Bishop and General Board “the authority to suspend any officer elected or appointed including but not limited to Bishops, Supervisors, Pastors, Elders, Minister, Missionaries, Evangelists or Deacons pending the outcome of any allegations of misconduct which has the potential to substantially impact the National Church financially, morally and spiritually.”
Can the Presiding Bishop suspend upon notice of arrest? Not clear.
Does the Presiding Bishop or General Board have to wait until a case is fully resolved before a person can be suspended? Not clear.
If the accused person admits guilt to the police and its known, is the Presiding Bishop and General Board cleared to suspend the person? Not clear.
The timing of a suspension seems to be intentionally ambiguous. That may be because of legal advice. At any rate, it muddies the entire “internal process” and dishonors victims the church claims to concerned about.
Reblogged from April 13, 2009 with some minor updates.
Maybe the Presiding Bishop should revisit his question and publish a full commentary in The Whole Truth.
GCM Watch has obtained an original copy of an article written almost 40 years ago by then Elder Charles Blake, now COGIC’s highest episcopal officer. Entitled “Is there hope and help for the homosexual? 1 Cor 6:9-11″, Blake authored the piece for the denomination’s “official organ”, The Whole Truth (Volume VII, No IV, May 1974). The mere fact that he was willing to write and publish such an article during this time suggests that he was deeply concerned about men and women who struggle to overcome homosexuality, without the assistance of the church they were born into. But does the article reveal anything about the Presiding Bishop’s personal perspectives on homosexuality? You might be very surprised reading it. The May issue contained part one, but its not clear whether a “part two” was ever published in the June issue as indicated.
Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions we can’t cite the whole article. Here are some interesting statements made in the article. So please don’t complain about “context” quotes.
“Hope and Help” was written when Blake was 34 years old and just five years after he was appointed pastor of West Angeles in 1969. As the young pastor of a growing church, Blake saw homosexuality as a rising controversy which the church had been negligent in addressing. In his article, he is very adamant about speaking out and educating the COGIC and its leadership.
“…because it [homosexuality] seems to be on the increase, I feel we make the problem more severe and pressing when we ignore it. It does not go away. And by our silence we would appear to condone it or advocate it. If we fail to deal with it then many who might otherwise escape, will find themselves entangled in the midst of its antagonizing complexities.The people perish for lack of knowledge.”
I agree completely that silence about deliverance from homosexuality helps to keep struggling people in bondage. As an example, although I was born in COGIC, I can only remember once my formative 19 years hearing about anyone ever being delivered from homosexuality. That person was a female evangelist named Charlotte Reynolds from Ohio. If I’m not mistaken, she had a testimony in one of COGIC’s “souvenir journals” published for the Women’s Convention in Houston. The lack of role models led me to believe that there was no one who had been delivered and thus in my mind, not a real possibility for me. We can only hope that now that Bishop Blake is at the apex of power in COGIC, he would remember what he wrote and challenge the church and many of his fellow pastors and bishops to openly share their testimony of deliverance from homosexuality.
Apparently anticipating that clergy members in his denomination would reject his bold assertions, Blake rebuked them and challenged them to openly deal with homosexuality “from the pulpit”. There was a broad misapplication of Ephesians 5:3 which caused people to believe such things should never be talked about openly.
But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness let it not be once named among you as becometh saints.
In its literal interpretation, these sins should not have been “named” (or mentioned), but only because they should have never have been part of the lifestyle practices of God’s people, not because Paul attempted to standardize some code of silence. In essence, he was demanding a zero tolerance policy. Instead it was said that sexual issues among the saints should never be discussed openly. This is a tragic example of not dividing the Word rightly and its clear what this has led us into.
Most likely, Bishop Blake accurately saw the pulpit as a place of authority in the black church. Unless homosexuality was addressed from THAT place of authority by a person IN authority, it would continue to remain taboo.
“And to those who would feel that this subject should not be dealt with from the pulpit, I would say that the Bible deals with it, God has revealed his mind regarding it and Jesus Christ has provided a means of dealing with it. And thus the preacher who ignores it is either blind of forgetful of his mission.”
Amen! In other words, there remains no excuse for any preacher not to speak out on this issue. Any preacher who ignores the serious and pervasive issue of homosexuality is blind and has forgotten the mission of the preacher of the gospel.
There were more strong words of rebuke for leaders who fail to openly minister truth to homosexuals (caps his):
“Jesus’ death on the cross was for the whole world. And thus the Church of God in Christ must be an extention [sic] of the love of God and the redeeming concern of Christ Jesus to all who need, including the homosexual. And if God has conveyed to us a good word to those involved in sexual variances, then we are guilty of EXTORTION if we keep silent and fail to pass it on.”
Extortion is a strong word, but it is what it is. And unfortunately it appears COGIC leadership didn’t heed these words. Blake himself may have become discouraged fighting against a system so ingrained with ignorance about sexual holiness that at some point he too became complicit. Its no secret in COGIC that ascendancy to the upper levels of leadership comes with a price. In fact, seventeen years later, Blake found himself in the center of one of COGIC’s most infamous homosexual church trials when allegations of widespread homosexual conduct and sexual abuse came to light concerning fellow General Board member John D. Husbands (deceased 1991).
The article also contains a rather controversial section of Blake’s research and commentary on homosexuality and gender issues where he quotes Sigmund Freud as an authority on the subject.
This is the Bishop Blake the church needs now. Almost 40 years have passed since he wrote this and things have only gotten much worse. Homosexuality is running rampant in the church (including the one he presides over), threatens to completely obliterate the social landscape of our nation (including the state he resides in) and has birthed an illegitimate movement of “gay christians”. But Bishop Blake is now silent. Instead of living by what he once openly preached and advocated, he now refers to “official positions” when questioned about the issue.
Although unconfirmed, several individuals have attested that Blake was delivered from homosexuality, even testifying to it at his father’s San Diego church. And gay rumors have persisted among fellow leaders. But in 2003, Bishop Blake completely denied that saying “Homosexuality has never been and will never be my temptation.” If the witness of those who heard him testify is true, it would be such an awesome inspiration for the thousands of young people in COGIC who struggle to overcome homosexuality to know their Bishop is an overcomer and not ashamed of what God has done in his life. Interestingly, the scripture he cited in his article title is the only one which specifically acknowledges not only the reality of freedom from homosexuality through the cleansing blood of Jesus, but also those in the church who have been delivered from homosexuality.
Even as COGIC is set this week for $200 ticket, red carpet inauguration of its newest leader, a man who has based his administration on the hope of a brighter future for COGIC, now seems the best time for him to return to what he once believed.
If you’re interested in reading the entire article, contact The Whole Truth.