Special Report: Defamation suit against Board of Bishops Chairman filed in Georgia court
ATLANTA – Seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys for Bishop Larry Shaw, Secretary of the Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops, filed a lawsuit against Bishop John H. Sheard, the board’s Chairman in Georgia’s Fulton County Superior Court, Tuesday October 1st. The suit demands a jury trial.
Also named as a defendant in the suit is Elder William McCray III a controversial media personality and author of a blog known as “Obnoxious Blog”.
We reported to you earlier that the Atlanta law firm representing Shaw and Bishop Thomas Holsey sent a letter to Bishop Charles Blake and Sheard intimating an intent to file suit. Apparently, Sheard did not take it seriously and two days later, emailed the letter out to numerous other COGIC bishops. Interestingly enough, the lawsuit alleges he also knowingly spread a libelous and false letter which prompted the defamation suit.
New information released by the attorneys describe a $10,000 payoff dispute between McCray and Sheard after the latter refused to pay for the libelous letter in the wake of COGIC’s 2012 elections. The suit alleges the two plotted to “destroy” Shaw in advance of the elections. According to the suit, in a private meeting in Detroit mediated by Bishop Nathaniel Wells, Sheard ordered that Shaw “forget about” a document Sheard had illegally signed regarding the suspension of Bishop Holsey. In exchange for Shaw’s silence, Sheard said he would not release the letter. When Shaw refused to cooperate, Sheard copied the letter and distributed it at the church’s November meeting in St Louis. He later enlisted McCray to post it on his popular blog.
Sheard’s attorney told an Atlanta reporter Sheard ‘had nothing to do with the blogger posting that letter.” He said Shaw doesn’t want his reputation harmed and yet, he pointed out, Shaw and his attorney are the ones who called the media.
Read the suit under our letters and documents.
Church leadership conflicts are nothing new
Conflicts between church leaders are nothing new. The bible records one of most well known between Paul and Peter, two of the heavyweight apostles of the early church. It involved lying, hypocrisy, false teaching, confrontation, tension and public rebuke.
“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Gal 2 vss 4-8,11,14 ESV
On Sept 7, 1967, Bishop RE Ranger filed a lawsuit in the 9th District Court of Texas against Bishop JO Patterson Sr. et al alleging that his removal from office was illegal and void because it did not comply with the Constitution, By-Laws, Customs and Practices of the COGIC. Ranger contended Patterson perjured himself in a Birmingham court. See Bishop Ranger’s searing response letter entitled “Always Liars”.
The point of the matter is when a wrong has been committed and it cannot be resolved through ecclesiastical channels, it is acceptable to seek legal redress. Thus, Bishop Shaw was well within his rights to file suit. Given the decades of stunning dysfunction within COGIC’s judicial processes, its no wonder the lawsuit had to be taken to civil court.
Fair adjudication or pattern of obstruction?
The greater concern of the church should be with Bishop Sheard’s attempts to defame others, obstruct justice and selectively disregard church laws.
- In August 2012, Bishop Juan Lawson, prelate of Texas Western Jurisdiction and former Chairman of the Church of God in Christ Grievance Committee, announced via video that he had resigned as Chairman of that committee due to repeated incidences of “obstruction, coverup and incompetence” by Board of Bishops Chairman John Sheard. [read more]
- Later that month, noted scholar, ethicist and COGIC Ecumenical Officer Dr. Leonard Lovett fired off a letter telling Sheard, “We have credible evidence that you are engaging in obstruction of justice with similar cases. Bishop Sheard, you are not beyond an investigation for obstruction of justice by the Judiciary. We have almost concluded that your limited response to this and other cases are purely political and that no impartial trial can be conducted as long as you are leading like a boss. Unfortunately, it is this kind of behavior that results in cases being tried on the internet.” [read more]
RCA obtained a copy of an internal memo by Bishop Donald Murray dated August 20, 2013. Murray is Vice Chair of the Board of Bishops. The memo contained the findings of a “Special Grievance Committee” and noted passive-aggressive obstructionist efforts by five bishops on the committee after Shaw filed a complaint about Sheard. Whether Sheard influenced the actions is unknown. The bishops refused to even cooperate possibly to stymie the complaint process.
“As the Executive Team Member, holding the responsibility for overseeing the fair adjudication of this Complaint brought by Bishop Larry Shaw, I have reviewed the report tendered by Bishop L. Walter Plummer and I have noted that there are a couple of troubling issues embedded within the report. Thus, as the Chief Hearing Officer for this particular matter, I must address these issues here, as I might not have an opportunity to do so in the future, nor do I want to turn any of our sessions into a spectacle.
The Special Grievance Committee report tendered by Bishop T. Walter Plummer shows that Bishop John H. Sheard, Bishop Roy Dixon, and Bishop Adrian Williams, in response to the May 15, 2013 letter sent by Acting Grievance Committee Chairman, Bishop T. Walter Plummer pursuant to Rule of Trial Procedure 6(b), each properly filed a written response with the Special Grievance Committee addressing or denying all of the allegations of the Complaint. Clearly, these Bishops adhered to the Rules of Trial Procedure established by the Board of Bishops. Regrettably, the report also shows that the remaining five Respondents did not reply at all to the allegations of the Complaint even though a request was made by the Special Grievance Committee Chairman.
The report shows that on May 20, 2013 Bishop Benjamin P. Collins (GA) received the package requesting a response within 30 days via certified mail. The report shows that on May 18, 2013 Bishop Felton Smith (TN) received his package requesting a response within 30 days via certified mail. The report shows that Bishop John Wayne Leggett (GA) did not claim his certified mail package, but that the package was hand-delivered to him during the AIM Convention. To date, there has been no response. The report shows that Bishop Albert Galbraith’s (CA) certified mail package was neither signed for nor was it returned. The report shows that the certified mail package sent to Bishop Roger Jones (MI) went unclaimed, and that an attempt was made to hand-deliver the package to Bishop Jones during the AIM Convention, but he refused to accept it.
Not only did the five bishops refuse to participate in the process, they also refused to give account as to why. Read the entire letter under our letters and documents section.