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Numerous assault complaints filed against COGIC National Trustee Cari Barnes

WTCHOUSTON – 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.

Report COGIC Abuse later learned that The General Board paid off all of Brown’s accusers in an out of  court settlement. Listen to the victims tell what happened to them.

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.

UNGODLY CONDUCT?

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 Aucbarnesg 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.

 

Former COGIC pastor found “not guilty” in lewdness charges

June 27, 2014 Leave a comment

Update on a story RCA first reported  here.  A Las Vegas jury found Pastor Billy McCurdy not guilty of lewdness charges after a  trial in 2013.  KSNV 3 Las Vegas said the case was decided mainly on a strange retraction by one of the accusers.

mccurdy“For more than two years, a pastor has lived with accusations of sexual assault involving two young men at Revival Temple Church.
On Thursday, Billy McCurdy heard the words he’s been waiting for — not guilty. The charges could have meant life in prison. The accusations came in late 2010. But then, one of those men recanted to News 3.  The transcript of that interview was read to the jury — a strange but pivotal part of the case.  McCurdy continues to serve at Revival Temple Church. On Friday, he will be there — with a different message: “It’ll be jubilee, we can celebrate, our liberation, our freedom,” McCurdy said. McCurdy says he is happy to move forward but has lost so much — more than two years of strife and a daughter who, he says, passed away from an overdose as she unable to live with the stress of the trial.”

But a detractor quickly set up a facebook page asserting that evidence was withheld.

“I am creating this page, to allow the public to know the truth, the truth about Billy E. Mccurdy. Billy Mccurdy was recently found not guilty on many sex charges that he faced concerning two EXmembers of Revival Temple. What the public does not know is that, much of the evidence against Billy Mccurdy was kept from the investigation and trial to help Billy Mccurdy go free. Billy Mccurdys life time partner, as stated by Billy himself, Rodney K. Chaney who is a deacon of Revival Temple and Senior Vice President of Bank of Las Vegas also helped to cover up the truth. Rodney Chaney assisted Mccurdy to help invite young men over late at night and Billy Mccurdy would engage in sex with them. One young man was even paid to leave the state after stating that he got what he wanted from them.”

Its unclear whether McCurdy is still functioning as a credentialed COGIC pastor.

 

COGIC’s rancid politics driving away the best and brightest?

Wbass For one man who’s had enough of the rancid politics, stifling nepotism, repulsive arrogance and leadership greed, the time has come to say goodbye to the church of his birth.

Pastor Wayne Bass, Sr. of New Haven, CT, son of  Bishop Joseph E. and Mary Bass wrote on his facebook page that  the ” Almighty positioned our church at the vanguard of the Pentecostal-Holiness movement in America. However, we have long since abandoned our roots and departed from our destiny.” Many others believe that as well but do not have the courage to voice it.

Bass was a  lifelong member of the Church of God in Christ and in ministry since  1967.  He and his wife served as long-term missionaries in South Africa. That’s something you wouldn’t expect from a man who holds two degrees from Yale University, along with extensive studies at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta.

Bass’ four page, open letter style monologue is both a heartbreaking but also a frightening portrait of what the corporate church has become.  Apart from infrequent bouts with “shouting and dancing” and harkenings to its historical legacy, the Church of God in Christ is no more.

“Despite frequent and urgent warnings, the CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST has gradually morphed into an organization that can now be aptly described as the poster child for PERSONAL-AMBITION-RUN-AMUCK. One can scarcely dialogue with those who seek to scale its ecclesiastical ladder without being queried as to the quality and quantity of one’s personal participation, e.g. one’s official positions held within the hierarchy of the church. This degree of abject carnality constitutes a death knell to our divine calling and anointing.”

Bass sees the problem as systemic. Much like the injustice of  clergy sexual abuse we’ve consistently documented, other “fruit” has manifested itself and there seems to be no collective will to self correct.

“A grave, systemic problem exists. Something is terribly wrong. We have a deadly cancer in the body and we desperately need to identify and excise it. Indeed, we ourselves have created a self-perpetuating, hierarchical monstrosity, characterized by rugged individualism, power grabbing and unabashed greed. To cite one crystal clear example, our financial system is ineffective, nonsensical, and even corrupt. Consider this: How can we ever hope to FUND THE MINISTRY MISSION OF OUR CHURCH when we are so intent on siphoning off funds to “bless” those who hold leadership positions? It is important to note that such funds are frequently raised on the backs of those at or near the bottom of the socio-economic ladder.”

Its hard to spot idolatry when you are maintaining the mountain of religious activities that look and feel like God, but a spiritual eye can see it. Idolatry has crept into the COGIC psyche and sprouted roots.

“Along with these untoward attitudes, a not-so-subtle FORM OF IDOLATRY has systematically infiltrated our ranks, and even our worship services. The creature is now exalted above The Creator, and it is now an integral component of our collective consciousness. However, we must be ever mindful that ALMIGHTY GOD will never brook or tolerate ‘lesser gods,’ be they animate or inanimate. While I love and respect the late Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. (our first elected Presiding Bishop), he made one grave error, i.e. allowing one egocentric man [we all know who he is]* to radically rewrite and revise our heritage – changing us from what we once were and transforming us into pretentious and highfaluting versions of our former selves. If Bishop Mason could see our present-day pomp and pageantry, our esteemed Founder would roll over in his grave, if possible.”

When I grew up in the church, if you left COGIC, you were viewed —and treated— as a backslider. Not in a good way. You were shunned and talked about because you left holiness.  Because we anointed ourselves “the greatest church in the world”, we were taught there was nowhere to go but down if you left. I pray that COGIC has educated itself enough to know that the Body of Christ isn’t restricted solely to the denominational confines of a 5-6 million member black pentecostal church. That would be like the Jehovah’s Witnesses 144,000 lie.

Bass seems to anticipate there will be some of that. “It will be quite easy for some to dismiss my words as the ramblings of a cynical, unwise, or embittered man.”, he writes.

Bass’ letter should in no way taken to mean that every member and officer of the Church of God in Christ has become a baal-worshipping  heathen. He’s not saying that, but he is grieving over the purity of  what once was is no more. And something wicked has taken its place.  We grieve with him and praise him for moving on as the Lord gives him grace to do.

Read Elder Wayne  Bass’ entire letter in Documents and Letters section.

*Bass is referring to Bishop J. Delano Ellis, who is credited with bringing the “high church” look to COGIC’s ecclesiastical aristocracy.

Houston lawsuit accuses Bishops Blake, Kyles, Perry and Brown of over one million dollars property theft

April 18, 2014 5 comments

rkylesHOUSTON, TX – A lawsuit being adjudicated in Harris County Texas’ 133rd District Court alleges that COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles Blake, Sr.,  Texas Southeast First Jurisdiction Bishop Rufus Kyles, Bishop Charles Brown II and newly minted bishop Enoch Perry, III acting on behalf of the denomination’s General Board, were responsible for the theft of over 1 million dollars of intellectual properties and items from a church location [source]. The Church of God in Christ, Inc. is also a named defendant.

The plaintiffs Dr. Patricia Brown-Johnson and Interfaith Interdenominational Ministries, Inc say that in 2005 Bishop Kyles accepted Brown-Johnson as a member of his jurisdiction under a special program due to COGIC’s prohibition of female pastors. Brown-Johnson was to be given the designation of  “Special Alliance Supervisor”.  Kyles later offered to buy a Baytown, Texas church owned by Brown-Johnson and while in possession of the property, sold or allowed to be sold equipment and other items not contained in the agreement. The agreement went sour when Kyles refused to close on the property.

When Brown-Johnson sought to get the items returned through church leadership channels, she was asked by Presiding Bishop GE Patterson (deceased) and then General Secretary AZ Hall (deceased)  not to pursue criminal charges and that the church would recompense the losses. Church leaders wanted to keep the issue private and handle it “internally”.

Brown-Johnson stated in the lawsuit that she contacted the General Board and was instructed to provide extensive documentation because [she was told by Enoch Perry] Bishop Kyles was going to be “defrocked” over the incident and a trial was to be held. She was repeatedly assured by GB bishops that her property would be returned and she would be compensated for any unreturnable losses. Based on these assurances, she did not file criminal or civil suits.

But after providing the evidence to the satisfaction of Enoch Perry, Charles Blake, COO Charles Brown and other defendants, the evidence disappeared. Brown said the items would be returned after Blake reviewed them. Documents and program she had written and copyrighted later resurfaced as COGIC related documents.

In March 2010, she received a letter from Enoch Perry stating that nothing would be compensated or returned. The good ole boy bishop’s club circled the wagons and begin denying that Brown-Johnson was ever given any assurances of compensation or justice. Brown-Johnson subsequently filed suit.

Bishop Rufus Kyles never responded to the lawsuit and never showed up in court. In a July 2012 judgment the court found in favor of the plaintiffs and awarded $900,000 in damages plus court costs and interest until the amount was paid.  COGIC’s current legal strategy is to get the case dismissed. The next hearing on that is April 21st at 11 am. You can read the actual lawsuit and judgment under Letters and Documents.

My Spiritual Heritage has been stolen from me”

An Education specialist with a degree from Sam Houston State University, Brown-Johnson told Report COGIC Abuse, “My Spiritual Heritage has been stolen from me!”

brownjohnson“I am being blackballed by chief leadership in the Church of God in Christ Church Organization which I have laid my life down for and sacrificed for so many years.

I trusted the men of God, Bishop Charles Blake, Bishop Charles Brown, Judge Enoch Perry and now deceased Bishop Chandler Owens.  [They said] No matter how long it would take, Interfaith church and I would be compensated for all losses.

My true proofs copyright venues placed in their hands are worth $1,000,000.00 apiece.  They have four. Even in a witness protection program with my life under threat, special alliances were made for compliance with request made by the General Board through Judge Enoch Perry.

I need to recover my losses so my children and my life can move forward. Interfaith church can move forward.

Judge Enoch Perry and the IRS have Kyles’ original police reports.  We only want what is due us rightfully.  I did not have Bishop Kyles and pastors arrested per the General Board’s request because they wanted to settle within the church.  The witness protection and life protection program had to be handled in a way that my true location was not disclosed from 2004-2011.  Bishop Chandler Owens did everything he could to resolve this until he became ill and passed.”

Nonbiblical COGIC Bishops

These are inglorious acts on the part of COGIC’s leadership. However, as we have reported for many years the facts of this case come as no surprise.  The defendants in this case are no strangers to Report COGIC Abuse. Under Enoch Perry’s disastrous reign as chief legal advisor,  COGIC leadership has employed unscrupulous tactics against its own unwitting members.  As they did with Brown-Johnson, false promises are made to avert court cases only to later capitulate. All four have been involved in numerous cases of sexual, judicial and administrative abuses in the last five years.

The bible is clear and there’s no shadow of turning in its qualifying instructions for the man who would be bishop. Titus 1: 7-8 For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. (our bold).

When it comes to the flesh and sex, a bishop must exercise self control and discipline. Otherwise, with the magnitude of his influence and the attraction of his persona, his charisma will bring him numerous opportunities to indulge himself sexually and financially. If he does not exercise due diligence in his sexual life (apart from his wife or 100% celibate if single) he will endanger the flock and invite the same spirits to have free reign among those under his jurisdiction.

Secondly, 1 Timothy 3:7 adds this qualifier: Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

A bishop cannot have a bad character/reputation report. This doesn’t include false accusations, it means that there must not be a consistent cloud of suspicious/ungodly/unseemly behavior following him due to his own actions. This extends even to the unsaved. They must not be able to “spot” the bishop’s life inasmuch as his ethics is concerned.

If this is not valued, the bishop will “fall into reproach by giving way to the excesses of his former life [of sin]. Apparently, and with a preponderance of evidence, these COGIC bishops have no resemblance to what is shown in scripture.

LISTEN: Victims Advocacy Open Forum Audio

April 7, 2014 Leave a comment

RCAforumReport 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.

 

Enoch Perry seating on COGIC Judiciary Board illegal says report

March 28, 2014 Leave a comment

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.

PerryPerry 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.

 

 

 

 

Pastor pleads guilty to sexual battery; church shut down permanently

March 3, 2014 4 comments

gavelWe’re a little late on this but needed to get it on the record.

Several months ago, COGIC Pastor Michael Bryant of Memphis was arrested for a lurid case of sexual molestation and battery of a young girl reportedly a family member. See our stories here and here.

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.

COGIC denies indecision on suspending sex abusing Pastor

December 26, 2013 Leave a comment

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.

See the 2002 Resolution on Sexual Misconduct Suspensions

COGIC Inc lawyer responds to Memphis Pastor’s sex abuse arrest

December 21, 2013 Leave a comment

With attention mounting,  the nation’s largest black pentecostal denomination has once again found itself over a barrel with the breaking case of yet another clergy sexual abuse case. The Memphis story is making national headlines including News One and The Christian Post.

After a Church of God in Christ pastor in Memphis was arrested for the sexual abuse of a teenage girl, a family member, the denomination’s chief lawyer issued a press statement. Is this a reversal of COGIC’s long standing policy no comment policy? Or is it a forced response due to Memphis religious leaders calling for the church to suspend the pastor?

In the past, COGIC Presiding Bishop Blake rarely if ever responded to clergy sexual abuse cases. But in 2007, when a case involving Pastor Sherman Allen of Ft Worth, TX picked up media steam due to COGIC inaction, Blake issued a statement saying, “The Church of God in Christ does not condone any inappropriate behavior from any of its representatives, and does not comment on pending litigation against the Church or its representatives until a case has been brought to trial and an official ruling has been made. Until then, Pastor Sherman Allen has been suspended from all national and local pastoral roles and activities within the Church of God in Christ. This is Church policy and we will honor this policy for the case against Allen.”

It appears that the only way COGIC will respond is if there is mounting media scrutiny.

michael-bryantMemphis’ ABC 24 affiliate said it began when detectives with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office Sex Crimes unit contacted officers with the Fugitive Apprehension Team December 18th  in reference to 48-year-old Michael Bryant who was wanted on a warrant charge of Sexual Battery by an Authority Figure.  The investigation reveals that he had been sexually abusing a 16-year-old female for the past two years.

The victim said in the affidavit that she told her mother about the abuse a year ago. The victim said at that point Bryant admitted to the touching, but the case was not turned over to authorities because Pastor Bryant and the mother decided they would “pray that the Lord remove these thoughts from his head.”

Bryant, who is the Pastor at Hour of Restoration COGIC, was located inside the Delta Express gas station at Hickory Hill and Knight Arnold.  He is being held on $1 million bond.

Fox News carried a broader story about the fallout. Although Bryant has admitted guilt to Memphis law enforcement, COGIC officials said they have not decided if they will remove Bryant from the pulpit. But that met with backlash from other clergy leaders. Its puzzling as to why this church still stumbles and fumbles over enacting basic disciplinary standards with sexually abusive clergy.  But after four years and scores of known offenders, COGIC officials still respond like clueless novices.

Memphis resident and COGIC General Board Member, Bishop Brandon Porter is investigating one of his own pastors after the Pastor Michael Bryant was arrested Wednesday on charges of sexual battery by an authority figure. The CP story also identified Bryant as an elder at Greater Community Temple, pastored by Porter.

COGIC’s name and image in Memphis are at risk.

“COGIC and Memphis are as connected as wine and wafer in the city Christian community. COGIC was founded in the Bluff City and it one of the largest Christian denominations in the world. News that one of its pastors was arrested by a Shelby County Sheriff’s sex crimes task force for sexual battery of a teenaged family member stunned loyal supporters.”, said Greg Coy.

The Church’s new legal counsel emailed the following to FOX News 13:

U.Henderson

Uleses C. Henderson, Jr., COGIC General Counsel

“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

“Nobody is above the law,” said Rev. Ralph White, Memphis Ministerial Alliance. “This is a rare occasion, but it does happen and we need to look it closer.

“This is a wake up call for pastors to look at this and nurture our congregations.”

The affidavit presents a disturbing picture of a crime and allegations of inaction based on faith. It says the teenaged victim told her mother in 2012 about the abuse happening repeatedly in Bryant’s home. The document said says the girl’s mother decided not to call police. The teen’s mother and Rev. Bryant “decided they would pray to remove those thoughts from his head.” Other church members were allegedly aware of the abuse but did not report it.

More implications

“I think she may say that we her affirmative action, that she did not do anything,” said Caren Nichol, FOX13 News legal analyst. “She prayed but the law may not look at that as sufficient protection.”

Many Mid-South religious leaders told FOX13 News Bryant should either voluntarily resign or be removed as pastor of Hour of Restoration COGIC until this matter is resolved. Nichol said the investigation by the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office could be more damaging to COGIC. “It doesn’t matter where it occurred, it matters what they knew,” Nichol said. “If they had some actual knowledge that he some sort of inclination, then they are going to be in trouble.”

Previous Memphis COGIC sexual abuse cases:

2009 –  Dwayne Wilson a music minister at St. Mark COGIC was arrested for statutory rape of a 16 year old girl. [source]

2012 – Orlando Wallace an elder at Lakeview Community Temple was arrested and charged with aggravated statutory rape and sexual exploitation of a 15 year old girl. [source]

Church; ex-felon pastor locked in struggle over missing funds

December 9, 2013 7 comments

ericslackIf things do not change, there will be no merry Christmas for members of the Davis Memorial COGIC in Grand Rapids, MI. The church is currently shut down and embroiled in a power struggle with its commuter pastor, installed just three years ago by Bishop PA Brooks.

Church officials contend that Brooks failed to inform them of Elder Eric Slack’s previous criminal background including the fact that Slack was permanently disbarred as an attorney in Ohio for multiple felonies.

Slack of Toledo, OH, according to court records, is a convicted felon who spent 4 years in prison for “thefts from two estates and two guardianship accounts he controlled.”

Slack’s bio says that “Since 1992, Elder Slack has served as Parliamentarian of The General Assembly of The Church Of God in Christ, Inc. and General Counsel of the General Assembly. He served under the late Bishop L.H. Ford, Bishop Chandler D. Owens and Bishop, G. E. Patterson and the current Presiding Bishop, Charles E. Blake. In 2003, Elder Slack was appointed by the General Board to work as a Special Assistant in the coordination of the Constitutional Convention of the Church of God in Christ in St. Louis, MO.”

As the conflict widened, the police were called in  and local media began reporting the story [with video] due to Slack’s profile as a disbarred lawyer. The church alleges that Slack is back to his criminal ways and they want him out before they are left with no money.

The church alleges that since Bishop Brooks installed him as pastor of Davis Memorial, Slack has discontinued paper bank davidmemlstatements, 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 reads  “Church is cancelled until further notice per board of trustees.”

Related coverage:
Toledo Blade EOPA probe shows misuse of federal funds

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