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.
Memphis’ 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:
“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.
“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]
A woman who sent a letter to COGIC Bishop Rufus Kyles, prelate of Texas Southeast First Jurisdiction based in Houston tells Report COGIC Abuse she is contemplating legal action against Superintendent John Banks over his promise to give her $25,000 to move from Ohio to Texas to live near him so they could continue a year long sexual affair. He met the woman in August 2012. Kyles did not respond to the letter. See other Texas Southeast 1st jurisdiction stories here and here.
The 72 year old Banks, a member of the Jurisdictional Executive Staff is married to COGIC’s national elections chair Myra Banks, oversees the Baytown District and pastors Greater Emanuel COGIC in northeast Houston.
In the August 13th letter provided to RCA, the woman wrote to Bishop Kyles asking for assistance resolving the matter. The woman said she also sent letters to Bishop Blake and Banks’ wife because she wants him to resign and get himself right.
“I am hoping that you have received my letter regarding the affair (s) of your prelate, Superintendent John L. Banks, Jr. My patience has worn thin waiting on what was promised and due to me. John Banks lured [...] and me to Dallas, Texas so we would be close to him in Houston. He promised to help me establish a home for us. I am aware that he had surgery but he apparently lied about having money and property to keep me interested and to have sex with him. After I exposed our affair in the letter that was sent out to certain people, I would have thought he would have made good on his promise of $25,000 or at least enough to take care of my rent a few months. However, on August 20, 2013, he called me to inform me that he sent $1000.00 via Western Union. I was in the Hospital overnight due to low Potassium and when I was released the next day I went to Western Union to find out that he had his SISTER in Cleveland, Ohio to send me $100.00. I called him and he wouldn’t answer and I texted him and he wouldn’t answer. “
While RCA will not reveal the details at this time, the woman provided numerous significant details of sexual liaisons with Banks. She told RCA that Banks urged her to meet him at COGIC’s November Convocation, but she declined because he required that she “pay half like the other women he had sexual hookups with”. Banks attended the 2012 Bishop’s Conference in Detroit for the sole reason of meeting her for sex.
“Room 138 was our private joke”, she said, referring to the room the two of them met to have sex.
The benefits of sin
Let’s not be naive, sin packs a bundle of benefits. One is pleasure. If there was no pleasure in sin, it would have little attraction to humans. Hebrews 11:25 said Moses rejected the pleasures of sin for a season, choosing instead to suffer affliction with the people of God. The flesh receives a tremendous amount of gratuitous illicit pleasure from sin whether it be sexual or otherwise. That rush of pleasure becomes addictive to the degree that a person will subject themselves to risky behavior not to mention behavior that dishonors their families, churches, wives and God to experience it. But in the blindness of pleasure, death lurks like a crouching lion. As the scripture notes, the pleasure can only last for a time before it turns rotten. Sooner or later, if a person sows to the flesh they will reap the corruption therein. Exposure, broken relationships, damaged families, shame upon the church are all part of the consequential reaping. It will surely come because no one mocks God and escapes the consequences of such behavior (Gal 6:7). Biblically, consensual adulterous sex is just as sinful as nonconsensual adulterous sex.
What these men must be retrained to think is that the eternal benefits of holiness far outweigh the temporary benefits of sin.
Despite the bible, its constitution and policies that spell out what must happen to sexual offenders, its clear the Church of God in Christ is both impotent and incompetent in disciplining members of its clergy for sexual immorality. See the recent case of Supt Jessie L. Hutton. [youtube]That’s one of the main reasons its so widespread. For years the rumors of men in leadership using the Memphis Holy Convocation as a time to fulfill all of their sexual fetishes and fantasies were never substantiated because nothing existed to document the occurrences. But things have changed. Now, we know its true. Its obvious COGIC men have severe sexual immorality problems (both heterosexual and homosexual) and because moral authority is lacking, it continues to attract like spirits. Add to that corruption, greed, deception and injustice and its fairly easy to say that spiritual termites are destroying the denomination from the inside out.
Where are COGIC’s spiritual reformers hiding?
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. Ephesians 5:11
Sexual immorality is an unfruitful work of darkness. It should be the leaders exposing it and ensuring that it doesn’t grow and infect the body. They should be protecting the integrity of the house of God. Instead, its the leaders who are participating and indulging themselves. Its the leaders who are gouging themselves with the pleasures of sin while hypocritically proclaiming “holiness is still right”. Its the leaders of COGIC who cause the people to err; and they that are led by them are destroyed. Is 9:16
Supt John L. Banks, Jr should be ashamed that as a leader he cannot discipline himself or his sexual organs. It may be an indicator that he is unregenerate, not having been filled with the Holy Ghost (Gal 5:22-23) . As such, he should be removed from leadership until he is right with God. You may wonder where is the outrage of all those who are living right and are offended at the actions of their peer? Why are they silent? COGIC culture has them bound and gagged.
And when the house collapses, should anyone be surprised?
Report COGIC Abuse today received confirmation that the Bishop of Alabama 1st Jurisdiction has suspended a married superintendent who carried on a six year adulterous relationship from office pending further investigations. Read our August 1st open letter to Bishop Meadows.
Bishop O. L. Meadows’ letter, dated August 5th stated in part, “Upon receiving of this letter you are suspended from the pulpit of your churches and the responsibility of District Superintendent until this matter comes before the Council of Pastors and Elders.”
RCA praises Bishop Meadows’ judicious handling of this situation in seeking to end the mockery of God’s people by those who do not walk worthy of their calling . The pastor, who supervised another church in a Mississippi jurisdiction had previously been forced to remove the name “Church of God in Christ” from his church name due to sexually immoral actions unrelated to the Alabama case.
In addition, RCA has learned that the pastor –whose name we are withholding at this time– held what was described as a “near violent” members’ meeting over his impending removal from the church.
Dear Bishop Meadows,
One week ago we received a shocking collection of videos and pictures depicting a superintendent under your charge engaged in explicit sexual activity with a young woman in his congregation. According to an accompanying letter, you and several executive staff have received the same information. You received the first letter in March and a follow up letter in July but there has been no action.
According to the letters, this married superintendent carried on a six year sexual relationship with this younger woman while he was in office in your jurisdiction. After becoming remorseful about having sex with a man who was supposed to be pastoring her, she informed him that she would leave the church so that she could recover and get back into the will of God. He advised her that she would be “out of the will of God” if she left his church. Nevertheless she finally summoned up the will to leave and stayed away for 8 months. Then his phone calls started again and he seduced her back into his evil desires.
The woman in her letter said that she became pregnant and the first response from your superintendent was an order for her to kill the child before he/she was born (abortion). There’s also evidence of this conversation. Upon this information being reported to you by phone, you made promises that you would take action and “sit him down for three months”. While this is woefully inadequate discipline given the extent and nature of these charges, it is what you said you would do. However to date, despite overwhelming evidence of his guilt, you have taken no actions and this sexually immoral man remains in office with no disciplinary actions against him.
Sir, as a bishop of over 20 years now, you do not need Report COGIC Abuse to instruct you on how to administrate the office of a bishop to which you were consecrated. Those stipulations are clearly outlined in the Constitution of the church which you are bound to uphold. Moreover, if there were no constitution, the bible is clear in its scope of disciplinary responses to sexually immoral in our midst.
Bishop Meadows, we ask you sir to take no further delay in dealing righteously with the matter. The longer you delay, the more your own credibility comes into question. The Presiding Bishop has said that he is adamant about repairing the serious breach of sexual ethics and morality in the Church of God in Christ clergy ranks. Here is a clear opportunity for you to demonstrate that as well.
We are in contact with the plaintiff who is also considering MORE legal action against the church. Perhaps you ignoring her has unnecessarily pushed her to have to take these measures. Do you want to be responsible for the church having yet another sex-based lawsuit to defend itself against?
We hope that this letter will spur you to do what is right.
1. Remove this wicked and immoral man from office pending an investigation by a duly appointed, unbiased committee.
2. Demand that the perpetrator submit to a paternity test to determine whether he is the father of the child.
3. Enjoin him from contacting the plaintiff for any reason.
4. Communicate with the plaintiff specifically what actions you have taken in this matter.
If you and your staff continue to ignore this situation as many bishops have done in past situations, RCA may begin publishing the details of this situation including names, letters, audio, pictures and video of your naked superintendent with his head in between the legs of this woman. Please do not misconstrue this as a threat. It is not. Your concern for the welfare of the church, this man’s wife and an innocent child should outweigh your desire to protect this wolf.
He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? Micah 6:8 NKJV
One would think with severity of the crimes, the implications and depth of the vast coverup of pedophiles in COGIC’s pulpits, the church’s presiding bishop Charles Blake or its general counsel Enoch Perry III would have by now convened a forum to deal with the massive fallout. Or conducted a public hearing or investigation. But they havent.
Instead, an open forum is being convened by someone who could have shrugged his shoulders and walked away upon hearing revelations of widespread sexual abuse allegations in the Albany NY COGIC community. But he chose not to.
Christopher Davis, whose shocking and detailed letter documenting sexual abuse by COGIC pedophiles, announced the open forum for October 16th at the WAMC Performing Arts Studio 339 Central Ave, Albany, NY. More information below.
COGIC leaders are in Memphis today conducting “business as usual” despite new, public accusations that a prominent Detroit based Bishop has impregnated a young woman and offered to pay for an abortion. That Bishop is widely believed to be AIM Chairman J. Drew Sheard, son of the Board of Bishops Chairman John H. Sheard. Sheard is also husband of gospel singer Karen Clark Sheard. Any allegations of sexual immorality among leaders should be cause for immediate suspension until such time as an individual has been cleared legally and spiritually, but not when you operate under the business as usual schema. That became clear after Bishop Charles Blake consecrated the grossly immoral Joesph Hogan, Sr. to the bishopric. Hogan’s consecration sent a message to every immoral leader in the church that it was okay to continue business as usual. Whether that was impregnating women and paying for abortions, sex with young men and paying them to keep quiet, using prostitutes during Holy Convocation or protecting the sex secrets of fellow leaders, it would be okay. The ONLY exception seems to be money. Only then will certain prosecution follow.
The bible is clear and there is no shadow of turning in its qualifying instructions for the man who would be bishop. Titus 1: 7 For an overseer,[e] 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, 8 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, the attraction of his persona, his charisma will bring him numerous opportunities to indulge himself sexually. 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 doesnt include false accusations, it means that there is a consistent cloud of suspicious/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].
So, listen closely as the speaker Dickerson Wells (who himself was fired after accusations of theft) lays out with stunning accuracy the corporate leadership culture of the Church of God in Christ. Sexual immorality under the Blake administration has literally exploded with no end in sight. Notice also the nervous expressions and body language of the seated leaders behind him. Some of them (and their relatives in leadership) are guilty of the sins he calls out. Many of them attempt to play off the conviction falling upon them, but the obvious is obvious.
Business as usual conclusion.
Report COGIC Abuse has obtained a copy of a letter sent to COGIC officials decrying alleged ungodly actions by the church’s current General Secretary. In addition, COGIC officials have ignored the Pastor’s pleas for help. Pastors in the Greater Maryland First Jurisdiction say that this current letter is the second attempt in over two years demanding the national church investigate Bishop Joel Harley Lyles Jr. Several serious allegations noted include mismanagement (or theft) of $140,000 received from embattled Delaware Bishop Thomas Holsey and “illicit conduct”, presumably sexual in nature.
In August 2010, Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, the General Board’s go to man, told GMF pastors and elders at a meeting following the Bishop’s Breakfast, that Bishop Blake and the General Board had received the original July 26th letter, and would be returning to Maryland to meet with leaders to discuss the concerns said letter referenced. To date, the new letter alleges, there has been no examination from the national church or the local Jurisdiction.
An excerpt from the letter dated July 13, 2012:
“Since the July 28, 2010 letter, there have been conversations concerning Bishop Lyles involvement with illicit activity. These allegations include supposed conduct with Pastor Edwin Bass, Pastor Derrick Hutchins and others. I am inclined to believe these statements based on similar concerns made to me years prior to his becoming Jurisdictional Prelate.
I write on behalf of many hurt and disappointed members of our local churches and the Greater Maryland Jurisdiction. I am concerned about the operation, spiritual welfare and appearance of our church to others for the present and future. As one who has known Bishop Lyles since childhood and was also a champion and spokesman of his candidacy to many Pastors to become Jurisdictional Prelate, this letter is not written out of personal animosity, but out of pure concern for me body of Christ. I reiterate that I am asking for the Board of Bishop’s to hold an investigation regarding the financial practices. Episcopal conduct, moral turpitude. and the mistreatment of certain Pastor’s, Jurisdictional Officials, and members of the Greater Maryland First Jurisdiction by Bishop Lyles.”
The letter was addressed to Bishop John H. Sheard, Chair Board of Bishops, Bishop B. Collins. Vice Chairman, Bishop Larry Shaw, Secretary Board of Bishops and Bishop Roy Dixon, Chair, Grievance Committee.
Two years is a long time to wait for someone to acknowledge your complaints and act on them. If the allegations are true, the lengthy delay from COGIC officials only benefit Lyles who could possibly conceal evidence, influence witnesses or worse deny the whole thing. Historically, the wheels of justice in COGIC don’t just turn slowly, several of the wheels have fallen off. Even with its constitution, policies and procedures, pastors and laymembers of the church seem to be treated as common sharecroppers in the fields of its aristocratic acting bishops.
According to Elder Ron Stidham who founded CogicJustice.com, the reason why officials haven’t responded is due to a nebulous, unpublished policy which works in favor of bishops not complaintants. Officials have numerous loophole type factors that can seriously derail complaints against a bishop. Although there have been proposals, there is no policy which requires officials to respond to a complaint in any given time.
Read or download the entire letter
On May 4th, the Church of God in Christ official website posted a tersely worded press release stating that it had confronted Arizona pastor and evangelist Eric Cooper after “calls” to its national office about lewd conduct and sexual immorality. Sometime last night or this morning, it was taken down with no further comment.
Since Report COGIC Abuse published the story, it quickly widened to questions about COGIC’s still MIA “zero tolerance policy, the lack of a comprehensive victim’s advocacy plan and the truthfulness of its press release on the issue. For unknown reasons, the Cooper saga has struck a nerve in the church’s constituency.
Clearly, there is still widespread interest in uncovering the truth about Eric Cooper. Not just the narrow situation that occurred per COGIC’s press release, but much broader questions about how the denomination allows men who have extended histories of sexual immorality to continue enjoying the benefits of association, prominent platforms and approval of senior church leaders. That is, until they are exposed.
Since we reported the story on the afternoon of May 4, the story has garnered over 7,000 hits.
Supt. Harvey Burnett of Peoria, IL first raised strong objections to the way the church handled the issue with Cooper and its linking the story to victim’s advocacy.
“To try to link a supposed “victims advocacy” to that policy is simply incredulous, not to mention false. If I am wrong, PLEASE correct me openly and place the policy front and center that addresses victims in any manner…I would like to be embarrassed regarding this issue and be proven wrong. I would like to think that in a church such as COGIC that we would have a VICTIMS ADVOCACY program clearly outlined whose ONLY focus is to minister to victims and their needs, NOT an advocacy co-mingling their duties with pastoral discipline, but I guess that may be asking too much.
2- COGIC goes from one extreme to the next. It’s either go into complete silence on issues or throw everyone out and call them anathema…this is not BIBLICAL NOR IS IT GODLY. Certainly this man should have been removed from office, but to dis-fellowship him??? What is that??? Does he NOT have a soul? Does he NOT need to be saved and restored as well???”
But later, after receiving several calls from anonymous COGIC (unfortunately church culture breeds such secrecy) leaders , Burnett amended his comments to say that the press release was somewhat disingenuous. Burnett wrote that post release reports conflicted the official version of the story. Some details, like the fact that Cooper was “in revival” at a General Board member’s church when he was confronted in person by a female victim wasnt mentioned. The female victim allegedly threatened to sue the church over the incident.
“It could be because this man had a history of sexual impropriety and was yet promoted through the ranks. It could be because he was a regular guest at some of the more influential churches and could raise an offering. In fact the word is that one of the persons he was having an affair with showed up at a revival which he was conducting at a General Board member’s church with certain evidence of his sexual sins, to which he denied when questioned. The doors certainly closed, but it doesn’t appear to be because of the righteous zeal of COGIC policy, it seems that there was no other option, except legal options, which if undertaken would seem to have led COGIC into the path that it was trying to avoid. In other words it was cheaper to leave him rather than try to preserve and or restore him in the name of COGIC, or argue that he hadn’t left the church properly.
Was this release an attempt to simply say…”We don’t own him so don’t sue us?” Pastor Sherman Allen followed the same path. Remember, Allen was a card carrying member of COGIC preaching at many venues regularly until his alleged sins hit the wall also. When he was accused, Allen departed and some COGIC spin doctors claimed that Allen had never a part of the organization, even though everyone knew he was. Then there is Donald K. Barrett, whom I know personally that is said to have dis-fellowshipped himself as well rather than repented and gone through a period of voluntary discipline.”
In a surprising break from its previous struggles with sexually immoral pastors in the ranks, the nation’s largest black pentecostal denomination today issued a strongly worded statement about the removal of one its Arizona pastors while reiterating its sometimes nebulous sexual abuse policies.
The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) said that reports to its national office prompted them to investigate the “…alleged lewd conduct and inappropriate sexual acts alleged to have been committed by Pastor Erik M. Cooper, of Phoenix, Arizona, with an adult female church member. “
Since this was no crime, the church in essence must bear the burden of following biblical truth and holding leaders accountable with consequences.
Pastor DL Foster, who has monitored and reported on issues of sexual immorality and crimes committed by denominational clergy members since 2010, praised the church for what he called a “strong and biblical response”.
“The statement really is commendable for two reasons. It shows that COGIC leadership is rethinking its previously self-wounding policy of silence and it sends a signal to other hidden offenders to change their ways voluntarily or get confronted. “, he said. “RCA definitely has worked hard to bring more openness and a more biblically defined approach to dealing with the unrepentant sexual sins of leaders.”
Its comforting to legitimate victims for the church to acknowledge them in its public discourse about clergy sexual misconduct. The Cooper statement did just that. “Ultimately, this policy outlines ways in which to address the specific needs of the victim(s) and the perpetrator(s) in such a way that the good of all will be met.”
Cooper, pastor of Dominion Harvest Christian Church in Phoenix, had resigned after being confronted about the accusations.
“Upon presentation of these accusations to Pastor Cooper, he submitted his resignation and official separation from all responsibilities within the Church of God in Christ (“COGIC”). This includes his local church, district, the Arizona jurisdiction, and the National Church.
The Church of God in Christ has accepted Pastor Cooper’s resignation and has taken steps to cancel and nullify his COGIC credentials, of every kind and description, including his ministerial license, his ordination, his appointment as pastor, and his membership in the Church of God in Christ.”
Cooper appears to have been a somewhat well known “evangelist” which might have prompted the public statement by COGIC.
Interestingly, the COGIC statement didn’t say if Cooper admitted guilt or that he repented then resigned, just that he resigned. That could explain why the church took a slightly harsher approach to removing him from office and nullifying his membership. Gal 6:1 Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.
If a person refuses to acknowledge their sin through repentance which could lead to restoration, the church should take the necessary steps to ensure such a person can no longer represent the organization.
A Michigan news outlet reported March 8th that the brother of General Board member Bishop Nathaniel Wells has been ordered by a Michigan judge to stand trial on multiple counts of criminal sexual assault of two young girls who were members of his local church.
Pastor Milton Wells had served as a Southeast Regional Administrator for Western Michigan Jurisdiction and was a well known community activist. News media reports say that after an investigation was launched in 2010, Wells “stepped down” as pastor of the Open Door Ministries COGIC in Kalamazoo.
The charges are serious and according to detectives who investigated, Wells carried on the sexual assault of two girls under 13 years old at his home, his church and at a movie theater. [source]
A well-known Kalamazoo pastor and local coordinator for the county’s prisoner re-entry program has been charged with 10 counts of felony sexual assault, court records show.
Milton Wells, 62, was arraigned Wednesday in Kalamazoo County District Court on two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and eight counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct.
The charges involve two victims under the age of 13 and stem from incidents that are alleged to have occurred between January 2010 and June 2011 and May to July 2011, district court records show.
Wells, reached by phone Thursday, declined to comment about the case but did confirm that he stepped down as pastor at Open Door Ministries Church of God In Christ in 2010 when the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office began investigating him. He said he also stepped down as the local coordinator for Kalamazoo County’s Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative, as well as other leadership positions.
The married community activist, charged with sexually assaulting the two girls who were members of his former congregation, waived an evidentiary hearing Thursday in Kalamazoo County District Court and was ordered to stand trial.
A Kalamazoo County sheriff’s detective who obtained an arrest warrant for Wells in January told a district court judge that Wells allegedly took one of the girls to the Kalamazoo 10 movie theater on West Main Street on a regular basis and would sexually assault her while a movie was playing.
The detective also testified at the Jan. 30 court hearing that the girl estimated she and Wells had sex 19 to 20 times at locations that included his Texas Township home and his former church at 416 Phelps St. in Kalamazoo.
“Dark shadows” over the church
Local station WWMT TV 3 reported the mother of one the victims said, “We regret that a dark shadow has been cast upon the church, but this is something that cant be overlooked or swept away. We want there to be an awareness of being an advocate for your children and protecting your children in any case.”
“Our families are very hurt, angry and dissappointed (sic) at how things have come to the forefront. How [can] a man that we trusted, not only spiritually but naturally, manipulate not only our children but our families?”
Dark shadows indeed. Although the mother wants an “awareness” and advocacy, unfortunately there is none in COGIC. The denomination’s Women’s Department has a blackout silence on the issue although most of the victims are women and children. Few COGIC bishops address the issue openly and a victims advocacy plan presented to the church’s general board was rejected without comment. Victims of COGIC clergy can only expect to be treated with silent disdain as if they have sullied the name, image and assets of the denomination. If a court rules against the church it will pay money fix the problems. Presiding Bishop Blake complained to the church’s General Assembly about increasing settlement costs in 2010.
But despite the silent indifference of COGIC leadership, the evidence against them is clear and mounting without fail. Far too many COGIC leaders are enslaved to unrestrained sexual immorality —both homosexual and heterosexual. Since Report COGIC Abuse began documenting cases of sexual abuse in 2010, almost 70 cases involving all levels of leadership have been unearthed. [sources here and here].
Related: Watch Wells talk about his community work with poverty. [VIDEO]