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Looking the other way: Could a COGIC bishop be next for jail?

July 24, 2012 Leave a comment

A judge who sentenced a Catholic official to prison for shielding sexual predators rather than punishing them, described the perpetrators as “monsters in clerical garb”. Msgr. William J. Lynn’s trial was intended to send a strong message to those who attempt to help or diminish the devastation of sex predators in the church.

“You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong,” Judge M. Teresa Sarmina of Common Pleas Court said as she imposed the sentence, which was just short of the maximum of three and a half to seven years.

Denominations and their leaders who are looking the other way and more concerned about the name, image and assets of their denominations, should take heed. A prosecutor in the case said “They knew that these were predators but were much more concerned with the institution than with victims of sexual assault.”

“We now live in a litigious society. People file lawsuits for every conceivable grievance, whether real or imagined. To protect the name, image, and assets of the Church of God in Christ, we must take positive steps to seriously investigate very case of alleged sexual abuse by the clergy. We must stand behind and support those who are falsely accused of sexual improprieties and found innocent by the courts. We must also insure that the Church act quickly to take firm and positive action against those who violate the sanctity of their positions and are found guilty of sexual abuse and other sexual improprieties.” Bishop Charles Blake Presiding Bishop Oct 29, 2007

A comprehensive victims advocacy plan was presented to the General Board, but without even an word of acknowledgement, it was rejected. That says that COGIC is more concerned with its institutional image than justice for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Blaming senior leaders wont work anymore either. More than likely the senior leaders are going to let you take the fall, so individuals who are hiding secrets for senior leaders won’t receive anything but cold silence from them.

“I think this is going to send a very strong signal to every bishop and everybody who worked for a bishop that if they don’t do the right thing they may go to jail,” said Rev. Thomas J. Reese, a senior fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center at Georgetown University and a Jesuit priest. “They can’t just say the bishop made me do it, that’s not going to be an excuse that holds up in court.”

Although victims continue to mount and a constant flow of lawsuits keep coming, COGIC leadership are attempting to hold back the tsunami with a sheet of cellophane. In 2009, a 100 million dollar lawsuit filed in Maryland in against the church. How soon before there is another?

Memphis COGIC Elder with two prior convictions arrested for sex crime

July 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Elder Orlando Wallace is representative of a “tip of the iceberg” population in the Church of God in Christ. He’s just one of many sex offenders, criminals and wolves in COGIC pulpits across America. They are preaching, singing,  speaking in tongues, tithe-paying, conducting “worship” services, card carrying ordained COGIC clergy. And they are sexual monsters.  Most have not been caught by police so they continue on with their almost deceptive charade.

However Wallace’s game came to an end when Memphis police arrested the 50 year old man in July 6 and charged him with statutory aggravated rape of a 15 year old girl [source]. Wallace, an Elder at Lakeview Community Temple COGIC in Memphis, had been convicted twice before for prostitution related crimes, but the pastor at the church claimed they had no idea he was such a degenerate. In COGIC, as long as you pay tithes, dues and show up for services, there’s no reason to suspect anything. Once the media picked up on the case, the denial and disassociation from the church’s  pastor was swift.

“He`s a minister, but he don`t work here.  He`s just a preacher here,” said Pastor of Lakeview Community Temple, Jesse Lipford. Wallace is associated with the church.

Sunday, Lipford was disturbed by the news. “It bothers me any man, would do that.” It’s a child.”

Lipford wasn`t happy to see our cameras Sunday morning, or that the church`s name was caught up in the shocking story. ” The church had nothing to do with this, this didn`t happen at the church.” stressed Lipford.

Police say it happened at the teenager`s home and Wallace and the teen sent sexual photos to each other electronically on different occasions. The police report also shows, that the minister admitted to having sex with the teen when he was arrested.

Lipsford later said: “In addition, none of the alleged acts took place in the church. The church is not responsible for any of its members’ questionable lifestyles. We teach holiness, and we expect our members to live godly lives in the presence of the Lord, their families, and the community.

That’s very convenient, given the circumstances. But why is it when members do good things, the church takes credit but when they commit crimes, the church has no connection?  The church pastor’s statement is reflective of COGIC’s corporate sex crimes policy.  They are void of discernment, spiritually lazy and refuse to accept the fact that its the lack of leadership which allows this type of situation to happen over and over again.  The statement reflects the coaching COGIC pastors are told to revert to when sex crimes cases arise. See this.  They are told to deny that the person “works” for the church and instead portray them as just some random, unattached person who attended the church. That’s a legal technicality which helps to mitigate any legal liabilities the church may potentially face.

Lipsford takes umbrage at the association of Wallace to his church, but the fact remains that Wallace was a sanctioned leader of the Lakeview Church while he was a convicted sex offender. See our sex offender poll here. Given the tools available for pastors to check and screen their leaders, there’s little excuse for Lipsford not to have removed Wallace well before his rape arrest. Wallace had been a member of the church for 7 years and an ordained elder for 5 according to this source. The truth is that Orlando Wallace should have never been ordained much less become a minister.

Video, story and an “official statement” by the pastor here.

Living in an immoral church

July 18, 2012 Leave a comment

originally posted December 8, 2003

What should the black church do to better protect children in its midst from a growing pack of wolves roaming the pulpits?

Is it doing enough? With so many frequent cases of heterosexual sexual abuse, homosexual sexual abuse, adultery, crime, divorce, and immorality among clergy, it’s no wonder that so many wolves and pimps can operate without the fear of discovery… or retribution.

The situations brought to light in the Catholic church have shown us a darker darkside than any of us previously could have believed. To our shock we discovered men in power, who were willing and capable of manipulating young boys to engage in sexual acts with them. These men were hidden in many key church positions.

Many African Americans realized that shocking incidents of clergy abuse were not just limited to the Catholic religion, but the same things were occurring in their own churches. Hundreds of black boys and their families had been victimized, terrorized and abandoned by bishops, pastors and other leaders who led double lives.

We are living in the last days, in a church so drunk with immorality and pride, that the defenseless are left to fend for themselves. Clearly, this is abuse of power, but how long will God delay his judgment until we take action to purge the wickedness among us?

This alarming frequency of abuse of power should signal to pastors and leaders in African American churches the need for a critical and urgent rethinking of how these situations are dealt with.The need is for them to set public standards detailing boundaries of child/mentor relationships. Each of the abuse cases in the Catholic church and others by certain black pastors have proven that the secrecy at which they were carried out was a significant factor in the depth of the destructive behavior.

As shepherds, we have to understand that ALL of the sheep need protection. Not just the ones who give large tithes and plentiful offerings. Not just the ones who hold important positions and speak swelling words of loyalty. The weak and the defenseless ones are very close to the heart of God. Those who are responsible for their safety but fail to watch for them will pay a heavy price when the judgment of God falls (Ezekiel 34:7-10).

What these terrible incidents seek to teach us is that too many watchmen (and women) are asleep at the helm of the ship. How else could so many vicious wolves get in among the flock and destroy the young ones? The lack of awareness of impending danger is a direct result of the dereliction of the shepherd. David, prior to his battle with Goliath, recounted to his brothers, how he killed a lion and a bear. Why? Because they attacked the sheep under his care! Today, the lust for money blinds the shepherds (or more aptly put hirelings), some of whom are sellouts to the highest bidders. While they drool over large salaries, expanded membership, community positions and pastoral perks, wolves drag off boy after boy with little to no fear of discovery.

Major leaders should return to the Biblical injunction of public shame (Proverbs 27:5). Yes, endless litigation is now a part of church life, but that should not stop leaders from letting us know the wolf’s name and where he is. As we saw in the Catholic church, powerful Bishops shuffled those demons to new congregations and new responsibilities. But they kept on killing the souls of the innocent. Their insatiable evil desires crave fresh victims. But had the parents or community known the true nature of why he came, they could have fended for the boys. Why do we continue to ignore such critical messages from God?

I believe the very first thing that should happen is public and official acknowledgement of the crime, alleged or real. Abusive and criminal relationships in the ranks of the leaders should be met swiftly with zero tolerance. However; this can only happen if black church leadership rids itself of it’s obsession with “image control.” Protective measures will never get priority given the selfish self preservative attitude of the men now in control of some church organizations. Scandals could hurt the turnout at their next super-conference. Or it could slow the cash flow into their pockets. Or possibly they themselves may be accused of complicity.

I don’t advocate witch hunts. There’s no need for overzealous accusations because of feuds and the likes. But, don’t the children —these boys— deserve the benefit of protection? Growing up, I heard the old saints say “save a child, you save a life, plus a soul.” But now, in this Laodicean-saturated church age, children are offered up to “molech” with little to no protest. Because reports of sexual immorality of all kinds come with such frequency, we seem to have lost our compass for being truly outraged and intolerant of such behavior. And as it stands, the young are the ones who suffer the brunt of the church’s isolationist attitude.

If black church leaders want to know why there is a need to publicly define boundaries in these defective mentor/mentoree relationships, we should simply point to what has already happened. What other proof is required? Unless they can prove that all the wolves have been identified and apprehended, then they should be held to a moral obligation to safeguard the flock.

The community of faith must understand (1) the seriousness of this matter, (2) the obligation to protect the weak and defenseless among us and (3) the need for a clear plan to deal with those who violate the sanctity of a child’s sexual nature.

Surely no person serving Christ can believe for one moment that any child can enter into a sexual relationship with an adult by his own volition. Or with full consent. Denial of the existence of the abusive relationships perpetrated by clergy will only serve to provide additional cover and concealment for those committing the crimes.

When the signs (secrecy, defensiveness,lack of concern for other’s perceptions, sudden, inexplicable change in behavior of the child,etc) begin to show up in these dysfunctional relationships, it should at the least merit questioning of motives and a “no-fault” clarification of boundaries. This helps to break the confidence of the predator. At all costs we should avoid the appearance of evil, especially if a child’s mental, physical and spiritual well being is at stake.

The local church council (or national governing bodies of denominations) should meet at it’s earliest opportunity to discuss and lay down the law. The rules of engagement should be forthright and in accordance with the law. Molesting wolves should not be given sanctuary behind “touch not mine anointed” and “bring not an accusation against an elder.” Men who cloak themselves in such a defense are only buying time until the next child is victimized. We cannot believe that satan’s representatives —appearing as angels of light— actually intend to live by the right principles of the scripture. All too often such people prey on and manipulate the forgiving attitude of the black church and the lack of dealing with sexual malfeasance directly. Waiting until a terrible situation occurs is like waiting until you die to buy life insurance. Proactive, preventive teaching and exposure work much more effectively than knee-jerk reaction.

What is preventing true righteous anger from pushing leaders to do what is right stems from the kidgloved approach to handling sexual molesters in the preachers ranks. Tightly sealed church cases and even tighter sealed lips present a false picture of all being well.

In 1991, through his lawyer, Bishop J.D. Husband, a charter member of the Church of God in Christ’s General Board, admitted guilt to “all charges” levied against him. But multitudes of people are still baffled about what Husband did. Other than rumors, the evidence against him was kept secretive and not even reported to legal authorities. Documents that have been obtained by some plaintiffs in the church case against him show that he was all but promised the church would take care of his basic needs in addition to any “psychological” help he might need. The victims have yet to even receive an official apology from the nation’s largest black Pentecostal denomination.

What about children who are active in ministry?

Let’s be real. Almost every black parent I know who is involved in church want their child(ren) just as involved. The junior choir, junior usher board, teen shut-ins, children’s church, etc are all potential problem spots and potential breeding grounds for predators. Some people in the church push their children into areas of dealing with adults they may not be ready for. That’s why it is wise to define who is considered a child. It should not be on a sliding scale. A child who is active in ministry can only be as active as their understanding allows them to be. A predator’s greatest desire is for a parent or protective figure in the child’s life to relinquish more and more control of the child.

That’s not to say that parents should keep their boys on a leash, but when the problem —and the solutions— are openly discussed, predators will think twice before attempting to ply their evil craft. Its just the same as a thief in the neighborhood. Will he be more likely to enter into a home where there is least resistance or where there is a very defined security presence?

What about helping the perpetrators?
It’s interesting how a pendulum can swing it’s deadly blade from side to side. Getting spiritual help for the perpetrators of sexual crimes against boys is on the opposite side of the church’s kid glove approach to dealing with the issue. The methods employed by the church seem not to be holistic in terms of restorative correction. Of course, that depends on whether the guilty is truly repentant or simply attempting to slide out of the punishment noose.

The Rev. Troy Brown, the former pastor of Atlanta’s Greater Anointing Tabernacle, was convicted in May 2002 of sexually molesting a 15 year old boy. When the news first broke via Atlanta’s TV news, Brown quickly denounced all efforts to get to the truth. He aggressively claimed he did not know why these “lies” were being concocted against him. Well, leave it up to reporters to trace Brown’s background out and discover that he had fled Buffalo, New York in 1997 after a two charges were brought against him there. He had a history of sexual offenses involving boys.

Some contend that the thirty year old pastor was offered help to overcome his sexual problems, but he refused or was non responsive to the offers. In cases such as Brown’s when a member of clergy refuses help, he places himself at the full judgment of the secular law. Brown was handed a 70 year sentence without parole, even though the prosecution only asked for 40.

The question must be asked then, what type of “help” is being offered? Is it just to confess the sin and be absolved of it by a superior who is watching out for his own reputation? To what extent does the restorative correction go? Is the church willing to release the criminal to the law or to settle it as a church matter? Again, we point to the majority of the cases in the Catholic church where the victims were treated as the criminals and the real criminals were coddled and incubated by those in authority.

Real help is not kicking someone out of the church and ripping up their credentials. There are too many organizations that will simply issue them new credentials. Real help is not denying them preaching duties for six months. Those are good measures, but fall far short of redemptive correction. Help should be a comprehensive package dealing with the individual’s innermost issues of the heart. It should be long term and mandatory. Officials serious about curtailing the problem should be prepared with a list of competent resources that will support their efforts to restore the truly repentant heart of a wrongdoer (Galatians 6:1).

It has been almost a year since the disgusting stories of priest abuse came to public light. One would think that concerned church leaders would by now have gathered their flocks together and reassured them that specific policies and procedures were in place to deal with such situations. AND that all members could expect full cooperation from leaders in addressing serious sexual allegations.But the chambers of the bishops are still silent. You can just believe that somewhere because of their silence, another young boy is being smiled at a little too long. Another young boy or girl is cautiously being touched by some male predator who’s testing the waters.

Dear Bishop, are our children safe under your watch?

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New GA COGIC jurisdiction whitewashes child molestor’s history

July 15, 2012 Leave a comment

ATLANTA – Perhaps it is inconvenient for COGIC’s newly formed Georgia Jurisdiction to mention that one of its past leaders was a serial child molestor and a sexually immoral monster. That’s understandable. But why whitewash his crimes and sins by referring to his tenure of rule as “dynamic leadership”? Is dynamic leadership defined by ruining the lives of young men and boys, infecting some with a deadly virus?

From the Georgia South Central COGIC website:

“At that time [1963], the office of Bishop was bestowed on Elder John Dale Husband, who continued a progressive program of spiritual growth and development. Under the leadership of the late Bishop John D. Husband, many, many great leaders materialized. The late leaders, Supt. Simon Shuman, Supt. Odell Barnwell, Supt. H.T. Benton, and Bishop John Cooper were great men of God that emerged from under the auspices of Bishop Husband’s dynamic leadership.”

As bishop of Central Georgia, Husband’s wickedness was boundless without regard to the faithfulness of the men who served under him. He sexually molested the grandson of Supt. Simon Shuman to which he later admitted guilt.  For many decades, the truth about John Dale Husband was concealed by church leadership and his poisoned legacy nearly erased by those embarrassed by his exploitation of the high office to which he was consecrated. Others had a personal, vested interest in concealing his history.

But we have uncovered the truth so that those who read may know that this spirit is still alive and in operation in COGIC.  And some of the same leaders who covered for and excused Husband are still in office as well. God’s mercy is truly astonishing. The scripture records that He will allow persons and organizations to continue for long periods of time even after he has warned them of his coming judgment. The hope is that his goodness will lead to repentance.  Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? Romans 2:4 ESV

Despite warnings and repeated violations of the weak, defenseless and vulnerable among them, COGIC leadership seems to continue on a business as usual path. Hush money —with nondisclosure clauses— is still being paid. Lawsuits are hurriedly, but quietly, being settled to keep up the facade that all is well. But God is beholding the good and the evil and to ignore his vigilance is to one’s own peril.

And when he (Jesus) was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, Saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, And shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. Luke 19:41-44

Isreal did not repent, turn or amend their wickedness. They continued with an arrogant attitude, living off their history of being Abraham’s seed and believing that nothing could touch their privileged position.  But 40 years later, as prophesied by Jesus, a violent destruction came. The 12th and 15th Roman legions were stationed on Mount Scopus, further to the east and commanding all ways to Jerusalem from east to north. On the 10th of August, in A.D. 70 – (the 9th of Av) — in Jewish calendar reckoning, the very day when the King of Babylon burned the Temple in 586 B.C., the Temple was burned again. Titus took the city and put it to the torch, burning the Temple, leaving not one stone upon another.

The Church of God in Christ has indeed enjoyed the blessings and favor of God bestowed on it via promise to the beloved founder Charles Harrison Mason. But his legacy has been hijacked and perverted. And even though God is merciful, he will not overlook the wickedness of this leadership. We do not suggest the time of judgment and we pray it does not come. But remember that God is not impressed with history when repentance, righteousness and justice is forgotten.

Urgent letter seeks justice for Delaware COGIC Bishop

July 2, 2012 4 comments

BREAKING – An unnamed Washington DC source saying it represented a group of COGIC bishops, sent the following letter to Report COGIC Abuse seeking help in bringing attention to the case  of Bishop Thomas Holsey. You can read our initial coverage of  the case here. Apparently, Holsey’s supporters believe he is being treated unjustly by Presiding Bishop Charles Blake.

What follows is unedited by this site.

“Instead of the presiding bishop dealing with the immorality of the church, he continues to ruin a mans reputation who has been tried and declared to be restored by his board of bishops.  This document is the current affair of the board of bishops to stop the presiding bishop from further degrading this bishops character because he stood up for his rights and won.  What will the chairman of the board do in reference to this letter?”

CONCERNED BISHOPS
BOARD OF BISHOPS
CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST, INC.
June 28, 2012
Dear Brother Bishops of the Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops:
This is an appeal to your empathy for a colleague, Bishop Thomas L. Holsey, Jurisdictional Prelate of the Delaware Jurisdiction.

We must insist on another opportunity to correct a serious error in process and judgment as it relates to the Ecclesiastical Trial of Bishop Thomas Holsey. The time has come for us to stand for what is right for our brother Bishop in the sense of reconciliation.
Fairness, integrity, and justice dictate that we move decisively and with courage to clarify who we are as a Board and what we believe we owe our Church and one another. Acting responsibly and restoring our credibility and reputation as the Board of Bishops both dictate that we move with all deliberate speed as a unit.
Our future is at stake as it relates to how we handle the case before us. There is a clarion call and plea for closure of this case. If it had been properly handled originally, we would not have to address it at this time. The time has come that we must act with courage to support our fellow Bishop! It is the right thing to do!
Bishops, at this critical and defining moment in our proceedings, we must not allow ourselves to be governed by what is politically correct, or convenient, or popular. We must be governed by what is right, what is just, and what is fair. It is the right thing to do!
We cannot properly adjudicate this case or handle it fairly unless we place ourselves in Bishop Holsey’s shoes. What if you were he? What if your worship service was interrupted and infringed upon? What if you as Pastor of your congregation were asked to step aside right in the middle of a Sunday morning worship service by ranking officers of our National Church? Any one of us could be singled out in like manner for even the most minor infraction.
Please give your voice and support to what is right at the upcoming AIM Convention when the Board of Bishops holds its meeting, JULY 4, 2012, WHICH IS EMANCIPATION DAY.
WE THE MEMBERS OF THE COGIC BOARD OF BISHOPS recommend to our brother Bishops to accelerate the two year probationary period which was to be completed by November 15, 2012, to be fully satisfied on our meeting date, July 4, 2012, at 10:00 am, in Birmingham, Alabama.

We strongly support Bishop Thomas L. Holsey’s return to his COGIC Delaware Jurisdiction unhindered and unencumbered by further interference as long as he abides by the Constitution and By-Laws of the Church of God in Christ and follows the COGIC Constitution and the Constitutionally designated leadership of the Church of God in Christ.

Respectfully yours in Christ,

[signed]

Milton Wells, former COGIC official, sentenced to 7 years in prison

July 2, 2012 1 comment

The saga of Milton Wells, a COGIC official in Michigan accused of sexually assaulting two young girls in his congregation, appears to have ended. A  judge sentenced Wells to a minimum seven years in prison for his crimes.  The pastor and community activist had faced up to 15 years for his crimes. Read the history of this case here and here.

Kalamazoo’s MLive news outlet reported the trial and sentencing.

For many years, Milton Wells was known for his service to the Kalamazoo community, as a man of God.

But in truth, he brought about hell in the lives of two young girls.

That’s what the mother of one of the two girls told a judge Friday who sentenced Wells, 63, to a minimum of seven years in prison for second- and third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

“He would preach and teach holiness but try to create hell in the lives of these children,” the mother of one of the girls said Friday in Kalamazoo County Circuit Court.

“He would preach a sermon on Sunday morning but know that the day before he had taken my child to the movies and touched her.”

Wells headed the Open Door Ministries Church of God in Christ in Kalamazoo until 2010 when the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Office began investigating him. He also previously held other leadership positions, including as coordinator for the county’s Michigan Prisoner Re-entry Initiative.

He pleaded guilty in May to one count each of second-degree criminal sexual conduct and third-degree criminal sexual conduct. Two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and seven counts of second-degree criminal sexual conduct were dismissed.

At Friday’s hearing, Wells’ attorney, John Beason, asked Berrien County Circuit Judge Sterling R. Schrock to sentence Wells to no more than five years behind bars. Schrock was assigned to preside over the case after the four circuit judges in Kalamazoo County disqualified themselves from hearing the case because they formerly served on local boards with Wells and Wells is a personal friend of one of the judges.

Wells told Schrock on Friday that he was sorry for his actions against the two girls who were both younger than 13.

“This process has been one whole year,” Wells said. “And throughout that whole year not a day has gone by when I have not done some self-evaluation … I’m completely sorry for my actions that I’ve done, I’m sorry for my behavior that has cause some misunderstanding.

“I’m sorry about the pain that I’ve caused that was direct, but that was also indirect. I’m sorry for the disappointment I’ve been to my family, to my church.”

Throughout the trial, there has been no comment or acknowledgement from COGIC leadership, even though Wells was the brother of General Board member Bishop Nathaniel Wells. Read the full story here and view a photo gallery of the sentencing here.