Archive for June, 2013

Holsey case could be the benchmark of COGIC political injustices

June 28, 2013 1 comment


Some men in the Church of God in Christ seem to be intent on forcing the church back into a chapter of its history appropriately dubbed the  “dark period”  after the death of founder CH Mason.  Across the length and breadth of the church; reports of political wars, leadership abuses and struggles for power have eclipsed the church’s glorious days when its doctrine of sanctification and holiness made it unique.

Holsey vs Blake and Sheard

A growing number of frustrated and angry voices continue to mount against controversial Chairman of the Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops John Sheard of Michigan. We’ve reported  before on Sheard’s incompetence, unbridled disregard for COGIC’s rule of law and his inability to lead the denomination’s bishops with integrity. See reports here, here and here.

In what could prove to be the benchmark of COGIC political injustices, the case involving embattled Delaware Bishop Thomas Holsey has stirred up prominent voices in COGIC and the outcome may result in the toppling of Bishop Sheard from power.  The sheer punitive nature which has driven Sheard and Bishop Charles Blake to persecute Hosely has shocked some leaders into vocal –and public–  opposition.

Bishop Larry Shaw of Georgia has now released a detailed letter accusing Sheard –and by proxy Blake–  of the unjust persecution of Holsey. The Delaware bishop who was consecrated and installed by Blake has now become public enemy #1 with Blake and Sheard moving swiftly to strip him of his authority and place among fellow bishops.

According to the letter, Shaw contends: “It is painfully clear that the Chairman of the Board of Bishops has placed himself in direct conflict with the rule of law, order and process as he continues to drag this Board into unnecessary infighting, insignificant scrimmages, political squabbling and a constant power grab by the overly ambitious. He has unilaterally issued verdicts and decisions which continue to bring National embarrassment to this honorable body…furthermore; to many of us it seems that he has allowed himself to be sidetracked by persons who do not wish to protect the future of this great Board of Bishops. ”

The letter details plans to demote Holsey despite the fact he had already been tried by a jury of his peers, sentenced and satisfactorily completed all the requirements of his sentencing.  (The sentence was declared in November 2010 and completed two years later to the date). In secular court,  trying an individual for the same “crime” is called double jeopardy and is illegal. But it seems that COGIC’s leaders suspend basic fairness and instead like Islamic terrorists rush to behead Bishop Holsey from the ecclesiastical heritage he served to obtain.

Shaw, the Board’s secretary, said that Holsey was cleared by a  Release Order dated April 2013,  rendered by the National Judiciary Board and given to John Sheard. This Judicial order ruled in Bishop Holsey’s favor and allowed him to continue to serve his Jurisdiction as Jurisdictional Prelate without restrictions. This Executive Order was read aloud by Judge Enoch Perry III to the specially called meeting of the Executive Board of the BOB.

But later, under a cloak of secrecy and in violation of COGIC’s constitution, Sheard ordered Holsey retried and demoted.  We’ve posted Bishop Larry Shaw’s  entire letter under Letters and Documents.

Shaw himself was accused by the family of a boy who was molested by a NC music minister of  publicly demeaning them after they sought  justice via the legal system. [report]

Remembering a church war

June 25, 2013 Leave a comment

conflict-managementI rarely, if ever get personal on this blog. Mainly because my job is to inconspicuously document injustices, abuses and hopefully provide a place where some people know that someone cares about the hurt they are experiencing.  After hearing about the situation at Forest Hill COGIC in Texas, things hit very close to home and caused me to remember the church of my youth. A church that went to war and I think that everybody lost.  So I decided to write about it. Im sure many of you many have witnessed the same things but never said anything, so I will speak for you too.

Church conflicts are nothing new. A major conflict arose in the early church between the Christian Jews and the newly engrafted Gentile believers. It took a full apostolic council in Jerusalem to settle it. Reference Acts 15. However, lest we become comfortable with conflicts as a growing norm, let us remember the warning of scripture.

 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. Galatians 5:13-15 ESV

My mother was a proud member of Power House COGIC in Marlin, Texas. The church was named Power House after a series of revivals in the mid 40s brought people from miles around to witness the power of God moving as the saints shouted, preached, prayed and sang like nothing folks had seen before. The name was very appropriate.

I started attending the church when I was about 6 years old with my brothers and sisters. Sometimes my mother couldnt go to church because she was tired from working two jobs to support us, but she made sure we all got up, got dressed and got to church in time for Sunday School. I loved going to Power House. Even after 30 years, it still was a place that lived up to its name. As my siblings got older they went to other churches or moved away from home, but us younger ones kept going.

The church sat on a small parcel of land off Commerce Street. I dont know why they never bought the two houses adjacent to the church so that it could expand but they didnt. So if there was a crowd, everyone had to park on the street.

Power House was in Texas Northeast Jurisdiction (before all the splits) and our bishop was Bishop FL Haynes. What a man of God! I dont remember how young I was but I remember going to the convocation in Dallas and on “Official Day” when the Spirit was moving through Saintsville, Bishop jumped out of his chair and danced across the pulpit like he was losing his mind. When he did that, it was like a 1000 saints just went wild praising God!

Our pastor Supt CE Bennett, was a tall, well groomed and educated man. He always came to pick us up to go to the Corsicana District meeting. He was an excellent preacher and the church was very blessed under him. Our choir, led by Sis Earline Johnson was one of the best in the district. PH always sang those “shouting songs” and people loved it. My mother was a powerful singer too. She would always sing “Im a soldier, in the army of the Lord” and she hated if the song “drug”.

As far as I knew everything at Power House was good and well. Then, Supt Bennett died and we got a new Pastor, Elder Isreal Echols who had a large family. Elder Echols was a very meek man, until he got up to preach. Then, it was all over. His family was very active in the church. They were preachers, preaching missionaries, musicians and teachers. Under Pastor Echols and his family our church rose to even higher levels of “power”.  They were anointed, skilled and eager to serve in the church. They brought Mother Elsie Mason to speak at our church for women’s day and that was the first time I saw a demon cast out. Mother Mason did it and never even flinched.

I grew into my teens and started having other issues develop in my life. But I (as well as my peers in the church) started noticing subtle changes around the church. Mainly, it was a growing coldness between the pastor’s family and a sizeable group of the members.  They started not coming to bible study or would come late and not say anything when they came. It was strange, but noticeable. The testimony service, which used to be free and anointed, became tense and manufactured sounding.  My mother, although she didnt discuss the business of the church with us, continued as normal. She didnt act differently towards the pastor’s family and always supported. marlin

Then one Sunday morning, the ugly truth spilled out. In Sunday School review, the head deacon openly confronted one of the pastor’s daughters about some of her teachings or maybe more accurately, her attitude as he saw it. It was one of those moments as a teen who loved church, that caused you to just freeze.

Eventually more things happened and the rift between the two groups grew wider and wider. Accusations about money being withheld surfaced. Some of the members had circulated a petition calling for the removal of the pastor whom they felt would not or could not “control” his family. I found out about this because my mother got a visit from the “leaders” of the members coalition and they wanted her to sign the letter. She refused. Maybe it was because as a pastor’s daughter herself, she knew that the church could be unkind to the pastor’s family. Thats just a guess. At any rate she didn’t sign it.

As a footnote, us teens were 100% pro pastor and family. We loved them. For some of my peers, it caused a conflict at home.

Things were at an impasse. At some point, a group of members contacted Bishop J. Neaul Haynes, who now presided over Texas Northeast. When the night of the meeting arrived, we were told to stay at home. Of course, we didnt do it. We all decided to wait until the meeting started and then sneak to the church and listen outside by the window that had an air condition in it. We could hear everything like that. Bishop Haynes arrived with Supt TD Daniels and Supt TL Young, his Admistrative assistants. While I wont go into detail, suffice to say the meeting was very ugly. It hurt to hear the accusations.

After that, things were never the same. I cant remember if Pastor Echols left immediately or not. I left the church at 18 due in part to my own internal conflicts and being fed up with the division. Power House lost its former glory and to this day its sad to say has never recovered.  Everyone of the members who signed the petition are dead. Im not suggesting God killed them, just stating the facts. My mother is still a member and at 81, is faithful as best she can be. She was even recognized as a “Member of the Year” in Texas Northeast. But there is no power in that house anymore.

Finally, I want to say that Pastor Isreal Echols, Sr, may God rest his soul,  was no wolf and he cared for the flock of God. The personality conflicts that arose were avoidable. But for churches in the grip of a wolf, the only recourse is to fight to save yourself.

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Small Texas COGIC church seeks relief from bishop’s bad decision

June 22, 2013 3 comments

After numerous ignored written appeals to have their voices heard by COGIC leadership, a small Fort Worth, Texas church who lost its founder, is at its wits end. Now, feeling like they are trapped in an abusive marriage, they are reaching out with their story.

The Forest Hill COGIC sent a letter to controversial Board of Bishop president John Sheard pleading for help with the decision of Bishop [emeritus] J. Neaul Haynes of Dallas. Haynes, they contend is afflicted with dementia and unable to make sound administrative church decisions which are part of the core responsibility of the bishopric. Haynes gave an impassioned speech in the 2012 convocation requesting he be emeritized. See the video of the speech. Haynes stated that while he was “not lacking in passion and committement to the clarity of my heart and mind I hear and feel the sands calling me across the distance of my 81 years of life”

But men can give great speeches in front of crowds.  Despite hundreds of people standing around the room, Haynes asked “is there anyone standing in the room besides me?” The church believes that Bishop Haynes’ mental capacity is indeed wavering. Consequently, an additional letter was sent to Sheard.

UPDATE 9:28p EST We have received a complete copy of the Forest Hill Church letter and are replacing the previous incomplete one. This complete letter, addressed to the Presiding Bishop and General Board, detail Bishop Williams’ alleged unsavory disrespect and mistreatment of the founder’s widow and church members. The full text of the letter can be downloaded under Letters and Documents. Here is an excerpt:

rwilliamsBishop Reginald Lamont Williams who is an Auxiliary Bishop came to the church in a very negative, arrogant and spoke to us in degrading manner. If he is allowed to remain as pastor, this would no doubt mean oppression for our founding widow and the church.
In Bishop Williams’ greeting and introduction of himself as assuming the pastorate of the church, he stated that: He asked if anyone had any questions or anything to say. He went on to say “I know church folk, they will not speak up and say anything but will talk amongst themselves;” when founding Widow Henderson spoke up to say that we have ministers who are capable of preaching or carrying on, he said in a disrespectful way “I don’t need you to say anything Sis. Henderson”.
He spoke of an anniversary service for Elder White and wife, without details of the agreement made between Elder White and the church concerning compensation; he spoke as though we had never shown them appreciation. He stated that he would communicate to Elder Oliver who had been an assistant under Elder White and that he assisted Elder Oliver in getting his ministerial license. He said emphatically that he does not want anyone coming into his office with any concerns. He let us know that he does not recognize or communicate with the head deacon, elders or the board that was already in place under Elder White (as required by the 501c-3 IRS) non-profit status.
He explained the difference between a pastor governed organization or church and a congregational governed organization. He stated emphatically that the Church of God in Christ is a Pastor governed organization.
Compensation: He stated what he expected in the way of compensation. He said that he would accept an offering. $125.00 was taken up the first Sunday he preached and after service he (without recognizing the deacons or board of directors), asked the church secretary to write him a $500.00 check. You can do the math, if we only take in a little more than $800.00 and he takes 500.00 the church will not be able to pay the bills. He asked the members to give $21.00 each and he does not contribute any offerings himself. On Sunday May 19, 2013 he not only received $500.00 but paid another brother from Love Sanctuary COGIC $50.00. This is highway robbery right before our eyes. This lack of integrity and spirit of greed should not be among God’s people.
He was absent one Sunday, did not contact anyone until the last minute. We have to wait until he gets to the church, and then he has the audacity to say he preached the same message at his other church (Love Sanctuary COGIC, Fort Worth, TX). He is not considerate of our church family, comes in making changes without any discussion whatsoever. We are treated as though we have no voice. Needless to say, this is all wrong!

Although numerous members have written to various COGIC officials, this particular letter was written by Sis Martha Kelly a member of the church. Kelly,  is to be applauded for not hiding behind anonymous monikers like “concerned member”. Kelly, along with Deacon Adrian Winston are seeking to bring resolution to the situation. Both say what many members of the COGIC have voiced to RCA in the times of church conflicts: leadership is almost always nonresponsive, leaving members without fair and adequate representation. And at the mercy of unjust appointees.

Additional info: