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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

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Bishop Charles Blake’s early published views on homosexuality

December 26, 2013 Leave a comment

Reblogged from April 13, 2009 with some minor updates.

Maybe the Presiding Bishop should revisit his question and publish a full commentary in The Whole Truth.

GCM Watch has obtained an original copy of an article written almost 40 years ago by then Elder Charles Blake, now COGIC’s highest episcopal officer. Entitled “Is there hope and help for the homosexual? 1 Cor 6:9-11″, Blake authored the piece for the denomination’s “official organ”, The Whole Truth (Volume VII, No IV, May 1974). The mere fact that he was willing to write and publish such an article during this time suggests that he was deeply concerned about men and women who struggle to overcome homosexuality, without the assistance of the church they were born into. But does the article reveal anything about the Presiding Bishop’s personal perspectives on homosexuality? You might be very surprised reading it. The May issue contained part one, but its not clear whether a “part two” was ever published in the June issue as indicated.

Unfortunately, due to copyright restrictions we can’t cite the whole article. Here are some interesting statements made in the article. So please don’t complain about “context” quotes.

wt0574“Hope and Help” was written when Blake was 34 years old and just five years after he was appointed pastor of West Angeles in 1969. As the young pastor of a growing church, Blake saw homosexuality as a rising controversy which the church had been negligent in addressing. In his article, he is very adamant about speaking out and educating the COGIC and its leadership.

“…because it [homosexuality] seems to be on the increase, I feel we make the problem more severe and pressing when we ignore it. It does not go away. And by our silence we would appear to condone it or advocate it. If we fail to deal with it then many who might otherwise escape, will find themselves entangled in the midst of its antagonizing complexities.The people perish for lack of knowledge.”

I agree completely that silence about deliverance from homosexuality helps to keep struggling people in bondage. As an example, although I was born in COGIC, I can only remember once my formative 19 years hearing about anyone ever being delivered from homosexuality. That person was a female evangelist named Charlotte Reynolds from Ohio. If I’m not mistaken, she had a testimony in one of COGIC’s  “souvenir journals” published for the Women’s Convention in Houston. The lack of role models led me to believe that there was no one who had been delivered and thus in my mind, not a real possibility for me. We can only hope that now that Bishop Blake is at the apex of power in COGIC, he would remember what he wrote and challenge the church and many of his fellow pastors and bishops to openly share their testimony of deliverance from homosexuality.

Apparently anticipating that clergy members in his denomination would reject his bold assertions, Blake rebuked them and challenged them to openly deal with homosexuality “from the pulpit”. There was a broad misapplication of Ephesians 5:3 which caused people to believe such things should never be talked about openly.

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness let it not be once named among you as becometh saints.

In its literal interpretation, these sins should not have been “named” (or mentioned), but only because they should have never have been part of the lifestyle practices of God’s people, not because Paul attempted to standardize some code of silence. In essence, he was demanding a zero tolerance policy. Instead it was said that sexual issues among the saints should never be discussed openly. This is a tragic example of not dividing the Word rightly and its clear what this has led us into.

Most likely, Bishop Blake accurately saw the pulpit as a place of authority in the black church. Unless homosexuality was addressed from THAT place of authority by a person IN authority, it would continue to remain taboo.

“And to those who would feel that this subject should not be dealt with from the pulpit, I would say that the Bible deals with it, God has revealed his mind regarding it and Jesus Christ has provided a means of dealing with it. And thus the preacher who ignores it is either blind of forgetful of his mission.”

Amen! In other words, there remains no excuse for any preacher not to speak out on this issue. Any preacher who ignores the serious and pervasive issue of homosexuality is blind and has forgotten the mission of the preacher of the gospel.

There were more strong words of rebuke for leaders who fail to openly minister truth to homosexuals (caps his):

“Jesus’ death on the cross was for the whole world. And thus the Church of God in Christ must be an extention [sic] of the love of God and the redeeming concern of Christ Jesus to all who need, including the homosexual. And if God has conveyed to us a good word to those involved in sexual variances, then we are guilty of EXTORTION if we keep silent and fail to pass it on.”

Extortion is a strong word, but it is what it is. And unfortunately it appears COGIC leadership didn’t heed these words. Blake himself may have become discouraged fighting against a system so ingrained with ignorance about sexual holiness that at some point he too became complicit. Its no secret in COGIC that ascendancy to the upper levels of leadership comes with a price. In fact, seventeen years later, Blake found himself in the center of one of COGIC’s most infamous homosexual church trials when allegations of widespread homosexual conduct and sexual abuse came to light concerning fellow General Board member John D. Husbands (deceased 1991).

The article also contains a rather controversial section of Blake’s research and commentary on homosexuality and gender issues where he quotes Sigmund Freud as an authority on the subject.

blake3This is the Bishop Blake the church needs now. Almost 40 years  have passed since he wrote this and things have only gotten much worse. Homosexuality is running rampant in the church (including the one he presides over), threatens to completely obliterate the social landscape of our nation (including the state he resides in) and has birthed an illegitimate movement of “gay christians”. But Bishop Blake is now silent. Instead of living by what he once openly preached and advocated, he now refers to “official positions” when questioned about the issue.

Although unconfirmed, several individuals have attested that Blake was delivered from homosexuality, even testifying to it at his father’s San Diego church. And gay rumors have persisted among fellow leaders. But in 2003, Bishop Blake completely denied that saying “Homosexuality has never been and will never be my temptation.” If the witness of those who heard him testify is true, it would be such an awesome inspiration for the thousands of young people in COGIC who struggle to overcome homosexuality to know their Bishop is an overcomer and not ashamed of what God has done in his life. Interestingly, the scripture he cited in his article title is the only one which specifically acknowledges not only the reality of freedom from homosexuality through the cleansing blood of Jesus, but also those in the church who have been delivered from homosexuality.

Even as COGIC is set this week for $200 ticket, red carpet inauguration of its newest leader, a man who has based his administration on the hope of a brighter future for COGIC, now seems the best time for him  to return to what he once believed.

If you’re interested in reading the entire article, contact  The Whole Truth.

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