ATLANTA – Seeking compensatory and punitive damages, attorneys for Bishop Larry Shaw, Secretary of the Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops, filed a lawsuit against Bishop John H. Sheard, the board’s Chairman in Georgia’s Fulton County Superior Court, Tuesday October 1st. The suit demands a jury trial.
Also named as a defendant in the suit is Elder William McCray III a controversial media personality and author of a blog known as “Obnoxious Blog”.
We reported to you earlier that the Atlanta law firm representing Shaw and Bishop Thomas Holsey sent a letter to Bishop Charles Blake and Sheard intimating an intent to file suit. Apparently, Sheard did not take it seriously and two days later, emailed the letter out to numerous other COGIC bishops. Interestingly enough, the lawsuit alleges he also knowingly spread a libelous and false letter which prompted the defamation suit.
New information released by the attorneys describe a $10,000 payoff dispute between McCray and Sheard after the latter refused to pay for the libelous letter in the wake of COGIC’s 2012 elections. The suit alleges the two plotted to “destroy” Shaw in advance of the elections. According to the suit, in a private meeting in Detroit mediated by Bishop Nathaniel Wells, Sheard ordered that Shaw “forget about” a document Sheard had illegally signed regarding the suspension of Bishop Holsey. In exchange for Shaw’s silence, Sheard said he would not release the letter. When Shaw refused to cooperate, Sheard copied the letter and distributed it at the church’s November meeting in St Louis. He later enlisted McCray to post it on his popular blog.
Sheard’s attorney told an Atlanta reporter Sheard ‘had nothing to do with the blogger posting that letter.” He said Shaw doesn’t want his reputation harmed and yet, he pointed out, Shaw and his attorney are the ones who called the media.
Read the suit under our letters and documents.
Church leadership conflicts are nothing new
Conflicts between church leaders are nothing new. The bible records one of most well known between Paul and Peter, two of the heavyweight apostles of the early church. It involved lying, hypocrisy, false teaching, confrontation, tension and public rebuke.
“Yet because of false brothers secretly brought in—who slipped in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus, so that they might bring us into slavery— to them we did not yield in submission even for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you. And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised.
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.
But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?” Gal 2 vss 4-8,11,14 ESV
On Sept 7, 1967, Bishop RE Ranger filed a lawsuit in the 9th District Court of Texas against Bishop JO Patterson Sr. et al alleging that his removal from office was illegal and void because it did not comply with the Constitution, By-Laws, Customs and Practices of the COGIC. Ranger contended Patterson perjured himself in a Birmingham court. See Bishop Ranger’s searing response letter entitled “Always Liars”.
The point of the matter is when a wrong has been committed and it cannot be resolved through ecclesiastical channels, it is acceptable to seek legal redress. Thus, Bishop Shaw was well within his rights to file suit. Given the decades of stunning dysfunction within COGIC’s judicial processes, its no wonder the lawsuit had to be taken to civil court.
Fair adjudication or pattern of obstruction?
The greater concern of the church should be with Bishop Sheard’s attempts to defame others, obstruct justice and selectively disregard church laws.
- In August 2012, Bishop Juan Lawson, prelate of Texas Western Jurisdiction and former Chairman of the Church of God in Christ Grievance Committee, announced via video that he had resigned as Chairman of that committee due to repeated incidences of “obstruction, coverup and incompetence” by Board of Bishops Chairman John Sheard. [read more]
- Later that month, noted scholar, ethicist and COGIC Ecumenical Officer Dr. Leonard Lovett fired off a letter telling Sheard, “We have credible evidence that you are engaging in obstruction of justice with similar cases. Bishop Sheard, you are not beyond an investigation for obstruction of justice by the Judiciary. We have almost concluded that your limited response to this and other cases are purely political and that no impartial trial can be conducted as long as you are leading like a boss. Unfortunately, it is this kind of behavior that results in cases being tried on the internet.” [read more]
RCA obtained a copy of an internal memo by Bishop Donald Murray dated August 20, 2013. Murray is Vice Chair of the Board of Bishops. The memo contained the findings of a “Special Grievance Committee” and noted passive-aggressive obstructionist efforts by five bishops on the committee after Shaw filed a complaint about Sheard. Whether Sheard influenced the actions is unknown. The bishops refused to even cooperate possibly to stymie the complaint process.
“As the Executive Team Member, holding the responsibility for overseeing the fair adjudication of this Complaint brought by Bishop Larry Shaw, I have reviewed the report tendered by Bishop L. Walter Plummer and I have noted that there are a couple of troubling issues embedded within the report. Thus, as the Chief Hearing Officer for this particular matter, I must address these issues here, as I might not have an opportunity to do so in the future, nor do I want to turn any of our sessions into a spectacle.
The Special Grievance Committee report tendered by Bishop T. Walter Plummer shows that Bishop John H. Sheard, Bishop Roy Dixon, and Bishop Adrian Williams, in response to the May 15, 2013 letter sent by Acting Grievance Committee Chairman, Bishop T. Walter Plummer pursuant to Rule of Trial Procedure 6(b), each properly filed a written response with the Special Grievance Committee addressing or denying all of the allegations of the Complaint. Clearly, these Bishops adhered to the Rules of Trial Procedure established by the Board of Bishops. Regrettably, the report also shows that the remaining five Respondents did not reply at all to the allegations of the Complaint even though a request was made by the Special Grievance Committee Chairman.
The report shows that on May 20, 2013 Bishop Benjamin P. Collins (GA) received the package requesting a response within 30 days via certified mail. The report shows that on May 18, 2013 Bishop Felton Smith (TN) received his package requesting a response within 30 days via certified mail. The report shows that Bishop John Wayne Leggett (GA) did not claim his certified mail package, but that the package was hand-delivered to him during the AIM Convention. To date, there has been no response. The report shows that Bishop Albert Galbraith’s (CA) certified mail package was neither signed for nor was it returned. The report shows that the certified mail package sent to Bishop Roger Jones (MI) went unclaimed, and that an attempt was made to hand-deliver the package to Bishop Jones during the AIM Convention, but he refused to accept it.
Not only did the five bishops refuse to participate in the process, they also refused to give account as to why. Read the entire letter under our letters and documents section.
Breaking: Atlanta law firm to file federal racketeering lawsuit against COGIC Presiding Bishop; Board of Bishops Chairman
Atlanta – Charges of leadership abuses by the administration of Bishop Charles Blake, Sr may have crested with a new volley of potential legal charges. Today Report COGIC Abuse confirmed an Atlanta law firm has sent a letter to the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) Presiding Bishop and its Chairman of the Board of Bishops informing them of the intent to file a federal lawsuit alleging racketeering, theft by extortion and several other charges.
Report COGIC Abuse obtained an original copy of the letter sent to Bishop Charles Blake, Sr of Los Angeles and Bishop John Sheard of Detroit dated August 27 by attorneys from the law firm of Changus Campbell LLP on behalf of its clients Bishop Larry Shaw of Savannah, GA and Bishop Thomas Holsey of Dover, DE.
Also named as a potential defendant in the lawsuit is the Church of God in Christ, Inc.
Blake and Sheard are accused of violating O.C.G.A. [Official Code of Georgia Annotated] § 16-14-9 (RICO) . § 16-18-16 (theft by extortion) and and § 16-14-3 (9)(B) (theft chargeable under the laws of the United States). The two are alleged to have engaged in a “pattern of racketeering activity…conspiring together or with others to violate O.C.G.A. § 16-14-4.”
Perhaps the most serious charge is that the Presiding Bishop violated IRS laws by failing to “properly report, identify and pay taxes on revenues generated from offerings within the church”, thus jeopardizing the denomination’s tax exempt status.
The letter cites evidence yet to be revealed accusing Bishop Sheard of offering controversial Atlanta media personality William McCray III (ordained COGIC elder; red glasses) “thousands of dollars” to post defamatory information on his website called Obnoxious Blog. See those reports here and here. McCray has claimed that the Sheards are personal friends. Warning: profanity and graphic descriptions of sexual activity on this site.
The letter also contends that Sheard instructed McCray to post the false and defamatory information prior to 2012 COGIC elections in an attempt to destroy Shaw’s re-election efforts. Bishop Shaw is currently secretary of the denomination’s Board of Bishops. Sheard and Shaw have been in a long standing dispute over Sheard’s unjust persecution of fellow Bishop Thomas Holsey. See our previous coverage here.
It appears this entire situation was supposed to have remained private between the accused parties and the law firm until a September 13 deadline had expired. But sources tell Report COGIC Abuse, Sheard immediately forwarded the letter via email two days later without comment to about 20 select bishops. Its unclear if he consulted with the Presiding Bishop before doing so or had his approval.
We’ve posted a copy of the letter in our letters and documents section. RCA will continue to update this story as pertinent information becomes available.
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]
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:
Bishop 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.
Angry confrontations in the form of letters continue to surface regarding the alleged obstructionist tenure of Bishop John Sheard, chair of the Board of Bishops. Although his bio lauds his “notoriety as a man of integrity and great leadership”, information now suggest that Sheard has used his office and position to stifle investigations and withhold damaging information about some of his fellow bishops.
Bishop Juan Lawson of El Paso, Texas, who resigned as chair of the church’s Grievance Committee, specifically cited Sheard as key antagonist in systemic actions to prevent certain bishops from being investigated. See story and video here.
Now, a blistering rebuke letter out of the Washington DC jurisdiction alleges even more serious issues of wrongdoing by Sheard.
The letter was sent to Sheard after repeated efforts to get an investigation off the ground on Bishop Neavelle Coles failed to get traction. Noted scholar, ethicist and COGIC Ecumenical Officer Dr. Leonard Lovett sent the angry followup to a June 6 letter which received only a “limited response”.
“It appears that you have set up a series of delay tactics to get you past the elections without any distractions from persons such as myself and others[…]
You never adequately responded to our June 6, 2012 letter requesting that seven (7) concerns be addressed in order to proceed properly with the case.”
Dr. Lovett further said that the political climate fostered under Sheard prevented impartial trials from being conducted.
“We have credible evidence that you are engaging in obstruction of justice with similar cases. Bishop Sheard, you are not beyond an investigation for obstruction of justice by the Judiciary. We have almost concluded that your limited response to this and other cases are purely political and that no impartial trial can be conducted as long as you are leading like a boss. Unfortunately, it is this kind of behavior that results in cases being tried on the internet.”
RCA has documented the incredibly dysfunctional judicial system within COGIC which has severely hindered and blocked justice for victims of clergy sexual abuse and those who endured leadership abuses of all types. The systemic culture of obstruction by individuals who were elected to “uphold the constitution of the Church of God in Christ” is one of the most egregious forms of abuse in existence.
Read or download the entire letter
In a newly released video, a prominent El Paso, Texas COGIC bishop highlights serious internal problems with the denomination’s apparently broken judicial system. We previously reported on COGIC’s judicial system here and here.
Bishop Juan Lawson, prelate of Texas Western Jurisdiction and former Chairman of the Church of God in Christ Grievance Committee, announced via video that he had resigned as Chairman of that committee due to repeated incidences of “obstruction, coverup and incompetence” by Board of Bishops president Bishop John Sheard.
Citing the contents of a letter Report COGIC Abuse made public August 10th, Bishop Lawson decried the Blake administration’s disregard of speedy and fair justice for clergy.
Lawson is also a candidate for President of the powerful Board of Bishops which has oversight of cases filed against COGIC bishops.
Addendum 5:55pm est: This story was amended to remove the names of Bishop Charles Blake and Bishop Enoch Perry III. Per Bishop Lawson, his remarks alleging “obstruction, coverup and incompetence” were not specifically directed at these two individuals. Report COGIC Abuse apologizes for this unintended misinterpretation.