Just a week after Report COGIC Abuse published the story of COGIC Pastor Frederick Smith and allegations of financial malfeasance, misrepresentation on a legal document and gross sexual immorality , it appears that Bishop Brandon Porter has taken some action against the pastor and church.
The screenshot of the website taken before and after the report shows Smith and New Life Holiness church now removed from the official jurisdictional website which lists its member pastors and churches.
Its unclear at this point whether this action is to be viewed as punitive or evasive. Neither Porter nor Smith’s immediate supervisor Supt Linwood Dilliard (also president of COGIC International Youth Department) have made any public statements although the situation has received widespread attention. Has Smith been booted from the denomination? If so, it would seem to verify all the allegations against him.
Has Smith been put on lay low status until the controversy dies? If so, it could indicate his leaders are avoiding dealing with the obvious breaches to COGIC’s policy and doctrine.
Covering or Coverup?
How much about Smith’s sexual proclivities did Porter and Dillard know and when did they know it? Is this situation like many others in COGIC where even though leadership is aware of the serious moral and ethical failings of its pastors, they ignore it in their quest to build district and jurisdictional clout within the denomination? Or ignore it because a person has a position and can deliver emotional orations like deceased Bishop JD Husbands?
Records we found show that Smith initially began his COGIC career as a member of a district under the late Bishop JO Patterson, Jr as early as 2007. At some point, he transferred to the Tennessee Central Jurisdiction.
Serious sexual immorality charges emerge on Memphis COGIC pastor; no response from Linwood Dilliard or Bishop Brandon Porter
Serious charges of sexual immorality and possible financial malfeasance by a Memphis pastor have emerged but so far there’s been no response from the pastor’s immediate denominational supervisor nor his bishop.
Last week, popular Memphis “shock jock” Thaddeus Matthews made public information given to him about Pastor Frederick Smith of New Life Holiness Church alleging the pastor paid for numerous sexual encounters with another man.
Matthews published a profanity laden letter sent to him by church members who say someone placed it on their car windshields in the church’s parking lot. The anonymous writer alleges Pastor Smith initially picked him up and paid him $100 for sex. After that, the two met frequently for the same. Due to the graphic language of the letter, Report COGIC Abuse has chosen not to repost it.
The website of Tennessee Central Jurisdiction lists Smith and the church as members of the Memphis Southeast District under Supt Linwood Dillard.
In addition to the charges of gross sexual immorality, Matthews alleges that Smith lied or misrepresented New Life Holiness’s affiliation with the Church of God in Christ. An official bankruptcy document filed in 2012 with the Western District of Tennessee and signed by Smith identifies the church as a member of the Church of the Nazarene. But Report COGIC Abuse found a 2007 JO Patterson Memorial District Calendar which lists Smith and church as members.
Smith’s activities became public after he filed a report with Memphis police alleging he had been robbed, beaten and his wallet stolen. The incident happened around 930p on May 17th. Smith claimed he was at the Harbor Island Apartments because he thinking of moving there when a young black male came up behind him and struck him in the face, took his keys and wallet but not the car and ran.
Police arrested 22 year old Hezekiah Webb who admitted to the incident. Smith refused to press any charges against Webb. Webb now alleges the scuffle took place because Smith attempted to get sex from him.
Its not clear whether Smith is still operating as pastor of the church.
This time, charges of perjury and what could amount to receiving stolen property have been aired, implicating the Church of God in Christ’s top leaders including its Presiding Bishop and 1st Assistant Presiding Bishop.
In response, threats of lawsuits and legal challenges have surfaced after Holsey sent a letter to Board of Bishop’s Chair John Sheard, demanding assistance in recouping loans from his jurisdiction totaling over $700,000. The largest indebtor?: Bishop PA Brooks who is accused of receiving almost $200,000 of some four million dollars of “missing money”. In response, both Blake and Brooks have released open letters of defense against the charges.
Brooks wrote to Delaware jurisdictional leaders that Bishop Blake had removed Holsey for insubordination and even cited Titus 1:7 requiring that a bishop be blameless as biblical justification for the removal from office.
“As of July 16th, 2010, due to Bishop Thomas Holsey [sic] refusal to cooperate with the Episcopal Oversight Committee (EOC), having no other remedy to protect the best interest of the Jurisdiction but to place interim leadership; pursuant to page 5, paragraph (a) and pages 17 and 18, of the Official Manual, over the Jurisdiction. As noted, “Given the gravity and the emergency nature of the situation”, Bishop Blake has appointed me as the interim Jurisdictional Bishop until such time things are stable or other leadership protocols are defined an [sic] implemented.” [source]
Holsey later faced a trial of his peers, but according to some sources the verdict was overturned. Then in July, a letter from a group claiming to represent the Board of Bishops demanded Bishop Blake cease from “degrading” Holsey’s character. An intervention was staged during the 2012 AIM convention in Birmingham.
Shouldn’t a bishop be blameless?
With all of the accusations, charges, counter-charges and legal threats, wouldn’t such actions disqualify a bishop according to 1 Timothy 3:2? A bishop must be blameless, it reads. By blameless, it should be understood that sinless perfection is not the standard, but rather that a bishop’s life should be above reproach before consecration and remain above reproach after consecration. If Holsey is in violation of Titus 1:7 and 1 Timothy 3:2, wouldn’t Blake and Brooks both be equally at blame until the matter is free and clear? Neither’s episcopal career has met the “above and beyond reproach” plumbline test.
All letters associated with this story can be found under the Letters and Document section.
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
A Church of God in Christ Charities executive and his church in Brockton, MA are defendants in a federal lawsuit which claims a fraudulent attempt to make money off an African gold scheme. In the US, federal courts are not courts of general jurisdiction, thus only certain types of cases or issues may be filed in a federal lawsuit.
Dr. Alexander Hurt, Sr. and the Dominion Christian Church of God in Christ are accused by the Pennsylvania based American Capital Holdings of cheating them out of an estimated $232,000. Its not clear whether Hurt had ever had any success with buying African gold.
The Enterprise News reported that Hurt devised a scheme that never produced the promised payout for the investor.
A city church and its pastor have been sued in federal court for what the plaintiff says was a failed scheme to make money off African gold.
The suit, filed April 24 in U.S. District Court, claims the Dominion Christian Church and its pastor, Alexander Hurt, took money from a Pennsylvania company, American Capital Holdings LLC, that was never returned, and the company never saw any payout from its initial investment.
In October 2011, the suit alleges, Hurt approached American Capital Holding and said he would be able to buy discounted gold from Uganda and sell it at a profit. The company says it paid Hurt an initial payment of $150,000 that was supposed to turn around into a profit of $300,000 within 15 days.
The initial money was supposed to be protected be a corporate bond, which the suit claims was never issued.
Hurt told the company he had success doing this and was making a “substantial” return on his investments, according to the suit.
On Feb. 25, American Capital says, it received an email from an account belonging to Hurt that said he had gone to Africa, but had “lost the gold, all the money and nearly lost my life.”
In the email printed in the suit, Hurt claims he was kicked out of his church and was being hunted by a Congolese agent.
“That money was going to change both of our lives and get our reputation back,” the email stated.
American Capital Holdings is seeking a return of the $232,000 it says it paid to Hurt, along with interest and attorney fees. They also want a full accounting of what happened to the money, according to the suit. They are also asking the court for double or triple damages for alleged violations of state and federal law including the RICO anti-racketeering statute.
According to an email allegedly sent by Hurt to ACH, he blames to loss of the money and gold on his “greed”. You can review the full suit here (pdf).
Hurt is listed on COGIC’s official site as a board member and ironically as executive Director, Search Committee Chair of COGIC Charities. COGIC Charities is the the “benevolent arm” of the denomination providing money to causes such as disaster relief. In addition, under Bishop Charles Blake, in 2008 COGIC Charities began awarding scholarship money to students. According to the website, Blake has directed the charity to give “the most dollars for scholarships in the organization’s history”.
Although this case does not involve church funds, nevertheless its troubling. If Hurt did indeed take the $232k, what did he do with it? Is this a sign of a man with serious financial problems?
Given the nature of the lawsuit —and Hurt’s connection to an arm of the church whose focus is money management, it would be wise for the denomination to remove Hurt until this has been legally resolved.
But a year later, in a 2010 report to the General Assembly, Bishop Blake told delegates that financial payouts for “settlements” had dramatically increased.
After “expressing concern” over the denomination’s financial health due in part to improper financial recordkeeping, the minutes reflected that “Bishop Blake noted the need for adjustments to be made and highlighted the fact that approximately $1.7 million is spent on legal fees and settlements.”
Then, as if to connect then segue:
“Bishop Blake expounded on the problem of sexual misconduct by clergy and emphasized that such criminal activity must be properly reported. He also intimated that the general church could not pay legal expenses for local and jurisdiction litigation.”
Even though the church’s chief lawyer Enoch Perry falsely informed the church’s general assembly that in over 100 years of COGIC there had “only been 20-25 processed cases of sexual misconduct”. Perry did not say what constitutes a sexual abuse case nor why with such a low number of cases, the church pays out such large sums of money to compensate victims each year.
His GA testimony was in sharp conflict with Bishop Blake’s $800k statement. The math between the two statements were worlds apart.
Another note of interest: Given the prior numbers and statements from the Perry, no one (at least not on record) ever questioned the presiding bishop as to why settlement payouts had increased and who the money was paid to.
As we pointed out here, COGIC’s own “sexual abuse policy” approved by Blake says that “The local jurisdiction and the National Church can all be held liable for of the acts of one individual.” This was the case in Washington State where after a legal defeat in the case of Supt Charles Smith, the church had to pay a $1 million dollar settlement. The jurisdictional headquarters was later sold. And several years prior in Illinois (5th jurisdiction) the church paid $1.5 million settlement (see this) because of a failure of leadership to discipline a known sexually immoral pastor.
April 2010 GA Minutes (contains cited remarks)
New Orleans – An audit conducted by the state of Louisana says Supt John Pierre of Living Witness Church of God in Christ misused nearly a quarter of a million dollars given to him to help citizens in the wake of the Hurricane Katrina. The state contends that Pierre converted to personal use nearly $74,000 in rebuilding grants, without reporting the income to the Internal Revenue Service or state tax officials. In addition, he “misspent” another $160,000.
According to the report published in the New Orleans Times-Picayune , Pierre recieved the money in 2008 but grossly mismanaged, misspent and could not account for thousands of dollars.
In addition, the State Inspector General’s audit also said that Elder John Pierre of Living Witness Church of God in Christ converted to personal use nearly $74,000 in rebuilding grants, without reporting the income to the Internal Revenue Service or state tax officials.
The report recommended that the state begin efforts to recapture the money and consider whether to open a criminal prosecution.
The state’s full report quotes Pierre as acknowledging that some funds were misspent. But in a formal reply attached to the report over the signature of Robert Jenkins, his lawyer, Pierre flatly denies “all wrongdoing and allegations.”
“While I’m anxious to tell my side of the story, I’ve been advised by my counselor not to make any statements,” Pierre said Wednesday.
The inspector general’s report charged that in 2008 the church received $250,000 from the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation, a private non-profit established to distribute Katrina relief donations.
The money was intended to convert a Central City building at 1518 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd. into low-income housing for recovering addicts.
But the audit found the building still uninhabitable and said $135,000 was diverted to the church’s “daily operating expenses.”
Another $25,000 grant from the Department of Health and Hospitals was supposed to add 10 beds to a building at 1835 Terpsichore St. the church uses to house recovering addicts.
The report says Pierre used all the money on architectural services, and the building remains unusable.
The inspector general said much of the money was comingled. Its examination of church bank accounts found that in 2008 and 2009 Pierre issued himself 11 checks totalling $32,810, “including a $20,000 check … classified as an anniversary gift.”
He also paid himself $41,000 in regular housing allowances, the report said.
The church allegedly also paid two church members a total of nearly $10,000 “as honorariums for services performed.”
The church reported none of those payments on W-2 forms sent to federal or state tax authorities, the report said.
It appears Pierre had big dreams when he learned he was getting the money. His website says they “fully believe that this year marks a new beginning for all God’s people. Following the devastating effects of hurricane katrina with the blessings of our Lord, Living Witness Ministries is embarking upon a major capital rebuilding and expansions project. We have expanded our ministry’s mission to include housing development to provide decent and affordable housing for those families of the Diaspora who have a desire to return home to New Orleans.”
Unfortunately, the investigation found that Pierre, once he got his hands on the money, forgot all about the grand plans to revitalize the neighborhood and helping victims of the storm. Not only did he prove to be a extremely poor administrator but he has wasted hard earned tax payer money intended to do good. As a “man of God” Pierre’s actions are completely shameful.