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Serious sexual immorality charges emerge on Memphis COGIC pastor; no response from Linwood Dilliard or Bishop Brandon Porter

September 25, 2014 Leave a comment

fsmithSerious 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 arrest reportSmith’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.

 

Update: Pastor accused of mismanagement “exonerated” by COGIC

September 24, 2014 3 comments

There was no evidence of an investigation provided and no indication as to who performed the investigation, nor how long it lasted, but an article in the Grand Rapids Times reported that the embattled former pastor of  Davis Memorial Church of God in Christ had been “exonerated by the Church of God in Christ”.

RCA reported on the internal tempest at the church here.

The church alleged that since Bishop PA Brooks installed Eric Slack as pastor of Davis Memorial, Slack had discontinued paper bank statements, 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 read  “Church is cancelled until further notice per board of trustees.”

The news report said that it was also Bishop Earl Wright who sent the exoneration letter clearing Slack of all the charges.

Despite the exoneration, Slack did not return to Davis Memorial, but instead started another church in the city. Slack sent RCA a copy of the article, but not the letter.

slack article

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

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: http://cogicjustice.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/trouble-in-texas-northeast/