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Olive Branch MS COGIC minister arrested on sex battery, rape charges

September 23, 2014 Leave a comment

A COGIC Chpatrick-woodsurch in suburban Memphis is about to receive attention for all the wrong reasons due to the arrest of one of its ministers on Sept 22. WHBQ Fox 13 in Memphis identified the man as 40 year old Patrick Woods of St Luke COGIC in Olive Branch.

“A minister of a church in Olive Branch, Mississippi was arrested Monday evening. Patrick Woods is charged with sexual battery and statutory rape by an authority figure.

The 17 year old victim told investigators, she was sitting on a couch watching a movie in Woods’ Southeast Shelby County home, when he reached under a blanket and molested her. She said Woods children were in the room watching the same movie when it happened in May of this year.

Woods is being held on $50,000 bond. He is scheduled for a video arraignment Tuesday morning.

Woods is a minister at St. Luke Church of God in Christ located in Olive Branch, Mississippi.”

The police mugshot of Woods appears to match a photo of a man taken with youth from the church at COGIC’s  2013 “Southern Region Youth Explosion”. In the photo, Woods is wearing a wedding band.  The police report states the victim said she was an “active member” of St Luke Church.

 

 

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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

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]

In an email to RCA, Dr. Donald Barrett asserts legal victory

donaldbarrettquoteDr. Donald Barrett is a man on a mission to clear his name. Report COGIC Abuse was the first to tell you about the lawsuits levied against the National church, Southern California 2nd Jurisdiction as well as several local churches in California and Arizona by two women who alleged the former Southern California 2nd Administrative Assistant had engaged in sexual acts with them among other charges. Read here, here and here for previous reports. RCA was informed that Barrett is scheduled to appear this weekend at New First COGIC in Chicago Heights, IL pastored by Bishop Robert Sanders.

Now, according to a letter sent to RCA, Barrett makes several counter allegations including accusing our site of  doing “irreparable damage to me, my family and my ministry”.  He requested that his email telling his side of the story be printed for all to read. In the spirit of fairness, RCA is reprinting the email verbatim for public review.

April 5, 2013

I write you with the assumption that you are a person who desires to expose the genuine truth. And if in fact, you are a person of righteousness, I pray you will post this letter and information therein, on your blog. First, let me start by saying, the case against me (Donald K. Barrett), my wife (Ruth) and any churches I have pastored, has been dismissed. Yes, Dismissed…there are no court actions pending against me. God has given us victory in this situation. “No weapon formed against thee, shall prosper…Isa. 54-17”. I would like to share with you the fact that the way the information was presented concerning the allegations against me on your blog known as COGIC ABUSE WATCH has done irreparable damage to me, my family and my ministry, simply because you took unsubstantiated allegations and presented them as truth; To present allegations in this fashion is paramount to passing judgment and entering a conviction without the benefit of a hearing or a trial. Certainly, this is neither done in a United States Court of Law, nor the Kingdom of God.

Therefore, I am writing to you to shed light on just a few things that did not show up in the plaintiff’s allegations filed in this civil matter. The two women who filed this civil lawsuit were allegedly lesbian lovers. Both women are in their middle to upper forties (40s).

The woman whom I had known for more than ten years (Ms. Harris)… is a woman, who had just in the past five or six years, had a case in the California courts against her for child endangerment; my wife and I worked with the California Department of Children and Family Services to keep her two children from being taken from her. This woman was a member of my church and that’s how we both knew her.

This was a case of jealous rage, hatred and a promise by Ms. Jones, who made the threatening statement, “I will do all I can to destroy you”.

Your blog reported that my wife attempted to offer Ms. Jones “hush money”. This is totally untrue! Ms. Jones asked for money in a written letter she gave to Bishop McKinney, who in turn gave the letter to me, where she asked me for $5,000.00 for her medical bills. Then instead of taking the money as SHE had requested, she decided to file a lawsuit – hoping for a bigger payday.

The blog you have written with its commentary is one-sided and bias against me and my ministry. I would be ever so pleased if you would report the outcome of this civil case, in this same arena where the allegations were reported.

I feel compelled to make you aware, that in December 2011, the plaintiff, Ms. Harris called my home and spoke to my wife and then to me and stated that, “the lawsuit is not my doing”. Ms. Harris stated that this lawsuit was Ms. Jones’ idea and she didn’t want to go forward with the suit. Are you aware that Ms. Harris, during her interrogatories give 10-12 dates and times when she was supposedly with me romantically? ALL these dates were impossible, because I was either out of state in Arizona teaching a bible class or at a national COGIC convention with my wife. Ms. Harris’ credibility could not, and did not hold up.

Ms. Harris and Ms. Jones’ lawyers and investigators, investigated my pastorate and ministries, going back at least twenty-five (25) years. These lawyers questioned and deposed former members, and leaders I had served and found nothing that would even hint to any improprieties or wrongdoings of any kinds and/or nature of sexual misconduct. They discovered nothing but praise from those I have served and served with. These same lawyers subpoenaed my financial and bank records for over the past twelve (12) years and no improprieties were found. My record is good and clean and still is.

I have been in ministry for almost forty (40) years and pastoring since 1989. I have NEVER been accused of sexual misconduct or misconduct of any kind until now. I have never been arrested for anything! Am I a perfect individual? No. But, my record speaks for itself.

It must be stated that there has been no cover-up or attempt to cover up by me, my wife or anyone associated with me.

The case has been dismissed against me. I am yet a member of the Church of God in Christ, Inc. If, in fact you are a crusader for righteousness, I pray, that rather than continuing to allow these flames of destruction to blaze, present, at least more than one side of this story. For that would be the truest example of righteousness and would also, pay homage to the scripture which implores us in I Corinthians 4:5 “Therefore, judge nothing before the time…” Should you desire to discuss this matter with me further, I invite you reply to this email in order to contact me for that express cause.  Dr. Donald K. Barrett

Postscript: RCA did reply to this email informing Dr. Barrett that we would review all our published articles to see if there was any merit to his claim. We also informed him that we were aware of information that would prove these latest claims of his false. He did not respond. We will present that information in a followup to this story.

COGIC COO deposed in Donald Barrett trial

March 18, 2013 Leave a comment

JuryBoxTrials create strange bedfellows when it comes to unearthing the layers of lies created by COGIC leadership to conceal the ungodly activities of its sexually abusive clergy. Report COGIC Abuse has learned that the denomination’s COO James Smith was ordered to be deposed in the trial of accused sex abuser and former Administrative Assistant Donald K. Barrett. See our previous reports on Barrett here and here. You can go here to see a picture of Barrett as he has complained about the use of his picture.

Pending the outcome of the trial, Barrett has recast himself as a “21st century church leadership consultant” concerned about issues such as “resolving conflict” in the church. Noticeably missing are concerns about resolving sexual abuse, adultery, lying, deception and criminal activity in the church.

Judge Jeffery Barton, presiding in the Superior Court of California, ruled that the plaintiff’s lawyers could put Smith on the stand under oath. We believe it involves the incendiary letter which bore Smith’s name and fingered Enoch Perry as a colossal failure of COGIC legal strategies on sexual abuse.

“Ruling on the Deposition of James Smith: Plaintiff Ingar Jones’ unopposed motion to compel the deposition of James Smith is granted. Plaintiff and defendants should confer as to when a mutually agreeable date may be set within the next 20 days to take Smith’s deposition. Nothing in this ruling affects whether defendant Church of God in Christ, Inc.’s (“COGIC-TN” or “church”) may assert any privilege. The deposition should be completed in 3 hours.”

The trial minutes reveal that Judge Barton ordered the deposition November 2, 2012, allowing 20 days for completion. That would mean Smith was deposed by November 22, 2012.

Report COGIC Abuse also received unconfirmed information that Smith denied being the author of the letter instead saying he was ordered by a senior church official to write the letter and put his name on it.

We are working hard to obtain a copy of the deposition and will post it for your review.

What Ruth Barrett knew

According to the official  minutes of the case, the plaintiff’s evidence indicates Ruth Barrett more than likely knew her husband was an adulterer while he was still preaching and holding office in COGIC:

“Plaintiffs’ evidence show that Ruth Barrett may have known that there was a sexual relationship between Harris and Donald Barrett in 2004, which may have continued thereafter. Their evidence does not show that Ruth Barrett knew of her husband’s sexually abusive conduct and/or physical violence against plaintiffs. Thus, though the evidence shows that Ruth Barrett was the attorney for COGIC and Greater Gospel, and may have known about her husband’s indiscretions, even if she is considered an agent for
the entity, there is insufficient evidence to show that her knowledge of Barrett’s abusive misconduct was conveyed, or should have been conveyed, to the church entities. With regard to plaintiffs’ assertion that Ruth Barrett represented the church and offered a post-dated check, even if it was to “hush up” Jones, this does not fall outside the fabric of duties as an attorney to support punitive damages.”

Ruth Barrett attempted to personally pay off the women to keep her husband’s nefarious lifestyle undercover.

Former COGIC deacon given 2 life sentences for sexual molestation

March 1, 2013 Leave a comment

don billupsA 10 year reign of sexual terror is over for seven girls in Covington, Virginia. A Covington man will spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of molesting seven girls. Don Billups was convicted of 16 sex crimes and sentenced to two life sentences plus seventy five years.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Ed Stein said there were seven victims between the ages of 10 and 16. The oldest allegations date back to 2002, the most recent between 2010 and 2012. According to Stein, the girls were friends of Billups’ daughters or were known to him through a church in Covington where he was a deacon.

Stein said Billups denied every allegation to the end. The jury, however, found him guilty on all 16 counts and recommended a sentence of two life terms plus 75 years.

The earliest allegation was reported to law enforcement in 2002. Stein said the case never went anywhere at the time, however. [source]

The church where Billups got his victims was Gospel Tabernacle, a church in the Greater West Virginia Jurisdiction where Henderson Wheeler is bishop.  In 2002, when Billups was first reported to police, the church was  pastored by Supt. Warner L. Hunter, until his death in 2009. Afterwards his son-in-law, Gregory Moore became pastor. See our reporting on Don Billups and the fallout here and here.

COGIC sex abuser Thomas Wiggins headed to prison for 6-9 years

December 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Good news as justice is finally being served against the former North Carolina COGIC Supt Thomas Wiggins, Jr. who sexually abused a 14 year old boy all while he was “preaching”, pastoring two churches and climbing his denomination’s ecclesiastical ladder. The Star News Online reported on Monday that Wiggins is headed to prison to serve between 6 and 9 years for his crimes. See our previous coverage on Thomas Wiggins here and here.

wigginsA Wilmington pastor pleaded guilty to six counts of felony sexual abuse of a minor by a substitute parent during a hearing in New Hanover County Superior Court on Monday.

Thomas Archie Wiggins, 55, a pastor at Wilmington’s Faith Temple Church of God in Christ, was sentenced to between six years and three months and nine years and nine months in prison. He was taken into custody Monday.

After serving the sentence, the Wilmington resident also must register as a sex offender for 30 years.

Wiggins was arrested in November 2011 and charged with five counts of first-degree sexual offense and five counts of indecent liberties with a minor after he admitted to abusing a then 14-year-old boy who had been in his care during 1998 and 1999, New Hanover County Assistant District Attorney Lance Oehrlein said during the hearing.

This is a textbook case of how church sexual predators work.  If Bishop Charles Blake were serious about rooting out these individuals in his denomination, he would study this and take proactive measures to block their access to children.

The teen often stayed at the pastor’s Governours Square apartment on the weekends and during summer months.

That’s when the predatory behavior began, Oehrlein said.
“The victim was given spending money, taken to stores to buy things and was given a lot of freedom that he didn’t have at home,” he said. “It started very slowly with wrestling matches and then accelerated when the victim was given access to cable and TV pornography.”

The two also shared a bed in the one-bedroom apartment, Oehrlein said.

One night, the teen awoke to Wiggins fondling him. The incidents then escalated, with Wiggins performing oral sex on the boy and vice versa, the prosecutor said.

“Meanwhile, the victim’s mother is 50 miles away and the defendant is acting as a parent and making decisions about him,” Oehrlein said.

Single pastors shouldn’t be given a pass about their private lives. Too many church members are enamored with their pastor’s church persona (pedophiles develop very benevolent  public personas), they fail to notice things that just don’t add up.  Pastors who are overly benevolent to young children and teens should he scrutinized. If a child’s life as well as their sexual and spiritual well being is in question, no amount of scrutiny is undeserving.

Another missing element in reforming COGIC and its ongoing problem with sex crimes involving leaders is the silent aftermath. Even after a leader has been convicted and found guilty, the denomination’s leader keep up the code of silence and denial. This gives the false impression that all is well. It also signals other pedophiles that they can expect the church will keep quiet about what they are doing. After all, that’s what they have done for all the other pedophiles. Conversely, making a public statement sends a strong signal that the church is serious about the issue.  Unfortunately, there’s little evidence this is true.