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Friday, March 7, 2008

Naked & Ashamed

In recent months I have received a number of emails questioning a particular allegation of sexual abuse that is probably one of the worse cases that I have heard about in association with my church, the Church Of God In Christ, Inc. Memphis, TN.
Please be assured that I knew NONE of the individuals or the story until it broke and was made public.

The case involves the former Pastor Sherman Allen of The Shiloh Institutional Church Of God In Christ and former member 32 year old Davina Kelley who is one of a number of women claiming sexual assalt, rape and abuse at the hands of Pastor Allen. The whole story came to light when Ms. Kelly filed a lawsuit against, Pastor Allen, The Church Of God In Christ of Memphis, TN. And certain unnamed persons of the Church Of God In Christ.

You may view the complete story which has been well documented by the Dallas Times Observer. In summary, the story alleges that the former Pastor of the Shiloh, Sherman Allen, who enjoyed relationship and fellowship with many of the more prominent Ministers and Bishops within the Church Of God In Christ, was on a sexual rampage for at least 20 years. During this same time Pastor Allen is said to have sexually and physically abused at least 20 women, by inappropriately touching them, paddling, raping and even sodomizing them and is accused of causing the miscarriage of at least one married woman.

Note Of Special Interest: Pastor Allen and his congregation came from a spiritist foundation and supposedly joined the Church Of God In Christ some 20 years ago. He has since produced what he calls "evidence" that he was NEVER a part of the Church Of God In Christ nor consequently subject to its rules and regulations. One is left questioning whether he really felt that way or whether this is a trick that he somehow hopes helps his argument against his alleged criminal activities.
The questions I have received revolve around administrative procedure as it pertains to pastors and certain leaders questioning whether The Church Of God In Christ could have been more aggressive in handling the original complaint which was proportedly known and heard among certain Bishops and leaders.

Although I love my church, this is not meant to be a Church Of God In Christ apologetic. Comments across the spectrum are welcome as we place the added dimensions on this case and others that will soon arise. I will save my judgement on all issues until the end of this blog, and in a future writing I will deal more extensively with clergy sexual abuse that according to current statistics is rising every year throught every denomination and organized church. However, I felt that it is in the publics best interest to disclose certain procedural information in order to assist public understanding of the process of pastoral and church discipline within the church.

Under Article VIII – Church Discipline, there are 4 processes and options for trials specified within the Church Of God In Christ Constitution. Although I will only deal with the first two, the categories outlined are as follows:

  • Trial Of The Local Church
  • Trials Of Local Pastors
  • Trials Of Jurisdictional Officers
  • Trial Of All Bishops
Section A: The Trial Of The Local Church

The offences for which a CHURCH may be tried are:

  • Persistently violating the provisions of the Charter, Constitution and Rules, Laws and regulations of the COGIC, or it’s Articles of Faith.
  • Sustaining or supporting a Pastor who teaches or practices doctrines contrary or repugnant to the Articles Of Faith of the COGIC.
  • Sanctioning immoral practices of members and failing or refusing to take steps as prescribed by the Constitution and By-laws of the church for trial of members charged with the commission of the foregoing offences.
Any member believing that any of the enumerated offences have taken place may file charges against the church.


The procedures for such a trial are as follows:
  • The original charge must be filed in the Office of the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of which the church is a part, or with which it is affiliated.
  • Copies thereof shall be filed with the Clerk or Secretary of the Local church.
  • Copy thereof shall be filed in the office of the General Secretary.
  • The Clerk of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction shall submit the charge to the Jurisdictional Bishop, who shall appoint an Investigating Cmte. of not less than three (3) nor more than five(5) members to examine the facts and ascertain whether there is reasonable grounds for having the church brought to trial.
The Investigating Cmte. shall report its findings and recommendations to the Jurisdictional Bishop. If the Investigating Cmte. determines that there is not merit to charge and recommends that the charge be dismissed, the Jurisdictional bishop shall thereupon dismiss the charge and send copies of the letter of order of dismissal to the principal parties.

If, however, the Investigating Cmte. finds and determines that the church should be tried, it shall submit its recommendations to the Jurisdictional Bishop, who shall appoint and ecclesiastical Council consisting of five (5) Pastors of the Jurisdiction to determine the merits of the complaint. Said council shall give written notice to all interested parties and to the General Secretary of the time and place of the hearing at least twenty (20) days prior to the time the Ecclesiastical council sets down cause for the trial.

The parties shall have the right to be represented by Counsel, who shall be members of the Church Of God In Christ, but said Counsel may be advised by non-members of the Church.

The majority decision of the Ecclesiastical Council shall be necessary to sustain the charges.

In the event the charges are not sustained, the complaint shall be dismissed. But if charges are sustained the Council shall render its judgement or decision as follows:
  • It may order the church to be placed on Probation or
  • It may order or recommend that the church be given an opportunity to repent of it’s evil ways and agree to conform to the government and faith of the church, recognize the Constitutional authorities of the Church, and specifically refrain from committing, in the future, any of the acts embraced in the charges; or
  • It may order that the Church be reorganized; or
  • It may order that the church be disorganized; or
  • It may order that the Pastor be suspended or removed from office; or
  • It may take such other orders or decisions as it may determine to be in the best interest of the COGIC.

The Jurisdictional Bishop shall execute the orders and decrees of the Ecclesiastical Council.

If and in the event a church is disorganized, its real property, real and personal, shall pass to the Trustees of the ecclesiastical Assembly and the officers of said church, or Trustees thereof, who have the legal right to convey title, shall execute a Deed of Conveyance wherein legal title to said property shall be vested in the Trustees of the ecclesiastical Assembly, in trust for the use and benefit of the members of the COGIC in the ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of the church; but said Trustees shall not dispose of said property except by and with the written consent of the Jurisdictional Bishop and Trustees of the General Church.

Section B: Trials Of Pastors Of Local Churches

A Pastor may be tried for the commission of the following offences, to wit:

  • Repeated failure to abide by the laws, rules and regulations of the COGIC;
  • Misfeasances, malfeasance or nonfeasance in office
  • Conviction of a felony or misdemeanor involving moral turpitude in a Court Of Law;
  • Espousing doctrines repugnant to the Articles Of Faith of the COGIC;
  • Personal misconduct;
  • Misappropriation or misuse of funds of the Church;
  • Conduct unbecoming of a Minister of the Gospel.

The procedure for the trial of a local Pastors shall be as follows:

When the MAJORITY OF THE MEMBERS OF THE COGIC have documented evidence that a Pastor of a local church has committed any or all of the offences enumerated herein above, they may file charges against such Pastor specifically setting out the acts and things complained of.

  • The original charge must be filed in the Office of the Secretary of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of which the church and Pastor are a part of, or with which they are affiliated.
  • Copies thereof shall be filed in the office of the General Secretary of the COGIC at its national Headquarters in Memphis, TN.
  • The Clerk of the Assembly of said Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction shall submit the charges to the Jurisdictional Bishop, who shall appoint an Investigating Cmte. of not less than three (3) nor more than five(5) members to examine the facts and ascertain whether there is reasonable grounds for having the Pastor brought to trial.
  • The Investigating Cmte. shall report its findings and recommendations to the Jurisdictional Bishop, and if it reports that the charges are without merit the trial shall be dismissed by the Jurisdictional Bishop, and notice of dismissal shall be sent to all interested parties including the General Secretary.

If the Investigating Cmte. finds and determines that the Pastor should be tried, it shall submit its recommendations to the Jurisdictional Bishop, who shall refer the case to the Elder’s Council of the respective ecclesiastical Jurisdiction and the Secretary of the Elders Council shall give written notices to all principal parties and a copy of said notices shall also be filed in the office of the General Secretary at the National Headquarters, Memphis, TN. And said notices shall given at least twenty (20) days prior to the time the Elder’s Council sets down cause for the trial.

The parties shall have the right to be represented by Counsel, who shall be members of the Church Of God In Christ, but said Counsel may be advised by non-members of the Church.

Decisions of the members of the Elders Council by a majority vote shall be necessary to sustain the charges and find the Pastor guilty of committing the alleged offenses.

In the event the charges are not sustained, the complaint shall be dismissed. But if the charges are sustained, it shall render its decision or enter a Decree as follows:

  • It may order the Pastor be placed on Probation; or
  • It may suspend the Pastor for a definite period of time; or
  • It may remove him from office and declare the pulpit vacant; or
  • It may render such other decisions or decrees as justice may demand or as it may determine to be in the best interest of the COGIC.

In the event a Pastor is dissatisfied with the decision or the decree of the Jurisdictional Elders Council, he may appeal to the General Council by filing notice of appeal within thirty (30) days from the final decision of the Elders Council of the respective Jurisdiction.

The General Council shall review the case and render its decision by majority vote of the delegates and members present and voting.

The Jurisdictional Bishop shall execute the orders and decrees of the General Council.


What Happened In This Case?


At least this much remains a mystery to me. Pastor Allen's accusers placed a case before his leadership in 1989 or 1990. The Bishop, Bishop J. Neaul Haynes (COGIC General Board Member). Bishop Haynes is reported to have walked out during a meeting in which the victims outlined their complete case and requested assistance as well as disciplinary action from the church. The Bishop is also proported to have responded by saying "old habits die hard" before making his exit from the meeting.

Before one jumps to conclusions it is worth noting the actual procedures for both Pastor's and Church Trials. By the rule, the Bishop has authority based upon the recommendation of the Council in a CHURCH TRIAL. No such authority exists in a PASTOR'S TRIAL.



QUESTIONS

Did he, Bishop Haynes, neglect his duty and responsibility by refusing to do anything?

According to proceedure, COULD he, Bishop Haynes, do anything at all?

Was the entire process, a CHURCH TRIAL or a PASTOR'S TRIAL?

Who are "The majority Members of the Church Of God In Christ" according to the Church trial regulation?

If it was a CHURCH TRIAL, where is the complaint from the local church on the Pastor's behavior?

At any rate, what has prohibited ANY complaintant from filing CRIMINAL charges for rape, molestation and physical abuse?

According to the WORD of God, should Bishop Haynes have acted more detrminately? If so, what SHOULD he have done?

Could the local church (Shiloh) have done something about this?...YES...Did the local church do anything?...NO!

Could there have been better resolution and handling of the alleged victims? Time will tell but my answer is YES!

Whatever influence I had is probably all but gone after this post. (LOL) However, If you pray for me I have some plans that I believe will help change things around.


Numbers 32:20-23

"And Moses said unto them, If ye will do this thing, if ye will go armed before the LORD to war, And will go all of you armed over Jordan before the LORD, until he hath driven out his enemies from before him, And the land be subdued before the LORD: then afterward ye shall return, and be guiltless before the LORD, and before Israel; and this land shall be your possession before the LORD. But if ye will not do so, behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out."

Revelation 2:4-5

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent."


Blessed!

7 comments:

  1. Wow!!! I will continue to keep C.O.G.I.C. as well as churches as a whole in prayer."Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn."(Matthew 13:30). For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? (1Peter 4:17)
    Praying always!!!!,

    Sis. Alicia (Surokoda)

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  2. Pastor Burnett,
    I pray the Lord covers you (Joseph)from attacks and slander from your COGIC brothers(Jacob's 10 older sons) as you give our heavenly Father this evil report about their doings in the sheepfold.

    Question to you, as an observing five-fold servant outside of COGIC. If a true Non-COGIC prophet discerned the fruit of a Sherman Allen type or any pastor/bishop in COGIC, are there channels to receive that witness or COGIC(as well as any mainstream Christian organization) would handle their own discipline issues?
    I remember reading the newspaper account where Prophetess Juanita Bynum discerned the fruit of that church--How true a witness, I can't answer that. I had a spiritual mentor mention to me numerous times to not get too friendly or close to saints because you may compromise if the time comes that you must confront/rebuke them.

    My humble opinion is that the elders over this jurisdiction were not discerning or hearing from the Lord concerning Allen and his church. Somebody was asleep!

    Brother EnochWalked

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  3. Brother EnochWalked~ said: "If a true Non-COGIC prophet discerned the fruit of a Sherman Allen type or any pastor/bishop in COGIC, are there channels to receive that witness or COGIC(as well as any mainstream Christian organization) would handle their own discipline issues?"

    That, in my opinion is the most pertinent question here.

    Although I can't speak too prematurely, I believe a more balanced position towards the victim is in order. Some allegations are lies, but too many are truthful and from people who have been either deceived or criminally abused...I believe we are obligated and bound to the later by the WORD of God.

    Ps. 35:10~ " All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee, which deliverest the poor from him that is too strong for him, yea, the poor and the needy from him that spoileth him?"

    The Hebrew word "`aniy" (poor) reflects one who has been afflicted or made weak.
    Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

    Ps. 41:1-2~ "Blessed is he that considereth the poor: the LORD will deliver him in time of trouble. The LORD will preserve him, and keep him alive; and he shall be blessed upon the earth: and thou wilt not deliver him unto the will of his enemies."

    The Hebrew word in this verse "dal" (poor)is concerned with them who are low in spirit and weaker in position.
    Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

    Mt.5:3-4~ "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
    The King James Version, (Cambridge: Cambridge) 1769.

    The Greek word, " ptochos" deals with them who are devoid of wealth, influence, position, honor, or the ability to make their cause known.
    Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.) 1995.

    These are the individuals that the church is supposed to PROTECT.

    That's the side of the coin I want to be on. The side of righteousness. The LIARS that bring fraudulent claims will be exposed both spiritually and naturally but we must move more forthrightly to aid them that have been taken advantage of.

    Thanks for the excellent question and observation.

    Blessed!

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  4. Bless you Pastor Burnett


    My name is Pastor Moore from Bread of Life Church of God In Christ in the 2nd Jurisdiction of Southern CA I would like to complement you on your courage to address this issue in such a way as this. Clearly are founders set the church in order to deal with these issues within are church By-laws and within our Articles of Faith. I have been fighting this issue for along time when it pertains to the immoral conduct of some men and women within our church leadership. However I have told many people that this issue is not just happing in our church but in the church as a whole. The real issue is that we must find the men who have the courage to stand up to this issue with the real power of God the Holy Spirit and take this thing head on. What we have here is a perfect example of spiritual wickedness working to destroy the body of Christ by any means necessary. We have to challenge ourselves and other who desire to be in leadership to do what is right in the sight of God and the people. I believe the first step to that is what Paul said;

    1Th 5:12 And we beseech you, brethren, to know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you;
    1Th 5:13 And to esteem them very highly in love for their work's sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
    1Th 5:14 Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men.
    1Th 5:15 See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.
    1Th 5:16 Rejoice evermore.
    1Th 5:17 Pray without ceasing.
    1Th 5:18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
    1Th 5:19 Quench not the Spirit.
    1Th 5:20 Despise not prophesyings.
    1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
    1Th 5:22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.
    1Th 5:23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    1Th 5:24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.


    I would really love to talk to you more about this issue. breadoflifecogic@yahoo.com

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  5. Pastor Burnett thanks for laying this out the way you have. You have really did the leg work and research on this and I know that it will be well receive.

    I can't comment on the going on in this denomination because I am not familiar with it. But may God bless the people that it affect/effect.

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  6. Re: District Supt. Harvey Burnett

    I read the Dallas Observer article and it said Sherman Allen plead the 5th during his deposition. Why do you suppose he did this??

    Also I want to know how was he allowed to get in our denomination (COGIC) without his criminal background and history with the Spiritualist church not investigated?

    Last but not less, do you think COGIC should be held legally liable for damages for their failure to protect the victim(s) because they ‘drop the ball” years ago when they had a chance to kick him out then? OR

    What do you think would be the best resolution to put this lawsuit to rest so the church could move on with the business of saving souls??


    Bro C. Brown
    Greater Harvest COGIC
    Texas Northeast Juridiction

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  7. Brother Brown~

    You ask some good and powerful questions.

    I suppose Allen's Lawyers think that Allen will do more harm to himself than good if he opens his mouth. I would imagine that the next step is to question the integrity and motivations of the victims involved and as a lay observer(LOL) there would seem to be a case to attack their credibility.

    How?

    1- They waited too long to file or do anything. There was no initial assistance given to the victims.
    2- There was a "live in" ILLICIT LOVER, for a number of years who didn't complain until he married someone else. How did the CHURCH NOT know about that one?
    3- The church has yet to bring an accusation against their pastor and everything continues almost as if nothing has happened.
    4- He has successfully cut his ties with COGIC after "milking the cow" as far as he could go.

    As long as he shuts up, he has a pretty good chance of avoiding imprisonment, and I'm sure he's hoping that any monetary damages will be limited to insurance limits.

    So far as background check...I hate to laugh, but LOL-LOL-LOL-LOL-LOL!

    I've NEVER seen a background check on a Pastor wishing to serve in this church. It may happen but I haven't seen it in 26 YEARS of MY service.

    Usually everything is done word of mouth and people tend to only listen to others whom they feel have achieved a certain level or status. So the possibility exists that someone, almost anyone, who can come in, serve and look good for a time, PAY THEIR MONEY ON TIME and be in as long as certain actions aren't in the open.

    These are the days of pedophiles and flat out criminals in non-profit circles...there should be a 100% criminal background check for ALL PASTORS, BISHOPS AND ELDERS.

    You also asked this:

    "Last but not less, do you think COGIC should be held legally liable for damages for their failure to protect the victim(s) because they ‘drop the ball” years ago when they had a chance to kick him out then? OR

    What do you think would be the best resolution to put this lawsuit to rest so the church could move on with the business of saving souls??"

    If the church is found to be in conspiracy or materially negligent or derelict in their duties or didn't respond in a manner as a reasonable person would...There will be charges.

    I don't know how insulated the church will be even if as Allen states he was never a part of the church...There is a clear record that should refute that of Allen paying his national reports. That MAY supersede his claim.

    We still don't know who these unspecified persons are that were sued in addition to Allen. So There are yet too many questions but our leaders should know that NONE of this encourages ANYONE to become a part of the organization and special attention is being paid to how we will move forward in making remedies.

    Thank God for you. we need to pray 4-Real.

    God Bless!

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