Tuesday, September 8, 2009

COGIC Victims Advocacy, Essential, Necessary & Urgent Pt. 1

"The largest company, Church Mutual, reported an average of about 100 sex abuse cases a year involving minors over the past decade. GuideOne, which has about half the clients of Church Mutual, said it has received an average of 160 reports of sex abuse against minors every year for the past two decades. Brotherhood Mutual said it has received an average of 73 reports of child sex abuse and other sexual misconduct every year for the past 15 years. However, Brotherhood does not specify which victims are younger than 18 so it is impossible to accurately add that to the total cases"~The Houston Chronicle 6/14/2007

The Church Of God In Christ has been one of the greatest Pentecostal Holiness churches in America and has given rise to great tradition, dynamic ministry and the opportunity to serve the community at a grass roots level physically, materially and spiritually through prayer and righteous living.

With that said, for almost 5 decades this "Grand Ole Church" has not been without its challenges in dealing with clergy sexual abuse, improprieties, and clergy sexual sins and inconsistencies. In recent times, as documented by GCMWatch.com, clergy sexual abuse has reared its ugly head within the Church Of God In Christ causing much fallout and damage not only to the financial assets of the church, (at minimum lawsuits totaling 110 million dollars in lawsuits have been filed against the church for clergy sexual abuse) but to the most important resource of the church, the human resource of the believer.
Souls have been damaged and cases have been highlighted in almost every region of the country. Although, COGIC has not been the only organization or church that has suffered from this terrible sin, the situations have been especially disappointing to the African-American community which, until modern times, has held COGIC churches within the community in high esteem.

These problems have not gone overlooked by the Presidium of the Church Of God In Christ (aka The General Board Of Bishops) prompting the following statement from the Presiding Bishop of our church:

"We now live in a litigious society. People file lawsuits for every conceivable grievance, whether real or imagined. To protect the name, image, and assets of the Church of God in Christ, we must take positive steps to seriously investigate every case of alleged sexual abuse by the clergy. We must stand behind and support those who are falsely accused of sexual improprieties and found innocent by the courts. We must also insure that the Church act quickly to take firm and positive action against those who violate the sanctity of their positions and are found guilty of sexual abuse and other sexual improprieties." ~ ‘Person To Person 2007’ The Most Rt. Rev. Bishop Charles E. Blake Presiding Bishop Church Of God In Christ Inc. Memphis, TN.
Though highly critiqued, (and rightfully so) this statement does encourages a higher standard in dealing with cases of clergy sexual abuse. It is that slither of an opportunity that I have addressed and care to address within this post.

Background Information:
On February 4th 2009, Supt. Harvey Burnett submitted a proposal entitled Church Of God In Christ National Victims Advocacy Program (copyright date 4/2008). The 23 page proposal was faxed successfully to the following leaders of the Church of God in Christ who were in turn asked for a response:

  • The Most Reverend Charles E. Blake Sr., Presiding Bishop

  • The Right Reverend Phillip Aquila Brooks II, First Assistant Presiding Bishop

  • The Right Reverend Jerry Wayne Macklin, Second Assistant Presiding Bishop

  • The Right Reverend Roy LH Winbush, Assistant Secretary To The General Board

  • The Right Reverend Chandler David Owens, GB Member, Former Presiding Bishop

  • The Right Reverend J. Neaul Haynes, GB Member

  • The Right Reverend Samuel L. Green Jr., GB Member

  • The Right Reverend George D. McKinney, GB Member

  • The Right Reverend Nathaniel W. Wells, GB Member

  • The Right Reverend Sedgwick Daniels, GB Member

  • The Right Reverend Robert R. Sanders, Illinois 3rd Jurisdiction

  • Judge Enoch Perry, COGIC General Counsel

On May 19th 2009 the General Counsel of the Church Of God In Christ posted the following articles:
At the time of this writing it is unsure of whether the COGIC postings were in conjunction with or in response to the proposal that we submitted.
Summary Of Proposal:
The proposal that we submitted encouraged the church to establish an advocacy plan that is clearly in favor and in support of individuals and families that have suffered sexual abuse at the hands of COGIC clergy, ministry personnel, and adjunct church representatives. The outlined plan sought to create accessible a user-friendly system whereby complaints would be heard, assistance would be provided directly, and a clear path of correspondence would be established between the victim, church hierarchy, social authority and legal authorities if necessary.
The Victims Advocacy Plan as proposed is a viable and adaptable national plan including many elements. The following would be some of the necessary components of a successful Victims Advocacy Program: (pg. 15-16)

  • The establishment of a national grievance procedure and process centered on the victim. (specificity of this will be discussed at the appropriate time)

  • The establishment of a Centralized Victims Advocacy Dept. broken into regionalized teams to ensure efficiency in dealing with issues in multiple locations simultaneously.

  • A National Call Center or toll free access ~ National coast-to coast access is essential to the success of this sort of program.

  • A National Inter-Active, Web Site designed and developed to disseminate information to the public on how to identify the signs of sexual abuse and better explain the processing of sexual abuse claims and the grievance procedure within the Church Of God In Christ. The web site should also provide organizational statistics and helpful information as it pertains to dealing with and overcoming sexual abuse for those outside of our organization.

  • Complete and full disclosure to the Victims Advocacy Leadership of the current and potential sexual abuse cases within the church so that potential hot spots and trends can be assessed, and an action plan established to address problems early.

  • A clear and consistent educational program as a process for all Bishops, Superintendents, Pastors, Elders, Ministers, Mothers, Missionaries, and Evangelists. ~ This educational process should include information on the Victims Advocacy Program, current sexual harassment and sexual abuse procedure and should assist the church in the establishment of a National Sexual Abuse/ Harassment policy. This process should be conducted in conjunction with the Victims Advocacy Dept. and networked throughout all State Jurisdictions and assemblies. Further, this program should be a MANDATORY requirement within ALL Jurisdictions for the admittance of all churches, pastors and ministry personnel, both male and female.

  • Requirement that every church entering The Church Of God In Christ obtain a minimum sexual abuse liability insurance requirement as specified and agreed upon by Memphis. Jurisdictions may be encouraged to provide blanket coverage for upstart churches. At either rate no church should be admitted as a member of The Church Of God In Christ until they have secured this coverage.

The complete impetus of A COGIC National Victims Advocacy Program is to focus upon the victim's of sexual abuse, not asset preservation.
In Contrast
To date, with the exception of Bishop Robert R. Sanders (Il. 3rd Jurisdiction COGIC), we have not received a response from any COGIC official regarding this plan or proposal. We are therefore unsure of the reason that COGIC addressed the issue on the General Counsel web site as the information given seems to stop short of instituting a fundamentally new approach to this issue and only seems to suggest solutions to the problem. Further the information on the COGIC site is similar in format to what was distributed by our office. It is our encouragement that the following occur:

  • That the national church leadership acknowledge the need for a National Victims Advocacy Plan.

  • The National Victims Advocacy Plan or Program be establishment and geared solely toward the healing and restoration of victims of clergy sexual abuse.

  • That the national program be instituted as not to infringe upon current procedures for grievances within the church but to enhance the grievance procedure by providing the necessary support to the victims of clergy sexual abuse.

What Can Be Done In Addition To What Has Been Proposed?

1- Victims suffering from clergy or ministry related sexual abuse or know someone suffering from such abuse, can now make a confidential report at a new website called Reportcogicabuse.com

2- Members of churches and jurisdictions can ask their Pastors and Bishops to get involved in taking the necessary steps to rid our church of this disease. Implememtation of proper rules to address the needs of the victims are absolutely essential to that process.

3- Church Mutual Insurance a national leader in insurance for clegy sexual abuse recommends safety Tips and recommends that churches take clear and significant steps and provides tools that will assist local churches in rooting out and preventing this enemy from rising within the church.

4- Most importantly pray for the deliverance and restoration of all victims and all of our church. We want to encourage strong leaders to stand and demand the integrity of the church and the safety of our members at all levels.

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