As a subsequent article to our initial post COGIC Victims Advocacy, Essential, Necessary & Urgent Pt. 1 , on 10/15/2009 Charisma Magazine Online featured the work of Pastor D. L. Foster of GCMWatch in bringing attention to what has been considered by many, including myself, to be unchecked immoral and criminal behavior among some fellow COGIC ministry brethern.
In the Charisma article Pastor Foster points toward the newly established web site created to assist COGIC victims of sexual abuse in the healing process with spiritual support as well as poignant advice on how to proceed to rectify problems or file complaints in the event of criminal activity. The site is known as Reportcogicabuse.com. The site is not sponsored or run by the national church but is certainly endorsed by this ministry and many other COGIC ministries across the country. Whether the General Board Of Bishops knows it or not there is an outcry across the nation for the healing of God's people.
As stated in the previous article, on an unsolicited basis, I personally undertook the opportunity to address the glaring problems that COGIC faced and continues to face from the improprieties of some of it's clergy. In fact my proposal, presented to the highest officials of our church, covered a period of 20 years in which time various elders and ministers and Bishops engaged in improper sexual activity and criminal behaviors. These crimes were documented and in many cases resulted in the perpetrators receiving the full weight of penalty under the law. In some cases individuals died before prosecution could begin and no restitution was ever made.
One such case that did not escape the courts was that of Supt. Leon Dupree of New York. This Elder was charged with rape, burglary and assault with a weapon purportedly done to one of the members of his former church in 1988. Here's the summary from the news report regarding his crime:
[Rome] Daily Sentinel 5/28/88
Rev. Leon Dupree, 47, pastor of Lily of the Valley Church of God in Christ in Rochester, NY, is charged with first degree sexual assault and first degree burglary of a 26 year old woman. She said he was armed with a hammer and struck her with a screwdriver. Dupree was convicted of second degree manslaughter in a 1978 drunken driving fatality and served time in state prison.
Not only did Elder Dupree kill someone before he was saved (I assume) he faced conviction as a rapist and a burglar while he was a pastor. Now a fair question is was he convicted? In response to that, there is no statement from Elder Dupree in any venue proclaiming his innocence. That may be an argument from silence in lieu of court records, but in this case it's pretty powerful. To the heart of the matter, Elder Dupree is currently Pastoring a new and reorganized church called New Visions Community COGIC and his church is in the jurisdiction of General Board member Bishop Frank O. White, which for some reason was absolutely unavailable both in person, phone and fax when my proposal was sent to his fellow Presidium members.
Now the problem with this is NOT that Elder Dupree can repent, serve time and make restitution, as he did at least once previously. Thank God IF he has been restored. The problem is the "IF", and the shuffle.
The people of God have a right to know IF this pastor committed the crime, IF this pastor has repented, IF this pastor has continued to go through the motions in spite of his pastoral and criminal history, and IF the church has taken these matters seriously enough to monitor the pastor's progress and exclude him from pastoral ministry IF he was convicted and IF there are any potential situations in which he has direct contact with individuals in private settings.
There is much that we don't know about Leon Dupree but from a theological standpoint there are some sins that can be done which causes us to lose our birthright and inheritance. We can, by our actions, exclude ourselves from certain duties within the Kingdom of Christ. Example: Moses could not enter into the promised land, nor continue to lead God's people by his own actions. (Deut. 32:48-52) David could not build the Temple of God, by his own actions. (1 Chron 28:2-3) Esau was blessed, but could not receive what he thought would be the right of the firstborn because he mishandled what he had been given. (Gen. 25:34) King Saul, though anointed by God, was rejected from being King by his own actions. (1 Sam. 15:22-23) So one should be able to recognize that from a biblical standpoint, this is a very serious issue and one that has many potential spiritual and social ramifications.
Elder Dupree, yet serves and more than likely, his members have never been advised of his past actions and activities. This has nothing to do with his ability to deliver the message, but it has everything to do with the security of God's people and respect and honor for the house of God. If Elder Dupree was found innocent of all charges, I'll be the first to post that right here on this site.
A Church Response
The reason that all of this is especially important, is because of the words of Supt. Derrick Hutchins to Charisma regarding the work of Elder Foster. His statements were unbelievable.
In one fell swoop, Supt. Hutchins overlooks all of the current and pending litigation against the church, bypasses all of those ministers, Elders and Bishops who have been convicted, skips over the SETTLEMENT that took place at All Saints because of allegations of rape, and states that guilty pastors aren't tolerated in the pulpits. He says that there is concern for the "people" but nothing in his statements express that concern.
Charisma went on to summarize Supt. Hutchins statements as follows:
The denomination's constitution calls for ministers accused of egregious sexual misconduct such as rape or pedophilia to be immediately suspended while the claims are being investigated.
I want to know IS THAT TRUE? Why would I, a 29 year member (me) of the church ask? First, I admit that I don't know everything, and if I don't know this, then chances are that you don't either. So it must be called into question. Secondly, I've NEVER seen the procedures that Supt. Hutchins outlines followed by anyone anywhere in this church. In fact, none of these so called procedures were followed while Pastor Sherman Allen was yet claiming to be a part of the COGIC and multiple women had claimed rape.
Supt. Hutchins concluded with a most interesting statement:
“I want to believe that every bishop is committed to carrying out the constitution as it relates to these grievous acts,” Hutchins said. “Anybody who can find where it’s not being carried out and can prove it, I’m sure that charges will be brought against that bishop who did not carry out his responsibility."
Same Song Different Singer:
Please notice, in addition to the above, that in Supt. Hutchin's view is that the member must prove their allegation of sexual impropriety against the pastor to the church before any action will be taken. This is preposterous and does nothing to address the root of the problem. Additionally, there are no measures to address the stability or condition of the victims under any circumstance. There is a glaring vacuum of inaction toward the victims that not only this Supt. does not see or appear to understand, but that the church as a whole refuses to acknowledge from the Presiding Bishop's office on down.
This is one of the most discouraging parts about Supt. Hutchins commentary. There may well be policy that is certainly not being carried out requiring some mass new training, but there is absolutely nothing that the church has set in place to heal the people or heal the land when these issues arise as they continue to arise in this church. God help us, to say the least.