Sunday, August 5, 2012

Image, Assets & Liability Pt. 3...The "COGIC Shuffle"


"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 very 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.” Bishop Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop Church Of God in Christ Inc. Oct 29, 2007

In PART 1 and PART 2 of this mini-series, I have looked at both secular and church sexual abuse and the fallout associated with it. By now, I hope that we can see that there is a devastating affect upon the complete and entire community when trust is betrayed in this manner. However, what happens when the church looks past sexual abuse and misuse, even when it is discovered years later, only to focus on image, assets and the way we "do things"?



The Positive

Before I go too far, I must make mention of the good and potentially positive changes that COGIC is making regarding screening it's leaders in effort to avoid sexual misconduct. In the April 2012 Spring Call meeting a resolution was adopted requiring all license holders and potential license holders to be screened and trained regarding sexual harassment. Some of the changes included:
  • Background checks and screening of all credential holders 
  • Movement toward mandating that all credential holders take the online ministerial ethics training course that will be offered by COGIC Inc.
  • The institution of a national oversight committee that will, to some degree, be responsible for reviewing and the credentials for all recommended candidates.
It seems that those things are rather positive changes, whereof we are glad. 

Houston, We STILL Have Issues!

On one hand the church can be praised, but on the other, there is yet a disconnect. This disconnect focuses on image and assets rather than the needs of the hurting.  Let me show you what I mean.

In the minutes to the General Assembly pg. 4, the Secretary records the following:
"Presiding Bishop Blake noted that while sexual misconduct allegations are of concern, those against our credential holders are at a lower percentage than other denominations. He noted that in Southern California, sexual abuse settlements and judgments against the Catholic Church totaled 500 million dollars. He stated his priority to make Church Of God In Christ a safe environment and further stated that the Sexual Misconduct Policy Manual will be made available in digital format and offered to the general membership. In addition, a course will be offered online in an effort to reduce liability."
Now, what this statement is, is a statement of comparative righteousness, among other things. Settlements against the Catholic Church mean nothing as it pertains to what is going on within the ranks of COGIC. The Catholic Church is not the standard by which we judge whether we are on the right track. I was under the impression that the biblical mandate which includes the call to holiness, and accountability, was the standard for the church.  

A second problem with that is that according to SOMDNews.com, in 2009, in just one event, COGIC was  sued for over 100 Million dollars. We also know that Illinois 5th (The late Bishop McCarthy-whom was himself a good man by all accounts) was split due to litigation that exceeded 5 Million dollars. We also know that there was a judgement entered in Washington State that exceeded 1 million dollars. 

Question: Do these numbers, because they are lower in dollar amount that what the Catholic Church has experienced, make us any less culpable for our actions and what is going on in the church? 

This is  called the COGIC SHUFFLE. Shuffle our problems away under the problems of another, compare it and claim a "lesser evil".  

We're not nearly through here...stay tuned:

On pg. 7 of the same minutes, {Remember that is April 2012} Bishop Enoch Perry, COGIC General Council of the church is said to have stated that at the beginning of 2012 that there were 5 active cases of sexual misconduct levied against the church. The minutes concluded that the bishop simply reemphasized the benefits of our new training and process of screening, presenting the above resolution, which was ultimately adopted as church rule. 

Did you actually HEAR what he said however? 

If it is true that there are only 5 cases of clergy sexual sins that demand the attention of the church so far as litigation is concerned, we should be in a state of alarm and in a condition of panic. Why? As I have documented in Clergy Sexual Sins Pt. 2, before he became Bishop, the same "Judge" Enoch Perry previously was recorded to have stated, in public and official church records, in 2009, that the church has hardly ever processed any allegations of cases of sexual abuse in the last 100 years, stating the following to the General Assembly:

"He (Judge Enoch Perry) reported that in over 100 years, there have been 20-25 processed cases of sexual misconduct. He stated statistically the numbers are significantly small; however, there should not be one case among us. Judge perry reported there has not been one successful lawsuit against the church; cases have either been settled or dismissed. He further stated that Bishop Blake supports the church's zero tolerance policy against sexual misconduct." ~ [2009 COGIC General Assembly Minutes Pg. 2 Para. 2 parenthesis added]
Aside from the fact that a "settlement" IS a successful lawsuit in many cases, if his numbers are correct, then in 2012 we are currently facing and epidemic that must be addressed right away. The numbers presented by these officials and recited in official church records, indicate that the church is currently experiencing 20% to 25% of it's 100 year total "processed" sexual misconduct cases, right now. In other words, unlike the average slightly less than 2.25 cases per decade over the last 100 years that the church has experienced, (according to their statements) we now face 5 cases in just one year stemming from year 2011. Although we know that it is far beyond these totals, by their own numbers, officials of our church should be alarmed.     

In the same previous article I have pointed out that Presiding Bishop Blake further stated that it costs the church on average about $800,000 per suit to deal with the litigation and issues surrounding each case. If Our Bishop's statements are accurate, to "process" these 5 suits (which is one quarter of the types of suits that the church has received in 100 years) will cost the church  approximately 4 million dollars at some point in the future.

And It Gets Worse...

With all of that said, one of the most disconcerting things about the whole subject is the continued failure of our church to create and maintain a sustainable program in favor of the victims of abuse. In fact, as I will mention later, the church has not even taken any consideration along these lines seriously. Even though I have personally set forth my best efforts, and have been well documented as to have made statements and encouragement to action, it seems that our current leadership feels that as long as it has checks and a bank account, it doesn't have to establish anything for the victims or the families who have been damaged by clergy negligence and sins.

For example, in the case of Bishop Charles Brown, of Louisiana, who was the former Campaign Manager for Bishop Blake, allegedly molested 2 family members for a number of years, on a continual basis when they were young. Allegedly, not only did he do this to them, his wife's neices, he also perpetrated his crimes upon another young person associated with the church some 20 years ago. The initial case against Bishop Brown was dismissed, from our understanding, based on  a statute of limitations issue or some other technical issue, but was being reconsidered on appeal. The court dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that he was found neither guilty nor innocent f the charges. From our understanding the COGIC General Board, for some reason, authorized a monetary settlement with the 3 victims for an undisclosed amount of money and a gag order on public details such as the exact amount of the settlement. 

The additional travesty is that during this process, since the allegations were made public, there has been NO contact from any COGIC ministry and or official (other than that of New Bethel and yours truly) that would even acknowledge the plight of the victims, the devastating spiritual issues, or the psychological and emotional trauma that these victims have experienced. So far as the church is concerned, Bishop Brown was temporarily removed from office and reinstated when the initial charges were dismissed, without so much as anyone and or any process of healing in favor of the victims.  This is the real deal: 

The COGIC checkbook was later taken out however, and payment was made to these victims in exchange for silence and for them to simply go away. There has been no effort or attempt by Brown to even acknowledge his sins or encouragement from the church for him to do so.   

In other words, MONEY has become the balm whereby hurts are addressed in this church when it comes to sexual abuse and clergy sexual sins. This is the COGIC "Money Shuffle"...The sentiment and message is, don't worry about healing or the spiritual condition of the victims, just PAY your troubles away!

The "Intimation"

In all of this, the minutes record the following in favor of the victims of clergy sexual sins, from our Presiding Bishop:
"Bishop Blake intimated his regret at the plight of the victims of sexual misconduct, the need to discipline leaders for misconduct,  and the liability leveled against the church. Bishop Blake presented Elder Clint Horn  (TX) to present the details of an online ministerial ethics program. Elder Horn gave a PowerPoint presentation detailing the parameters of  an online course designed to instruct potential and current credential holders on sexual harassment concerns."
What's wrong with this picture? Noone is talking about mere sexual harassment. We are talking about CHILD RAPE... PEDOPHILIA...CLERGY WHO HAVE MOLESTED YOUTH and potentially other members of the church...We are talking about MANIPULATION and those who have been engaged in subduing the minds of the people. We are talking about a system where money rewards silence and where "love" for the CRIMINAL" is confused with the DUTY toward the innocent and those that have been defiled with the nasty, filthy and dirty sins of criminal molesters. 

To "intimate regret" for the "plight"  of a 5 to 7 year old who has borne a burden all of her adult life and not take swift and decisive action is a SIN. To "intimate regret" for the "plight" of a person who has absolutely no reason to lie, has served the church all their lives, been raised in the home of a COGIC "official" (or otherwise for that matter) and not institute a SPECIFIC and SOLID program to address their spiritual, mental and emotional needs, applying the healing salve of the word of God is, in my opinion, tantamount to a CRIMINAL act.

Penn State University has held their officials to a much higher standard, yet folk are in court and going to jail as a result. People who "intimated regret" have lost their jobs and public standing. Within the Catholic Church, Bishops and certain officials are being held accountable and are going to jail as a result of their actions and or failure to act, in spite of the fact that they have specific training programs for clergy and  programs open to victims of clergy sexual sins that seeks to reach out to their victims...

COGIC, in 2012, facing over one quarter of the claimed "processed" cases of sexual misconduct, refuses to do anything except teach their pastors and leaders how to keep their records clean and avoid sexual harassment charges...There remains no ministry to heal the hurt or correct the wrong except writing a check when it is convenient...ATROCIOUS!!!!
(See the bottom of this page for the link to a portion of what I have personally proposed regarding this issue)


Since we Mention Catholics In California

Since California Catholics are the standard for whether we are doing well or not, at least according to the "intimations" of our leadership...let us not leave without mentioning what the Catholic Diocese of Sacramento, CA has instituted in favor of victims of clergy sexual abuse.  It is called a pastoral care policy. This is the statement of purpose:
1.1   Preamble.  
The damage caused by sexual abuse of minors is devastating and long-lasting. The Diocese of 
Sacramento is committed to reaching out to those who suffer, but especially to the victim/survivors of sexual abuse and their families. In the light of so much suffering, healing and reconciliation are beyond human capacity alone. Only God’s grace, mercy, and forgiveness can lead us forward, trusting Christ’s  promise: “for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26). Our Lord made this part of His commission to His apostles and disciples when He told them that whenever they showed mercy and compassion to the least ones, they showed it to Him. Jesus extended this care in a tender and urgent way. Following the example of our Lord, the Diocese of Sacramento shall be committed to extending care in a tender and urgent way to the victim/survivors of sexual abuse and their families. 

1.2 Compliance with the Charter. Article I of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People reflects the commitment of the Diocese to reach out to the victim/survivors of sexual abuse and their families and to demonstrate a sincere commitment to their spiritual and emotional well-being. The first obligation of the Church with regard to the victim/survivors is for healing and reconciliation.  
If that weren't enough, we can also look at the Catholic Diocese of Chicago who established the Office Of Assistance Ministry, to not just be seen, but to deal with the fallout of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct. This is why they were formed:
"The Office of Assistance Ministry was first established by the Archdiocese in 1992 to respond to the sexual abuse of minors by Archdiocesan clergy. Joseph Cardinal Bernardin was instrumental in establishing Assistance Ministry following the recommendations of the first-ever Cardinal’s Commission on Clerical Misconduct. Francis Cardinal George has carried on with his commitment and support to this important ministry. Over the years, we have accompanied many victims-survivors of clerical sexual abuse on their healing journeys. 
As we have learned more about the extent of childhood sexual abuse in our society, we have widened the scope of some Assistance Ministry services to include support and healing such as support groups, counseling, family support, prayer and reflection for all victims-survivors of childhood sexual abuse, regardless of who the perpetrators may have been."
OK, that's not enough???...How about the Catholic Diocese of Burlington, VT? Yes, they too have a victims assistance and victims advocacy program whereby they minister to the needs of victims. Here is why they exist:
"The Victim Advocacy Committee was established in 2003 to assist those who have been sexually abused by a priest, deacon or any other church personnel of the Diocese of Burlington. It also offers outreach services to family members of survivors as well as to parishes. The VAC’s mission is to provide timely as assistance, counseling referrals as well as support through the reporting process."
As one can see, Catholics all over the country have not failed to address the issue of victims advocacy in their churches. However, we only recognize Catholics for the amount of sexual abuse cases that they are experiencing and the amount of money that has been levied against them in order to make our numbers by comparison seem more acceptable. The fact is however, we claim to be full of the Holy Ghost and refuse to act in favor of victims who have been victimized at the hands of some of the people we have either promoted, entertained or at the very least held in high esteem...We have replaced the power of God and healing of the Saints with the ability to write checks....

Our COGIC leaders can 

Shuffle the ministry personnel
Shuffle the checkbook
Shuffle favors and appointments to cover sins 
Shuffle favors in exchange for offerings

However, we should also know that one thing that will not soon be shuffled away is the RESPONSIBILITY of our leaders towards the victims of sexual abuse crimes and sins. 

Conclusion: Will YOU Help Stop This Shuffle? 

In our next post, I will address the 23 General Board candidates that are running for COGIC leadership and office in Nov. 2012. At this point, I have a question for each of you...WILL YOU help bring solid solutions to bear in favor of the victims of those who have defiled the very thought of what we represent? Will YOU publicly befriend those who have been victimized and apply the healing salve of the savior?

I don't care about your charisma, church membership, or pulpit decorum...I don't care about your community awards and recognition, and how much of a crowd that you can draw. What will you do about the VICTIMS of COGIC clergy sexual SINS and and those who have and continue to victimize the innocent? This is a PLATFORM issue and one of the only issues, I care to hear any of these candidates address...forget going back to Memphis, or anywhere else for that matter if the issue of concern for victims of abuse, within our church is not an issue that you wish to be vocal about. Forget a pastoral retirement plan or pastoral benefits...Forget special accommodations for "officials" at meetings...None of that means a thing if we are not doing what Jesus instructed us to do...Let me remind you what that is:

Luke 4:18-19 ~ 18-The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, 19-To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. 

We commend efforts to screen, do background checks and teach folk how to be saved (outside of the bible-as if that weren't a problem already) however, I, and millions of others of us, have no understanding of the apathy and complete disconnect towards victims of clergy sexual sins within our church. Maybe at heart the victims are being victimized twice by not being believed. However, we should understand that everything is at risk, including our image and assets, if we do nothing or continue to do what we've done so far. (NOTHING but make payments and payoffs) 

A final note here, as I was doing research on this topic some years ago, I came across a consistent thought. Many of the people who had taken legal action against the church did not want to do so. Many of them called the church for help and assistance and received NOTHING in return. Not one phone call, not one letter of concern and not one prayer. Some said that the only reason they brought suit was so that the church would be forced into acknowledging their pain and what they had been through.  

Next, what of the General Board Candidates? Are you sure you want this potential liability? 


7 comments:

  1. The question came up and makes sense that we should ask...

    "Where is the money coming from for these settlements?"

    Does the money come from national reports or is this insurance funds? Or does the money come from well financed leaders, keeping the reigns, accumulating debts and favors as well as privilege? If so that too is an in appropriate relationship as the organization itself should not be indebted to any individual even if that person is a Bishop or some other well connected leader.

    Why aren't people asking openly? To question does not mean dissent, it simply means lack of understanding and possibly, no transparency on behalf of them that are empowered to address the issues.

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  2. So if a "church" can flatly side with its bishops and deny its congregants of bringing truthful allegations against its bishops, then is this "church" truly Christ' church?

    That is the question. Even for those who do not commit such acts of evil, are they not just as much as fault and culpable spiritually for not standing against evil? If you consider this "Judgment" then you better read 1 Corinthians regarding the sexual immorality in that church that Paul flatly "Judged" and called for expulsion from as well

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  3. Chris M,

    I'll address your statement and add some other thoughts as well...

    In general, I think if that question were applied to any "church" aka: church organization on this earth, that all of them would come up woefully short and that would include any organized group of believers that would call themselves "independent" as well.

    What COGIC faces from a leadership perspective is certainly nothing new. Leadership lacks a sense of understanding of moral duty and yes that is serious. As I point out in the article, no matter the motivation, it is a good thing to screen and monitor those who have a potential to do evil (at least by the numbers or what we are seeing) and to place that extra sense of scrutiny upon them. So from that perspective, there is a clear understanding that these type of things must be stopped.

    On the other hand, we (COGIC leadership) must better understand moral duty to those who are victims.

    Those who are in the church, including some who are leaders, and don't acknowledge this are either uneducated regarding the issue like most Americans whom are not either affected by this sort of thing, or haven't experienced this sort of thing (and that's why the blog is written, to educate,inform and examine) or some simply feel no duty to help, maybe because they think that engaging those who've been victimized will only make matters worse.

    So there are a lot of reasons why someone wouldn't respond and more reasons why someone such as myself would stay a part of an organizational church that otherwise teaches and embraces the truth of God's word and that can be, and has proven to be, an effective agent within the community and Christ's Kingdom.

    So far as the Pauline judgement...after one has been warned of their refusal to do right, then judgement is in order. These men , like all men, will be held accountable for THEIR sins and refusal to obey and follow what is right. I won't be guilty of their sins and they won't be rewarded for my righteousness. Every tub will rest on its own bottom.

    God certainly will make the judgement in an ultimate sense.

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  4. Since this is an election year someone with some moral fortitude should make this an election platform, instead of all the cheesy he's a builder, he was ordained by such and such, he's the right man for the job and the other usual drivel that means nothing other than religious grandstanding.

    That aside, you are right these current factual identifiers should be cause for great alarm, but what we see is lying, misappropriation, shuffling, passiveness, and fraud.

    If they want to make comparisons to the Catholic church, soon a COGIC official will go to jail over this. But wait! COGIC Officials have ALREADY went to jail over this! But business as usual goes on.

    This is a train wreck in slow motion. An implosion waiting to happen. And Blake along with his henchman Perry is leading church into a dark era which will make the 60s crisis after Bishop Mason's death pale in comparison.

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  5. That's what I'm wondering as well. Where is the SUBSTANCE to their "campaign" since folk are campaigning.

    They encourage people to vote for who is popular or well known as opposed to for who is going to do something about what's going on and what we are experiencing as an organization.

    Train wreck in slow motion is right!

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  6. Pastor looks like they're doing a whole lot more than "shuffling". http://www.gcmwatch.com/9400/j-delano-ellis-jcaapb-certifies-openly-homosexual-bishop

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  7. Then folk are self destructing...Allen wants authentication so badly, he doesn't care how and under what circumstance he gets it.

    The issue is plain and simple, if the organization doesn't acknowledge the legitimacy of the homosexual lifestyle, then it cannot acknowledge the legitimacy of a homosexual bishop or leader. To do otherwise is inconsistent and THAT would open up on to a lawsuit.

    With the funding and support he had, he should have allowed the ungodly and unsaved pretend bishop O C Allen to sue him. Take his biblical position to court...ANY court in the country would have thrown it out as a church rights issue and not a matter for the state to decide.

    SPINELESS!

    ReplyDelete

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