The COGIC Arkansas bishop who allegedly ignored critical allegations should be removed from office if proven that he indeed sat on information from parents of teen boys who had been molested by a pastor under his charge.
But don’t hold your breath waiting for the administration of Bishop Charles Blake to move expeditiously and address the growing cloud of clergy sexual scandals attached to its name. Its been five months since Ronald Paige of Earle, Ar was found murdered and several weeks since the allegations of his secret life and crimes were uncovered by Memphis media. But there has been not a single statement from Bishop LT Walker, Bishop Blake, or COGIC.
Witnesses have said they reported Paige’s actions to Bishop LT Walker, but Paige stayed in office until he was murdered by a 21 year old homeless man he allegedly attempted to rape.
Regarding reporting sexual abuse of children, the law is clear and does not exclude ministers for any reason. In April 2003 the Arkansas legislature amended the list of mandatory child abuse reporters to include ministers. The amendment added the following category to a long list of mandatory reporters: “Any clergyman, which includes a minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization, or an individual reasonably believed to be so by the person consulting him or her, except to the extent he or she has acquired knowledge of suspected maltreatment through communications required to be kept confidential pursuant …”
A looming question hampers holding bishops in the church truly accountable. Do COGIC jurisdictions or its national church keep documented records of sexual abuse cases on file? Is there a paper trail from the crime to church authorities? Based on the law, could authorities inspect those files for patterns of withholding information of sex criminals?
Gwen Fox’s 15 year old son Tobias was molested by COGIC General Board member Bishop John Husband in a Memphis hotel room during the national convocation in 1981. Fox said that she was repeatedly told that she should not “go against” the scripture by taking the church to the law over the case. Although she personally went to Memphis and plead for her son’s cause and personally mailed certified letters to every member of the General Board detailing the crime, she received no justice for what happened to her son. After years of financial struggle brought on by three heart attacks, she finally decided to “disobey” the church and seek legal redress. But she soon found out the statue of limitations (in Tennessee) had run out. Fox believes church officials intentionally stalled her to prevent the case from going to court. Through his lawyer, Husband who died in 1991, admitted complete guilt.
But the pattern of cold, unfeeling silence seems to continue.
The church should call for an immediate, investigation as to whether or not Walker reported to authorities what was given to him by parents of underage boys. To regain a legacy being tarnished, the investigation should be made public to reassure victimized parents and children that the church does not value the criminal over the victim.
In his DNC speech, Bishop Blake criticized prolife conservatives for being “silent and indifferent” about inner city injustices, but what about his own silence and inaction?
Although Blake intimated he was frustrated with his party’s support of abortion, he praised its positions for the helpless in other ways.
“Others loudly proclaim their advocacy for the unborn,” he said, receiving a standing ovation, “but they refuse to recognize their responsibility and the responsibility of our nation to those who have been born.
“They are presently and historically silent, if not indifferent,” he continued, “to the suffering of our inner cities.”
Why is the hurt of small town parents whose sons have been sexually violated not being acknowledged publicly? Micah 6:8 said that God requires us to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly, but for the parents and these victimized boys, there seems to be no justice. Or mercy. Only silent arrogance.
COGIC is busy preparing for its quadrennial elections. Bishops are campaigning and members are speculating. Will any of those who are striving to get onto the church’s presidium take up a cry for the victims of clergy sexual abuse? Will any bishop stand in the gap? Or is it church business as usual?
To its shame, COGIC has taken a position of silence in the face of these sex crimes by its clergy and still has yet to respond publicly to Paige’s alleged crimes and subsequent murder.