GCM Watch calls for class action lawsuit against COGIC



In the wake of a string of sexual molestation cases perpetrated by Church of God in Christ clergy, GCM Watch is openly calling for victims to unite and file a class action lawsuit. Less than two weeks after news surfaced about the sordid case of COGIC pastor James Bell of Kentucky who possibly infected a teen boy with HIV, another shocking story of sexual abuse by COGIC clergy is unleashed upon us.

I groaned in my spirit when a reader of this blog alerted me to this case which just broke in Maryland Wednesday. The Southern Maryland News reported that police arrested Pastor Tony Ray Malbrough, 44  (pictured) after relatives of a 15 year old boy reported the ongoing sexual molestation to the police.  Like Bell, Malbrough is married.

A former pastor at a Waldorf church is facing charges of molesting a child who was taking music lessons at his home, according to police.

Charles County sheriff’s officers arrested Tony Ray Malbrough, 44, of Indian Head on Sunday after hearing about the alleged abuse earlier that day.

At 10:20 a.m. Jan. 18, a 14-year-old boy called police to report being molested by Malbrough at the man’s Indian Head home, according to police. Detectives learned the abuse happened multiple times over several years and involved other children the victim knew, police reported. Those victims were contacted and confirmed they had been abused. Malbrough used to be an elder at the New Community Church of God in Christ in Waldorf, according to the church’s Web site, but he recently founded Safe Haven Ministries Church of God in Christ in Indian Head. [full story]

Two days later, a subsequent story by the paper uncovered more facts about the abuse, some which are disturbing and point to a culture within COGIC which appears to more concerned with saving church name and reputation than justice or even concern for the victims of these predators. That must change.  Malbrough is accused of molesting 4 boys he met at the church while serving as an Elder there.

Since the arrest, one more person has reported being molested by Malbrough, increasing the total number of victims to four, according to Richardson.

The victim is now in his 20s, but the abuse happened several years ago when he was a sophomore in high school, Richardson said.

Two of the four victims went to Malbrough’s home for music lessons, Richardson reported, while others visited the residence because the church leader played a mentoring role in their lives.

In court documents, Malbrough reported that he had worked as a musician at New Community Church of God in Christ for 14 years. A woman who answered the phone at the Waldorf-based church said that Malbrough was no longer a minister there and that she couldn’t comment on the case.

That’s right, Malbrough had been on staff at the New Community COGIC for 14 years as a minister and musician, but when the church was contacted by the media, they issued a tight-lipped “no comment”.  That’s all. The boy was a member of the church.

The church bears full responsibility for this crime.  Due to COGIC’s calloused and arrogant non-response to these heinous acts committed by its clergy upon defenseless children,  GCM Watch is calling for a class action lawsuit against the denomination.

If you or a family member have been sexually molested (or propositioned) within the last 10 years by a “credential holder” (licensed minister, ordained elder, bishop, et al)  in COGIC please contact gcmwatch@yahoo.com  GCM Watch immediately.

Addendum: Myths and facts about prevention of sexual abuse using legal means (National Association to prevent sexual abuse of Children)

UPDATE: o1/27/09

According to one website, Bishop Blake issued this “official statement” after the Sherman Allen sexual abuse (TX) case:

“The Church of God in Christ does not condone any inappropriate behavior from any of its representatives, and does not comment on pending litigation against the Church or its representatives until a case has been brought to trial and an official ruling has been made. Until then, Pastor Sherman Allen has been suspended from all national and local pastoral roles and activities within the Church of God in Christ. This is Church policy and we will honor this policy for the case against Allen.”

Perhaps this is the reason he or any his lads in waiting will do or say nothing. You have to (1) take them to court (2) Get an official ruling. Then, they will magically start to talk and tell all. Victims of COGIC clergy sex crimes, please note. There will be no communication from Los Angeles or Memphis until you take them to court and win. But the convocations, midnight musicals and credential reports will continue without pause. If you want to talk to them about that, you’re in business. Oh, and for the record COGIC doesnt condone that “innappropriate behavior” that happened to you.

UPDATE 02.03.09

The last story link isnt the final one in the saga of COGIC Supt Roy Tate of Portland, OR. In the face of a lawsuit the local church declared bankruptcy (hows that for integrity) and the woman instead sued the national church for 10 million dollars. Before the case could come to trial, the national church settled out of court.  Credit goes to the jurisdictional Bishop who brought Tate up on charges for a church trial. Before that could happen Tate fled the COGIC. That’s right the degenerate predator was using the church as a cover and the only thing that stopped him was legal action.  This is why victims need the support of the church not further victimization by winking at the crimes of its representatives.

44 thoughts on “GCM Watch calls for class action lawsuit against COGIC

  1. People who commit these crimes do need to be prosecuted. It worries me that our secular media promotes homosexual sex via its support for “gay rights” but then blames churches when its homosexual clergy commit sexual crimes.

  2. I’m all for child molesters being prosecuted for criminal acts. I’m all for the victims speaking with police, to have the molesters prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law, no matter when the abuse originally occurred.

    Given this post is public, I’ll say this publicly. A class action lawsuit is a civil case, not a criminal case. A class action lawsuit usually seeks monetary relief. It’s not like a criminal prosecution. So I have to ask, how would initiating a class action against COGIC square with 1 Corinthians 6?

    I’ll speak honestly and openly, to say it seems a class action is the type of thing we were told to avoid engaging in against others who may be saints. (I mean some of those in COGIC that may be impacted by a class action likely are our brothers and sisters in Christ.)

    Also, class action lawsuits often give the appearance that the initiators of the lawsuit might want money more than justice. Why not press that people notify police for them to prosecute if needed, rather than a class action?

  3. First I want to say that I’m not a member of COGIC, and my heart and prayers go out to victims and their families. What these men are doing is UNEXCEPTABLE!!!!!! This is not only happening in COGIC I’m sure but in other forms of the christian world also. How do you separate what this man has chosen to do over what the church stands for? What I mean by that is really how is it possible to call for a class action lawsuit against the denomination when this particular man has chosen to do these UNGODLY acts? Seems to me GCM WATCH is after the wrong thing. This guy and other guys should suffer NOT the denomination. That’s like taking parents to jail for their kids doing a crime all through their life. OUR JUSTICE SYSTEM DOESN’T WORK THAT WAY GCM WATCH. The denomination can tell EVERYONE not to do something but to hold an entire organization liable I just don’t feel that’s a way to see justice UNLESS the particular horrific acts were notified to the head officials and nothing was done. Just my opinion

  4. IC and Inexcusable,

    COGIC is liable for members of its clergy who have committed these crimes. They ordained and sancationed them and have demonstrated a pattern of failure to enact disciplinary and or protective measures.

    Class action lawsuits are designed to hold organizations accountable for widespread wrongdoing which have impacted groups of people. If these acts of sexual violence against children do not qualify, then what does? These children deserve more than just your well wishes and prayers. Predators need to be stopped with action. Perhaps you have never been on the receiving end (no pun intended) of sexual molestation and abuse. I can tell you that the residual damages are deep and destructive. It takes money to pay for counseling and recovery.

    Havent we learned anything from the Catholic church debacle? And they are a so-called cult. Shouldnt more be expected of those so-called brothers and sisters in Christ than a cult? For those you mention with 1 Cor 6, where is their outcry against this? Where is the evidence of their concern for the least of these? Whose voice has been raised for justice (which includes monetary compensation)? Point me to them and I will gladly feature their outrage here. Additionally, even as the secular media pointed out, they went well beyond the call of duty to get COGIC to respond, but only stone-walled silence.

    If a class action lawsuit will impact (average I assume you to mean) COGIC members, then doesnt widespread sexual malfeasance impact them even moreso? And what does the world think when the church has less discipline of its OFFICIAL representatives than they do? 1 Cor 6 does not apply under these circumstances.

    I think this call for victims to unite and hold this church accountable is well overdue.

  5. GCM, I do thank you for a well written rebuttal concerning the use of 1 Corinthians 6 with regards to utilizing “secular” legal means to bring a halt to abominable behavior within the “church.” As was pointed out previously, COGIC “leadership” was made more than aware of numerous sexual assault incidents against their adherents with no corrective action taken against the offenders.

    While prayer and “well wishes” have their place, those responses seems akin to James 2: 15 – 16 where people that see an obvious need simply pray, tell the person to “be well” but not provide any tangible means of relief.

    We have to be about the need of bringing justice and relief to the innocent. More power to you, GCM, in your efforts on this lawsuit.

  6. I’m a COGIC girl and I’m kinda divided on the issue of class action. As some mentioned it may be the separating of the wheat and tare issue that Jesus mentioned; hence, it may create more issues for the good clergy and such…
    But on the other hand, I think churches need to be held to some accountability in regards to elders and congregants. Because of the catholic priest debacle, my church initatiated years ago, that anyone working with youth in any capacity–had to have background checks and sign all kinds of agreements regarding safeguarding the safety for the children–and I was just volunteering in the children church and had to sign all of this stuff and my church has about 200 people, so it’s a small church.
    My experience has been that COGIC likes having a good time, but sometimes at the expense of tuning out the possibilities that the unthinkable could happen and dismissing the responsibility that accompanies being a part of God’s family…My spiritual mother was at a COGIC church speaking, last year, in California and God told her that a boy was being molested in the restroom, while she was up giving her message. She immediately, at the podium, told the congregation what was going on and the ushers ran to find the boy with two men trying to hurt him. Everyone at the church was so shocked. Unfortunately, I don’t know what other actions were taken against the men and it’s likely that no action was taken at all. Like momma always said, “Everybody at this church ain’t saved.” So yep, policies and some knowledge (classes) needs to be in place to prevent our innocent children from being victimized. That such activity is going on at COGIC or any church called by the name of Christ is just embarassing.

  7. Thanks for those comments Rogers and N’Catina.

    Rogers, its encouraging to know your local church has real, observable policies in place which make an effort to safeguard children from predators. Predators will continue to brutalize innocent children until you use legal means to stop them and those who are complicit in allowing them cover in the house of God.

    I know from personal experience a lot has went on while saints were shouting, dancing and speaking in tongues. We must become more aware and more willing to be proactive. Prevention is much
    better than a cure.

    These children dont deserve this evil and dont deserve the cold unfeeling silence of church leaders.

  8. Indian Head, MD is about 35 miles from me. I never heard of this individual or this incident until now; it’s sad that this has happened–again.

  9. gcmwatch:

    The problem with a class action suit against COGIC is that COGIC, like most Christian denominations, is not a strict top down bureaucracy with a single leader like the Roman Catholic Church. Instead, it is a loosely affiliated network of churches that are ultimately autonomous. With the class action suits against the RCC, it was easy (well, actually not THAT EASY but feasible) to point to a chain of command and policies and actions over a long period of time where that body protected known child molesters, placed them in positions where they could commit more crimes, committed coverups, and tried to silence people.

    With COGIC, it is likely difficult to assert that its head bishop or governing council is personally responsible for things like placing pastors with a known molester history to lead churches over a long period of time. It is difficult to say that there is any single leader or group of leaders that are directly in control over who becomes or is retained as pastors the way it was for the pope, the archdioceses, etc. in the Roman Catholic Church. Ultimately, in COGIC the local church is in control and can hire or fire a pastor. That is what would make a class action suit very difficult, because the first thing that the head bishop and the board will do is A) deny knowledge of specific allegations and B) claim that the local churches should never hired these people to begin with and should have fired them sooner. And they would have a good point of defense on both points. COGIC has no chain of command, not even that where the Presbyterians and Methodists have, let alone the Roman Catholic Church, where it would be possible for a people or group of people to be held responsible for knowing about what is going on with multiple COGIC churches. Second, COGIC churches does have a habit of being quick to hire and rehire people with sordid pasts.

    So I really do not think that a class action lawsuit against COGIC or any of the other loosely affiliated denominational bodies (meaning those that lack a catholic or even a presbyterian or episcopal polity) would be sustainable because ultimately it is the local churches that are in autonomous control. The most that COGIC and similarly constituted denominations could do is kick out an individual church or blacklist an individual pastor. If you want to make the class action suit based on their refusal to kick out churches or blacklist pastors, I do not think that it is nearly enough.

  10. What about the impact of the saints who are in a church that allows the clergy to molest and abuse and then silence the victims of the clergy. Paul did advise against taking bretheren to courts. To avoid that both parties must be willing to abide by biblical precepts, right? I certainly agree with Pastor DL about the cost of counseling. Who’ll pay? The victim? What about the biblical principle of repentance and restitution? Wouldn’t coughing up some money along with a public admission of wrong doing be a sign of contrition. Even Christian counselers charge a fee. The main sign of contrition/repentance would be to change policy and practice around this issue. What if the Bishops decided to forgo their convocational expense budget to pay the victims counseling fees? (WON’T HAPPEN!) What if they cancelled their women’s convention and gave the monies that would be raised to a fund for those who have been hurt by these men?

    How effective would be the prayers for the victims from the leaders who are not willing to correct the problem in COGIC?

    What about the Bishops in COGIC holding to another biblical principle?:Matthew 5:24…If you know your brother has something against you…leave your gift at the altar and go make it right with your brother. Don’t these men of GOD know that they have a godly responsibility to the offended parties!?!

  11. Job,

    If what you say about COGIC structure is true then the individuals can be held accountable according to their own by-laws regarding the discipline of pastors in the denomination according totheir own manual. Sue the Bishops and the offending parties; the pastors as individuals.

    The courts have recognized the polity and structure of COGIC in the court case against a former presiding prelate who was removed from his office through the courts or at least through the courts.

  12. Job:
    I see your point and I would disagree with it in several areas. I dont want to state my points of disagreement here, but will share with you via email.

    Also, I failed to make an airtight case against the 1 Cor 6 consideration raised by IC.

    If you notice Paul specifically noted that the Corinthians could not judge amongst themselves in “small”, everyday matters. He makes that distinction. A small matter would be you borrowed a dollar from me and didnt pay it back in the three days you said you would. Can you imagine taking someone to a secular court over that???

    But sexually violating a child is no small matter which should be handled discreetly among the saints. It is a major crime carrying stiff penalties. Especially when the perp has a history of this activity and the “saints” have not the discernment to notice or ask hard questions. That’s what has allowed this pack of sexual wolves to roam the church stealing the innocence of children while we protect their “anointing” or position.
    What a gross travesty.

    The other thing is that foolish people immediately blame the victim ie. “why was that child there?” . They do so without even considering the fact of the situation. Predators LURE children into these traps. Dont they get that? Perhaps the only thing that will change this senseless thinking is if their son of daughter was raped by some anointed, organ playing preacher.

    Even if COGIC bishops were not personally responsible wouldnt that be more of a reason to speak out against it? Knowing that you are not personally liable should loose your lips to demand at the least an acknowledgement to the damage done. If not a biblical responsibility, is a bishop devoid of ethics, compassion for defenseless victims? Micah 6:8 said the Lord “requires” justice and mercy. But when there is no justice for the victim how can there be mercy shown to the offender?

    But we have not so much heard one single solitary sound from Memphis…or Los Angeles. Or anywhere for that matter.

  13. As a member of the Church of God in Christ, I would like to say that there should be a class action suit against the church NOT the demonation. You cannot hold an entire denomination accountable for a church’s actions… especially when the Presiding Bishop most likely had NO idea about what transpired. It would be like skipping the parents and holding the GRANDPARENTS of a truent student responsible for said child cutting school. Simply ridiculous. (but I DO agree that something needs to be done with these low-life, tainted “ministers”).

  14. Anonymous,
    Im not sure that your analogy is applicable. Truancy and sexual abuse of a child are two completely different scenarios.

    Come on weigh it.

    A child skips school.
    A child is raped and infected with a deadly disease by a pastor.

    These are the same to you?

    PS: And a lawsuit would certainly find out what the Presiding Bishop did know and what he did or did not do in response to it.

  15. Pastor Foster, my response was primarily directed to IC not you. I felt his post was somewhat simplistic in his application of the scripure in 1 Corinthians 6.

    GCMW: Im sorry Eld Jimmy, I did not mean for it to be directed towards you. Im amending it so it doesnt give that impression.



    WE JUST NEED TO GET THE FACTS: and move on from there

    for many years this secret remained a secret; but let us not
    forget that the bible let us know that everything that is done in THE DARK WILL COME TO THE LIGHT
    there are many family out there who is hurting; many young lives being destroyed
    For most of these men it is not just one child, and one time.

    The Bible say that none of his continue in sin. These men are of their father the devil. Tell the truth, expose the devil;
    and just maybe, if there is someone out there who allow the devil to put the though in his mind, will think again before acting on it.
    What would you do if it was your son, or daughter?
    we will not be silent anymore!



  17. GCMW, we are brothers, although we disagree this time.

    Class action lawsuits are designed to hold organizations accountable for widespread wrongdoing which have impacted groups of people. If these acts of sexual violence against children do not qualify, then what does?

    We’re talking about a matter within the church. I’m all for the individual abusers being prosecuted, but I think we can agree COGIC has at times done something regarding some abusers, but needs to do more. I don’t find that COGIC should be treated like a secular corporation.

    These children deserve more than just your well wishes and prayers. Predators need to be stopped with action.

    I really don’t understand why my saying I’m not for a class action is taken as if I’m against stopping the predators. GCMW, every single person commenting fully agrees that we all want to stop the predators. Some of us feel however, that your proposed method is not the most appropriate approach.

    Perhaps you have never been on the receiving end (no pun intended) of sexual molestation and abuse. I can tell you that the residual damages are deep and destructive. It takes money to pay for counseling and recovery.

    No, I’ve never been on the receiving end of such. Although I do sympathize for all who have been abused. When it comes to the abusers, the only debate I’ve had in my private thoughts is whether the abusers should receive the death penalty for their crimes or just life in prison, in a very uncomfortable prison. Yes victims need help after abuse and if you suggested saints donate to fund helping victims receive counseling I’d be in total agreement with you. But you’re seeking funding for good from those you feel are doing evil. There’s an oxymoron in there somewhere.

    Havent we learned anything from the Catholic church debacle? And they are a so-called cult. Shouldnt more be expected of those so-called brothers and sisters in Christ than a cult?

    Certainly. But I find the criminal prosecutions did way more to bring abusers to justice than the money payouts. Also, class actions usually result in little money for the actual victims.

    For those you mention with 1 Cor 6, where is their outcry against this? Where is the evidence of their concern for the least of these? Whose voice has been raised for justice (which includes monetary compensation)? Point me to them and I will gladly feature their outrage here.

    I’ve always spoken against this sort of abuse and not just within COGIC. Abusers such as Gerald F. Griffith being one example. And I’ve noted that people need to speak up against any predators instead of remaining silent.

    Additionally, even as the secular media pointed out, they went well beyond the call of duty to get COGIC to respond, but only stone-walled silence.

    We agree COGIC needs to better address this issue. It seems a conviction on conspiracy charges would do more in that regard to address any cover up, not a class action. You mentioned the Cult of Mary, well that group still has abusers and cover-ups ongoing. I’ve even seen reports well after the past scandals that show they’re still running cover-ups to this very day. The class actions have not ended it.

    If a class action lawsuit will impact (average I assume you to mean) COGIC members, then doesnt widespread sexual malfeasance impact them even moreso? And what does the world think when the church has less discipline of its OFFICIAL representatives than they do? 1 Cor 6 does not apply under these circumstances.

    You are correct to respond that abusers do more harm than even a class action would to anyone within COGIC. This is why I’m for criminal prosecution of those who abuse and obstruct justice. I don’t find class actions to be the best method and I do feel 1 Cor 6 has application. I find it’s better to seek prosecution of the criminals. Years of legal battling in a class action at best usually brings little in return for the victims. And I do feel COGIC has some of our brothers and sisters involved, so I have no desire to see some who are saints battling in court for money.

  18. IC, I believe I understand your points and I disagree. This is not a “matter within the church”. That’s exactly why 1 Cor 6 is not applicable.

    Crime subjects you to the law of the land and its “ministers” (courts, legal system, and law enforcement) which are ordained of God. Romans 13:1-5, please read that) You cant use the Im a religious organization clause when crimes are committed.

    Crimes are dfferent than doctrinal issues or matters of faith which should not be brought before the secular courts. But again, we are talking about clearly defined crimes against children, some of them gross crimes.
    Im not sure why you seem to miss that point.

    If Im understanding your arguement, you are saying a class action is not wrong, just not the best approach because it could hurt some brothers and sisters in COGIC. No disrepect, but you havent done a good job at explaining how they could be hurt or how their alleged/perceived hurt would outweight the real damage done to innocent children, which the bible calls the least of these. Just who are we concerned about protecting?

    Leaders of organizations cannot opt out when there is wrongdoing and call for the bowl of water to wash their hands. They bask in the glory of “sucess” of the organization, why is there then a different standard of accountability applied when there is wrongdoing. Or we talking about leaders or hirelings?

    Regarding individual lawsuits against local churches which is what you are suggesting as an alternative is ineffective because it marginalizes the scope and brevity of such widespread crimes in the same organization. Thus, a class action mobilizes victims because there is a greater lesson to be learned here. You seem to be bothered about money. If God wants to get your/my/our attention (especially when we have ignored his previous warnings) he strikes the essence of what we think makes us powerful: our money.

    Criminals and those who cover for them bank of the fact that they may win sympathy due protracted “battles” Well, I believe some battles are worth being protracted. In my recent memory, COGIC has had since the mega sexual scandal of Bishop John D. Husbands, over 25 years to act in a righteous manner, but they have refused to. Do we wait another 25 years for them to do what is right by these families and their children?

    People/organizations who percieve themselves more powerful and above being held accountable because they have assets and lofty standing are precisely the ones who need to be hit with a class action suit. Whether they are religious or not is beside the point. The point is multiple, successive crimes have been committed over a sustained period and there have been no observable changes in the way said organizations have addressed the issue which if they are not aware of, are indeed spiritually blind and impotent.

    And IC there is no law which states that these same individual church criminals cannot be prosecuted in the manner you and others suggest. It doesnt have to be an either/or. Perhaps it should be both.

  19. Something indeed must be done to call COGIC leaders to accountability for the awful things that have been covered up over and over and over for years! This culture of “cover the preacher at any cost to the pew” must stop! The thinking seems to be that the way to handle a leader’s sins is to “promote” or “elevate” him out of the reach of the people who might be tempted to actually call him on the carpet. We have seen this too often, and feel helpless to do anything simply because we didn’t actually observe the acts with our own eyes.

    Please provide insight on how this scenario, for example, should have been (should be) handled. (I use this one because it seems to be common in COGIC):

  20. greeky, I really, really appreciate your comments and questions. I am going to elevate your comment to post status and attempt to answer it fully. It will also allow others to share in shedding some light on what you have described. And let me say I concur with you 100%. It is widespread and a cancer in the church. Until I set up the post, I’m going to edit it so there’s no further discussion on this article.
    I hope that will suffice.

  21. The Bible tells us that we should not be partaker of another
    man sin.

    When we sit idly by and do noting, and say nothing; when we
    well know that some mothers sons and daughters are being
    sexual abused; we are guilty as sin.

    GMCWATCH, we are praying for you, and other who boldly take the stand that is so long overdue.

    I am sure you will have many who will also take a stand,

    It is long overdue.

    My comment is not ment to offend anyone, But let us all
    Pray one for the other.

  22. Brother Foster,

    As far as I’m concerned, this isn’t even an issue worthy of discussion. Anyone involved in these crimes should be prosecuted to the furthest extent of the law. Any group, person, organization that has covered up or in any other way facilitated this evil from going on and is exempt from criminal prosection should be subject to any and all civil suits that can be brought.

    As you have said many times, it is the silence that surrounds this evil that allows it to continue. And sexual abuse is nothing but pure evil. There are plenty of willilng , adult participants in the world that we live in today for people to have sexual relationships with — there is absolutely no excuse for this. We must do everything we can to protect the innocent — for it is bot h right and good that we do so.

    GCMW: Thank you CiCi, its truly escapes as to why anyone would think that protecting a child means not holding people fully accountable without respect of person.

  23. As a human being I agree that these predators should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. As a member of the COGIC, I am trying to understand exactly what the bishops, clergy, etc is expected to say. I keep hearing that they are silent. As a member of the COGIC, I know that my bishop has said that no one will be liscened without background checks. I know that my bishop and pastor openly preach against sexual immorality as it is a sin. Even if they say these thing to reporters will it stop the predators? Does the laws that congress have established as well as other government authorities stop murder, DWI or any of the other crimes committed by individuals. I don’t see how them speaking out publicly against these horrilbe crimes to reporters will stop the criminals. The only way to stop the crimes is to get to the criminals themselves otherwise they simply move on to the next denomination, church, school, etx.

  24. Was wondering if COGIC as a body can be viewed through Matthew 18:15-17 in that they, COGIC, has acted in a way that is not of the brethren. Have they not become as publicans and heathens when they consistently ignore the atrocities of the victims who come forward with these “offenses”?

    15 “Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’[a] 17 And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

    Just wondering….

    GCMW: Pam, maybe others will have some thought on this as it is a very interesting thought you raise. I certainly had thought about the “brother” issue raised by IC via 1 Cor 6. But if you act in a way that does not qualify as a “brother” should I continue to treat the situation as such? The passage you cited seems to suggest that they are not. Thus, 1 Cor 6 would not be applicable. Heathens and tax collectors…

  25. OK, Pastor Foster, I’m going to throw my 1.5 cents in on this important discussion.

    I’m trying hard not to respond in my flesh because I’d like to see bodily harm done against….let’s just say I have a viseral reaction to abuse. I can empathize with everyone’s perspective on this issue – could a civil suit force COGIC officials to respond (under oath) to inquiries? Yup. But (as Job, IC, & others have said) how much control does COGIC really have over their churches – not the ceremonial district bishop and overseers titles, but real accountability up and down a food chain? I only ask because I honestly don’t know.

    Would it be more effective to call for a mass exodus away from COGIC for those who are fed up? The denomination would certainly feel the impact once the revenue dries up AND the sheep would flee wicked assemblies (as the Word commands us to do).

    I just can’t help but think that Blake and (and other alleged complicit leaders) would “get the hint” if their pews were empty.

    Just my thoughts…

    GCMW: IST, thanks that’s certainly another option for those who are “fed up”. Although the “flee wicked assemblies” may not be more applicable than “flee hirelings posing as shepherds”. I think we (and you have been saying both consistently. There’s really no way of gauging the effectiveness of that the way civil action against the church can. As far as the issue of “control” to me it is not the issue. Its more an issue of complicity which is an observable crime when it comes to sexual abuse of children by the clergy of an organization. Im going to upgrade your 1.5 cents to a good half a dollar. Thanks 🙂

  26. Id never thought I’d live to see this day. When the COGIC would be at the brink of destruction. This is indeed a very sad day. But hey if the elect of God wont stand up and defend innocense, the COGIC deserves to be relegated to oblivion. Pastor DL, I cant believe Blake wouldn’t AGGRESSIVELY take a stand against pedophilia. Doesn’t he know the consequence of sin.

    He can’t claim ignorance. Silence=Complicity. I get the sense that the COGIC’s days are numbered. Looks like another denominational RIFT will develop over this uncontained demonic situation. Well the COGIC was nice while it lasted.

  27. Pastor Foster,
    Thanks for providing an avenue for feedback concerning this matter. The problem exists because people are more interested in being entertained or entertaining than listening to the Word.
    This particular case touches my heart because I used to be a frequent visitor of the church where Mr. Marlbrough was the “Minister of Music”. He is a very talented musician but his arrogance was a turn off. I knew something was not quite right about him but as only a visitor, there was no one I could share this with. I visited the church long enough to see rambunctious little boys grow into either effeminate acting young men or withdrawn acting type of teenagers. My heart truly goes out to the children, their parents, and to the pastor of his former church, but is there anyone in the church today with the true gift of discernment?

  28. @Tony, yeah in light of ALL THAT HAS HAPPENED you would think that COGIC leadership would act with a smidgeon of integrity. For the record this is a leadership issue but didnt Christ say if the eye is blind, then the whole body is? And I think Bishop Blake is playing the legal game in an attempt to keep his hands clean. And he knows we are watching and listening. Its rather tragic to have a leader who seems to care more about money, status and image than he does about fighting pedophila IN HIS OWN HOUSE.

    @ Trisha, I think that “arrogance” you saw was the evil inside him keeping people away so they wouldnt find out what he was doing. For those who are talking about not holding the denomination responsible, is it possible this pastor could have this man there for 13 years and not know what he was doing? Was he doing this before he was ordained? This literally boggles the mind. I agree with your statement: discernment is dead in today’s church. Its been renamed “gossip”.

    Thanks for your comments. Thanks very much.

  29. Elder,

    Thank you so much for the article and information. My heart bleeds right along with yours and others here who really understand the value of souls and approach that with the greatest possible integrity.

    IC said this: “Also, class action lawsuits often give the appearance that the initiators of the lawsuit might want money more than justice. Why not press that people notify police for them to prosecute if needed, rather than a class action?”

    Elder Foster, since you have had much conversation on this issue and let me chime in a few things that I know as it pertains to this.

    What is at question here is a legal doctrine called Vicarious Liability. In simplicity, the question is whether COGIC is responsible (on any level) for the actions of it’s representatives AND (in this case) is a local church minister considered to be one of those representatives?

    Now there are different ways that vicarious liability can be established. Simply, was the liability created by a deliberate or intentional action or possible neglegence etc. Next, was there intent and was that intent malicious or negligent? There are a host of relationships that need to be explained in order to create legal liability. In addition, when suing the national organization, the laws of the incorporated state (Tennessee) will dictate much of how a case can and will proceed.

    All of thses things and others speak to the actual liability, extent of punishment and scope of remedy that is available. Unfortunately, there are many obstacles that make it more simple for each individual affected to file criminal charges within their respective venues and seek the damages and recoveries available at the local level.

    Now this is further complicated by the fact that contrary to what JOB has assumed in the comments section above, NO COGIC congregation can appoint or remove a local pastor. ONLY a Bishop can can do any of those things, although the church can bring charges and proceed with a trial, NO REMOVAL can be made without a Bishop.

    Analogous case: A church van driver runs over a citizen, it can be argued tha the church is liable. However, the current trend is to hold the driver liable and the corporation harmless IF the corporation was diligent enough to do it’s duty to make sure that the driver was competent. IF the corporation failed that responsibility it is much more easy to hold the corporation liable for the actions of the driver.

    Now, the problem with COGIC is that although the Bishop makes the appointment (as specified above) it is USUALLY made with the cognition, acknowledgement and in some cases THE RECOMMENDATION of the local church. In SOME cases the Bishop does not know the personal proclivities of the apointee outside of his membership and finacial obligations to the National organization.

    Simply, can the Bishop claim that the actions of the pastor are purely the local church’s responsibility? Ie: can he claim ignorance? Let me tell you now, MOST DO.

    Is that a valid position?

    These are difficult questions to answer legally, that’s why I take an alternate route.

    I view this entire issue as a moral issue.

    Regardless of legal jargon, I believe that the ministers, Pastors, Bishops etc…leaders, of our church owe MORE to the congregants than what we are seeing. That cuts to the heart of the issue. COGIC may or may not be vicariously liable (legally) for the actions of any of it’s apostate or abusive ministers. Remember COGIC’s structure is dramatically different than the Catholic Chruch, BUT it is yet MORALLY RESPONSIBLE for the spiritual health and welfare of its members great and small, that seek the protections of the name Church Of God In Christ for its spiritual guidence, welfare and wellbeing.

    Class action or no class action?

    Although I am not too confident that a class can be established when all things are considered, I also don’t believe that God is displeased either way. The victims should seek and receive remedy and if the church doesn’t automatically respond to this the victim should not be further penalized by inaction. The moral damage was originally perpetuated upon the victims by the ministers listed. It’s a disservice to hold their remedy down with what can be amounted to as “religious speak” If I’m the victim my stand is that the church should have stood BY the word before the crime instead of BEHIND the word afterward.

    You (Elder Foster) are aware of what I’m trying to do to address these type of issues, I’ll let you know my progress and responses as I’ve shared my ideas.

    I hope this information helps add to the scope of the conversation.

    Please see my article on Sherman Allen for church rules and regs as it pertains to pastoral removal and complaint processes of pastors within COGIC. Thanks and God bless.

    Supt. H. Burnett

  30. With regard and respect to Supt. H. Burnett, I can appreciate the depth and comprehension of what you have laid out concerning the challenges involved with implicating COGIC in a class action status lawsuit, and the organization’s leadership protocol.

    To that end, this is among the very reasons why society-at-large has such a disdain for “the institutionalized church” and has abandoned it. The gross level of mistrust in the “us versus them” scheme of things has been turned completely upside down. It’s now become an institution where the violated are subjected to additional harm, through no fault of their own, and are stuck navigating a purposely difficult process for justice and redemption few congregants will ever know. NO PERSON should EVER have to step into a church with a thought to whether a corrupt person will be properly disciplined for CONFIRMED AND ALLEGED sexual offenses.

    Until COGIC, and other “religious organizations” do what they KNOW TO DO absent all of the mind-numbing, man-made rules, I call for its collapse.

  31. Pastor Burnett, thanks for your insight. Let me ask this question for the sake of those who have been molested and their families. To your knowledge:

    1. Does COGIC require its member churches to keep records or documentation on any type of sexual abuse charges whether true or false?

    2. If it exists, does this paper trail lead to any form of law enforcement or applicable government agency?

  32. Elder Foster,

    Thanks my friend for your questions. You asked:

    1. Does COGIC require its member churches to keep records or documentation on any type of sexual abuse charges whether true or false?

    To the best of my knowledge, this is not a requirement under any rule or regulation however it is prudent to do so and advisable in order to know who is in ministry leadership, eliminate abuse of the people and to minimize financial liability. I think you are also asking are these types of records kept in Memphis (hdqts)…I am unaware if any such records exist.

    2. If it exists, does this paper trail lead to any form of law enforcement or applicable government agency?

    I think this question rests in the answer to question 1. I still think it best that each person should pursue legal remedys through their respective local law enforcement agencies. Have criminals arrested and prosecuted like anything else.

    The key here is that Pastors going to jail is just not a good PR move for the church. IF the church is only interested in PR as has been suggested, then I say prosecute the bunch when there is a problem or certainly pursue legal remedy. That may be oversimplified, but that’s the best statement against these criminals and those who through silence support criminal activity so far as I’m concerned. Listen the less criminals in the pool of leaders THE BETTER!

  33. N’Catina,

    You said,
    “NO PERSON should EVER have to step into a church with a thought to whether a corrupt person will be properly disciplined for CONFIRMED AND ALLEGED sexual offenses”

    Sister we are on the same team here and I agree that these things shouldn’t happen AT ALL. However, there is a VAST difference between CONFIRMED and ALLEGED sexual offences.

    I personally am aware of cases that members CONSTRUCTED to start a scandle on the Pastor. That was an alleged violation that certainly brought about irrepairable (sp) damage to the ministers name and ministry BUT wasn’t guilty in any sense of the claim.

    What type of “disciple” should be levied upon the innocent?

    So your dislike for the “institutionalization” of the church is understood, but what is the alternative? Simply throw out ever pastor for any accusation that comes forth? That’s not prudent or healthy.

    I say investigate, pursue legal, ethical and moral remedys available and I believe that God will allow the truth to come forth either way.

    For non-criminal offences the church should have maybe the first opportunity to correct the wrong. So I see the argument for that but if we’re talking about criminal offences, follow due process without regard…at least that’s my suggestion.

  34. Dunamis 2, Greetings and Blessings,

    Do you mean to say that a church as large as the COGIC does not have an archival system that documents waht goes on in it’s convocational diocese or districts? If an elder is disciplined for something you mean that that information does not come to the district level and if necessary to the general or national level for rememdy of intervention? Surely, the trial of a minister (if one becoms necessary) should be a documented issiue with facts, accusations, resolutions and recommendations. HOw elde will those in leadership track the patterns of misbehavior or sins of those who are liscensed and commisioned by the national church.

    Can I assume that the structure of the COGIC does not allow for the ordination of ministers on a local church level? If I assume correctly then are not the many convocational districts with the church responsible to keep records of things that are done (normal course and incidents) under their auspices?
    What happend to the information that is revealed or exposed when ministers fail morally? Is there a record of the victim(s) and the follow up for them?
    Please don’t tell me that COGIC keeps records on its numerical statistics and fails to do so on issues of much more importance. I am shocked and disappointed by your report that there is no record of such incidents as you understand it.

  35. dunamis2, my frustration lies with the “institutionlized churches” re: primarily denominational “churches” with seemingly abundant overlays of processes and rules that do nothing to protect the flock when specific criminal activity is afoot. Given what Burnett has presented (and this is not a personal attack on him in any way), the presentation of information he gave concerning the protocol for handling people in COGIC leadership positions seem to do more to GIVE a mere appearance of corrective action rather than substantive activity that actually brings results.

    The average church-goer is (or should be) interested in learning the Word of God and how to please Him, not all of the man-made intricacies behind which leadership body is to remove a predatory pastor when sex charges have been made and substatiated. The catholic church has demonstrated how excrutiatingly difficult it is for sexual victims to see predators removed (not just shuffled around) from church leadership and punished.

    At this present time, if a child or any other person has been sexually assaulted by someone in COGIC leadership, where is that person supposed to go? Who does s/he talk to first? Simply put, if the church polices itself properly, the argument of whether a class action lawsuit should be raised against the denomination would not have come to be.

    To make a distinction in action between alleged and confirmed criminal behavior: if abuse is alleged, remove the accused from leadership TEMPORARILY until raised issues can be either confirmed or dispelled. However, if the abuse is CONFIRMED, permanently remove the person from leadership AND pursue criminal charges with the courts to quash any additional opportunities for abuse in that church and elsewhere.

    To answer your question regarding where congregants can go when bad leadership is in charge, leave the membership, and begin the process of staking out another ministry where sexual abuse among the clergy is not an issue. To stay put after confirmed abuse is known is to be a silent endorser of such.

    We are on the same page as far as looking to see prosecution come upon the guilty, with the victims receiving redemption and justice. My greatest interest is seeing the redeemed of God, and those coming to salvation, have a safe gathering venue that allows for their healing and growth in God.

    The saints have suffered enough. The cause for Christ is not served when explinations are presented for why complex denominational rules prevent the swift removal of confirmed predators over the safety of His people. The time has long come to make God and His people priority and to have a true beacon of light shine in this increasingly dark world.

  36. Thank you guys for your comments and believe me, I don’t take and of your criticisms personally.

    Elder Jimmy, you said this:“If an elder is disciplined for something you mean that that information does not come to the district level and if necessary to the general or national level for rememdy of intervention?”

    It would depend on what he is disciplined for. In either case I know of no “blacklist” whereby a member (leader or not) is identified by his/her moral history.

    Elder Jimmy: “Surely, the trial of a minister (if one becoms necessary) should be a documented issiue with facts, accusations, resolutions and recommendations.”

    Surely it is, and according to the process the National Secretary and State secretary would receive such copies. What I think you want to know is do those items travel with the offender? I would imagine so, BUT again I know of no master list or blacklist of individuals

    Elder Jimmy: “HOw elde will those in leadership track the patterns of misbehavior or sins of those who are liscensed and commisioned by the national church.”

    That sort of tracking is done on a Jurisdictional or state level. Again IF there is a masterlist that makes it to Memphis, I am unawhare of it. (I guess that’s a good thing for me) People talk rather quickly about certain failures so it’s fairly difficult for someone who has been exposed to simply show up in another Jurisdiction without being able to be tracked even if that is word of mouth.

    N’Catina said: “The cause for Christ is not served when explinations are presented for why complex denominational rules prevent the swift removal of confirmed predators over the safety of His people.”

    I don’t think any argument or organizational structure I’ve mentioned provides protection for “confirmed” predators. What the rules do is actually provide a way to “confirm” IF someone is a predator by an organized and rational method that does not jeapordize the continued existence of the church or other members who were not involved in the incident. So if we’re dealing with the “natural” aspects of things there are many considerations that must be undertaken, but certainly no rule I’ve stated or written about protects a criminal. That would be an overstatement and misrepresentation of my statements and the rules as I know them.

    Knowing the system and what we’re dealing with I take it upon myself to create a strong system of local church and personal accountability. I think given what we’re dealing with that’s the only thing that really can be done but that sort of thing is contingent upon the local minister possessing the necessary knowledge to implement such standards and controls.

    Then, this is something that is often overlooked in these sort of conversations… COGIC is set up on a faith mission concept. IE: the National church does not (usually-though there are exceptions) start, own, purchase a church for it’s members. Usually ministers start churches as they are led or directed of the Lord. Unlike many organizational churches, within COCIG the local church pays it’s own bills, sets it’s own financial goals etc and independently operates.

    Now there is a prescribed way to incorporate the church but the point I want to make is that the National Church is hard-pressed to usurp it’s authority (if any) where it has not laboured.That’s the catch. Now the cynic thinks that this is intentional and a deliberately obscure way to do business. However, the facts are that this structure has never been changed (only modified slightly) since the ealy 1900’s when it was founded. Now, again people say well all that could have changed by now…I agree it should have, BUT neither the General Assmebly or General Board have undertaken to bring certain rules from the “Jim Crowe” era of thinking.

    The administration of churches vary, from place to place but the central theme is what is ascribed to by denomination. The church does not prohibit administrative styles and advancements at a local District or State level. That’s where the power is. A strong and well organized local church will overcome these sort of pot-holes.

    In summary, my intents were not to discourage class-actions etc. My intent is to encourage those to distinguish the difference between criminal behavior and moral failures, and be willing to pursue remedies based on what the actual experiences are.

    Granted none of these things should happen under any circumstance or administrative structure but no organizational system is exempt, granted some have made the process much more streamlined. In short there is much work to do but it will take an effort across the board to get it done.

    Pastor H. Burnett

  37. Thanks for your response Elder Burnett, It was painful to see my errors repeated! Yikes!!

    The reason I questioned you regarding the documentation is not just to create a “blacklist” of ministers who offend but to determine the church’s sense of responsiblity for these offenses. If they fail to document the offense and the action taken along with the restoration plan for the offended party then I must assume there is no true effort to help the injured party, family, etc. to find comfort and healing in the context of the church. If these issues don’t come to Memphis then how do they know the state of the church? Full disclosure is necessary in situtaions like these.
    I understand your comment about the “word of mouth” but I also know that theword of mouth method of communication does even more damage to the victim who may wish to remain in the church. Not only do people know about the minister but the minister’s victim. This is why the church should have an archival system that includes the incidents and the action taken against the minister along with the attempts of the church to make it right for the victim.

    GCMW: Youre absolutely right. The hundreds (thousands?) if not more of cases of unknown sexual abuse by COGIC clergy over the years will not be forgotten by God. If their system is one which allows predators and criminals to find sanctuary, then the organization will collapse in God’s time. However I believe that due to the times and due to the church’s corporate culture of silence and inaction, multiple lawsuits are needed to force accountability and protect children.

  38. To GCMW good news..

    To file a class action law suit RE: COGIC. A class action law suite attorney who is licensed to practice in all 50 states of less is the one who can file the claim in any State listed.
    This is what happened with the catholic church.
    The class action L/S covered many state whereas there were victims. Believe it; It got the attention of the Head of the organization as well as many others. It is called an unlimited
    action. If you have an opportunity, research the case re: the catholic church organization. Millions and millions of dollars is documented as being paid to the victims and names of the sex offender is listed. Filing this claim action law suit (for what we know concerning the coGiC) is the only way that accountability will be forced.
    Every Bishop of the national and international organization is and have been aware of this problem for the last 30 or forty years. Nothing have been done.
    There is no excuse. After speaking with both an class action attorney as well as the united District Attorney office.
    This is possible; and encouraged.
    However, all facts must be gathered, and the victim must tell their story (all minors victim parents must be present)
    Get facts, plan, then work the plan; The investigators will do the rest.

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