I came out of my mother’s womb into the Church of God in Christ, so I am intimately familiar with COGIC pride which now to me is a surreal existence not unlike seeing a peacock in a zoo. There was a time when I would go to war to defend the “image” of the church and its “sainted” leaders. I was taught to defend COGIC’s leaders and image at all costs and I did because I was severely ignorant and believed what I was told. But the years and God have pulled back the curtains on the truth and for me and perhaps thousands of others who have awakened from our church-induced slumber and scripture based fear (touch not mine anointed) of speaking out against the latent evil being covered up in our birth church, we rejoice to see the day when holiness again becomes not a cliche but a lifestyle in the church.
That being said, here’s the story of one woman who experienced first hand what you are up against when you and your situation finds itself against COGIC’s cover-up culture. This poignant piece by Cherrie Mackey should stand as both a warning and a wake up. A warning to the wolves and sexual misfits roaming the church that heaven is shining a light on you and you will not escape God’s justice. A wake-up to every person in COGIC who knows but says nothing. Your fear and silence will help destroy the church Bishop Mason’s “Yes Lord” helped to build. Just like God destroyed the temple in Jerusalem the Jews symbol of national pride, he will also dismantle the symbol of COGIC’s pride. 100 years mean nothing to him when sin is tolerated in the camp. And running to St. Louis wont change anything. Trust that.
An Ungodly Silence
by Cherrie Mackey
As a born-and-bred (but now former) member of the Church of God In Christ, how do I begin to wade through the quagmire of alleged abuse detailed in the Dallas Observer’s February 23, 2008 “Bible Girl” section? What’s left to say about a man so obviously sin-sick and possibly even emotionally unstable? I could express my righteous outrage and indignation, but so what. I could verbally tar and feather him, but I’m sure that’s already being done. I could try to deconstruct his psyche in an attempt to understand all that transpired, but I’m afraid that would take more space (and education) than I have.
Rather than go any of those routes, I just want to ask a question: How in God’s literal name did this man ever get away with this?
Based on the allegations — which, by the way, I’m persuaded are true — how did such a seemingly perverse, delusional and damaged individual violate so many for so long? Exactly how did this sin prosper?
Don’t use up any extra brain cells trying to come up with an answer. I already have it: Good men stood by and did nothing.
Clearly blame belongs squarely on Allen’s shoulders for his own actions. That’s a given. But as a leader in a highly visible, well-respected, organized body of religion, where were the overseers of the overseers? Where were the regulations, reprimands and victims’ avenues of recourse?
Where was the spiritual discernment? This church was known for its “prophetic summits” — why didn’t any of the “prophets” discern that something was very wrong in the Allen/Shiloh camp?
Paul instructs us not to even dine at Red Lobster with those who are sexually immoral yet call themselves believers. How, then, can you explain the turned heads, averted eyes and coins-over-character mentalities that had to be present?
I partly blame the denomination. Yes, the grand ol’ Church Of God In Christ. You simply can’t defend a religious institution that shields abusers and criminals, actually providing them a haven of sorts to carry out their sick activities. Just ask the Roman Catholic Church. On the other hand, with a great respect and appreciation for my own roots in the Church of God In Christ and the many family members I have who are still affiliated with it, how can you completely disregard and discount an institution with such an auspicious beginning and rich spiritual history? (Bishop C.H. Mason and the Azusa Street Revival.)
I’m not sure how to square that all up, but I ask the question because I myself experienced exactly this type of ig’nint-on-purpose behavior by church officials, although it didn’t involve the same kind of abuse. I was once married to what is known in the denomination as a “minister of music,” and after only a short while in the marriage, he impregnated a fellow choir member while simultaneously being unfaithful with a local pastor’s daughter. You read that right. He had a girlfriend in a church down the street while one of his own choir members was carrying his baby — and his faithful (okay, clueless) wife was sitting at home praying for everybody.
We’ve heard this type of scenario before though, haven’t we? It’s not really new or surprising anymore. But here’s the salt in the already-gaping wound: when these circumstances were brought to the attention of our pastor — who I had previously admired, trusted and believed in as a man of integrity — he did nothing. Not only that, he already knew. The same man who had counseled us before we married, had us over for swims in his pool — that same good man seemed to take a boys-will-be-boys attitude and, to my knowledge, didn’t do a thing to remedy this sick situation.
You have to understand that being removed from ministry or “silenced,” especially in the wake of moral turpitude, is (or used to be) a strict guideline of the Church of God in Christ. As a teenager I can remember many a public testimony being shut down in mid-sentence because of a lifestyle that didn’t match what was being testified of. Yet my ex-husband was allowed to continue to serve not only locally but also on the state level in this denomination. He kept right on tickling the ivories and rocking the organ bench while the aiding-and-abetting pastor kept right on “hooping” and the enabling saints kept right on shouting.
You think it had anything to do with the fact that my ex-husband was, indeed, a very talented musician and that hell would freeze over before some Churches of God in Christ would go without their “shouting music”? If you do, then that means some innocent individuals were literally sacrificed on the altar of the Hammond B-3 just so the saints could keep dancing to the beat.
To my knowledge, the pastor never confronted or counseled my ex-husband. He certainly didn’t counsel or comfort me and I don’t know what, if anything, was ever said to the other women. I can almost guarantee, it was nothing.
It wasn’t just me and my circumstances, either. There were abusers and other marital infidels on his ministerial roster and he knew about them, too. And in at least one case, I personally know he did nothing.
I remember lying prostrate on my face, getting carpet hairs up my nose many a night. Crying out to God til’ I was literally hoarse. Putting ice packs on my eyes many mornings just to be presentable at work. It really was a nightmare. But personal pain aside, the thing that haunted me most was that question…”Why didn’t he do anything?” After all, the Church of God In Christ was supposed to be the bastion of holiness, the place that put a serious premium on righteous living to the point of legalism. Why didn’t my pastor do something?
No, I didn’t expect him to rescue me but I did think he would stand up for what was right. And lest you think I’m some namby-pamby who goes church-hopping after a tribulation or two — that wasn’t me. As a young woman I had always been active in the church, even up to the national level myself, and I had been approached and almost accosted by other Church of God in Christ men many times. As an attractive young Christian woman with a naive earnestness to serve the church and its leaders, I didn’t realize I was a goldfish in a barrel full of sharks. Traveling evangelists extending hotel-room invites, husbands winking and flirting, pastors passing illicit notes, hugs that lasted too long, leering and lascivious looks — sharks. But I always ignored them, chalked it up to the weakness of a few less-than-committed men, and kept on keeping on in Jesus’ name. So I was not without experience or a point of reference when it came to sexual harassment in the church.
Put those past experiences together with the illegitimate baby and girlfriend drama and I simply became sick of the whole patriarchal, bullying bunch of ‘em and at that point I started writing my own little book of “Exodus.”
After many tears, much praying and not a little anxiety, I unceremoniously left the Church of God In Christ.
So this is the way sin prospers — because we don’t challenge it. We don’t question it. We keep our mouths shut in the name of “not doing the prophet any harm.” Or, we allow ourselves to be intimidated by “you can’t judge me.” Or, the skeletons threatening to break down the door of our own closets have got their bony fingers around our necks in a chokehold.
I must admit, I was hesitant to even submit this commentary. Went so far as to discuss it with my current pastor because even though my experience was years ago, I didn’t want to “out” anybody. I had been conditioned, just as the Allen victims were, not to “put my mouth” on the men and women of God. But again, this is how sin thrives — when good people do nothing.
So let the chips fall where they may. I challenge you to challenge sin. All the time. Every time. Even if you have to start with yourself. By all means, start with yourself. If we don’t, the Sherman Allens of religion — not just of this denomination — will continue to shipwreck the lives of weak, vulnerable and hurting women and unlike me, some may never recover.