Under oath, COGIC legal counsel Enoch Perry makes stunning admissions

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Part three of a series exploring COGIC and its policies, practices and entanglements with clergy sexual abuse. Parts 1 and 2 can be read here.

GCM Watch has obtained a copy of the 2008 court deposition of Church of God in Christ top “legal counsel” Enoch Perry who testified under oath that COGIC has virtually no control over its ministers or churches.  But that admission quickly caught the former judge in a series of exchanges where he was less than truthful. The deposition occured in early September 2008, almost a year prior to the approaching sexual abuse trial of Rev. Sherman Allen, a former top COGIC church official.

Perry has operated as the church’s chief legal counsel since 1996. His department is part of the national church triumvirate of “judicial” power which we briefly examined here. Perry also stated he was author of a “Sexual Misconduct Policy” which was allegedly disseminated in 2002.

After reviewing the 91 page document, one picture almost immediately surfaces. According to the sworn testimony of Perry, COGIC is not the organization loyal members perceive it to be. Perry sparingly painted a picture of a church divided: with member churches on their own and a “national church” which operates in a religious vacuum. Particularly, as it relates to leadership carrying out its paper rules, the Church of God in Christ is in disarray. Reading the document, something else emerges: Perry is well equipped at corporate lie-telling and evasion of truthful discovery.

Perry, who said he pastors a 50 member church, was on the stand as the official representative of COGIC and as such authorized to speak for the denomination. Under questioning from lawyers for the plaintiff, Perry testified the denomination doesn’t have a national sexual abuse policy. Perry told the plaintiff’s lawyers the policy was suggested to its member jurisdictions and only intended to be used as a guideline. The policy allegedly in place only applies to the 70 odd employees at COGIC headquarters.

In a stunning admission, Perry told lawyers that COGIC national has no power to make member churches or pastors obey its rules. The reason: “everything in COGIC is voluntary”. Perry said all dues, tithes, fees, reports and financial stipulations on bishops, superintendents, national office holders, licensed ministers, missionaries, local church reports, jurisdictional reports and the likes are all voluntary and nothing was mandatory. Perry said the church has no ability to enforce dues assessed to its members. The only possible repercussion he said is that “credentials are not lost, just not renewed” (pg 46). So, my COGIC credentials are still good and I didn’t know it. Well, so are Sherman Allen’s for that matter.

The attorney asked, “If everything is so voluntary then why does the local church have to get approval from the National Council to get out?”

Perry realized he had said something which was at best, contradictory. But he couldnt take it back. It was on record.

The judge is a terrible witness

For much of the roughly two hours of deposition Perry talked in proverbial circles. It reminded me of trying to catch a real liar in a lie. The liar tells one lie to cover the first, then tells another to escape the previous one. At one point, Perry when backed into a corner on one of his admissions fell silent while COGIC’s lawyers (the non-volunteer ones) repeatedly interrupted with client-attorney privilege objections.

The deposition is too lengthy to discuss in depth here, but some of the more interesting admissions made by Perry include:

(1) He did not know that Sherman Allen was Vice President of Evangelism for COGIC.
“It’s not like we go around asking people can we see your credentials to make sure they are who they say they are, because we over 15,000 churches in our denomination,” he said.
But later when asked if he knew Allen was an adjutant to Bishop Haynes in the early 90s, Perry replied “I dont recall him serving in that capacity”. (pg 37). In the next sentence, Perry says “Seems like Ive known him [Allen] forever.”
Isn’t it strange that a man you have “known forever” and know that he didnt serve in a low level assistant job almost 20 years ago, yet you don’t know the same person is serving as in a high level, visible office of the same church where you also serve in a high level, visible office?

(2) COGIC was forced to deal with the Allen case only because of articles which appeared in the Dallas Observer. Perry repeatedly referred to the Observer and blogs mentioning the case as “rag sheets”. In his opinion, blogs were nothing but cheap gossip rags not deserving of legitimacy.  The series of articles on the case written by former DO editor Julie Lyons apparently attracted so much public attention, COGIC was forced to reopen the case. The so-called investigators closed the case because they alleged after six months they couldn’t contact the plaintiff. COGIC thought it was all over.

Perry: “All of the hoopla that transpired from the rag sheets or the blogs or whatever you want to call it, that whole media blitz that was all over the world, if you would that’s what caused the church to look at that again, and that’s what transpired.”

Attorney: So your testimony Judge, is that it was the rag sheets hype that was published in the media that caused COGIC, through it national organization, specifically Charles Blake, Presiding Bishop, to provide some authority for the termination —

Perry: No.

Attorney: excuse me. For the suspension of Pastor Allen?

Perry refused to admit that’s what he’d just said. The implication is that had not Lyons written the stories, COGIC would have treated Allen’s victim like others they have done in the past: either ignore them or quietly settle out of court.

(3) Identified Elder Gerald Harris and Elder Melvin Williams as the sole members of COGIC’s “National Sexual Misconduct Committee”. Later, he said the men were members of the “National Review Board”. (pg 22)
I admit I laughed at the “national sexual misconduct committee”, it just sounded bizarre. Seriously, it appears the two investigators violated COGIC’s policy which stipulates that there must be at a minimum 5 individuals on an investigating committee of this sort. It also requires that a “detailed report” be filed with the Office of the General Secretary within 6 months of a case being closed. Perry declined to answer if this had been done in the Sherman Allen case. He called the two “investigators”  highly skilled in what they do, but Allen under oath said he was never interviewed by either of the two men.

Finally, to add to the layers of confusion going on within COGIC, its rules, the Allen case and the general counsel is the strange parenthetical story of Attorney BJ Warren. Warren, a female, was a member of Allen’s local church and while there handled many of his legal affairs. Its unclear when but some point during or after the revelation of Allen’s crimes, Warren married a high ranking COGIC bishop, was appointed to the church’s judiciary (supreme court) and signed on as a staff lawyer under Enoch Perry. Coincidental or is something being covered up?

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12 thoughts on “Under oath, COGIC legal counsel Enoch Perry makes stunning admissions

  1. Good article DL, hopefully people will see now that the proof is in the pudding that COGIC only cares about COGIC.

  2. Thanks V, I am still recovering from reading that deposition. As a person who grew up in COGIC, I had to ask myself: is this really the church I grew up in or has it become something I dont even recognize anymore?

    I will probably have to do a b part to this and discuss some other disturbing things Perry said in the court room.

  3. I have a few questions, and I hope you can help.

    How does the COGIC’s governmental structure compare with other large Pentecostal denominations, i.e., Assembly of God, Foursquare, etc?
    Do they (AOG, etc) have more control over their local churches and pastors?
    Also, do they have formal sexual abuse policies that apply to all their churches?
    How can I obtain a copy of the deposition transcript you mention? I’m sure that there’s a lot more in in that COGIC members and leaders should know about. (This is quite disturbing)

    It only makes sense to me that ANY large organization (church or otherwise) would have a strictly enforced sexual abuse policy in place. So(just to clarify), the policy COGIC published a couple of years ago was only a “suggestion”, meaning “optional”, not a mandate?!! COGIC appears to be treading on a very slippery slope!

  4. CS, I dont know the answer right off, but I’ll definitely take some time to research and perhaps do a contrast and comparison post re your question.

    I agree with you, given the egregious nature and rise of sexual crimes against children and women in the church, its almost a common sense approach to have a universal sexual abuse policy and require that any church wanting to join or any new start adopt it. Further all existing churches should sign as agreeing to the policy.

    Perry even says (page 19) “…all churches who become part of the Church of God in Christ, they agree to be governed by the rules and regulations of the church”.

    (This, btw severely contradicts him saying that “everything in COGIC is voluntary”. Those two statements are at opposite ends of each other.)

    Why wouldnt the “rules and regulations” be inclusive of the sexual abuse policy? Why is it seemingly the only regulation local churches can or cannot obey?

    Per the document (ppgs 43-44):

    Attorney: Is it your understanding that every employee is to receive a copy of this Employ– excuse me, this Sexual Misconduct Procedures, and to sign and acknowledgement that they have –fully understand with respect to the policy and the practice of the church, and they’ve received a copy of it?

    Perry: This was designed specifically–as was the handbook– designed specifically for employees at headquarters. And what transpired was that they thought it was a good idea, and we start making it available to anybody and everybody that wanted to use it as a model to model in their jurisdictions and in their local churches. But initially, it was designed for headquarters and headquarters alone. If you read carefully, you’ll find that the process in this book is relegated to the National Sexual Review Board if there’s anything that transpires at headquarters. But essentially, this was just a model to be used by everybody, if they desired to use it.

    Attorney: So essentially, it was not intended to go beyond Memphis organization —

    Perry: exactly

    Attorney: –area, and you designed it –or it was designed for that limited purpose?

    Perry: exactly

    Attorney: And what Im hearing you say is that if churches within the organization chose voluntarily to adopt it, that was their decision, but it was not mandatory?

    Perry: exactly

    So again, if churches agree to be governed by the rules and regulations of the COGIC, why were they exempted from the sexual abuse policy which is clearly a “rule and regulation”?

    Also you have to understand why Perry is attempting to dissasciate the national church from local churches. If COGIC national has a connection, then they are liable for what happened with Allen. But Perry’s answers are stumbling over themselves in trying to play a lie on two ends.

    Regarding obtaining a copy in this case, a deposition, once filed with the court, becomes public record. Copies can be obtained by contacting the overseeing court or clerk. Be prepared to pay.

  5. COGIC soounds as if it is structured like many other denominations of the pentecostal ilk. It is an association of churches who adhere to the same doctrinal stqance and are willing to abide by the guidelines and structures set forth in the manual. Unless COGIC is estabishing churches by using the funds from the church’s coffers they don’t own the property of the local assemblies and the churches are voluntarily affiliated with the organization. The bishops probably have authority in the local churches as long as the pastors agree to that and are amenable to abiding by the rules in the manual. I am not sure but I believe they can probably withdraw and become “independant” or become affiliated with another organization.
    It does not sound like COGIC is as highly stuctured as say, the Episcopal or Catholic church. Those denominations have planted the churches and chosen the parish priests and can and do remove priests as they will. This is not how most pentecostal denoms operate. I am aware that the Assemblies of God are more structured and organized than most pentecostal denoms. The Foursquare church is similarly organized as the COGIC.
    If these denoms don’t hold the deeds to the properties of the local churches and have chosen and set the pastors, etc.
    The majority of pentecostal denoms have power that is limitd to the will of the local assembly; as such it is an affiliation of churches, voluntary participation and agreement.
    Perhpas the local churches do agree to adhere to the laws of the church but that is the glue to the organization; the will of the people.
    I wonder if this is why some of the bishops have been lax in disciplining the pastors (and other bishops) who behave immorally? Perhaps they recognize that they have limited authority. They can certainly silence and disfellowship pastors and elders but alos those churches can refuse to abide by the bishops edict and leave the organization or ask to be placed under the authority of another bishop or jurisdiction.

    I will admit I have some (but limited) knowledge of the denom. I have done a lot of reading about all pentecostal churches for many years. It is a great interest of mine. I also collect manuals of some of these churches. Somoen may certainly know more than I. Perhaps Elder Burnett can add or correct info.

  6. Elder Jimmy, I dont think anyone in COGIC (in authority at least) can definitively articulate what ecclesiasitcal structure the church follows. Perhaps that is the reason behind so much misunderstanding about who is responsible for what. Or maybe they do have a form of government, but wayward leaders circumvent it at will for their own personal gain. Again, a recipe for trouble.

    A church which bases itself on a house of cards cant expect to stand.

    The pentecostal/charismatic affiliated movements do play fast and loose with structure and order perhaps at their own detriment in the weightier matters. Glossalia, praise, and all of the other external identifiers of pentecostalism seems to have eclipsed the real need to deal with serious matters of criminal behavior, sexual malfeasance, and dishonest practices among professed Holy Ghost filled folk.

    I still believe that if you cant have common adherence to what the Bible says, its stands to reason you will not follow your paper trail of procedures, policies and regulations.

  7. Elder,

    I’m sorry I’ve been somewhat busy and not able to chime in on this. THIS IS A MESS!

    Elder Perry OUGHT to be ashamed of himself! In no short sense. This is ridiculous.

    WHAT is a “National Sexual Misconduct Cmte” and who is Melvin Williams and Gerald Harris? WHAT, WHAT WHAT???

    I’ve been a part of this organization for almost 30 years and have never been made aware of such a committee. In addition this violates any and all structure of an investigative committee as you point out.

    To Perry and designated “rag” watchers…,

    You should know that the Spirit Of The Lord is against all liars and they shall have their part in the Lake Of Fire. This is ridiculous. Allen was yo-boy and you might as well fess up! Trying to backtrack and say that the relationship was so loose that there was no responsibility for his actions at the national church level is nothing more than smoke and mirrors. Just like a Blue and Gold card for $500 to $2,000 per year with no retirement or other benefits attached…SMOKE and MIRRORS!

    We are sickened by cover ups and political wrangling and MOST importantly SICKENED by making the business of the church more important than the PEOPLE of the church. Your actions are not what Christ died for, nor did he leave any of you in this position to do what you’ve done and allowed and tried to cover. From the molestation at All Saints college which was settled for an undisclosed amount out of court, to that dealings of Sherman Allen to that of other reinstated criminals and pastoral molesters who serve in General Board member’s Jurisdictions…WE ARE TIRED of coverups and unethical and unrighteous dealings.

    I may be nothing to you. I am but smaller than a blip on the radar, but my name is known in the heavenly council and I shall stand with or without you, not as a superior righteous one, but as one who has my sins forgiven and lives as a blood washed servant of Christ.

    Elder Foster, keep this “RAG” going and continue to point to the inequity and sins that must be repented of IF this people is to find the truly significant place in Christ that belongs to us. Some of us, Pastors, Supt.’s and Bishops wholly agree that sin is sin and we must repent, not in word only but in deed.

    Supt. Harvey Burnett

  8. Thanks for your candor Supt Burnett. COGIC is headed for a sad, sad day. And its tragic because when God reveals your sins, you should not go into cover, conceal and deception mode, but repentance.

    I feel all the “new” programs and events (including the move to STL) set up by the PB are just distractions to keep the members from knowing what is going on.

    Yet, God is not fooled. Bishop Blake should take a cue from the king of Nineveh and call for repentance.

  9. Supt Burnett, your words are a great encouragement. It’s time for the saints in COGIC to open their eyes and see beyond these smoke screens and distractions like DL says. Enoch Perry evasive answers and stubbornness shows in his deposition, and in my opinion he did COGIC no justice, but pretty much sealed their fate in this case of Sherman Allen. The lawyers for the plaintiffs will have a field day with COGIC on trial next month, which is less then a month away.
    It amazes me an organization such as COGIC has such time to organize all these conferences per year such as the current Pastor/Elders Conference in Orlando at the 5 star Ritz Carlton per year, but yet they don’t have solid policies in place regarding sexual misconduct, and yes, I’ve even asked myself what is “the National Sexual Misconduct Committee?” Enoch Perry author many of these polices but yet COGIC isn’t following their own procedures. I know a thing or two about Gerald Harris, he’s preached at Allen church several years ago and Allen has preached at Gerald Harris’s church in Gilroy, California as well several years back. So doesn’t that sound like a conflict of interest on COGIC parts? How do you assigned a friend of Allen’s to be on committee that is suppose to investigate sexual misconduct allegations against him? Anyways, the truth is coming out everyday and hopefully this will stop all the cover-ups in COGIC.

  10. Vrr,

    Thanks for the encouragement. You said: Enoch Perry author many of these polices but yet COGIC isn’t following their own procedures.

    Enoch hasn’t authored anything! Enoch has cut and pasted info from other sources and I personally sent his office a packet regarding how to resolve these problems and never received a response in any form other than his posts “mysteriously” appearing.

    The bible says this:

    Prov. 28:13~“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.”

    The New Living Translation spells it out a little more exactingly:

    Prov. 28:13 ~ “People who cover over their sins will not prosper. But if they confess and forsake them, they will receive mercy.”

    If these Saints want mercy all they need do is repent and say they’ve messed this thing up and it needs to be overhauled. That’s all. Some would rather die with things like they are rather than switch and assume that God is going to make it all right in spite of the wishes of the people. HE can do anything but he honors free-will and many of these are freely choosing corruption at the expense of the Saints.

    That’s the sad part. When you get so overwhelmed with your sin until all you know is, “How many members you got doc?” there’s something wrong! This is one preacher that IS NOT impressed by that mess in the least bit.

  11. Supt Burnett, I think in the deposition Perry was referring to something he SAID he wrote or co-wrote in 2002. But that being said, it is VERY interesting that this sexual abuse policy has been incognito all this time until you sent in your proposal (and we published these articles). And then viola! cogic.com posts these cut and paste pirated articles which looked a lot like the information you sent them.

    Which of course they NEVER acknowledged.

    Hope you blog about that. Whatever they are attempting to conceal, it must be pretty substantial to stoop to this level of dishonesty.

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