On November 7th, COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles Blake held a forum where he handed out a paper with proposed changes to the current sexual abuse policy. According to the church about 1000 people received the handout entitled “The Church of God in Christ’s Continued Stand Against Sexual Misconduct”. Read the proposed changes [pdf]. While one news outlet reported the changes were adopted, no such vetting and ratification occurred. As it stands, they are only proposals.
Supt. Harvey Burnett reviewed the proposed changes calling it “good and bad news”.
In our opinion, here are the major flaws of the proposal:
1. There is still no identification of the alleged “professionals” working on the changes. Who are they and what are their credentials? Are they hand-picked yes men/women whose goal is to do the Presiding Bishop’s bidding or are they objective individuals who sincerely want to craft a comprehensive, workable sexual abuse policy? Does the proposal team include any victims or family members of victims who are able to give critical input?
2. Neither the policy or new proposals include elements of outreach, care, or restoration of victims of clergy sexual abuse.
3. The proposals contains no enforcement mechanism.
4. The proposals contain no timelines for completion or implementation. Without this critical component, there’s nothing to hold the church accountable for.
5. Instead of a forward thinking perspective, the handout is apologetic in nature, seeming to defend the church’s past conduct and rarely known or understood policies which have been largely ineffective.
6. Although the handout cites general sexual abuse statistics, it steers clear of any statistics on COGIC. Such information would help to ascertain the depth of the problem in the church, thus better application of the solution. But the question is, does the COGIC even keep records on file of sexual abuse allegations reported to its national offices? If they do not, doesn’t this violate the law and its mandatory reporting system? If they do, who is allowed to access this information?
7. The policy does not address “consensual” sexual activity among leadership. Whether consensual or nonconsensual, illict sexual activity has the same devastating effects on the health and spiritual welfare of the church.
8. The proposals are only suggested adherence for subsidiary elements of the church such as jurisdictions. These elements form the bulk of the church’s membership. In short, it is the same as before.
9. The proposals are only mandatory for a tiny group of individuals in COGIC, namely an alleged 75 odd employees of the national church. That’s 75 out of 6.5 million.
10. An information desemination plan isn’t fully expressed nor does it have a mechanism to gauge effectiveness. For instance, most church members depend on (and actually only trust) the information passed down to them by their pastor. What if a pastor decides this isn’t important enough to share with his congregation?
Major commendations of the proposal:
1. It is a public acknowledgement that clergy sexual abuse is fundamentally out of control in the denomination.
2. It appears to expand some aspects of screening to all national office/credential holders.
3. The biblical language is strong.
4. There’s an undated promise to post the sexual abuse policy of the church’s website for all to see
Overall, the proposal leaves very little to applaud. Its language vacillates back and forth in a fairly tortured manner which leaves the reader wondering if the stated commitment is serious or if it is just an attempt to say “the right words” to quiet growing objections. Citing biblical language does reinforce that clergy sexual abuse is not purely a matter of legal or social importance, but such language aside if an organization cannot adhere to corresponding biblical admonitions regarding honesty, integrity and reasonable care for the least among them, its questionable whether its policies will effect change.
Bishop Blake called on seemingly every quarter of church leadership to respond to the call, but how will he know if they will or won’t? The recent alleged rape arrest of Dwayne Wilson was a proving ground which produced more confusion than resolution. Read the latest development in the case where the church’s jurisdictional bishop was allegedly voted by membership to be the church’s CEO.
Have an opinion on COGIC’s proposed clergy sexual abuse policy changes? Leave a comment here or go to reportcogicabuse.com and participate in our poll.