COGIC's sexual abuse policy change document surfaces

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.

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8 thoughts on “COGIC's sexual abuse policy change document surfaces

  1. Too bad that this had to go to the court of public opinion, before action (proper that is) was taken. Discipline is needed on all levels in the church.

    Knowing how to walk or at least an attempt to act it out, no pretense or hypocrisy.
    In leadership to stop feigning at an idea, when no intention is there to do what’s right. But rather a genuine concerted effort to do what’s right! Like the old Nike commercial, “Just do It” we tire of empty words.
    Manning or womanning up when you transgress the known word!

    We’ve got one chance at this in life, and if we don’t intend on doing what’s right in comparison to a reflex, then you’d ought to expect to end up with the losers of this war!

  2. Hello, Pastor Foster:

    I have a question for you: is this a situation where a secular organization—SNAP—is calling for the church—COGIC—to discipline itself?

    If this is so, then are we living in a Bizarro World where an Anti First Corinthians 5 actually exists?

    Regards,
    Peter.

  3. dk, SNAP is a Catholic religious para church organization that has in my opinion been very effective in exposing the corrupt nature of sexual abuse. I dont know the organization intimately and Im sure they have their detractors but I for one was very grateful for their involvement in the Wilson case. David Brown actually is a Southern Baptist. Secondly, if SNAP were secular, it would not be anything wrong with the telling COGIC to discipline themselves i.e. deal with internal sexual abuse. That doesnt extend to every organization just because they are secular. At risk children who have no voice in these matters, need someone to apply the pressure and raise the awareness so that organizations will do something other than issue meaningless platitudes and promises while continuing to sit on the stool of do nothing. To me this may be a broader application of Romans 13.

    I beleive that if SNAP had not held the press conference which brought more attention to the case, COGIC wouldnt have taken any additional measures publicly. I was told that they (COGIC) actually sent a “press release” to the Commercial Appeal about Jerry Maynard’s election and takeover of GSM. Interesting indeed.

    I dont understand the anti-1 Cor 5 reference.

  4. Hello, Pastor Foster:

    I was not minimizing or demeaning SNAP’s association with this abuse issue: for sure. No doubt these folks cast a bright light on Mason Street’s darkness.

    I asked the question because it seems pretty ironic that an outside organization is demanding that Christians act nobly and honorably. We should be the salt and light, right?

    I used the Bizarro reference (I guess you were reading the Bible, when I was reading Superman comics.), because on Bizarro World (Htrae: Earth spelled backwards), where ugly is beauty, and bad is good, the Bizarros would have used and applied an anti (opposite) First Corinthians Chapter 5. Like COGIC headquarters seems to be reading now.

    It’s distressing to me that any semi-religious group should be pointing out 1 Peter 4:15-17 to Christ’s bride. It’s tough language, but are the cover-up artists any less guilty that the perverts themselves? Those complicit won’t be suffering as Christians. And what about the fear of judgment that starts with us first? Aren’t these folks afraid? I mean really afraid, Pastor Foster!

    Nevertheless, I am glad for SNAP’s involvement as well, Pastor.

    Stay the course, brother.

    Depressed,
    Peter.

  5. Peter: Please allow me to respond. I have never regarded SNAP as anything but a self-help group of victims of clergy sexual abuse. We are not affiliated with any denomination. Yes we have started out in the beginning as being composed primarily of Catholic victims. So many victims of clergy sexual abuse have lost their religion and faith. We work with many denominations now as victims reach out to us for help. They have seen what we have done and they want so desperately to believe and not be alone.

    As Rev. Foster stated I am a Southern Baptist and I have been so for a very long time. Trust me when I tell you the Southern Baptist Convention have the same problems as the Catholic Church and in fact maybe an even greater one. I have a deep faith in Christ. I could not do what I do without His hand on me. Why would I want to? When I saw the situation at Greater St. Mark it reminded me so much of what went on at Bellevue Baptist Church in Memphis a few years ago when the senior Pastor let an admitted pedophile remain on staff for over 6 months without saying one word to anyone.

    I feel strongly that these people should be removed from any position of influence or power. That is the reason I contacted our National office and reviewed my concerns and intentions while at the same time reaching out to Rev. Foster. I would never dare to step into sometime where we did not belong.

    Because of my strong faith and the way I deal with this issue, I was approached by Andre Conte’s group. Andre is the First Lady of Tennessee. She is the wife of Governor Phil Bredesen. Her group is: “You have the Power” (WWW.YHTP.ORG ). Ms. Conte is a former victim of crime while in college. The DVD that ultimately came out was entitled “Sacred Secret”. On the DVD there is the story of young lady that was abused that has lost her faith, me, a pedophile priest that I went to school with and a Church of Christ minister that has it right. The purpose of the DVD was to spread the message of how to deal and understand this crime in the faith community. We have put on numerous forums, in schools and churches. It is mandatory viewing now for all workers of Child Protective Services as well as the Child Advocacy Centers in Tennessee.

    I have the upmost respect for COGIC. I have never set out to attack any faith. Those things are very personal. I have tried to shed light on a very evil crime that thrives in secrecy and silence. Only by speaking out will we make change. But please believe me I spend a lot of time in prayer.

    I hope this helps you better understand what SNAP stands for and is about. God Bless you for speaking out about your concerns. Please feel free to contact me anytime.

    David Brown
    SNAP Director of Tennessee/Memphis
    Davidbrown38053@gmail.com
    901/569-4500

  6. Hello, David:

    Thank you for nice reply and clarification. By the way, I do not regard your efforts as an attack on “The Faith” in any way, shape, or form.

    But, David, it really appears that you—and Pastor Foster—are engaged in the “destruction of fortresses” here. I may be ripping that phrase out of context (2Cor 10:3-6), however, how else do you interpret the following “speculation,” as trumpeted to the world by the COGIC leader, Bishop Blake? :

    “Brother Foster has a flavor of the year he usually focuses on. His flavor this year is sexual harassment and sexual abuse.”

    Carry on, David. Keep your head on a swivel. These people will do anything to preserve their positions and power. And why not? They don’t even fear God’s judgment!

    Love,
    Peter.

  7. Peter so well said. I totally understand and agree with your statement that “They don’t fear God’s judgment.” I so wish that was not true but time and time again I see it happening.

    In the latest interview with the Commercial Appeal as well as the press conference, I said the first thing they should have done was to reach with love and tennderness to this victim and family. Get them the help and support they need, yet we hear what they have done for the offender instead.

    I have long viewed my role being an advocate as a ministry. I now understand why I suffered the abuse I did. I praise the Lord for it. I have been able to take something that was done in evil to me and turnned it into good. The same goes for Brother Foster.

    It is so sad to see religious administrators and leaders do everything they can to protect their reputations and buildings as if that was the dearest thing to them when it is our children that should be first. If they could see and understand the impact of clergy sexaul abuse on the victim, family and church family they might handle themselves differently. To hear a victim tell me they do not want to hear anything about Jesus breaks my heart.

    I try to keep an open mind and not close any doors. I want to have a dialogue so maybe we can continue to share what is the proper thing to do when encountered with a situation like the one at Greater St. Mark. I call that a win/win situation.

    Please keep me in your prayers.

    In HIS Service.

    David Brown

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