Is COGIC's "zero tolerance" policy on clergy sexual abuse a failure?

Reporting on clergy sexual abuse in the nation’s largest black pentecostal denomination is not an easy or enjoyable task. But because denominational leadership has repeatedly failed to enact their own policies on the issue, we have to continue exposing not only the careless attitude of leadership, but the criminals who continue to prey upon the weak and innocent in the Lord’s church. People should be reminded that if your leadership will not take measure to ensure the protection of your children at church, then you should know that they will not support you should the unthinkable happen to your child.

We are barely two months into the year 2010, and already four clergy sexual abuse/misconduct cases involving Church of God in Christ (COGIC) clergy have come to light. But as before, we find that Bishop Charles Blake and his so-named team of professionals are unresponsive and missing in action.  And the alleged “zero tolerance” policy that has become the COGIC’s closet secret is once again proven to be little more than a deflective media sound bite.

Just last week  Pastor Edwin House and his wife Louvenia were arrested by police in Crescent, Oklahoma  and charged with five counts of lewd molestation allegedly perpetrated on two underage foster girls under their care. House is pastor of the Lighthouse COGIC north of Oklahoma City. The Oklahoman reported that the two were released on bail the following day. But the allegations are troubling.

ElderHouseEdwin House is accused of sexually abusing two 14-year-old girls in his home. Lovenia House is accused of not doing enough to protect the children.

One of the girls attempted suicide in July by overdosing on pills, court affidavits state. She told counselors she was molested by Edwin House and was depressed. She said the abuse started when she was 7, with the latest incident occurring when she was 9.

She told investigators Edwin House laid on top of her while she was sleeping and put his hand down her shirt. He also put his hands on her chest while she was in his car, she reported.

The girl was removed from the home and taken into protective custody, court records show.

Lovenia House told investigators her husband touched the girl’s chest to teach her how boys might act if she continued to dress provocatively.

A female foster child who lived with the couple from November 2003 to December 2004 told investigators Edwin House would lay on top of her after he tucked her into bed at night.

House is a member of the Oklahoma NW jurisdiction with Bishop Lee Vicker Broom.  But upon his release, House made an unusually defiant statement to the media. Was it to the media or to his denominational leaders?

Edwin House said Wednesday that his church is aware of the allegations against him and his wife. He is pastor of the Light House Church of God in Christ in Crescent.

According to the church’s Web site, Edwin House started the church in 1984. He also ran a Christian school for three years for children in grades 1-8. House closed the school in 2007.

“Nothing is going to change at the church,” Edwin House said. He said congregation members and friends have rallied to support him.

We sincerely hope that all of the allegations against the Houses are false, but that has to be determined in a court of law.  Its is strange per his wife that she would condone her husband’s touching the young girls to “teach them a lesson”. Why couldnt she simply do what the Bible tells older women to do with younger women in Titus 2:4? Surely, there were better ways to teach young girls not to dress provocatively than to simulate “what boys might do to them”.

However, unless something has been lost in the interpretation of the word “zero” as in “zero tolerance”, House should have been removed from pastoring until he and his wife are cleared of wrongdoing. But can that happen when House literally declared he wont be stepping down? Secondly, are COGIC leaders in his jurisdiction going to enact the “zero tolerance” policy? The most serious issue with Bishop Blake’s zero tolerance policy is that it has never been used publicly. But the Bishop stated again in the denomination’s 2009 meeting that he “supported” the policy.

COGIC’s self preservation attitude continues to create more victims

With all of the layers of proposed and actual departments COGIC leadership claims is in place to deal with clergy sexual abuse, its still unclear how people like Prince Woolfolk of Kentucky could continue pastoring two churches for an entire year after he was cited in a juvenile rape case. Woolfolk was convicted January 30th and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Again, no zero tolerance policy was enacted. Woolfork wasn’t removed from office, he resigned at will with no known punitive action from COGIC.

In Shreveport, Louisiana, Rev. Bruce Goss, pastor of the New Birth Temple COGIC was arrested after police discovered him in a car partially unclothed with a 13 year old girl. The Shreveport Times reported on the story.

goss-bruce-leeA Shreveport man who claimed to be a pastor today was convicted of molestation of a juvenile. A Caddo District Court jury deliberated for roughly a half hour then returned the guilty verdict against Bruce Lee Goss, 52, according to the district attorney’s office. Judge Leon Emanuel set a hearing Nov. 23 for further proceedings. Goss could be sentenced sometime in December, a news release states.
Goss was arrested in December 2007 when Shreveport police responded to a report of a vehicle backed into the driveway of a vacant dwelling in the 2600 block of Waggoner Avenue. Officers said they found Goss in the back seat with a partially clothed 13-year-old girl. “We’re pleased to see another predator off our streets,” Caddo District Attorney Charles Rex Scott says in the release. “I am very proud of our prosecution team and of the Shreveport police officers who pursued this case.”

As we reported earlier, Presiding Bishop Blake said COGIC spends on average $800,000 to defend or settle clergy sexual abuse claims while chief lawyer Enoch Perry claimed that in the last 100 years, COGIC had only had “20-25” processed cases of clergy sexual abuse. He did not define what constitutes a “processed case”. [source: 2009 COGIC General Assembly Minutes]

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