News reports from Chattanooga, TN said that Ronnie Powe, Jr., the assistant pastor of United Tabernacle COGIC was leading a double lifestyle which ended in his arrest. On Sundays, Powe preached to the faithful at the church, but through the week be prowled homosexual sex hookup sites looking for sexual partners. But when he found one in a 15 year old boy, his career came crashing down around him.
http://www.wrcbtv.com/global/video/videoplayer.js?rnd=695503;hostDomain=www.wrcbtv.com;playerWidth=430;playerHeight=355;isShowIcon=true;clipId=5579372;flvUri=;partnerclipid=;adTag=News;advertisingZone=;enableAds=true;landingPage=;islandingPageoverride=false;playerType=STANDARD_EMBEDDEDscript;controlsType=overlayPastor Ronnie Powe, Sr., says he never knew that his only son, his namesake, who’d helped him minister to Chattanooga’s United Tabernacle Church of God In Christ, had been leading a ‘double life.’
“My son lived the life of a straight young man with the family and with the congregation, and with those he knew in the church community,” Pastor Powe says. “Outside, he lived as a gay young man.”
Tuesday night, Chattanooga Police caught Ronnie Powe, Jr., in a car with a 15-year-old boy, behind the old East Lake Elementary school.
“The suspect first said that he was just speaking to a member of his church about some problems,” CPD spokeswoman Rebecca Royval says. “The officer observed some unusual things and investigated a little further.”
Police reports don’t indicate, nor will Ronnie Powe, Jr., say whether he knew the boy was underage; only that they had met through a gay web site. Had the teenager been of age, the charges Powe faces would have been lewd acts or indecent exposure.
“More than a ten year age difference brings a more serious charge,” Royval says.
The charges ring hollow in his parents neighborhood of Indian Hills/Hillsborough Heights.
Their closest neighbors won’t go on camera. But they describe Pastor Powe Sr., as warm, gentle, and no nonsense; his son as unfailingly polite, never inappropriate. Pastor Powe, Sr. sees his son as conflicted between his own truth, and A Pentecostal faith that condemns homosexuality. A homosexual lifestyle is not what God ordained for us, and we’re not gonna back off of that,” he says.
“But we believe all this has happened to help him come to terms with who and what he is.”
Ronnie Powe, Jr. has resigned as United Tabernacle’s youth pastor. He admitted his homosexuality, and that he had been charged with statutory rape, to a church prayer meeting Wednesday night, his father says.
Powe, Sr. is adamant in stating that his congregation’s teenagers and children never could have been in any danger.
“Because of the way we do things, our structure,it would have been hard for him to do anything without being discovered,” he says.
Powe, Jr., has declined to go on camera. But he tells Eyewitness News he’ll ask forgiveness from the 15-year-old, the boy’s family, his own family, and his church. First he must face the state of Tennessee. A conviction for aggravated statutory rape could put him in prison for five years.
“I want my son to know that he’s supported, and that no matter what style of life he was involved in, we love him,” Powe Sr. says.
“With counseling, with time, I believe that he will be one of the greatest preachers that ever lived.”
The father is to be commended for his stance regarding his son’s sins. Hopefully, he is being honest when he says he did not know what his son was doing. But what does that say about church leadership these days? Is discernment dead? Is the Spirit of the Lord not revealing anything anymore? United Tabernacle held a reputation of being a strict, traditional COGIC but we see that is ineffective if the leader is not paying attention to the people, let alone his own son.
This type of case highlights why the denomination should step up its effort to educate its men on these issues. How to discern them, how to prevent them and how to report them to church leadership. Sadly, Ronnie Powe is most likely representative of hundreds (if not thousands) of young men in the church matriculating towards leadership with unresolved sexual issues. And they are being ignored. What if Elder Ronnie Powe were Bishop Ronnie Powe? Think of the widespread negative impact. The COGIC should invest in wholistic programs to help these young men before they self destruct while carrying big, church-sanctioned titles. Ignoring it will only result in more Ronnie Powes.