9 Nov 2010

New website tracks clergy abuse in Church of God in Christ, but is run by pastor who abuses gay christians

The Commercial Appeal - Memphis, Tennessee October 26, 2009

COGIC in Web site's spotlight

Atlanta minister creates list of alleged sexual abuse by clergy

By Lindsay Melvin | The Commercial Appeal

An Atlanta minister has launched a Web site to track sexual abuse by clergy of the world's largest African-American Pentecostal denomination.

DL Foster has compiled nearly 30 reports of sexual misconduct by ministers of the Church of God in Christ at reportcogicabuse.com.

Foster created his Web site, he says, because immoral acts by COGIC clergy were being ignored.

"I've discovered there's a whole system of injustice going on and it's being covered up by people in power," he said.

"Since launching the Web site, we have received scores of e-mails from victims," Foster said in a telephone interview.

Memphis is the world headquarters for the 6.5-million-member denomination.

Foster, a prolific blogger and outspoken critic of COGIC leadership, says he was molested himself by an older teenager while growing up in the church.

After being a lifelong member, Foster, 48, left COGIC nine years ago.

He was prompted to leave in part by the stories of sexual abuse by clergy going unpunished.

But he says he needed to divorce himself from the church's hierarchy to truly make a difference.

"I love COGIC enough not to stand on the sidelines and let this happen," he said.

Foster, who considers himself a reformed homosexual, also runs the Web sites Gay Christian Movement Watch at gcmwatch.com and Witness Freedom Ministries at witnessfortheworld.org, which aim to lead gay men and women out of homosexuality.

Foster intentionally chose to launch the abuse site on the birthday of the denomination's founder, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason.

"Growing instances of clergy sexual abuse threaten to destroy what he's built," he explained.

The site, listing clergy allegedly involved in sexual incidents, was compiled using media reports and court documents, Foster said.

Among those listed is Ronald Paige, who was murdered last year in his Memphis home.

The 21-year-old killer of the Earle, Ark., pastor told homicide detectives in an interview broadcast on the TV show "The First 48" that the pastor had been sexually aggressive with him.

That interview brought forward several people claiming the pastor had molested them as teenagers.

According to an article in Ministry Today magazine, Elder Derrick W. Hutchins, chairman of COGIC's General Council of Pastors and Elders, said the denomination's constitution calls for ministers accused of sexual misconduct, like rape or pedophilia, to be immediately suspended while claims are being investigated.

"The church has been working on this issue for more than 15 years," said COGIC spokeswoman Deidre Malone.

Bishop Charles E. Blake will announce an initiative regarding sexual misconduct during the denomination's Holy Convocation held here Nov. 2-9, said Malone, who is also a member of the Shelby County Commission.

She would not release additional details.

But Foster said, "COGIC has serious problems with following its own rules."

And for now, he said, his site is one of the few places victims can turn.

"My intent is to let victims know, you're not alone and you haven't been abandoned," he said.

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