Leonard Lovett, Ph.D
Dear Mr. President:
The executive order banning persons from seven Muslim dominant countries not only violates a 1965 anti-discrimination law but violates their rights to Due Process and Equal Protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution, a matter to be fully litigated in the Federal courts. If this ban is enacted on the basis of religious discrimination even though you gave preference to Syrian Christians, it may be a prologue to you imposing the same limitations on the Faith Communities in this nation on impulse. I am categorically for inclusion in the “salad bowl” of pluralistic America which is no longer a “melting pot.” Any form of ignorance, discrimination and prejudice are the blood supply of racism. Dissent makes democracy necessary in any democratic republic.
Please pardon the format of this open letter to you as you experience your first ten (10) days in office. I am bound by conscience not to congratulate you on your ascendancy to the White House since most Americans did not vote for you. Your presidency is the consequence of a broken system that is badly in need of repair because it does not fairly represent the voice of the people in a republic with a democratic ideal. Let’s get passed the banter to my real concern. I am writing as a preacher of the Gospel, a trained theologian-ethicist and leader within the largest Holiness-Pentecostal denomination in the nation. I spent close to two decades as a teacher of ethics with a focus on Faith and Politics for nearly two decades at several prominent seminaries. I studied at Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary with a Ph. D (1979) from Emory University Candler Graduate School of Theology in ethics and society
In the academies I was taught that wisdom is the use of good judgment combined with the ability to raise the right questions, which derives from the Socratic approach to gaining knowledge. It appears that you have done the opposite throughout your campaign and into the presidency by providing the solution before the question. Your promise to “Make America Great Again” is based on a false premise. As a history major at Morehouse College I went back to make sure that the historical narrative was correct and tried to find a time-line to coincide with your theme.
Leonard Lovett, Ph.D
I Samuel 3: 21 “And the Lord appeared again in Shiloh…for the Lord revealed himself to Samuel in Shiloh by the word of the Lord.” The text implies that God had been away.
Moffatt translates this verse to read: “Once more the Eternal was to be seen at Shiloh.”
The very context of this passage pre-supposes that there had been gray days through which God had not been seen. The reality is that God was never absent. He was not seen because of the idols that blinded people from seeing the visible and invisible God. In our humanity we create so much stuff such as religiosity and symbolic inauthentic worship that God becomes to us as if He were distant or as if He were dead. The people said to Aaron, “up, make us gods which shall go before us; for as for this Moses….we know not what is become of him.” When Moses died, God withdrew because all they could see was in the personality of their great leader. Three centuries later, God returned. With the arrival of Samuel, the Lord “appeared again at Shiloh.”
I see a parallel for COGIC. I am opposed to this divisive, Godless political system of campaigning, borrowed from other denominations that has prevented us from experiencing the fellowship with each other and the fullness of the Holy Ghost. Will the Lord appear again in COGIC? Our feigned worship consisting of fake “praise breaks” and multiple fads will not bring God back. You can have so many meetings that you can meet yourself coming from meetings, but that will not bring God back. In fact meetings have become the perfect place to “avoid God.” Our meetings have become “fund raising and social gatherings” with little or no room to celebrate the God who created us. The text supports the premise that God walked out for three centuries after the death of Moses and gave the people what they asked for until they came to understand who they really needed.
Leonard Lovett, Ph.D
Dear COGIC Family:
In 1999, a General Board Member testified under oath in Orlando Florida, on behalf of Superintendent D. Hutchins, in a case against then presiding Bishop CD Owens. “I testified that the presiding bishop was not like the Pope, because the Pope is elected for life, and the presiding bishop is elected for four years… The one responsible for upholding the Constitution of the Church is the foremost transgressor thereof. The one responsible for providing protection of the various constitutional entities of the church is the greatest threat to their existence and well being.” That General Board Member in 1999 was our present Presiding Bishop Charles Edward Blake. In his diatribe against Bishop Owens, Bishop Blake mentioned the Constitution sixteen (16) times. Has Bishop Blake changed his mind in seventeen (17) years or is this a case of selective amnesia? I radically believe with conviction that it is time for Bishop Blake to “take his own medicine.” This is about the violation of our Constitution. Bishop Blake excoriated Bishop Owens for violating the Constitution and not administering the church according to guidelines. He opted for a church where people will feel safe. This document provoked Bishop Owens to overreact and cost him the election of 2000. It all started because of Bishop Blake’s feigned undying loyalty to upholding the Constitution of the Church of God in Christ. We feel the same commitment and loyalty you demonstrated and are compelled to challenge current leadership to uphold our Constitution without a double standard. (excerpt from How Long this Madness/ aka Why I Stood?) Why are we afraid to hold leadership accountable?
Bishop Blake likened the return of JD Ellis recently to a prodigal coming back home. However, a son does not return and lead the household as an advisor to the leader. Bishop Blake is the only Presiding Bishop beside Bishop JO Patterson to receive Ellis. The presence of JD Ellis holding dual membership as head of an Apostolic Church and COGIC should be an embarrassment to every credential holder in the General Assembly. Our founding Chief Apostle Bishop C.H. Mason encountered the “Jesus Only” controversy in his day and openly challenged it. Bishop Blake appears to be accommodating this heresy. JD Ellis should have never been appointed Chief of Chaplain and Vetting Officer for the Church with access to the Pentagon without proper vetting protocol. Currently, if JD Ellis is charged with impersonation of a military officer or any other offense, our leadership will also be held accountable.
Leonard Lovett, Ph.D
My routine begins around 5:00 AM with prayer for my family, the church and the nation. Several months ago I was worried about the future of the church. God challenged me with a question: “what is that in your hand?”…Only a pen. God said “use it.” And to sanctify myself before writing so that no flesh would glory in His sight. When I am at the computer, I can feel the strong presence of the Lord, Bishop CH Mason, Mother Roberson, Coffey, Bishop Jones, Crouch, Clemmons Dr. Mallory, et.al. encouraging me in spirit to press on. I struggled several days for a title. Then, I heard the Lord say through Micah 6: 2, that “He had a controversy (KJV), accusation, indictment (MLV), case, complaint (LBV) against His people. And He will prosecute them to the fullest and let the mountains and hills be called to witness the complaint.” Finally, I am liberated. I have no “axe to grind” “no enemies to punish” and “no friends to reward.” My writing is based on difficult research and I do not publish hearsay.
I understand that in a real sense every civil court is a court of last resort because neither party would be there if there was any other way to resolve the dispute or controversy. Once a plaintiff files a suit and the defendant understands that the plaintiff is really serious, a compromise could save time and court costs. A lawyer should only be contacted when either party feels that there is no other remedy for a wrong. Before a lawyer is retained one must prepare for the case. Documentation must be assembled, facts must be verifiable, etc. With enough evidence a complaint (or petition) describing the circumstances will be drawn up, naming the defendant. A summons is issued, the decision is made to negotiate or proceed. The decision is made on either a jury or a sitting judge. Sworn depositions (statements relative to the case) will usually be taken by both attorneys are given under oath. Both attorneys prepare a trial memorandum stating their view of the the case citing relevant laws, precedents, statutes etc. keeping in mind the appeals court. A subpoena is issued commanding the witness to appear at the trial in order to give testimony. The final ruling is made by the judge.
Let’s suppose it is a gorgeous “Indian Summer” day and the song of praise with an assist by the organist has just been sung at Sunday morning worship. Without warning a group of men walk into your sanctuary displaying a letter invoking authority from Presiding Bishop Blake stating that they were sent to oust you. Based on eyewitness accounts that is precisely what happened. After listening with tears to the video tape account of Supt. Milton L. Joyner regarding the unlawful intrusion of the Pacific Mt. Olive COGIC by a goon squad of so-called ministers, I am still stunned. They indicated that they were from the (Metropolitan Jurisdiction of Southern California-Bishop J.B Hackworth) acting at the behest of Presiding Bishop C.E. Blake. I had to shake myself to ask whether this was a scene from a Mafia movie. They came to ransack and vandalize church property several times prior to this unfortunate event. Every card carrying credential holder in COGIC (Church of God in Christ) should either be up in arms, cautious or half scared about this kind of behavior. If left unaddressed you could be next. What about nearly forty thousand dollars ($40,000.00) of property damage incurred at Pacific Mt. Olive? After interviewing Supt. Joyner, I concluded that he is a genuine committed servant of God. I am not called to “fix the church” but to “pierce the darkness” and hold leadership accountable by communicating in compelling language what a Holiness-Pentecostal church committed to the Kingdom agenda should look like. In Pauline language, “I am put here for the defense of the Gospel.”
(Bishop C.E. Blake –the following excerpts are from How Long this Madness/ Why I Stood -1999 in defense of Derrick Hutchins in the Orlando case versus the late Presiding Bishop CD. Owens)
“The presiding bishop has not permitted the General Board to exercise the oversight and governance of the church stipulated by the constitution.” Time and time again he makes decisions and implements without consulting with or receiving the approval of the General Board.” –C.E. Blake
“The one responsible for upholding the constitution of the church is the foremost transgressor thereof. The one responsible for providing protection of the various constitutional entities of the church is the greatest threat to their existence and well being.”
Leonard Lovett, Ph. D
Uniformity is not necessarily unity…please do not get them twisted. Wearing the same religious garb or uniform is merely uniformity. Unity evolves from within. Unity must be sought after and desired if it is to be realized within the Body of Christ and our nation. It is a totality of oneness derived from the human spirit. With such a totality there can even be unity in diversity. However, uniformity is like a forced march…one obeys because of rules, pressure and compulsion. Authentic unity takes place when we respect each other for who we are and provide an opportunity for respectful dialogue to hear what the Spirit is saying through each of us. As a denomination we are facing the end of an era. An era is a distinct period of history with a particular feature or characteristic. The new era appears to be pointing to the need for a shift in leadership. The leadership styles of the past will not fit the new emerging challenges of the present. Respectfully, no single leader will successfully lead our denomination apart from a radical shift in style. One does not pour new wine in old wineskins according to Jesus. The ferment of the new wine is too strong for old wineskins. New wineskins are needed. Radical new models of leadership are needed for our present situation.
Hopefully, the denomination will transition to term limits in response to a rallying cry from our COGIC base constituency for same. Several Traditional mainline Black denominations have successfully transitioned to term limits without major upheaval. When leaders are elected indefinitely they begin to substitute their limited authority for spiritual power. Lord Acton was correct – “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” They argue that when leaders remain in office too long they often become selfish, self-serving and greedy. They confuse their term of office as a personal possession and not a great opportunity to serve God’s people through quality leadership. Our founding Chief Apostle Bishop CH Mason was never caught up in unnecessary power struggles, taking sides and being divisive. He was never accused of absolute power and a lustful greed for money.
Dr. Leonard Lovett
Isaiah 13:13 Therefore I will shake the heavens and the earth shall remove out of its place in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of His fierce anger.
The present crisis we are experiencing is really not about the guilt or innocence of the Presiding Bishop or the credibility of the accusers. Speaking prophetically, this crisis is about whether we are going to risk profaning the name of God throughout the global village by foolish choices as the largest Classical Holiness-Pentecostal body in the world. Heretofore we were revered by ecumenical and cross denominational enclaves. Unfortunately we are losing our voice due to posturing and infighting over worthless positions and plain idolatry within our ranks. Where are the spiritual Fathers and Mothers who were fonts of wisdom, mother wit and plain common sense? Why are we listening to card-carrying, money seeking false prophetic clowns who are merely saying what we want to hear? It has become a fad to call oneself a prophet in our current religious environment. Pastors why are you having a feeding frenzy with this kind of foolishness in your church? Why are you looking for another religious “fix”? Can you imagine Isaiah, Elijah, Ezekiel or Amos being invited to a modern day Prophetic Conference? They would have been averse to a gathering of so-called prophets renting a fancy upscale hotel simply to falsify the truth to each other about their present and future situation. God forbid that we as a church fall victim to this kind of gamesmanship, deception and veiled witchcraft. When are we going to stop playing with God?
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Dr. Leonard Lovett
I was intuitively urged to explore the biblical notion of greed as a form of idolatry after reading a scathing article in the Washington Post by Michelle Singletary in her The Color of Money column.
The title of the article was engaging: “Where Money Meets Faith, bring Skepticism…Be careful your pastor isn’t fleecing his flock.” She discusses Rev Robert “Dr. Shine” Freeman, a fifty-six (56) year old Maryland minister who was recently sentenced for twenty seven (27) months in prison pleading guilty to obstructing bankrupt court proceeding. That Shine took the command “let us pray” into “let us prey.” He preyed on people. He hid assets to avoid paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in debts. Shine was ordered to pay more than $650,000 in restitution to four (4) church members who took out loans to buy cars and a mansion. What Freeman did comes under the category of “affinity fraud.” Affinity fraud occurs when people use a personal connection such as religion or ethnic status to gain people’s trust and their money.
Nearly one in four Ponzi schemes involve- affinity group targets according to studies by several reputable consulting firms. The three (3) most common affinity groups targeted by Ponzi schemes, accounting for eighty-five (85) percent of such cases, were the elderly or retired, religious groups and ethnic groups. Whenever a too-good-to-be-true is coming from someone you trust or respect and endorsed such as your pastor, raise the red flag. Freeman used his church members in the name of Jesus, to get what he could not afford, eleven (11) luxury vehicles worth a million dollars, a leased jet, a $1.7 million 9000 square foot house purchased by a member. Recently, a Bishop asked me whether I could recommend a “name” speaker to complete his conference calendar. I replied, do you want someone who can “entertain” or “challenge” the people? Entertaining, “grab your neighbor” false prophetic fundraisers are a “dime a dozen.” To find someone who will “stretch your people” to new levels of maturity and growth requires different search engines. Your ministry is like a tree, when it stops growing it is preparing for inevitable death.
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Leonard Lovett, Ph. D
TAKE IT DOWN! Mississippi GOP House speaker Philip Gunn said “it was time for his state to change its flag, which includes the Confederate insignia…a sign of the slave-holding South.” “We must always remember our past, but that does not mean we must let it define us,” Gunn said Monday in a Facebook Post. “As a Christian I believe our state’s flag has become a point of offense that needs to be removed.” This is the rallying cry across the South regarding the controversy about the Confederate Flag, a symbol of a past era regarded by many as sacred memory. Supporters of the Confederate Flag are quick to point out that they are respecting their ancestors who fought for what they perceived to be the right cause in American history. Some things, one may do as a politician, but the game changer that shifted the playing field occurred when the GOP speaker invoked the notion, “as a Christian.” TAKE IT DOWN! This is revolutionary coming from a politician and native of Mississippi, the Magnolia State. I arrived in the State of Mississippi two years after the lynching death of Emmett Till. The State has progressed since those dark days of human terror inflicted upon people of color.
The death of the nine victims at the Emanuel A.M.E. in Charleston, S.C. has generated a debate about the Confederate Flag that is unparalleled. The depth of veneration of the Confederate Flag rooted in the tradition of Southern culture and folklore is astonishing.
Leonard Lovett, Ph. D
“I want to see a mighty flood of justice…a torrent of doing good” – Amos 5:24 (LB) True justice is elusive. When Baltimore State Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby charged six police officers in the death of Freddie Gray, the air was filled with jubilation as people danced in the street. We are proned to engage in a hollow pre-celebration at the time when police officers are charged for heinous crimes. Remember, this is just the appetizer, not the main meal. America does not convict police officers guilty of criminal behavior, even with forensic evidence and live video camera. There are similarities in the narratives dealing with Mike Brown in Ferguson, Travon Martin in Florida, and Eric Garner in Staten Island, whose last words were “I can’t breathe” for illegally selling worthless cigarettes, approximately ten miles from Wall Street where major thievery is the order of the day. The conclusion of those cases have been unbelievable. When law enforcement personnel are accused of doing bad things, they follow a script. The Police Union enshrouds them with secrecy while conservative news pundits begin a blame the victim campaign, that will demonize the Prosecutor and victim. Remember, the media shapes public opinion. The police union will hire its best defense lawyers, because they believe they are entitled to what is commonly labeled “due process.” Simple justice is all we desire as a people. We are not objects, slaves or flotsam jetsam floating on the sea of humanity, we are the consequence of our Creators grand design. We expect and will not settle for nothing less than simple justice in a court of law. I am neither pro-police or anti-police. With gusto, I am radically pro-justice. I honestly doubt there will be criminal convictions for the Baltimore police officers charged in the senseless death of Freddie Gray. I believe this case will end up being a civil suit where the family of the deceased victim will be initially awarded a major amount of money that will be later reduced by the city on appeal, and we will return to business as usual.
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