Memphis-based Church of God in Christ facing lawsuit following sexual abuse allegations

Updated: Feb. 3, 2020 at 10:19 PM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The Memphis-based Church of God in Christ is being sued by a man who says he was sexually abused in the 1970′s. The allegations involve two churches in New York State.

The sexual abuse claims in this lawsuit allegedly happened decades ago and that is why it was filed under the Child Victim’s Act, a law in New York that extends the statute of limitations involving sexual abuse.

The Memphis based Church of God in Christ is named in this lawsuit because the headquarters is in Memphis. The now 57-year-old man from South Carolina filed the lawsuit in Albany County Supreme Court in the state where he alleges the crimes happened.

The lawsuit names St. John’s Church of God in Christ in Albany, New York and the former assistant pastor Dirome Williamson from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Also named St. Mathew’s Temple Church of God in Christ in Utica, New York.

The lawsuit alleges multiple accounts of rape and sexual assault that began when the boy, described as an accomplished organist, was 12 years old and lasted until he was 16 years old -- abuse that happened on a weekly basis.

It names four clergy members and volunteers, some of which are believed to have died. The lawsuit claims church leaders were aware of the abuse and did nothing to stop it and instead hid it.

“Defendants engaged in a coordinated effort to conceal allegations of sexual assault and abuse of minors from the public that occurred at St. John’s and St. Matthew’s in churches and other locations by bishops, pastors, church elders, deacons, employees and volunteers.”

The lawsuit states that at another point the minor reported the abuse and was told the clergy would help and “would pray to remove the demons from within.”

Robert Coleman, Public Relations Director for the Church of God in Christ wrote in a statement, “The Church of God in Christ does not comment on pending litigation.”

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