In the Aftermath: When Clergy Falls, Part I

It leaves everyone reeling; a leader in the church has been convicted of abuse. It’s like being told you have a terminal illness or someone close to you died suddenly – it can’t be real, but it is. When you wake up in the morning and remember it’s like being slapped in the face. It is shocking and shakes you to the core.

Some people choose the false comfort of denial. Some people attempt to minimize the enormity of the situation by explaining it away – making excuses for why it happened. Some people attempt to reconcile all the broken pieces too quickly, trying to make the pain stop. These are all vain efforts to heal. In the long run, they only make matters worse.

But there are good things to come out of the ashes of a fallen leader. God has blessings in the pain.

One of those blessings is in seeing the face of God in ways we never have before. God is faithful. Always. And it is when we go through circumstances that seem impossible, moving through one day, sometimes one moment, after another, on our faces with God, that we learn the deepest secrets of Who He is. These are the times that mold and define us.

A secret I have learned in these hard days is the truth that some of the words we see in the Bible that describe God aren’t limited to certain circumstances. For instance, we know that God is our Redeemer. God worked through all of time to redeem man through the death and resurrection of Christ. He bought man back from the penalty of death and enabled us to have a personal relationship with God – something that was impossibly lost due to our choices to sin.

However, we have lost sight of the fact that God’s name tells WHO HE IS. God is our Redeemer. That is His name. It is Who He is. It is not Who He WAS only at the advent of Christ. It is Who He is all the time.

Because God is our Redeemer, He has a redemptive plan for all of man’s mistakes and failures. No, He won’t step in and undo what we have done. He won’t rescue us from the just and natural consequences of our actions. But in those consequences, in the brokenness, in the pain, and in the tomorrows He has a redemptive plan if we will just get on the same page with Him in His plan.

Our human perspective is to look at the ashes and mourn the losses of what should have been – with a finality that is short-sighted. Yes, some things will never be the same, some scars will exist for a lifetime, but God can use those scars to make something beautiful that would never have existed without them.

This is one of those amazing secrets of suffering and loss. We don’t want to have to go through these experiences, but God brings priceless treasure from them if we will let Him. We can’t foresee what that treasure will be, but we can rest in the certainty of His nature. He is our REDEEMER. He will not fail to redeem this circumstance.

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Former Pastor James Cornell Clark Sentenced for Fraud and Sex Abuse

This story is courtesy of Lubbock Online.

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by Logan G. Carver

A federal judge sentenced James Cornell Clark to nearly 20 years in prison on Monday for financial crimes and for bringing a Kenyan woman to the United States and forcing her to have sex with him.

After several delays by Clark and two different trials, U.S. District Judge Sam Cummings issued the myriad sentences. Clark’s attorney filed notice of appeal Monday afternoon.

Found guilty by juries in two different cases of 42 counts, Clark received a total of 535 months in federal prison and 31 years’ probation. The sentences, however, will run concurrently, meaning Clark will spend 235 months in prison before beginning his supervised release. He also must pay restitution monthly.

“In light of the defendant’s reprehensible conduct in both cases – particularly his hypocritical misuse and abuse of his position as a Christian minister, we feel the 235-month sentence, which is the top end of the guidelines for imprisonment, is appropriate and warranted,” said Dick Baker, assistant U.S. attorney.

Clark was convicted on 41 counts of fraud in January, including money laundering and mail fraud.

While serving as preacher of Mount Vernon United Methodist Church, Clark misrepresented the church as being the nonprofit sponsor of the Department of Agriculture Summer Food Program.

He was convicted of bilking $586,347 from the program, which provides meals for needy children during the summer months when they do not have access to the National School Lunch/School Breakfast Program.

Clark was convicted of laundering the money through bogus corporations, such as the Mt. Vernon Faith-in-Action Outreach Project and Trinity Christian Outreach Ministries, and putting it to personal use.

Clark on Monday received five years’ probation for each of the bogus entities he created to perpetrate the fraud.

A different jury in December 2007 convicted Clark of importing an alien for immoral purposes.

He brought the woman from Kenya and offered to pay her college tuition. He then forced her to have sex with him and threatened to deport her if she refused.

In December, the woman testified Clark forced her to perform painful sexual acts, causing her to became physically ill during sex with him on one occasion.

Clark called her testimony lies when he addressed the court on Monday.

“If I had sex with her anally and she vomited, may the Lord strike me dead and I’ll rot in hell,” Clark said.

During the Monday morning hearing, Baker asked Cummings to enhance Clark’s punishment because he threatened the woman with death or serious bodily injury if she would not have sex with him.

Helen Liggett, Clark’s attorney, said in court the woman was not an innocent victim.

“She was a prostitute,” Liggett said. “This is a woman who, for a living, had sex with old men.”

Cummings sided with Baker, enhancing the sentence.

Liggett said she will now begin the appeal process. She filed notice on Monday afternoon of appeal on the importation count to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

She expressed her dissatisfaction with the sentence and referenced testimony from the December trial indicating the Kenyan woman was manipulating men in an effort to stay in the U.S.

“I think it was unduly harsh because in reality (the woman) is more a victimizer than a victim,” Liggett said. “And I truly hope we get her out of our country before she is able to lure any more of our young servicemen into a relationship for her own immigration advantage.”