Columbus bishop accused of sexually abusing and harassing several followers
By Danae King, February 6, 2018, The Columbus Dispatch
A property dispute has brought to light sexual-assault allegations against a Columbus bishop who founded a group of Pentecostal churches around the world.
The allegations against Bishop Joseph White, 81, founder and presiding bishop emeritus of the Church of the Living God International (CLGI), which is headquartered in Columbus and has 102 locations worldwide, were formally made to church leaders in June 2017. The allegations were then investigated by the church’s board of directors — two of whom are White’s sisters — in August, but the results have not been disclosed.
In a lawsuit filed in a Virginia court in December, five of White’s followers — one from Reynoldsburg — accuse him of sexual abuse and harassment over more than 20 years.
That same month, White retired from the church.
White and the church did not return phone calls from The Dispatch for comment, though a church spokesman released a statement saying the church believes the abuse accusations “are motivated to gain leverage in a financial dispute” between it and a former subsidiary church.
“A close examination of the accusations suggests that some people may have been provoked into making similar statements unwittingly in order to bolster the financial motivation of a party who stood to gain financially in the lawsuit,” according to a statement from the church.
White was widely regarded among the 3,000 worldwide members of the organization for his leadership and good works, several followers said.
The men who came forward with the allegations had followed White for years and said they wholly trusted him. They include a member of the organization’s board of directors, a district superintendent, the son of a pastor and congregation members. The Dispatch typically does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse unless they agree to have their names used, which these men did.