Those of you in Tampa have probably seen Bishop Chuck Leigh in the news today. He is a friend of mine and I would like to share my own impressions for those who have never had the privilege. He was arrested last evening for falsifying documents by signing off on peoples community service forms.That seems perfectly within the realm of believability. I could even picture him saying "ah, just gimme a hug" and then signing off. That being said I cannot believe what they are doing to this man's name in the press today. A hug turns into an "intimate hug" which then turns into "gropy" hug and before you know it they are painting this man to be some disgusting pervert disguised as a man of god getting sexual favors for service hours. This is straight up yellow journalism and I seriously think these writers need to issue retractions and apologies.
While I, nor anyone who really knows Chuck, can even imagine him doing such I thing I am at least able to say that I guess anything is possible. I really doubt it though. Either way I am so nauseated by reading the man being portrayed in the papers like he is. While I cannot claim to know for sure what the hug was like I can tell you what I do know about this man and what he has done. He lived and worked among poor and oppressed communities in Latin America during a time of killing and repression. Chuck stands with the poor in his own community and has wrapped his own well being up with theirs. Chuck has loved the addicts and prostitutes that surround his church. Chuck has refused to testify when subpoenaed because as he told me "I will not be used as an arm of the state." This Bishop has established a church for the poor in Sulfur Springs. It is more than an outreach of a church, it is a church who's congregation are those our society forgets. He has provided a place for the group to gather and worship God together and have full participation in the life of the church which is something it is often hard to find if you are poor. Chuck is an advocate for the poor and I can't help but wonder if it is that kind of trouble making that has drawn this kind of aggression and ridiculousness from the authorities and press.
Whatever the case I love and trust Chuck and am not ashamed to stand by his side. I have not known many people who love and serve and resemble the Jesus we read about in scripture like Bishop Chuck. For all the damage being done to his reputation today I just wanted to stand up and testify to what it is that I have seen in this man.
I will be meeting with some folks from his congregation tonight to support him and each other in this time of shock. Today I visited a neighboring church with one of his parishioners. We spoke with the wife of the pastor at Wisdom Outreach and she also was in disbelief and spoke about the saint that she knew him to be. Below is a brief video I shot with a member of his congregation who also wanted to share about Chuck.
Here is what she had to say: