Part two of a series of articles.
The call from West Virginia came one evening after 11:00 PM back in late 1993, not long before I made my exodus out of the United Pentecostal Church. He was a minister, having held license for at least a couple decades in the UPC, and ordination since at least the mid 70s. He was 27 years older than me and about eight years younger than my father.
Earlier that year after resigning my position in the church operated daycare center at the end of their summer program, I made a trip to visit him, his wife and his mother. By then we had known one another several years. He and his wife had become kind of like my second set of parents as we met not long after my mother passed away in the mid 1980s. They had come in search of work as he was a carpenter by trade and employment in WV was poor, while in New Jersey it was booming. All of us spent many hours together through the years, along with some other church members.
I’d been looking for a way to leave my church without it seeming obvious that I no longer wanted to be there and was considering the possibility of returning to West Virginia to help at his church in Mineral Wells. They were meeting in a trailer on the property at the time since the church was being built. In 1990 I had helped for several months at another small church in Vienna, so it wouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if I returned to WV for a season. We discussed this possibility while I visited for a few weeks that fall, but no decision was made at the time.
Little did I know what was going to be disclosed when I answered that phone call. He shared with me that his wife wasn’t home and that she was not to know of our conversation. He proceeded to tell me that I had been a sexual fantasy of his and that it had been going on for awhile. He shared some things that he had fought in his mind. Needless to say, that conversation slammed the door shut to my returning to WV as we both decided that would not be a good idea.
The call ended and I never made another trip there. The beginning of the following year is when some things started to be said about the Lemons, that there was some type of problem. Sexual charges were filed against him, he was convicted and imprisoned and another minister, who was a trustee, took over Revival Tabernacle. In early May 1994, the Lemons deeded the property to the three church trustees, one being his mother.
I was in shock. He had never been inappropriate toward me. How do you process it when someone you saw as a father figure, tells you something like that? It is a creepy and disconcerting feeling. I didn’t share it with anyone at first. Beacuse of that phone call, when the word came out he was in prison, I tended to believe he must have done something. If he had been fighting thoughts about me for awhile, he very well may have had them about others.
For years I never knew the exact charges and to this day still don’t know much. From the little that was discovered online, in May 1994 Clifford Lee Lemon was convicted of 12 counts of sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian or other person in position of trust to a child. I later saw a mention that in 1998 he appealed the denial of his petition for a writ of habeas corpus in his underlying conviction. To my knowledge he died on November 7, 2011, before ever being released. I had contact with his wife afterward, but not much, and that stopped. It was very awkward because I didn’t know if he had disclosed to her what he told me and it certainly wasn’t something I wanted to discuss with her. She switched to a non-UPC Oneness Pentecostal church at some point after leaving and passed away on January 25, 2016.
Prior to all of this happening, one of his sons was convicted in April of 1992 on three counts of 1st degree sexual assault on a family member. Bernie spent more than ten years in prison. He would at times get to preach in different churches, but to my knowledge never held license. It was said by his parents that he did not commit the crime. I wrote Bernie for a little while after he was imprisoned but stopped when I became uncomfortable with something he wrote. I never saw him again after he was convicted.
I well remember that the father could be hard with people when it came to following the UPC standards. He shared that women shouldn’t wear shirts with writing or pictures on them as it drew attention to their chest area. Once when I was visiting in West Virginia, one of his sons came over and had some facial stubble. He harped on it until the son went into the bathroom and shaved. One that I have never forgotten is how he viewed a child who was born out of wedlock. While he was by no means like some I have heard, I have come to realize through the years that some people who are hard nosed on standards often have something in their own life that they are hiding.
I wrote in the first article that I personally knew four men from the United Pentecostal Church who were convicted of sexual related charges. In an upcoming article, I will cover the other two.
Part One: The United Pentecostal Church and Sexual Abuse
Part Two: A UPC Minister’s Sexual Fantasy
Part Three: A UPC Church Responds To Sexual Abuse
Part Four: A Pastor Who Should Not Have Been Part 1
Part Five: A Pastor Who Should Not Have Been Part 2
Part Six: A Pastor Who Should Not Have Been Part 3