During a press conference Wednesday, Rev. Norvel Goff spent 40 minutes condemning the Post and Courier for a recent article, which he called “satanic” and a personal attack on his character. The story details various complaints made against Goff regarding the handling of donations received by Emanuel AME Church and his past financial management at other churches.
The reverend began his speech with a joke and a reading from Philippians, but that hopeful tone would not last as he proceeded to address the claims made against him by members of his past churches. It was a long and strange defense, with as much talk of fire and brimstone as dollars and cents.
“Once again on Sun., Oct. 4, the worst kind of evil showed up to rock Mother Emanuel and myself yet again. It was like pouring salt in an open wound,” Goff said of the article.
The press conference was initially intended to serve as an announcement for Mother Emanuel’s plan for handling the flood of donations it has received in the months following June’s tragic shooting that claimed the lives of nine parishioners. After almost an hour into Goff’s rant, it was eventually revealed that the money would be allocated based on four categories: the church, families of the nine victims, a memorial project, and an endowment. When asked why the survivors of June’s shooting will not be receiving any of the money, Goff says that the donations are made out specifically to the Emanuel Nine and their families. According to Marsha Spencer, who helped answer phones at Emanuel AME, callers asking how best to direct their donations were instructed to note on the memo line where they’d like their money directed, whether it be to the families of the victims or to a specific use within the church.
Details such as the total amount of donations received by the church are said to be forthcoming, but following Goff’s lengthy rebuttal, everything else was reduced to a footnote.
What was planned as discussion of charity and recompense, instead became a Wednesday service on airing grievances.
The following is an account of Wednesday’s press conference. All times are approximations.
Goff begins to address the specific complaints leveled against him. With heavily punctuated cries of “fiction,” he introduces each of his talking points. He says the article about him is “a one-sided, slanted, biased account of twisted information from sad, disgruntled people who call themselves members, or ex-members” of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. There are at least five employees of the Post and Courier in attendance reporting on this press conference.
The reverend demands an apology and a retraction from the P&C. He is met with murmurs of agreement from the church members in the audience. After listing the various organizations and congregations for which he has handled finances, Goff begins to discuss Althea Latham, who worked as a part-time secretary at Emanuel AME until August.
“A former employee hired by the late Rev. Pinckney was never fired,” Goff says. “Her contract was not renewed. Her contract expired on Aug. 31, 2015.”
In the article that birthed this great conflict, Latham’s attorney states that his client was worried that donations addressed to the families of the shooting victims were not being handled properly and shortly after raising these concerns “her employment was terminated.”
Immediately following the attorney’s statement, the article says that Latham received notice that her employment agreement was not being renewed.
“She never voiced her concern to me as the presiding elder and interim pastor overseeing the affairs of Mother Emanuel,” Goff says.
Things get personal as Goff says a journalist for the Post and Courier was “rude and abrasive” during her time in the church. His voice grows more impassioned as he tries to portray the claims made against his integrity as threats to the greater good.
“I cannot be silent. Because this concern is about more than me. It’s how we behave and work together to make this community a better place,” says Goff. “We cannot do this based on lies and innuendos.”
During Goff’s speech, he claims that the Post and Courier has no evidence to support the complaints made against him. Mitch Pugh, the executive editor of the newspaper, is also in attendance. He spends much the press conference tweeting Goff’s comments verbatim, but at this point he provides a rebuttal of his own online. He writes that the reverend’s claim is “flat out false.”
Goff now turns his sights to the former church members and employees who have called into question his management, saying these individuals chose the step outside of the process of the AME Church.
“So now, they’re trying to seek an opportunity to get less than five minutes of notoriety on the backs of the tragedy here at Mother Emanuel,” says Goff.
At the half-hour mark, Goff begins his closing statements. He would continue speaking for another 10 minutes on everything except the donations made to Mother Emanuel. It is around this point that fumes from a gas leak occurring outside have began to enter the church. It’s become difficult to recall what this press conference is supposed to be about. Goff begins to offer suggestions for what could have led to such an article being written about him.
“Could the result of goodwill extended to Mother Emanuel, the result of the removal of the Confederate flag, or just poor journalism be the motivation behind the continued reporting of Mother Emanuel in the most recent days in a very poor light?” asks Goff.
Fire trucks and emergency personnel have closed off the street outside the church to handle the gas leak that’s filling the air. Goff closes out the press conference with a prayer. As he asks all those in attendance to stand, Goff says he will not sit by as his character is assassinated. With his head bowed, Goff calls the actions of the media “satanic,” but says he will not be stopped from doing what God has chosen for him to do.
“We’re going to press on. And we’re going to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and we’re going to do what God has called us to do,” says Goff. “And for folks who are willing to go forward, I say join me and others who are like-minded.” Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
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