Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ
The Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ World-Wide was an African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination started in 1957 in Washington, DC. In 1997, a division over who was the rightful successor to Presiding Bishop and founder Smallwood Edmond Williams occurred. This dispute ultimately led to the splitting of the church into two separate organizations: a church of the same name led by Huie L. Rogers and the International Bible Way Church Of Jesus Christ led by Cornelius Showell.
Before the division in 1995, the church had about 300,000 members in 350 congregations worldwide. The church's chief officer was the Presiding Bishop. Both successor bodies conduct a general conference annually in July and operate a publishing house in Washington, DC.
Beliefs and organization
Beliefs of the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ and its successors include the inspiration of the Bible as the word of God; salvation made possible only through Jesus Christ; the baptism of the Holy Spirit with the initial evidence of speaking in tongues; water baptism by immersion in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; the premillennial second coming of Jesus Christ; the final judgment of the dead; and the establishment of new heavens and a new earth. However, unlike Christianity, the Bible Way of Our Lord Jesus Christ does not believe in the Deity of Jesus that is; that Jesus Christ is God. <Bowman, Robert M., Jr. “Oneness Pentecostals and the Name of Jesus,” paper. Atlanta: Atlanta Christian Apologetics Project, 1994>
The church was led by a Presiding Bishop and a General Assembly. The General Assembly was composed of bishops, overseers, district elders, pastors, elders, ministers, deacons, missionaries, and laity.
The Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ was organized in September 1957 by Smallwood Edmond Williams, who at the time was the General Secretary of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith (COOLJC). Under Williams' leadership, about 70 churches withdrew from that organization to form the Bible Way Church, citing the autocratic leadership of COOLJC leader and founder, Bishop Robert C. Lawson. Nearly half of the 177 churches in the organization left and followed Williams. He and four other leading COOLJC ministers were soon formally ordained as bishops in a ceremony performed by Bishop John Holly of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World. Williams became the first Presiding Bishop of the church.
A division developed over church governance. After the death of Williams in 1991, the church considered Rogers and Campbell each as a potential leader and visionary for the church. The Order of Succession and Constitution, ratified after the death of Williams, stated that both Lawrence Campbell and Rogers would each serve a three-year trial term. Then the church body would vote to see who would be the official successor to Williams. It is generally agreed that, during the trial period, Campbell was selected to serve the first term and Rogers the second.
On July 4, 1997 during the 40th Convocation, the General Assembly voted to retain Rogers and his administration for a "Sabbath" year. The reasoning being that during the General Assembly a motion was offered on the floor to accept the Sabbath resolution, which held in part," that voting would be postponed for a Sabbath year and all current officers would remain in place until July of 1998." The motion passed with about 85% in favor and 15% against. But the majority of Bishops wanted Campbell and what happened next came to be called, "the schism.".
There are now two separate and distinct organizations: Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ World Wide, Inc. headquartered in Brooklyn, New York, and The International Bible Way Church Of Jesus Christ, Inc., headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland.
International Bible Way Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Most of the bishops, pastors, and churches stayed with Campbell, and this branch remains the largest entity of the two with approximately 1000 or more churches worldwide as of 2012. In 2006, Bishop Cornelius Showell, pastor of First Apostolic Faith Church in Baltimore was named Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the International Bible Way Church Of Jesus Christ.
Women in International Bible Way Church Of Our Lord Jesus Christ
Campbell began the practice of ordaining women to the office of elder. In July 2006, Showell, appointed Pastor Bonnie Hunter as the first woman District Elder.
In July 2011, Pastor Marcia Fountain (Bridgeport, CT), was appointed as the third woman District Elder.
As of July 2012, Pastor Deborah Barnette-Street, a female pastor from Roxboro North Carolina, is the Diocesan Liaison (of the Central Carolina Diocese) under Apostle Cornelius Showell who serves as the diocese's current Diocesan. She also serves in the office of District Elder in International BibleWay. In addition to being a Diocesan Liaison and District Elder, she is also the Chair of the District Elders for International Bibleway.
Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ World-Wide
Though the organizations are similar in structure and doctrine, the major differences reside in ordaination of women. This was the always a point of contention between Apostle Winfield Showell and Apostle Smallwood Williams. Cornelius Showell, is following the convictions of his Father Winfield A. Showell.
- Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ – official Web Site -Apostle Rogers
- International Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ – official Web Site -Apostle Showell
- Bible Way Temple Nation – official web site – Bible Way Temple Nation
- Virginia State Diocese - official site Virginia State Diocese - Senior Apostle Campbell
- Greater Bibleway – site of the church in the United Kingdom (Rogers)
- United New York Diocese - site of the United New York Diocese (Showell)
- Bible Way United Kingdom – site of the church in the United Kingdom (Showell)
- Gulf Coast Diocese - site of the Gulf Coast Diocese (Showell)
- site of broad history of the movement