Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)

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Church of God (Anderson, IN) logo
Orientation Holiness
Polity Congregational

Christian Churches Together
Christian Holiness Partnership Wesleyan Holiness Consortium

Global Wesleyan Alliance
Region North America, Europe, Africa
Founder Daniel Sidney Warner and several others
Origin 1881
Branched from General Eldership of the Church of God
Separations Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma)
Church of God (Restoration)
Congregations 2,214 (US & Canada)
7,446 (International)
Members 251,429 (US & Canada)
1,170,143 (International)

The Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) is a holiness Christian body with roots in Wesleyan pietism and also in the restorationist traditions.[1] Founded in 1881 by Daniel Sidney Warner, the church claims 1,170,000+ adherents. While having some characteristics of a denomination, the Church of God considers itself Non-denominational Christianity.

One of its more distinctive features is that there is no formal membership, since the movement believes that true biblical salvation, which will result in a life free from sin, makes one a member. Similarly, there is no formal creed other than the Bible. Accordingly, there is much official room for diversity and theological dialogue, even though the movement's culture is strongly rooted in Wesleyan holiness theology.

This church movement is not historically related to other Church of God bodies such as the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) or the Church of God (Charleston, Tennessee). Though these bodies are also holiness Christian in outlook, the Church of God (Anderson) does not share their Pentecostal practices. It is distinguished from these other churches by the location of its central office in Anderson, Indiana.


The history of the Church of God (Anderson) begins in 1881 with Daniel Sidney Warner and several others.[2] Warner had been a member of John Winebrenner's General Eldership of the Church of God, whose members were called Winebrennerians. He differed with the Winebrennerians on the doctrine of sanctification,[3] which he held to be a second definite work of grace, and on the nature of the church. The desire of Warner and the others was to forsake denominationalism and creeds. To this end, they determined to trust in the Holy Spirit as their guide and the Bible as their creed. Warner's vision was that the Church of God would "extend our hand in fellowship to every blood-washed one", rather than align themselves with a movement.

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In the beginnings of the Church of God, there was a commitment to pacifism. In the late 19th century, the Church of God used their journal, the Gospel Trumpet, as a means to disseminate their interest in pacifism. In April 1898, the Gospel Trumpet responded to a question about the Church of God’s stance on a Christian going to war. The answer printed was "We answer no. Emphatically no. There is no place in the New Testament wherein Christ gave instruction to his followers to take the life of a fellow-man".[4] As time went on the Church of God was able to maintain their stance on pacifism, but as World War I was erupting across Europe, the church’s stance began to soften. As German Church of God congregants were drafted into the army, the Gospel Trumpet began running letters submitted about the conditions of training camps and on the battlefields. While encouraging their readers to pray for the German soldiers, the Gospel Trumpet made no reference to the apparent contrast between supporting the war effort and encouraging pacifism.[5]

As the United States entered World War I, the Gospel Trumpet restated the church’s official stance of pacifism but also reminded their congregants that they supported the authority of the state and should comply with local laws concerning the draft. There were articles run to help a pacifist request non-combat duty if they were drafted. For those who decided to volunteer, the church reported that the volunteer would not lose their salvation but would have to answer to God concerning their actions during the war. Strege writes that as the war waged on, "there occurs in print no condemnation of those who entered the army—whether German or American—and there is no questioning of their religious commitment".[6]

The Church of God had a strong pacifist element, reaching a high point in the late 1930s. The Church regarded World War II as a just war because America was attacked. Anti-Communist sentiment has since kept strong pacifism from developing in the Church of God.[7]

Doctrinal changes[edit]

The Church of God espouses the teachings of the ministry that began the movement in 1880. Warner believed that every group of organized churches who had an earthly headquarters and an earthly creed, other than the Bible, was a part of Babylon. They taught that God had restored the light of unity in 1880. The Evening Light ministry became known as "come outers" because they traveled from town to town preaching that all of the saved need to worship together in one place rather than being separated by creeds, dogmas and doctrines of men. The Reformation Ministry believed that Babylon, or false Christianity, was the harlot woman in the book of Revelation. The ministry believed that the harlot woman was a symbol of Roman Catholicism and that her daughters were a symbol of Protestantism. The slogan of the paper, "One Voice", almost became "On Becoming the Church". The Evening Light Ministry of 1880-1915 believed that they taught all of the truth and that they were the Church. Some changes began in 1912 with the change of wearing of the neck tie, and by 1950 the movement no longer taught against the immodesty of mixed bathing (swimming) between the sexes or the addition of the television into the home.

Below is a list of beliefs or practices the Church of God no longer teaches:

  • against outward adornment: wedding rings, ear rings, lipstick on women, or following "worldly fashions" (however, as a holiness movement, there is still an emphasis on "modesty", i.e. non-ostentatiousness in such things)
  • women should not wear clothing that pertains to men, e.g. pants
  • women should not cut their hair but instead grow it long and men should keep their hair short.
  • ministers should not receive a set salary
  • musical instruments (such as a piano or organ) should not be used in worship services
  • the absolute prohibition of divorce


The church observes baptism by total immersion,[8] the Lord's Supper (commonly known as communion), and feet washing as symbolic acts, recognizing them as the ordinances (commandments) of God. According to the church's official web site, "None of these practices, termed ordinances, are considered mandatory conditions of Christian experience or fellowship".[2]


Church polity is autonomous and congregational, with various state and regional assemblies offering some basic support for pastors and congregations. In North America, cooperative work is coordinated through Church of God Ministries with offices in Anderson, Indiana. Currently, the general director is Jim Lyon.

There are 2,214 congregations in the United States and Canada which are affiliated with the Church of God with an average attendance of 251,429.[9] Worldwide, adherents number more than 1,170,143 in 7,446 congregations spread over nearly ninety countries. In Jamaica, Church of God is the first denomination with 24% of the population and 111 congregations. Personal conversion and Christian conduct, coupled with attendance, are sufficient for participation in a local Church of God congregation.

Affiliated schools[edit]

The church's seminary is Anderson School of Theology in Anderson, Indiana. It is also affiliated with several colleges across North America, including Anderson University, Gardner College, Mid-America Christian University, Warner Pacific College, Warner University and West Indies Theological College as well as Kima International School of Theology (KIST) in Maseno, Kenya.


  1. ^ "An Inside Look at the Church of God" (PDF). 
  2. ^ a b "History of the Church of God". 
  3. ^ "Sanctification" (DOCX). [dead link]
  4. ^ "Should We Go to War?" Gospel Trumpet, April 14, 1898, p. 4.
  5. ^ See Merle D. Strege “The Demise [?] of a Peace Church: The Church of God (Anderson), Pacifism and Civil Religion, The Mennonite Quarterly Review, Vol. LXV April 1991, No. 2 pgs. 128-140.
  6. ^ Strege p. 137
  7. ^ Mitchell K. Hall, "A Withdrawal from Peace: The Historical Response to War of the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana)," Journal of Church and State (1985) 27#2 pp 301-314
  8. ^ "The ordinances of the Bible" (MS Word). [dead link]
  9. ^ 2009 Yearbook of the Church of God, p. 353.

External links[edit]