Church of God and Saints of Christ
The Church of God and Saints of Christ is a Hebrew Israelite religious group established in Lawrence, Kansas, by William Saunders Crowdy in 1896. William Crowdy began congregations in several cities in the Midwestern and Eastern United States, and sent an emissary to organize locations in at least six African countries. The congregation later established locations in Cuba and the West Indies.
The Church of God and Saints of Christ describes itself as "the oldest African-American congregation in the United States that adheres to the tenets of Judaism." The congregation subscribes to the belief in one God, love for all mankind, and the Ten Commandments as the basis for ethical and moral living. It further teaches that among the descendants of the biblical Israelites are peoples of African descent. However, the congregation believes that anyone, regardless of race, nationality or ethnicity, can embrace Judaism and become a member. Members believe that Jesus was neither God nor the son of God, but rather a strict adherent to Judaism and a prophet sent by God. They also consider William Saunders Crowdy to be a prophet.
The Church of God and Saints of Christ synthesizes rituals drawn from both the Old Testament and New Testament. Its OT observances include circumcision of newborn boys, use of the Hebrew calendar, wearing of yarmulkes, observance of Saturday as the Sabbath, and celebration of Passover and other religious holy days specified by the Bible. Its New Testament rites include baptism (immersion) and footwashing, both of which have Judaic origins from the Old Testament. Despite their name, members of the Church of God and Saints of Christ adhere to Judaism as their religion, and do not believe in Christianity.
The group established its headquarters in Philadelphia in 1899, and William S. Crowdy later relocated to Washington, D.C., in 1903. In 1906, Crowdy named Joseph Wesley Crowdy, William Henry Plummer and Calvin Samuel Skinner as leaders of the congregation. Under these three men, the organization continued to grow in membership. In 1921, William Henry Plummer moved the organization's headquarters to its permanent location in Belleville (city of Suffolk), Virginia, which was purchased by William S. Crowdy in 1903 as the intended headquarters for the organization. Howard Zebulun Plummer was consecrated by Calvin S. Skinner as head of the organization in 1931, and served for over 40 years until 1975. By 1936, the Church of God and Saints of Christ had more than 200 "tabernacles" (congregations) and 37,000 members. Levi Solomon Plummer became the church's leader in 1975. Under the leadership of Levi Solomon Plummer, the congregation constructed a temple at its headquarters, Temple Beth El, in two phases, the first in 1980 and the second in 1987. The temple serves as a permanent location for national events, including the annual Passover celebration. Afterwards, the congregation began to rebuild the headquarters land in Virginia originally purchased by William S. Crowdy. Since 2001, the Church of God and Saints of Christ has been led by Rabbi Jehu A. Crowdy, Jr., a great-grandson of William Saunders Crowdy. As of 2005, it had fifty tabernacles in the United States, dozens in Africa, and one in Kingston, Jamaica. The organization also manages businesses and residential properties at its headquarters in Suffolk, Virginia, including a hotel and two living communities for senior citizens.
As early as 1909, local branches of the organization severed their ties with the congregation, forming their own organizations. Today, among the groups not affiliated with Rabbi Jehu A. Crowdy, Jr. are headquartered in Cleveland, OH and New Haven, CT.
- Fox, Andrew (September 29, 2005). "Sons of Abraham". The College Hill Independent. Retrieved 2007-10-20.
- "Church of God and Saints of Christ". Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- Singer, Merrill (2000). In Yvonne Patricia Chireau, Nathaniel Deutsch, eds. Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-19-511257-1."The founding dates of the earliest black-Jewish congregations are in dispute. Shapiro notes that F.S. Cherry's Church of God was organized in Tennessee in 1886, but other sources do not confirm this date. Another group, the Moorish Zion Temple, founded in 1899 by a Rabbi Richlieu of Brooklyn, New York, was one of the earliest black Jewish congregations that did not combine Jewish and Christian beliefs, as did the Church of God and the Saints of Christ."
- "Doctrinal Summary of the Church of God and Saints of Christ.". Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Kidd, Colin (2006). The Forging of Races: Race and Scripture in the Protestant Atlantic World, 1600-2000. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 59. ISBN 0-521-79324-6.
- Singer, Merrill (2000). In Yvonne Patricia Chireau, Nathaniel Deutsch, eds. Black Zion: African American Religious Encounters with Judaism. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 59. ISBN 0-19-511257-1.
- "FAQ/Feedback page, Church of God and Saints of Christ.". Retrieved 2010-04-26.
- Gallagher, Eugene V. (2004). The New Religious Movements Experience in America. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press. p. 146. ISBN 0-313-32807-2.
- Walker, Beersheba Crowdy (1955). Life and Works of William Saunders Crowdy. Philadelphia: E.J.P. Walker Press. pp. 59–60. This book cites the appointment of William Crowdy's three successors (J. Crowdy, W. Plummer, C. Skinner) as the most significant event to take place at the nationwide Passover in 1906 held in Plainfield, NJ.
- "Joseph Wesley Crowdy - bio". Church of God and Saints of Christ. Retrieved 2010-04-19.
- Wynia, Elly M. (1994). The Church of God and Saints of Christ: The Rise of Black Jews. New York: Routledge. pp. 31–34. ISBN 0-8153-1136-2.
- Greene, Lorenzo Johnston; Arvarh E. Strickland, ed. (1996). Selling Black History for Carter G. Woodson: A Diary, 1930–1933. Columbia, Mo.: University of Missouri Press. p. 42. ISBN 0-8262-1068-6.
- Hudson, Peter (1999). "Black Jews". In Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates, Jr.. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience. New York: Basic Civitas Books. p. 1050.
- "Historical Timeline". Church of God and Saints of Christ. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- "Rabbi Jehu August Crowdy, Jr.". Church of God and Saints of Christ. Retrieved 2008-02-09.
- Walker Sr., Elfreth J. P.; William S. Crowdy (1948). James M. Grove as I Knew Him. Philadelphia: E.J.P. Walker Press. This book was published from an interview the authors conducted with James M. Grove, an early follower of William S. Crowdy. Walker's wife was a granddaughter of William S. Crowdy. William "Bill" Crowdy was a grandson of "Prophet" William S. Crowdy. In this account, Grove, ordained bishop of the western district by the organization's founder, details his involvement at the center of several actions made by some to take over the congregation after the death of William S. Crowdy. Grove cites in this book that following a lawsuit pursued by Grove against Joseph Wesley Crowdy for control of the entire church, Pennsylvania courts awarded the entire congregation to Joseph W. Crowdy, and Grove as bishop of the western district, both appointments originally designated by the founder. Grove further commented that as a result of the verdict, Grove and other ministers formed their own congregation, separate from Joseph Crowdy and the leadership set up by William S. Crowdy. Grove also cited his regret for his involvement in the schism of 1909, and made an attempt to mend the ties of his organization with the parent organization in 1930 under William H. Plummer, but his plans were impeded by an automobile accident near Alexandria, VA.
- "'Chief' J.W. Crowdy Accepted as Logical Head of Church of God and Saints of Christ". The Philadelphia Courant (Philadelphia, PA). Saturday, June 28, 1913. No longer circulated. Archived at Temple University Libraries in The Urban Archives section. http://library.temple.edu/collections/urbana/?bhcp=1