Church of God in Christ
|Church of God In Christ|
|The official seal of the COGIC features a shaft of wheat representing the members of the COGIC. The rope that holds the shaft together represents Charles Harrison Mason, the COGIC's founding father. The rain in the background represents the Latter Rain revivals that gave birth to the Pentecostal movement.|
|Leader||Charles E. Blake|
|Founder||Charles Harrison Mason|
|Separated from||Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. (separated 1907)|
|Separations||General Council of the Assemblies of God (separated 1914), Church of God in Christ, International (separated 1969)|
|Members||over 6 million|
The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is a Pentecostal Holiness Christian denomination with a predominantly African-American membership. The denomination reports having over five million members in the United States. The National Council of Churches ranks it as the largest Pentecostal denomination and the fifth largest Christian denomination in the U.S. Internationally, COGIC can be found in more than 60 nations. Its worldwide membership is estimated to be between six and eight million members and more than 15,000 congregations throughout the world.
The Church of God in Christ was formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshiped Baptists, most notably Charles Price Jones (1865–1949) and Charles Harrison Mason (1866–1961). In the 1890s, Jones and Mason were licensed Baptist ministers in Mississippi who had begun teaching the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection or entire sanctification as a second work of grace to their Baptist congregations. Mason was heavily influenced by the testimony of the African-American Methodist evangelist Amanda Berry Smith, one of the most widely respected black holiness evangelists of the nineteenth century. Her life story led many African Americans into the holiness movement, including Mason who testified to receiving sanctification after reading her autobiography.
In June 1897, Jones held a holiness convention at Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, attended by Mason and others from several states. During this time, they became the major promoters of the holiness doctrine among black Baptists. However, Wesleyan perfectionism conflicted with the Calvinist theology of the Baptists. Not unlike divisions that occurred within the Methodist Church over sanctification, the holiness conventions, revivals, and periodicals conducted by Mason and Jones caused a major controversy among black Baptist churches in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The leadership of the Mississippi State Convention of the National Baptist Convention intervened and expelled Jones, Mason, and others who embraced holiness teaching. In 1897 after being expelled from preaching in baptist churches, Elder Mason founded the St. Paul Church in Lexington, Mississippi, the first and oldest COGIC church in the world.
When the first convocation was held in 1897, the group was originally known simply as the "Church of God." Many Christian groups forming at the time wanted biblical names such as "Church of God, Church of Christ, or Church of the Living God" and rejected terms such as Baptist, Methodist, or Episcopal as not being scriptural names for the church. However, so many new holiness groups were forming and using the name "Church of God," that Mason sought a name to distinguish this holiness organization from others. Later in 1897, while in Little Rock, Arkansas, Mason believed that God had given him such a name for the group, the "Church of God in Christ". Mason believed that the name taken from 1 Thessalonians 2:14 was divinely revealed and biblically inspired. Mason believed that God said, "If you take the name that I give you, they would never build a building that would hold all those who would come." The group adopted the name and COGIC began to grow throughout the south. Jones was elected the General Overseer, Mason was selected as Overseer of Tennessee, and J.A. Jeter was selected as Overseer of Arkansas., After testifying to being sanctified, the members of the church referred to themselves as "the Saints," believing that they were set apart for holiness.
Adoption of pentecostalism
In 1906, Mason, Jeter and D.J. Young were appointed as a committee by Jones to investigate reports of a revival in Los Angeles, California, that was being led by an itinerant preacher named William J. Seymour. Mason's visit to the Azusa Street Revival changed the direction of the newly formed holiness church. During his visit, Mason received the baptism in the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. Upon his return to Memphis, Tennessee, Mason began preaching and teaching the Pentecostal message in COGIC congregations. Not everyone in the church was willing to accept the Pentecostal experience, however. Jones and Jeter rejected the doctrine of speaking in tongues was the initial evidence of Spirit baptism, and sought to resolve the issue at the upcoming general assembly. At the 1907 general assembly held in Jackson, the faction led by Jones wanted Mason and his followers to acknowledge other initial evidences of Spirit baptism besides speaking in tongues. Mason would not do this and was expelled from the church. About half of the church's ministers and members followed Mason.
Later that same year, Mason called a meeting in Memphis and reorganized the Church of God in Christ as a Pentecostal-Holiness body. The early pioneers of this newly formed Pentecostal body in 1907 were E. R. Driver, J. Bowe, R. R. Booker, R. E. Hart, W. Welsh, A. A. Blackwell, E. M. Blackwell, E. M. Page, R. H. I. Clark, D. J. Young, James Brewer, Daniel Spearman, and J. H. Boone. These elders became the first Pentecostal General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ. They unanimously chose Mason as General Overseer and Chief Apostle. Mason was given authority to establish doctrine, organize auxiliaries and appoint overseers. The reorganization of COGIC was part of a larger process that saw Pentecostalism overtake the South's holiness denominations. The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) and the Pentecostal Holiness Church also adopted Pentecostalism at this time.
After two years of litigation over the use of the COGIC name, Mason's group was awarded the original charter. Thus, COGIC became the first legally chartered Pentecostal body incorporated in the United States. The Jones faction continued as a Holiness church, changing its name to the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A.
Growth and development
Senior and Presiding Bishops
- Bishop Charles Harrison Mason 1907-1961 - Founder and First Senior Bishop
- Bishop Orzo Thurston Jones, Sr. 1962-1968 - Second Senior Bishop
- Bishop James Oglethorpe Patterson, Sr. 1968-1989 - First Elected Presiding Bishop (elected six times)
- Bishop Louis Henry Ford 1990-1995 - Second Elected Presiding Bishop (elected twice)
- Bishop Chandler David Owens 1995-2000 - Third Elected Presiding Bishop (elected once)
- Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson 2000-2007 - Fourth Elected Presiding Bishop (elected twice)
- Bishop Charles Edward Blake 2007–Present - Fifth Elected Presiding Bishop (elected twice)
Bishop C.H. Mason Era (1907–1961)
After moving to Memphis, Tennessee, and establishing the church's headquarters there, Bishop Mason founded and pastored the Temple COGIC. Bishop Mason established the annual gathering of COGIC that became known as the "International Holy Convocation" to be held in Memphis for twenty days beginning on November 25 and concluding on December 14. That time of the year was chosen because most of the church members at that time were farmers and had to harvest their crops. During the Holy Convocation, the members met for prayer, fasting, preaching, teaching, fellowship and to conduct the business pertaining to the national organization.
The denomination had begun in the southern states of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. One of the distinctive features of the early years of the Pentecostal movement was the racial harmony between white, blacks, and other ethnic groups. Bishop Mason credentialed both white and African American ministers. Indeed, the first General Secretary of COGIC was a white elder, William B. Holt. As the only incorporated Pentecostal organization at the time, denomination could secure discounted railroad tickets for its ministers, which made its ordination advantageous for Pentecostal ministers both white and black. Between 1910 and 1913, Mason allowed two groups of white Pentecostal clergy to use the COGIC name and credentials: one led by H. A. Goss, and another led by Leonard P. Adams. In 1914, approximately 300 white ministers representing a variety of independent churches and networks of churches, including the “Association of Christian Assemblies” in Indiana and the “Church of God in Christ and in Unity with the Apostolic Faith Movement” from Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Texas met in Hot Springs, Arkansas to separate and form the Assemblies of God. Due largely to American racial norms and Jim Crow prohibitions at the time, the invitation to join the movement was only sent to white ministers. The Goss faction left COGIC to join the Assemblies of God USA. Over time, the ministers and churches under Adams' oversight would also leave the COGIC, for other white Pentecostal groups. In 1916, some new white churches joined COGIC and were organized into a white branch with Holt as general superintendent. However, due to the prevailing racism of the period, the denomination found it difficult to retain white congregations. By the 1930s, its ministry among whites had ended.
Despite this obstacle, Mason traveled across the nation preaching and establishing COGIC churches. As African Americans migrated north during the Great Migration, converted members spread the church north and west. In addition to his own efforts, Mason sent dozens of preachers and evangelists to cities and urban areas outside the Southt to spread COGIC, including William Roberts (Chicago), O. M. Kelly (New York), O. T. Jones Sr. (Philadelphia), E. R. Driver (Los Angeles) and Samuel Kelsey (Washington, D.C.) From these major cities, the denomination spread throughout the country. In 1926, Mason authorized the church's constitution outlining the bylaws, rules, and regulations of the church. In 1933, he set apart five overseers to the office of bishop in the church, the first five bishops of COGIC. Those consecrated were I. S. Stafford (Detroit, Michigan), E. M. Page (Dallas, Texas), W. M. Roberts (Chicago, Illinois), O. T. Jones, Sr. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and R. F. Williams (Cleveland, Ohio).
The first national tabernacle was built and completed in 1925, but was destroyed by fire in 1936. In 1945, Mason dedicated Mason Temple in Memphis as the church's national meeting site. Built in the 1940s during World War II, the nearly 4000 seat building became the largest church auditorium of any black religious group in America. After his death, Mason was entombed there, the only person ever so honored in the city of Memphis. The historic church auditorium was the location of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's final message to the world. He delivered his "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech from its pulpit on April 3, 1968. Mason Temple remained the site of the International Holy Convocation until the mid-1970s when the number of delegates far exceeded capacity.
In 1951, Bishop Mason was nearing 85 years of age, and set up a "special commission" to help with the administration and oversight of the church. On June 5, 1951, he selected Bishop A.B. McEwen, Bishop J.S. Bailey, and Bishop O.M. Kelly as his assistants. On May 19, 1952, he added Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr. Also in 1952, Mason revised the constitution to determine the leadership and succession of the church after his demise. Three years later on October 12, 1955, three more bishops were added: Bishop U.E. Miller, Bishop S. M. Crouch, and Bishop O.T. Jones, Sr. This group became known officially as the Executive Commission and assumed greater control over church affairs until Mason's death.
The church has experienced great growth since its inception in 1907 with ten churches. By the time of Bishop Mason's death in 1961, COGIC had spread to every state in the United States and to many foreign countries with a membership of more than 400,000 and more than 4,000 churches.
Bishop O.T. Jones Era (1962–1968)
The years 1962-1968 have been described as a "Dark Period" in the COGIC's history accompanied by polarization and conflict. Bishop Mason died on November 17, 1961 at the age of 95, after leading the COGIC for 54 years. As founder, he had exercised absolute power and authority over all matters of church polity. After his death, according to the 1952 church constitution, the control of the church reverted to the board of bishops, but the constitution did not specifically outline a clear successor or the powers granted to the leadership after his death. The General Assembly vested authority in an Executive Board composed of twelve bishops. A. B. McEwen was elected chairman of the Executive Board, and O.T. Jones, Sr was elected Senior Bishop by the General Assembly because of his seniority.
Bishop Jones was pastor of the Holy Temple COGIC in Philadelphia and jurisdictional bishop of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Jurisdiction, and the last survivor of the first five original bishops consecrated by Mason. Assuming his power as the Senior Bishop was the same as Mason's power when he was alive, he made decisions and appointments without collaboration and consensus of the Board of Bishops, General Assembly, or the Executive Board. Disagreement soon arose over the power and the authority of the Senior Bishop and of the Executive Board at the Fifty-Seventh Holy Convocation in 1964. Factions developed and controversy engulfed the organization as executive and administrative decisions were being made by both the Senior Bishop and the Executive Board often conflicting with one another. In 1966, Jones was removed from the office of Senior Bishop by the General Assembly for misuse of power and misrepresentation of the office of Senior Bishop; however, he continued to be honored as the "senior" bishop of the church.
In an attempt to regain control of the church, the pro-Jones group led a failed coup attempt during the Fifty-Ninth Holy Convocation in 1966. Suits were filed in the Chancery Court of Shelby County, Tennessee, to resolve the legitimate authority controversy of the denomination. The court ordered the church to convene a constitutional convention in February 1968. The constitutional convention drafted and approved a new constitution that dissolved both the office of the Senior Bishop and the Executive Board. These were replaced by the office of the Presiding Bishop and a General Board who would be elected every four years to preside over the church. The General Assembly would have the supreme authority over the church to decide matters of faith and practice. On November 14, 1968, the General Assembly of the COGIC elected the first General Board and Presiding Bishop of the church.
First General Board 1968–1972
- Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr - Presiding Bishop
- Bishop J.S. Bailey - First Assistant Presiding Bishop
- Bishop S.M. Crouch - Second Assistant Presiding Bishop
- Bishop W.N. Wells
- Bishop L.H. Ford
- Bishop O.M. Kelly
- Bishop C.E. Bennett
- Bishop J.A. Blake
- Bishop J.W. White
- Bishop D.L. Williams
- Bishop F.D. Washington
- Bishop J.D. Husband
Several bishops disagreed with this new structure and severed ties with COGIC to start their own organizations. The most notable rift occurred in 1969 when fourteen bishops meeetin in Evanston, Illinois left COGIC to form the Church of God in Christ, International, because they disagreed with the electoral process in selecting the Presiding Bishop. Jones, however, did not leave COGIC after losing of his position as Senior Bishop. He remained a jurisdictional bishop until his death in 1972. Despite splits and factions, COGIC continued to grow. In 1973, the church claimed a worldwide membership of nearly three million.
Bishop J.O. Patterson Era (1968–1989)
Bishop James Oglethorpe Patterson, Sr. was elected as the first Presiding Bishop of the church by the General Assembly at the Sixty-First Holy Convocation of the church in November 1968. The son-in-law of Bishop Mason, Patterson had served the church previously as a member of the Executive Board and Executive Secretary of the church. Patterson pastored the Pentecostal Temple Institutional COGIC in Memphis and was the presiding prelate of the Tennessee Headquarters Jurisdiction. Patterson institutionalized the international church by establishing protocols of worship, policy, practice, and procedure with a new constitution and official manual completed in 1973. During his tenure, COGIC became a major force in the collective Black Church and the worldwide Pentecostal movement. COGIC enjoyed tremendous growth and recognition in many areas becoming one of the fastest growing and largest religious groups in the United States.
As the first elected presiding bishop, Bishop Patterson set the precedent of presiding bishops outlining and achieving major initiatives during their tenure. Patterson's achievements as Presiding Bishop include the establishment of the Charles Harrison Mason Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia; the C. H. Mason System of Bible Colleges; the J. O. Patterson Fine Arts Department; the Historical Museum and Fine Arts Center and organizer of the Charles Harrison Mason Foundation and the Presiding Bishop's Benefit Fund which provides scholarships to deserving youth. Other ministries brought about under his leadership include the COGIC Bookstore and the COGIC Publishing House. In 1982, he led COGIC in its diamond jubilee celebration of the International Holy Convocation. He was the founder and President of the World Fellowship of Black Pentecostal Churches and forged COGIC's membership in the Congress of National Black Churches. His dream was to establish and international ministry complex known as "Saints Center" and a fully accredited institution known as "All Saints University," but this never materialized. Subsequently, he was elected four times uncontested and during his twenty-one year tenure as Presiding Bishop, he consecrated and appointed more than 100 bishops. His initiatives allowed the church's growth to exceed four million in the United States and 47 foreign countries and 10,000 churches at the time of his death in 1989.
Bishop L. H. Ford Era (1990–1995)
Bishop Louis Henry Ford of Chicago, Illinois, was elected after the death of Patterson in 1990. Ford pastored the St. Paul COGIC in Chicago and was the presiding prelate of the Historic Illinois First Jurisdiction. Ford was a strong advocate for social justice. He was first thrust onto the national scene after the horrific death of Emmett Till. Ford officiated the funeral and gave the eulogy for Emmett Till at Robert's Temple COGIC in 1955. Locally in Chicago, he organized voter registration initiatives and protested against lodging segregation in Memphis during the holy convocations during the Civil Rights era. Ford dedicated himself to returning COGIC to its emphasis on basic holiness. He was very critical of the use of high church liturgy, vestments, and modernity that had been introduced to the church by Bishop Patterson. He dedicated his efforts to reminding the saints about the sacrifices of the pioneers of COGIC and challenged the church to remain true to its spiritual foundation. He reopened Saints Academy and College and constructed the multi-million dollar Deborah Mason Patterson Hall in Lexington, Mississippi, and renovated the national properties in Memphis including Mason Temple. Ford is most notably credited with bringing President Bill Clinton, who was a personal friend and the only U.S. president to ever physically address the COGIC at Mason Temple, during the Eighty-Sixth International Holy Convocation on November 13, 1993.
During the 1990s during Bishop Ford's administration, America's classical Pentecostal denominations began to take steps to heal the movement's racial divide. This effort culminated in the 1994 Memphis Miracle, which led to the creation of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America (PCCNA), dissolving the all-white Pentecostal Fellowship of North America (PFNA). The new group was formed as an inclusive organization including all the major Pentecostal groups in North America regardless of race. Since its creation, it has had a co-chair leadership, one of which has always been a COGIC bishop, usually a member of the General Board, and the other from one of the member organizations of the previous PFNA.
Bishop C. D. Owens Era (1996–2000)
Bishop Chandler David Owens was elected Presiding Bishop after the death of Bishop Ford in 1995. Owens gained national attention in the church as the President of the Youth Department. Owens was a noted evangelist of the church and pastored several churches including: Bostick Temple in St. Louis, Missouri; Well's Cathedral COGIC in Newark, New Jersey; and Greater Community COGIC in Marietta, Georgia. He also served as the presiding prelate of the New Jersey Garden State Jurisdiction and the Central Georgia Jurisdiction. Owens led the COGIC in its centennial celebration in 1997 with the theme, "Holiness, a Proven Foundation for a Promising Future!' He is credited with systematically restructuring church departments and ministries, expanding the church in Asia primarily India and the Philippines, and placing the COGIC on a firm financial status. Owens had outlined a progressive plan to position the COGIC for ministry in the twenty-first century known as "Vision 2000 and Beyond." In a unique and unusual move however, he became the only sitting leader of the church to be removed from the office of Presiding Bishop through the electoral process. In 2000, at the Ninety-Third International Holy Convocation, the General Assembly elected Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson to replace Owens as Presiding Bishop. Owens continued to serve as a jurisdictional bishop and member of the General Board until his death in 2011.
Bishop G.E. Patterson Era (2000–2007)
Bishop Gilbert Earl (G.E.) Patterson re-ignited the presence of the COGIC as the flagship Pentecostal church in the United States. G.E. Patterson was the nephew of J.O. Patterson, Sr. He began his ministerial career as co-pastor of the Holy Temple COGIC with his father, Bishop W.A. Patterson. In 1975, he resigned as co-pastor of the Holy Temple and withdrew his membership in the COGIC because he disagreed with Bishop J.O. Patterson, the presiding bishop at that time, over the bishopric in Memphis. At that time, there was discussion of a new jurisdiction in the city of Memphis under the leadership of Bishop G.E. Patterson's father, Bishop W.A. Patterson. However, Bishop J.O. Patterson Sr. disagreed and the jurisdiction was not created. After withdrawing, he soon established the Temple of Deliverance, the Cathedral of Bountiful Blessing, which grew to become the largest Pentecostal church in Memphis. In 1988, after a thirteen-year exodus from COGIC, Bishop G.E. Patterson returned as the founding prelate of the newly formed Tennessee Fourth Jurisdiction. As pastor of a mega-church, the 14,000 Temple of Deliverance COGIC in Memphis and world renowned teleevangelist, he is credited with making the COGIC brand inclusive. Patterson was able to bridge denominational barriers and encourage non-COGIC ministries to work together in ecumenical pursuits. He established COGIC Charities which has provided thousands of dollars in college scholarships and physical and financial assistance in times of disaster such as Hurricane Katrina and Rita.
Bishop C.E. Blake Era (2007-Present)
Bishop Charles E. Blake assumed leadership and was elected Presiding Bishop of the church after the death of Bishop Patterson in March 2007. Blake is the senior pastor of the West Angeles Cathedral COGIC in Los Angeles. For many years, West Angeles has been one of the fastest growing churches in the United States and remains the largest COGIC local congregation with a membership of 25,000. He also served as the presiding prelate of the First Jurisdiction of Southern California. Blake led the COGIC through the death of Patterson, while preparing the church for its 100th Holy Convocation, an important milestone for the church. Blake is leading the COGIC to become a greater global ministry primarily in Africa and Latin America while at the same time investing in the inner city where many COGIC congregations are located. He is also known for his aggressive initiative, "Save Africa's Children" which supports hundreds of African children who have been affected by HIV/AIDS in orphanages in several countries in Africa. In 2009, Bishop Blake unveiled an aggressive program known as "Urban Initiatives" to address the plight of America's urban areas. In 2010, Blake led the church in another giant step. For the first time since the establishment of the COGIC, due to its size and growth to more than 50,000 delegates, the 103rd International Holy Convocation met outside of Memphis, Tennessee, in the city of St. Louis, Missouri.
The Church of God In Christ is a trinitarian Pentecostal-holiness demonimation. The church believes and teaches that there are three works of grace (salvation, sanctification, and Spirit baptism) that God bestows on believers. This is often testified by COGIC members in this affirmation. "I am saved, sanctified, baptized and filled with the Holy Ghost." The church is considered Protestant and identified as a classical Pentecostal organization. COGIC is earnestly evangelical in its mission, fervently fundamental in doctrine, and purely Pentecostal in worship. The church is conservative in social, political, and cultural issues.
Statement of Faith
The beliefs of the Church of God in Christ are briefly articulated in its Statement of Faith, which is reproduced below:
- We believe the Bible to be the inspired and only infallible written Word of God.
- We believe that there is One God, eternally existent in three Persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
- We believe in the Blessed Hope, which is the rapture of the Church of God, which is in Christ, at His return.
- We believe that the only means of being cleansed from sin is through repentance and faith in the precious Blood of Jesus Christ.
- We believe that the regeneration by the Holy Ghost is absolutely essential for personal salvation.
- We believe that the redemptive work of Christ on the Cross provides healing for the human body in answer to believing prayer.
- We believe that the Baptism of the Holy Ghost, according to Acts 2:4, is given to believers who ask for it.
- We believe in the sanctifying power of the Holy Spirit, by whose indwelling a Christian is enabled to live a holy and separated life in the present world. Amen
According to the Articles of Religion in the COGIC Official Manual, COGIC believes in biblical inspiration and that the Bible is the supreme and final authority for determining correct doctrine and practice. It teaches that there is one God eternally existent in three persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. COGIC teaches the deity of Jesus Christ, his virgin birth, sinless life, physical death, burial, resurrection, ascension and visible return to the earth. He is the only mediator between God and man, and there is no salvation in any other. Christ is the head of the church. COGIC teaches that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the world. He is the agent that equips, empowers, leads, and guides the church until the return of Christ.
COGIC teaches that angels are messengers sent from God who served during the creation, throughout the Old Testament, the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, the establishment of the church and the ministry of the apostles, and continue to be at work in the Kingdom of God. They exist primarily in the spiritual realm and are organized according to duty and function. Demons also are believed to be evil or unclean spirits. They are fallen angels who joined Satan in his failed attempt to usurp power in Heaven. They exist today as adversaries to the kingdom, purpose and will of God. As Pentecostals, the Church believes that demons can be subdued and subjugated through the power of the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus.
COGIC teaches that man was created perfect and sinless in the image of God as a tripartite being having a body, soul, and spirit. Sin originated in eternity when Satan committed open rebellion against God in heaven. Sin was transmitted to humanity when Adam and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, as a result all men have original sin. The result of sin is the depravity of man, broken communion with God, shame and guilt, and physical and spiritual death. Humanity can only be restored through salvation offered only through Jesus Christ. The human soul is immortal and will spend eternity either in heaven as the redeemed or in hell as the damned.
COGIC teaches that salvation is the work of redemption to the sinner and his restoration to divine favor and communion with God. Salvation is an operation of the Holy Spirit upon sinners brought about by repentance toward God, which brings about conversion, faith, justification, and regeneration. It teaches that salvation is a work of grace brought about through faith in Jesus Christ; it does not promulgate nor encourage the doctrine of "eternal security," also known as "once saved, always saved."
COGIC teaches that sanctification is a continuous operation of the Holy Spirit, by which he "delivers the justified sinner from the pollution of sin, renews his whole nature in the image of God and enables him to perform good works". It is a separate and distinct work of grace that occurs in the lives of believers after conversion. It teaches that sanctification should precede the baptism with the Holy Spirit.
COGIC teaches that the baptism of the Holy Ghost is an experience subsequent to conversion and sanctification, and it can be experienced by all believers who ask for it. As a pentecotal church, COGIC teaches that when one is baptized in the Holy Spirit, the believer will experience physical evidence of that act by speaking in tongues by the will of God. COGIC does not teach that Spirit baptism is the same as salvation. According to the Articles of Religion, "We believe that we are not baptized with the Holy Ghost in order to be saved, but that we are baptized with the Holy Ghost because we are saved". COGIC also teaches that all the spiritual gifts are for believers today.
COGIC teaches that the church is the community of Christian believers who have accepted Jesus Christ and submit to his lordship and authority in their lives. It can be spoken of as the individual and the collective, physical and spiritual. It includes not only those who are members of COGIC, but all believers who have placed their faith in the Jesus Christ. COGIC teaches that according to the Word of God, there will be final events and conditions that address the end of this present age of the world. These events include physical death, the intermediate state, bodily resurrection, the Second Coming of Christ, the Great Tribulation, the Battle of Armageddon, the Millennial Reign, the Final Judgment, the future of the wicked in hell, and life for the redeemed in heaven.
COGIC believes in divine healing, however, it does not advocate the exclusion of medical supervision. It believes that the gifts of the spirit are given to believers and are active in the church today. The ordinances of the church are water baptism by immersion, the Lord's Supper and foot washing. The church does not practice infant baptisms or christenings, but does conduct baby dedications in formal ceremonies.
As a classical Pentecostal holiness church, the church continues to embrace its holiness heritage teaching moderation in dress and appearance and worldly entertainments as well as prohibitions against profanity, smoking, drinking and infidelity. COGIC embraced, enhanced and developed many spiritual and cultural distinctives that made its worship, practice, and witness unique. However, as Pentecostalism has become more mainstreamed and accepted as orthodox Christianity, many mainline denominations and countless churches that once rejected Pentecostalism have adpoted and embraced these distinctives in their worship and liturgy. These distinctives include the prayer tradition, tarrying, fasting, congregational singing, testifying and testimony service, praise service, and consecrations. These distinctives were implemented during the formative stages of the church and continue to be utilized by many COGIC congregations around the world.
According to its 1973 Constitution, the church has two structures to govern the church: civil and ecclesiastical. The civil structure of the Church of God in Christ includes a President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, General Secretary, General Treasurer, and the Financial Secretary. All officers are elected by the General Assembly. The General Secretary, General Treasurer, and Financial Secretary terms run concurrent with the current presidential administration that is elected every four years.
General Officers of the Church
- President - Bishop C.E. Blake
- First Vice-President - Bishop P.A. Brooks
- Second Vice-President - Bishop J.W. Macklin
- General Secretary - Bishop J.H Lyles, Jr.
- General Treasurer - Elder Charles Harrison Mason Patterson
- Financial Secretary - Auxiliary Bishop Frank A. White
The legislative authority of the church is vested in a General Assembly, composed of the members of the General Board, Jurisdictional/Auxiliary Bishops, Jurisdictional Supervisors of Women's Work, Pastors of Local Churches and Ordained Elders, and four District Missionaries and six lay members from each jurisdiction. The General Assembly elects a 12-person General Board (Presidium) every four years from the college of bishops who serve functionally as apostles of the church. The General Assembly meets biannually each year in April and November, while the Presidium acts as the executive branch of the church and oversees the day-to-day operation of the international church when the General Assembly is not in session. As a result, the General Board exercises great authority over the church. The Presidium includes a separately elected International Presiding Bishop by the General Assembly who serves a term of four years who then appoints two assistant presiding bishops. The current Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle is Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. National officers of the church are chosen at the General Assembly every four years unless special elections are warranted. The Judicial Board serves as the judicial branch and is the supreme body that interprets polity and practice. It has nine members, appointed by the General Assembly, including three bishops, three elders, and three lay members.
Members of the General Board Quadrennial 2012-2016
- Bishop Charles E. Blake - Presiding Bishop (1988–present)
- Bishop Phillip A. Brooks - First Assistant Presiding Bishop (1984–present)
- Bishop Jerry W. Macklin - Second Assistant Presiding Bishop (2004–present)
- Bishop Roy L. H. Winbush - Secretary of the General Board (1988–present)
- Bishop Frank O. White - Assistant Secretary of the General Board (2008–present)
- Bishop George D. McKinney - Board Member (2000–present)
- Bishop Nathaniel W. Wells - Board Member (2000–present)
- Bishop Sedgwick Daniels - Board Member (2008–present)
- Bishop J. Drew Sheard - Board Member (2012–present)
- Bishop Brandon B. Porter - Board Member (2012–present)
- Bishop Ted G. Thomas, Sr. - Board Member (2012–present)
- Bishop Lawrence Wooten - Board Member (2012–present)
In addition to the General Board, there is a Board of Bishops that is composed of all jurisdictional and auxiliary bishops, a National Trustee Board that is composed of 15 members who are elected for a term of four years, the General Council of Pastors and Elders which is open to any officially recognized pastor and current credentialed ordained elder in the church.
- Chairman of the General Assembly - Elder James Hunt
- Chairman of the Board of Bishops - Bishop John Henry Sheard
- Chairman of the General Council of Pastors and Elders - Superintendent Michael Eaddy
- Chairman of AIM - Bishop J. Drew Sheard
- Chairman of the Men's Conference- Bishop Darrell L. Hines
- Adjutant General - Bishop Matthew Williams
The Church of God in Christ has an episcopal form of government where churches are organized in dioceses called jurisdictions each under the authority of a bishop. Generally, jurisdictions range in size between 30 to 100 churches. Each state in the US has at least one jurisdiction and several states have more than one jurisdiction. Some jurisdictions are specific to region, for example: Northern California or Northeast Michigan, while others are without respect to geography and may include churches from neighboring states. There are more than 200 ecclesiastical jurisdictions around the world including more than 170 in the United States alone. Jurisdictions are set up similar to the International/General Church in terms of composition, polity, and procedure with minor adjustments due to size, location, and discretion of the individual jurisdictions. Jurisdictions can be divided further into districts depending upon its size and number of local congregations. Typically districts comprise three to ten local congregations. Districts are usually under the authority of a district superintendent.
- Leadership Conference (January)
- General Assembly and Call Meeting (April) Memphis, TN
- Men's Conference (May)
- International Women's Convention (May)
- Auxiliaries in Ministry (AIM) Conference (July)
- General Council of Pastors and Elders (August)
- Bishop Mason's Birthday (September)
- Bishop's Conference (September)
- International Holy Convocation and General Assembly (November)
During the formative stages of COGIC, Bishop Mason organized departments to further support the work of the church as it continued to grow and expand. These departments include: the Sunday School Department, the Women's Department, the Youth Department known as Y.P.W.W. (Young People Willing Workers), and Missions and Evangelism. As COGIC has continued to grow, new departments, auxiliaries, and ministries have been established including the Adjutancy, Men's Department, COGIC Charities, and Urban Initiatives to name a few. These auxiliaries are found in nearly every church, district, and jurisdiction within COGIC and function to support the wholistic approach that COGIC has toward ministry within the church and the larger community that COGIC congregations serve.
Sunday School Department
The first Sunday School Superintendent was Professor L. W. Lee (1908–1916). In 1924, the Sunday School was more formally organized under Father F.C. Christmas (1916–1944) who provided Sunday school curriculum and quarterly guides for the congregations. After building the Sunday School Department in every state, an assistant was needed. Elder L. C. Patrick was added to the National Sunday School. In 1945, Bishop S. Crouch of the Northern California Jurisdiction appointed Elder H. C. Johnson as State Sunday School Superintendent, He in turn appointed Missionary Lucille Cornelius to be his Chairlady, the first woman to work with the women in the Sunday School Department. Mother Jones of Arkansas became the first National Field Representative under Bishop Patrick. Unique to COGIC was the creation of the Sunday School Field Representative. This office is reserved for a woman who serves as counterpart to the Sunday school superintendent who is usually a man. These offices are found in every local, district, and jurisdiction to support to development and growth of the Sunday school. In 1946, the National Sunday School Congress began to meet with the YPWW Congress. In 1951, the first separate National Sunday School Convention convened in Kansas City. Missouri. The current International Sunday School Superintendent is Bishop Alton Gatlin of Crowley, Louisiana, and the International Field Representative in Mother Georgia Macklin Lowe of Memphis, Tennessee.
The largest department in COGIC is the Women's Department. Women in COGIC have been influential in the leadership and organization of the church since its inception. The church believes that women are gifted and called to ministry; it does not, however, officially ordain women to the office of elder, pastor, or bishop. In 1911, Bishop Mason though opposed to the ordination of women, established a unique and complementary ministry to promote the work of women in the church.
Organization of the department
A General Supervisor of Women is appointed by the Presiding Bishop and given authority to lead the International Women's Ministry of the church. Each jurisdictional bishop appoints a jurisdictional supervisor to lead the work of the women on a jurisdictional level. The jurisdictional supervisor is assisted by district missionaries who oversee the women's ministry of the district. Historically, women in ministry in COGIC are known as missionaries and are designated in two categories— Deaconess Missionary and Evangelist Missionary. Deaconess Missionaries serve and assist in the ceremonial and temporal affairs of the local church. Evangelist Missionaries are licensed to teach the gospel, conduct gospel meetings, and may be given the oversight of local congregations serving as the church administrator. Recognizing the significance of women to the ministry, COGIC has created numerous positions that allow women to work as counterparts to the department presidents as chairladies (YPWW) and Elect ladies (Evangelism).
On the local church level in addition to the office of missionary, COGIC developed and has maintained the position of the "church mother." Church mothers have historically served as the leader of the women's ministries in the local congregations. The designated church mother along with other "older and seasoned" women of the church provided the practical teaching of holiness in daily life and practice. Today however, many church mothers have been reserved to titular positions as many pastor's wives have assumed the role of leader of women's ministries in local congregations. Despite what seems to be obvious limitations to minister because of ordination, women have been given great latitude and numerous opportunities to serve in ministry in COGIC. As a result, many local congregations, foreign missions, and schools were established and through the leadership and efforts of women in COGIC.
General Supervisors for the Department of Women
- Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson - First General Mother (1911–1945)
- Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey - Second General Supervisor and Founding President of the Women's International Convention (1946–1964)
- Mother Annie L. Bailey - Third General Supervisor (1964–1975)
- Mother Mattie McGlothen - Fourth General Supervisor (1975–1994)
- Mother Emma F. Crouch -Fifth General Supervisor (1994–1997)
- Mother Willie Mae Rivers - Sixth General Supervisor (1997–Present)
Lizzie Woods Robinson (1911–1945) was the first "General Mother" of the church. Finding two groups of women in the church, one group praying known as the Prayer Band, the other group studying and teaching the Word known as the Bible Band, she combined the two under the name of the Prayer and Bible Band. She organized the sewing circle and after meeting Elder Searcy, she encouraged the women to support mission work through the Home and Foreign Mission bands. As the church continued to grow, she began state organizations and appointed the first state mothers. Robinson was a staunch advocate for holiness and taught strict guidelines for the women with regard to dress and worldliness. She was greatly interested in the building of Mason Temple and she kept her national building fund drives functioning until she knew the building was ready for dedication. When she died in 1945, she had laid an impressive foundation for the women's ministry in COGIC.
Her successor, Lillian Brooks Coffey (1945–1964) was the organizer of the Women's International Convention. The first convention was held in Los Angeles, California, in 1951. Today the International Women's Convention/Crusade meets annually in May in different cities throughout the nation drawing thousands of women from around the world. Coffey was a child convert to COGIC under the preaching of Bishop Mason, and was influential in organizing many of the auxiliaries, bands, and units that exist within the COGIC Women's Department. The most active women's auxiliaries include: Prayer and Bible Band, Christian Women's Council, Home and Foreign Mission Bands, Young Women's Christian Council, Purity Class and the Sunshine Band. Coffey also began the use of the title "Jurisdictional Supervisor" for state mothers as more jurisdictions were forming in each state.
After the death of Mother Coffey in 1964, Dr. Annie L. Bailey (1964–1975), became the third General Supervisor. She was the wife and companion of Bishop John Seth Bailey, a trusted advisor of Bishop Mason, and later the first assistant presiding bishop of the church. The pair modeled the pastor and wife ministry team in COGIC. She developed the International Women's Convention into a training institute for women in the ministry. She served as the jurisidictional supervisor of several states helping to establish and stabilize struggling jurisdictions.
Dr. Mattie McGlothen (1975–1994) the fourth General Supervisor, was a tremendous organizer with great impact on the development of the Women's Department. She was the Jurisdictional Supervisor of Women for California Northern First Jurisdiction. She established new auxiliaries including the International Hospitality Unit, the Educational and Bishop's Wives Scholarship funds, the We 12 and Lavendar Ladies. She built a home for missionaries in the Bahamas, a pavilion for senior citizens ans unwed mothers in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She also established the Mattie McGlothen Library and Museum in Richmond, California, as a resource for COGIC historical facts and memorabilia. Finally, she changed the visible presence of women in ministry with the introduction of the ministry "habit". Today thousands of COGIC women when ministering the gospel or serving in official capacities are seen in their civic (black) or ceremonial (white) habits.
After the death of Mother McGlothen, Mother Emma F. Crouch (1994–1997) of Dallas, Texas, served as the fifth General Supervisor. She was the Jurisidictional Supervisor of Women for Texas Northeast Jurisdiction. In her brief tenure, she encouraged the women to stay focused and supportive to the leadership of the church. One of her contributions was to divide the women's fellowship in the local congregations into two groups: The Christian Women's Council for the middle aged and senior women, and the YWCC for the younger women.
The current General Supervisor of Women is Mother Willie Mae Rivers (1997–present) of Goose Creek, South Carolina. She is also the Jurisdictional Superivisor of Women for the South Carolina Jurisdiction. She served as International Marshall, Secretary, and Assistant General Supervisor for the Department of Women. A local church mother since the age of 21, she is committed to strengthening the auxiliaries in the local churches and to prepare the younger women to carry the mission of COGIC into the Twenty-first Century.
Young People Willing Workers (YPWW) International Youth Department (IYD)
The first youth leader on a national level was Elder M.C. Green. In 1917, the YPWW was official organized under the leadership of Elder Orzo Thurston Jones, Sr., who would become the second senior bishop of the church after the passing of Bishop Mason in 1961. The purpose of the YPWW as stated in the COGIC official manual is as follows: “You are evidently aware of the fact that true religious education consists of instruction and practical expressions of the truths learned. Therefore with this thought in mind, I have reached the conclusion that there is a large and important place in which training is given in Christian activities and opportunity is made for adequate expressions of the Christian experience. In the Church of God in Christ, this auxiliary is called the Y.P.W.W. In other organizations we may note similar names which are used, such as the Young People’s League, Christian Endeavor, BYPU, etc.” Written by the Bishop O.T. Jones, Sr. He began production of the YPWW Quarterly Topics, and in 1928 he established the first Youth Congress bringing together youth leaders and workers on a national level. For a brief period of time, the YPWW Congress was combined with the Sunday School Congress in a joint convention until 1951. The Youth Congress eventually become one of the largest conventions in COGIC. The International Youth President is Superintendent Linwood Dillard of Memphis, Tennessee, and The International Chairlady is Evangelist Joyce Rogers of Denton, Texas.
Missions work in COGIC began under Elder Searcy in 1925. In 1926, upon the recommendation of Mother Lizzie Roberson, Elder C. G. Brown of Kansas City Missouri, was appointed the first Executive Secretary-Treasurer of the Home and Foreign Missions Department by Bishop C. H. Mason. The Elders' Council met and organized the first Missions board of the Church of God in Christ. In 1927, the call was made for workers to go to serve the Lord in foreign lands. Mrs. Mattie McCaulley of Tulsa, Oklahoma was the first to respond, and was sent to Trinidad. Thereafter, missionaries were sent to Africa and the islands of the Caribbean, Asia, and elsewhere. Military chaplains have also been instrumental in spreading COGIC through military installations. In November 1975, at the National Holy Convocation in Memphis, TN., with the consent of the General Board, Elder Carlis Moody, Sr. of Evanston, Illinois, was appointed by Bishop J. O. Patterson to be president of the Department of Home and Foreign Missions. Elder Moody immediately began to reorganize the Missions Department, giving new guidelines. President Moody also added these ministries to the Missions Department:
- Youth On A Mission (YOAM) – a ministry of young people visiting the mission field to serve each summer.
- Student Aid – a ministry of support to foreign students.
- Touch a Life – child support ministry
- Nurses Aid Ministry – nurses taking their skills to the mission field.
- Sister Church Support Ministry – a church in the USA giving support to a church on the mission field.
- The Voice of Missions – a bimonthly magazine
Today COGIC has more than 3,000 churches, and several schools, missions, and medical clinics in nearly sixty nations, including every continent. The church is thought to have nearly two million members on the continent of Africa. The fastest growing areas include Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, and India. Nigeria alone has 19 bishops and more than 2000 churches. The international membership of COGIC is estimated be between one to three million adherents. Bishop Carlis L. Moody remains as the current President of the Missions Department.
The Department of Evangelism was officially organized on a national level by Overseer L.C. Page in 1927. The spread of COGIC was due largely to the efforts of its evangelists through crusades and revivals. Male as well as female evangelists were instrumental in spreading COGIC throughout the United States as well as around the world. The first meeting was held in Memphis, Tennessee around 1937. The early conventions of the Evangelist Board were basically crusades led by Page and a few other Evangelists from across the country. In 1981, Bishop J.O. Patterson appointed Dr. Edward Lee Battles President of the Department of Evangelism. During his administration, Battles organized Regions to oversee evangelistic ministry in various regional areas across the country. He also instituted the Annual Prayer Breakfast, conducted Evangelistic Crusades across the country and developed the Church of God in Christ National Evangelist Registry. Battles served as president until his death in December 1996. In 1997, Bishop Chandler D. Owens appointed Evangelist Richard “Mr. Clean” White as President of the Department of Evangelism. He continued to build on the department through expansion of the Regional Administration into 10 geographical locations across the country. He appointed regional presidents to serve as liaisons to the jurisdictional presidents. Of special note is Evangelist Reatha Herndon who served as the International Elect Lady of the Department of Evangelism from 1951-2001. Mother Lillian Coffey appointed Mother Reatha Herndon as president of the National Women’s Evangelist Board in 1951. Herndon and her twin sister Leatha were pioneers of the evangelistic work of the Church of God in Christ. Together they traveled across the country proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were also instrumental in establishing 75 churches across the nation. Pastor Dennis Martin and Superintendent Willie James Campbell succeeded Bishop White as presidents.  The current president of the Department of Evangelism is Dr. Elijah Hankerson III of St. Louis, Missouri, and the International Elect Lady is Evangelist Rita Womack of Los Angeles, California.
Pentecostals have been known and continue to be known for their lively worship, exuberant expressions of praise and worship, and musical compilations, mostly relying on congregational singing of hymns and chants. The COGIC emphasized the use of the choir as an integral part of the worship experience. From the very beginning of gospel music, COGIC members have influenced its rise including: Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Madame Earnestine Washington, Evangelist Goldia Haynes, and Elder Utah Smith. Mrs. Anna Crocket Ford was the first organizer and Director of the National Music Department. COGIC became a staple of gospel music under the guidance and unparalled leadership of Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. (1970–1994). Under her leadership and tenure, COGIC choirs and singers came to dominate gospel music producing a number of recordings and gospel hits. In 1982 during the Seventy-Fifth Holy Convocation, the diamond jubilee of the church, COGIC published its own hymnal, "Yes Lord" which included many arrangements and songs written by COGIC and African-American musicians and songwriters.
Well-known gospel musicians with COGIC roots include; Andrae Crouch and Sandra Crouch, Walter and Edwin Hawkins, Tremaine Hawkins, Be Be and Ce Ce Winans, The Winans, The O'Neal Twins, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Rev. Timothy Wright, Myrna Summers, Thomas Whitfield, Deneice Williams, Hubert Powell, Donnie McClurklin, LaShun Pace, The Anointed Pace Sisters, Richard "Mr. Clean" White, and The Clark Sisters (Elbertina "Twinkie" Clark Terrell, Jackie Clark Chisholm, Dorinda Clark Cole, and Karen Clark Sheard). COGIC continues to influence gospel music with a new generation of artists with COGIC roots that include: Kim Burrell, John P. Kee, Ivan Powell, Doobie Powell, Kierra Sheard, J. Moss, Micah Stampley, Kurt Carr, Ricky Dillard, Kelly Price, Mary Mary, Tamela Mann, Dr. Gennie Ruth Cheatham Chandler, Earnest Pugh, DuShawn Washington, Trombonist Terrance Curry, and Michelle Williams, The current leader of the International Music Department in Dr. Judith Cristie McAlister of Nashville, Tennessee, who is also a praise and worship national recording artist.
United National Auxiliary Conference (UNAC) and Auxiliaries in Ministry (AIM)
As COGIC continued to grow, the various departments began the practice of convening annually to conduct the business unique of their ministries. The YPWW department began in 1928 with the convening of its first Youth Congress. Then in 1946, the YPWW Department was combined with the Sunday School Department for joint conventions until 1951 when they were separated once again. Each department convened its own convention in various cities through 1975. In 1976, under the leadership of Bishop J.O. Patterson Sr., the five major departments of COGIC were united under an umbrella convention known as UNAC-5 (United National Auxiliary Conference). Dr. Roy L.H. Winbush was selected to serve as the first chairman. In 1992, during the Ford administration, UNAC was disbanded in favor of three separate conventions namely: the International Sunday School Convention, the MY Convention (Music and Youth) and the ME Convention (Missions and Evangelism) again meeting in separate cities.. However in 1996, the umbrella format was revised under the administration of Bishop C.D. Owens and became known as AIM (Auxiliaries in Ministry). Bishop J.W. Macklin was selected as the first chairman. This convention brings thousands of COGIC members representing all the major departments including Sunday School, Missions, Evangelism, Music, and Youth together in July and meets in cities around the U.S. The current chairman of AIM is Supt. Linwood Dillard of Memphis, TN.
In 1918, COGIC opened its first institution of higher learning, the Saints Industrial and Literary School in Lexington, Mississippi. The school enjoyed its greatest growth and success under the leadership of Dr. Arenia C. Mallory (1904–1976). Bishop Mason appointed her as head of the school in 1926 and she led the school to become an accredited junior college until her retirement in 1976 after fifty years of service. The school closed in 1977, but was reopened for a brief period as Saint's Academy, a private co-educational grade school in the early 1990s under the administration of Bishop L.H. Ford. The school and college remain closed at present. In 1968, COGIC established the C.H. Mason Theological Seminary to train its ministers and ministry leaders.
Today COGIC operates the All Saints Bible College in Memphis, the C. H. Mason system of bible colleges, and the C. H. Mason Theological Seminary, an institution accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and part of a consortium of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta, Georgia.
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