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The Churches of Jesus Christ International is an association of loosely-affiliated Oneness Pentecostal churches with headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee, United States.
The original Church of Jesus Christ was founded by Bishop Ben Hawthorne in 1922 as a split from the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) over baptismal formula. In 1923, Bishop Mark K. Lawson heard the preaching of Hawthorne about baptism only in the name of Jesus Christ. Lawson reported seeing a vision in the sky with the words "in the name of Jesus Christ", after which he traveled to Inglis, Florida where Hawthorne baptized him. They became the two founding officials of the unincorporated Church of Jesus Christ. In 1927, Lawson obtained a Tennessee religious charter under the name "The Church of Jesus Christ". Hawthorne remained in Florida where he converted Clarence Hand of Gulf Hammock. Hawthorne is buried in the Church of Jesus Christ graveyard in Inglis.
Bishop Lawson expanded the group by chartering the organization in many other states.Several ministers and pastors have since then joined this group. The group nearly died out in the late 1970s and 1980s due to doctrinal conflicts between the various bishops. In the late 1990s the group was revived by Bishop Boyd Lawson (son of Mark Lawson), who reestablished a governing board and purchased the old headquarters on Benton Pike in Cleveland. The name was changed to "The Churches of Jesus Christ" because other bishops holding the old charters refused to surrender them and accept Lawson's leadership.Bishop Boyd Lawson has proven to be a man of burden as well as character. He purchased the old headquarters so the group would have a place to meet for conferences and special events.
The group continues to grow and many of the lost affiliates have come back. This revival spread outside of the United States and played a part in the name change in its present form.Each year during the week of Pentecost Sunday they host an Annual Convention. This convention is well attended by Ministers from the U.S.A, Canada and several different Nations including Pastors from as far away as India.
Today, there are more than 25 churches involved in the organization, and each bears the name "The Church of Jesus Christ". The cumulative membership of the organization is approximately 100,000. The largest of the churches is the original church in Cleveland, Tennessee, which had a membership of approximately 37,500 in 1990.
The Churches of Jesus Christ International baptize "in the name of Jesus Christ" only, rather than the more usual Trinitarian "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". The Churches of Jesus Christ justify their rejection of the triune name baptismal formula by citing Acts 2:38, where it is reported that Peter instructs that baptism be performed "in the name of Jesus Christ." Hawthorne and Lawson believed the name "Jesus Christ" should be posted on the outside of the church in order to identify it as a church that baptizes only in the name of Jesus Christ.
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