Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas
The Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas is a predominantly African-American Holiness-Pentecostal Christian denomination based in the United States. Originating when the African American members of the integrated Fire-Baptized Holiness Church withdrew to form their own organization, the church was founded at Greer, South Carolina in 1908.
The church was founded by Benjamin Hardin Irwin and Bishop William Edward Fuller, Sr. (1875–1958). The Fire-Baptized Holiness Association originated in Iowa in 1895 under the leadership of Benjamin H. Irwin of Lincoln, Nebraska. Irwin expanded this into a national organization as the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church at Anderson, South Carolina in August 1898. At age 23, William E. Fuller, Sr., a member of the African-American New Hope Methodist Church, attended the founding of that body in 1898. Blacks and whites were admitted with equality. Fuller returned to New Hope from the 1898 meeting, resigned his offices, turned in his license, and cast his lot with the Fire-Baptized Holiness. After Irwin left the church in 1900, Joseph Hillery King became the general overseer. Fuller served as Assistant General Overseer to King in 1905.
Acting on what he thought was a trend toward segregation, Fuller led about 500 members to organize the Colored Fire Baptized Holiness Church in 1908 in Greer, South Carolina. The True Witness periodical was established in 1909. On June 8, 1926 the name Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas was adopted.
The Anglo-American division of the Fire-Baptized Holiness Church merged with the Pentecostal Holiness Church on 30 January 1911 in Falcon, North Carolina, to form what is now known as the International Pentecostal Holiness Church.
Structure and beliefs
The church government of the organization is episcopal. Bishops are the highest officials of the church, and preside over divisions called dioceses. The sacraments of the church are baptism and the Lord's Supper. Feet washing, matrimony, and funerals are considered ordinances. Women can be licensed to preach and serve as pastors.
The church headquarters and school are located in Greenville, South Carolina. In 2003 the Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God had about 160 congregations, mostly on the east coast of the United States, but also including one church each in Canada, England, and the Virgin Islands, and 15 congregations in Jamaica.
- Handbook of Denominations in the United States (8th ed.), by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill