Church of God by Faith

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For other uses, see Church of God (disambiguation).

The Church of God by Faith is a Christian denomination in the United States.


The Church of God By Faith, Inc. was founded in 1914 in Jacksonville, Florida, USA, by Crawford Bright, John Bright, Aaron Matthews, Sr. and Nathaniel Scippio. In 1922 an assembly was held in Alachua, Florida, a charter was drafted, and the name Church of God By Faith, Inc. officially adopted. Since 1987, the annual meetings of the church have been held in Atlanta, Georgia.

Hubert Steadman became the first Executive Secretary and Editor for the Sunday School literature and other publications.

The church's founders created the Church (which refers to an assembly of people, not a building) for the purpose of glorifying God.

This coming together and consequent formation of the "Church of God By Faith, Inc." was to serve as a basis whereby "believers" could be educated in the word of God.

The first assembly meeting of the church was held in 1917 at White Springs, Florida; after which, missions were set up in various places. Palatka, FL was the "headquarters" of the group in 1919. A General Assembly was held in Alachua, Florida in 1922 where the leading elders drafted a charter, which is now known as the "Church of God By Faith, Inc."

The General Assembly was moved from Alachua, Florida to Ocala, Florida, in December 1941. In 1987, the church went annually to Atlanta, Georgia, where meetings are still held.

The Church of God by Faith, Inc. is a 100-year-old organization with only four bishops:

1. Bishop Aaron Matthews, Sr.: 1915 - 1959; 2. Bishop Willie W. Matthews: 1959 - 1984; 3. Bishop James E. McKnight, Sr: 1984-2014; 4. Bishop James E. McKnight, Jr.: Presiding


The church stands in the holiness tradition, teaching that entire sanctification is an instantaneous work obtained by faith, but must be preceded through the consecration of the individual. Divine healing is held, but they do not reject the use of medicine and doctors if necessary. The church's articles of faith do not address the issue of speaking in tongues.

Articles of Faith

God is first in the Godhead - the church believes in one eternally existent, infinite God, sovereign of the universe. He only is God, creative and administrative, Holy in nature attributes and purpose. He as God, is first in the Godhead, an essential being, revealed as Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

Jesus Christ- the church believes in Jesus Christ, the second person of the God- head. Christ was eternally one with the Father. He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary so that two whole and perfect natures, (the Godhead and manhood) are thus united in one person, very God and very man, the God-man. The church believes that Jesus Christ died for its member's sins and that He rose from the dead and took again His body, together with all things appertaining to the perfection of man's nature, wherewith He ascended into Heaven and is there engaged in intercession for members.

The Holy Spirit- the church believes in the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead. The Holy Spirit is ever present and efficiently active in and with the church of Christ, convincing the world of sin, regenerating those who repent and believe, sanctifying believers and guiding them into all truth as it is in Jesus.

Holy Scriptures- the church believes in the plenary inspiration of the Holy Scriptures. The sixty-six books of the Old and New Testaments are given by divine inspiration, revealing the will of God concerning members in all things necessary to their salvation, so that whatever is not contained therein is not to be enjoined as an article of faith.

Original Sin of Depravity- the church believes that original sin or depravity is that corruption of the nature of all the offsprings of Adam by reason of which everyone is very far gone from original righteousness or the pure state of our first parents at the time of their creation, is averse to God, is without spiritual life and inclined to evil, and that it continues to exist with the new life of the regenerate until eradicated by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

Atonement - the church believes that Jesus Christ, by His suffering, the shedding of His blood, and His meritorious death on the cross, made a full atonement for all human sin. This atonement is the only grounds for salvation and that it is sufficient for every individual of Adam's race.

Free Agency - the church believes that man's creation in God's likeness included the ability to choose between right and wrong. Thus, man was made morally responsible and through the fall of Adam he became depraved. So, he can not now turn and prepare himself by his own natural strength and works of faith and calling upon God. But only by the grace of God, through Jesus Christ that is freely bestowed upon all men, enabling all who will to turn from sin to righteousness. Members believe in Jesus Christ for pardon and the cleansing from sin, and believe that man, though in possession of the experience of regeneration and entire sanctification, may fall from grace and apostatize, and unless he repents of his sin, will be hopelessly and eternally lost.

Repentance - the churcg believes that repentance, which is a sincere and thorough change of mind in regard to sin, involving a sense of personal guilt and voluntary turning away from sin is demanded of all who have by act or purpose become sinners against God. The Spirit of God gives to all that will repent the gracious help of penitence of heart and hope of mercy, that they may believe unto pardon and spiritual life.

Justification and Adoption - the church believes that justification is that gracious and judicial act of God by which He grants full pardon of all guilt and complete release from the penalty of sins committed and acceptance as righteous to all who believe and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

Members believe that regeneration or the new birth is that gracious work of God whereby the moral nature of the repentant believer is spiritually quickened and given a distinctively spiritual life, capable of faith, love and obedience.

Members believe that adoption is that gracious act of God by which the justified and regenerated believer is constituted a "Son of God". Justification, regeneration and adoption are simultaneous in the experience of seekers after God and are obtained upon the condition of faith, preceded by repentance.

Entire Sanctification - the church believes that entire sanctification is the act of God, subsequent to regeneration, by which believers are made free from original sin or depravity, and brought into a state of entire devotement to God and the Holy obedience of love is made perfect. It is wrought by the baptism of the Holy Spirit and comprehends in one experience the cleansing of the heart from sin and the abiding indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit, empowering the believer for life and service. Entire sanctification is provided by the blood of Jesus, is wrought instantaneously by faith, preceded by entire consecration.

This experience is also known as "Christian Perfection", "Heart Purity", and "The Baptism of the Holy Ghost" and"Christian Holiness."

Second Coming of Christ - the church believes that the Lord Jesus Christ will come again. It believes that members who are alive at His coming shall not precede them that are asleep in Christ Jesus. But that, if members are abiding in Him, they will be caught up with the risen saints to meet the Lord in the air, so that they shall ever be with the Lord.

Resurrection, Judgement and Destiny - the church believes in the resurrection of the dead. That the bodies of both the just and the unjust shall be raised to life and united with their spirit (they that have done evil unto the resurrection of damnation). Members believe in future judgment in which every man shall appear before God to be judged according to his deeds in this life.

Divine Healing - the church believes in the Bible doctrine of divine healing and urges its congregates to seek the prayer of faith for the healing of the sick. Medical consultants and agencies when deemed necessary are not condemned.


National headquarters are located in Jacksonville, Florida. Churches are up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States from New York to Florida – with a few churches in Texas, the Midwest and in the state of Washington.

Executive Board[edit]

Bishop James E. McKnight, Jr.

Bishop James E. McKnight, Jr. was born in Gainesville, Florida to Bishop James E. and Sister Jessie McKnight. At the age of 18, he committed his life to Christ and served in various capacities including: youth minister, deacon, musician, choir president and Sunday School teacher at his local and the National Church. He married his childhood sweetheart, Delois Turner in 1978 and they were blessed with four children. In 1985, he received his call into the ministry and later was led to start a church in Starke, Florida. With a clear vision, strong faith, and God’s help, he founded the Starke Church of God by Faith in March 1987. He shares The Gospel through outreach programs across the Bradford County Community in Florida.

Elder McKnight served as the president of the Bradford County Ministerial Alliance and is the president and founder of Bradford County Faith Community Center, a faith-based organization that serves North Central Florida by providing HIV testing and counseling, a recovery program and prison ministry, food distribution and a family literacy program.

He led an expansion project that included the purchase of more than 21 acres (85,000 m2) to better serve Bradford County and its surrounding areas. They have long since moved beyond the walls of their makeshift sanctuary holding multiple Sunday services in their current church to accommodate their growing congregation.

Bishop McKnight was selected as a ruling elder on the Executive Board in December, 2003 and served faithfully in that office until December 20, 2014 when he was appointed the Presiding Bishop of the Churches of God by Faith.

Executive Secretary David C. Rourk

Elder David C. Rourk is a long-time member of the executive board, and has served the church organization in many capacities. Elder Rourk, who has been the pastor of Adams Street Church Of God By Faith since 1974, was appointed to serve as the district elder of the Northwestern New York District four years later.

He was tapped to serve on the executive board in 1991. He has served as the organization's executive secretary since 2003. His assignments as pastor have included Prayer House Crossroads and Sodus Center COGBF.

Elder Rourk and his wife, Ruth, make their home in Rochester, N.Y. They have four children and several grandchildren and great grandchildren.

In November 1999, Inter-faith Theological Institute and Seminary conferred Elder Rourk with an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree.

Ruling Elder Horace Nelson Turner, Sr.

Elder Dr. Horace Nelson Turner Sr. is the pastor of Sears Street Church of God by Faith in Douglas, Georgia and COGBF in Nicholls, Georgia.

An ordained minister since 1986, his mission work can be traced back to an old funeral home and storefront.

He is known for his gospel radio and television broadcasts that have aired in the Coffee County area. The former correctional center chaplain is the founder of Faith Base Pod, a prison ministry. He is the chaplain for the Coffee County Sheriff's Office, chairman of the South Georgia District Christian Board of Education and a member of the Coffee County Ministerial Alliance Association.

Last year, Elder Turner was elected to serve as a national Ruling Elder for the church organization.

He and his wife, Sandra LaFaye, have 6 children and 10 grandchildren.

Ruling Elder James Ware

Ruling Elder James Ware was born in Dothan, Alabama. He is the eldest of seven siblings, born to Thomas and Betty Ware. His father relocated the family to Groveland, Florida where he was raised mostly as a Floridian.

His father, who was an elder in Church of God by Faith, was the first in shaping and molding Ruling Elder Ware’s life as a person. That upbringing set him on the path to someday, preach and teach in the Kingdom of God.

Upon graduating from high school, he met a friend named Gwendolyn Cooper who later became his wife and is currently his mate of 41 years. They are the parents of three sons and one daughter.

After several encounters and numerous discussions with God, he accepted the call to ministry and began preaching in 1975. He was ordained a minister in Church of God by Faith in 1989 and continued to be a student of the Word of God. In 1995, at the hand of God and the Executive Council, he accepted the charge of presiding Elder of the Ocala District where he currently serves as the Pastor of Greater Macedonia Church of God by Faith. In 2012 he was appointed to the Executive Council as Ruling Elder under Bishop James E. McKnight, Sr.

Ruling Elder Ware has planted one church in his ministry, Brooksville Church of God by Faith in Brooksville, Florida. The Lord blessed him to open the way for the work in Converse, Texas. His desire is to see the growth of our church in the continuation of new church planting.

Ruling Elder James Williams

Ruling Elder James E. Williams was born and raised in the Church of God by Faith, and is the son of District Elder James and Cora Williams.

Elder Williams moved to Tampa, from the Gainesville District, January 8, 1970, to further his education. He served one year under the leadership of Elder Robert L. Evans. He was appointed chairman of the Deacon board at Tampa in the year of 1972. In 1973, he was appointed assistant finance secretary to Elder Alonzo Smith of the South Florida District. In 1975, he was appointed to the National Finance Board of the Church of God by Faith by the Executive Council. He served 17 years and as secretary of the National Finance Board for eight years, where he prepared reports for executive Elders and Finance Board members.

He has served as pastor of New Life church of God by faith, Fort Myers, Florida for 10 years, and pastor of Church of God by Faith, Plant City, Florida for 2 years. He is presently the pastor of The Rock Church of God By Faith, Tampa Florida, and District Elder of the Tampa Westcoast District.

He was appointed as a Ruling Elder on The Executive Board on December 20, 2014.

Bishop Emeritus James E. McKnight, Sr.

Bishop James E. McKnight has served as the spiritual leader of Church Of God By Faith Inc. for more than 20 years.

An ordained minister of the organization since 1957, Bishop McKnight was appointed assistant bishop in 1970. He was named presiding bishop in 1984, and underwent the formal consecration ceremony two years later.

Bishop McKnight is charged with fostering the spiritual and physical growth of more than 200 churches and missions across the country.

He has initiated a half-million dollar project that will involve the construction of an administrative headquarters that church officials say will be more conducive to the volume of business generated by the 90-year-old organization.

National church officials have bought an acre off of Old Middleburg Road, in Jacksonville, Fla., with plans to build an administrative headquarters that will feature a conference room, offices and a library to showcase and preserve historical documents and memorabilia. Bishop McKnight has said he envisions a plaque emblazoned with the names of all of the organization's churches and missions on the wall.

The Gainesville, Fla. native is a veteran of the Korean War. He is married to Mother Jessie Camps McKnight. They have four adult children.


In 2013, the Church of God by Faith, Inc. has over 170 churches.[1]

External links[edit]


  1. ^ "2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-15. 
  • Encyclopedia of American Religions, J. Gordon Melton, editor
  • Handbook of Denominations (10th ed.), by Frank S. Mead and Samuel S. Hill