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 Edward Blake, Sr.|
|Founder||Charles Harrison Mason|
|Origin||1897 (founded) 1907 (incorporated)
|Separations||Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. (separated 1907), General Council of the Assemblies of God (separated 1914), Church of God in Christ, International (separated 1969)|
|Members||Over 6 million|
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The Church Of God in Christ (COGIC) is a Pentecostal 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.
- 1 History
- 2 Growth and development
- 2.1 Senior and Presiding Bishops
- 2.2 Bishop C.H. Mason Era (1907–1961)
- 2.3 Bishop O.T. Jones Sr. Era (1962–1968)
- 2.4 Bishop J.O. Patterson Era (1968–1989)
- 2.5 Bishop L. H. Ford Era (1990–1995)
- 2.6 Bishop C. D. Owens Era (1996–2000)
- 2.7 Bishop G.E. Patterson Era (2000–2007)
- 2.8 Bishop C.E. Blake Era (2007–present)
- 3 Theology and Beliefs
- 4 COGIC Governance
- 5 Department ministries
- 5.1 Sunday School Department
- 5.2 Women's Department
- 5.3 Young People Willing Workers (YPWW) International Youth Department (IYD)
- 5.4 Missions Department
- 5.5 Evangelism Department
- 5.6 Music Department
- 5.7 United National Auxiliary Conference (UNAC) and Auxiliaries in Ministry (AIM)
- 6 Educational institutions
- 7 Controversies
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes
- 10 References
- 11 Further reading
- 12 External links
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, C.P. Jones and C.H. 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. C.H. Mason was heavily influenced by the testimony of the African-American Methodist evangelist Amanda Berry Smith, one of the most widely respected African-American holiness evangelists of the nineteenth century. Her life story led many African-Americans into the holiness movement, including C.H. Mason who testified to receiving sanctification after reading her autobiography.
In June 1897, C.P. Jones held a Holiness convention at Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, attended by C.H. Mason and others from several states. Protestant doctrinal debates about Calvinism and Wesleyan Perfectionism impacted how even local African-American Baptist pastors responded to new Christian movements at the time. Some of these African-American Baptist pastors in local Southern areas such as Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas viewed C.P. Jones and C.H. Mason as controversial. The leadership of the Mississippi State Convention of the National Baptist Convention intervened and expelled C.P. Jones, C.H. Mason, and others who embraced the Wesleyan teaching of Entire Sanctification. In 1897 after being expelled from preaching in local Baptist churches under the Mississippi State Convention, Elder Mason founded the St. Paul Church in Lexington, Mississippi, the first COGIC church.
When the first convocation was held in 1897, the group was originally known simply as the "Church of God." Many Holiness Christian groups and fellowships forming at the time wanted biblical names for their local churches and fellowships such as "Church of God, Church of Christ, or Church of the Living God"; they rejected names such as Baptist, Methodist, or Episcopal. Since so many new holiness groups and fellowships were forming using the name "Church of God," C.H. Mason sought a name to distinguish this holiness organization from others. Later in 1897, while in Little Rock, Arkansas, C.H. Mason believed that God had given him such a name for the group, the "Church of God in Christ". C.H. Mason believed that the name taken from 1 Thessalonians 2:14 was divinely revealed and biblically inspired. This Holiness group/fellowship adopted the name Church of God in Christ and COGIC began to grow throughout the South. C.P. Jones was elected the General Overseer, C.H. Mason was selected as Overseer of Tennessee, and J.A. Jeter was selected as Overseer of Arkansas., After testifying to being sanctified, members of the church referred to themselves as "the Saints," believing that they were set apart for holiness.
Adoption of Pentecostalism
In 1906, C. H. Mason, J.A Jeter and D.J. Young were appointed as a committee by C.P. Jones to investigate reports of a revival in Los Angeles, California that was being led by an itinerant preacher named William J. Seymour. C.H. Mason's visit to the Azusa Street Revival changed the direction of the newly formed holiness church. During his visit, C. H. Mason received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Upon his return to Jackson, Mississippi, not everyone was willing to accept such Pentecostal experience. At the 1907 Convocation, held in Jackson, a mutual separation occurred and the "right-hand of fellowship" was withdrawn by those unwilling to embrace this Pentecostal experience such as C.P. Jones and other leaders of the church.
In response to this mutual separation, C.H. Mason called a meeting in Memphis and reorganized the Church of God in Christ as a Holiness-Pentecostal 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 C.H. Mason as General Overseer and Chief Apostle. C.H. Mason was given authority to lead the new denomination.
The Church of God in Christ became the first legally chartered Pentecostal body incorporated in the United States. C.P. Jones and the respected Holiness leaders who did not embrace the Azusa Revival experience continued as Holiness churches subsequently organizing as a legally chartered Holiness body called 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 Ozro Thurston Jones, Sr. 1961-1968 - 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, TN, Bishop Mason established a local church called Temple COGIC. He also established the COGIC national headquarters and the annual gathering of COGIC members that became known as the "International Holy Convocation" to be held in Memphis. This gathering of the Saints lasted for twenty days beginning from November 25 to December 14. This period of time was selected because most of the COGIC members throughout the country were farmers and harvesting of their crops ended around this period. COGIC members gathered for praying, fasting, teaching, preaching, fellowship and conducting business pertaining to the national COGIC organization.
COGIC originally begun in the Southern states of Mississippi, Arkansas, and Tennessee. During the early twentieth century, the Pentecostal movement experienced rapid growth and racial integration of its worship services. As a result, Bishop Mason as the leader of one of the few legally chartered Pentecostal denominations was pivotal in licensing and credentialing white and African-American ministers who spread the Pentecostal message and established churches. The first General Secretary of COGIC was Elder William B. Holt, a white minister. During 1910-1913, two white ministers, Elder H. A. Goss and Elder Leonard P. Adams were clergy under the authority of C.H. Mason who established organizations within COGIC. More than a decade after the Azusa Revival, 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. American racial,social, cultural and political norms such as Jim Crow South prohibitions rather than Christian doctrine ended any prospect of racial integration under the leadership of an African-American such as C.H. Mason. This invitation to join the movement was only sent to white ministers. The H.A. Goss faction left COGIC to join the Assemblies of God USA. Over time, the ministers and churches under Leonard P. Adams separated and assimilated into other white Pentecostal groups or organizations. In 1916, a few white churches joined COGIC and were organized into a white branch with William B. Holt as General Superintendent; the racial climate would not sustain this relationship and so it ultimately ended. By 1930 this ministry among whites had ended.
C.H. Mason traveled across the nation preaching and establishing COGIC churches. As African-Americans migrated north during the Great Migration, churches began to be established in the north and west. C.H. Mason sent ministers and evangelists to cities and urban areas outside the South, 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.) In these major cities, COGIC spread throughout the country. In 1926, C.H. 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, C.H. 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 African-American religious group in America. After his death, C.H. 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 on April 3, 1968. Mason Temple in Memphis remained the site of the International Holy Convocation until the mid-1970s when the number of delegates far exceeded capacity. Many COGIC members would refer to their preparation to attend the annual COGIC Holy Convocation as "Jerusalem" with Mason Temple as a special site.
In 1951, when Bishop Mason was approaching 85 years of age, he 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, C.H. 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 responsibility over church affairs until C.H. Mason's death.
In 1907, there were ten COGIC churches, but 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 Sr. Era (1962–1968)
1962-1968 is described as a "Dark Period" in the history of the Church of God in Christ, accompanied by polarization and conflict in leadership. Bishop Mason died on November 17, 1961 at the age of 95, leading COGIC for 54 years. As founder, Bishop Mason exercised authority over matters of church polity. After his death, according to the 1952 church constitution, the control of the church reverted to an executive board of bishops. The General Assembly vested authority in an Executive Board composed of twelve bishops. The COGIC constitution at the time did not specifically outline a clear successor or the authority of this executive board of bishops after C.H. Mason's death. 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 Ozro Thurston Jones Sr. was pastor of the Holy Temple Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia and the Jurisdictional Bishop of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Jurisdiction. Bishop Jones was the only living Bishop of the five original bishops consecrated by Bishop Mason, and assumed leadership as the Senior Bishop of the Church of God in Christ. In 1964, disagreement between the authority of the Senior Bishop and the Executive Board led by Bishop A.B. Mcewen was addressed at the Fifty-Seventh Holy Convocation. Factions developed within the organization as executive and administrative decisions were being made by both the Senior Bishop in conflict with Bishop A.B. McEwen and vice versa.
The church experienced litigation issues with lawsuits filed in the Chancery Court of Shelby County, Tennessee. This was to resolve the legitimate authority 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 two offices were replaced by the Office of the Presiding Bishop and a General Board to be elected every four years to preside over the church. The General Assembly will be 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 a new organizational structure and severed ties with COGIC to start their own organizations. The most notable rift occurred in 1969 when fourteen bishops met in Evanston, Illinois to form the Church of God in Christ, International; they disagreed with the electoral process in selecting the Presiding Bishop. Bishop O.T. Jones Sr, however, did not leave the Church of God in Christ. He remained the Jurisdictional Bishop of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania until his death in 1972. COGIC continued to grow and 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, J.O. Patterson Sr. served the church previously as a member of the Executive Board and as Executive Secretary. J.O Patterson Sr. was pastor of the Pentecostal Temple Institutional COGIC in Memphis, TN and was the Presiding Prelate of the Tennessee Headquarters Jurisdiction. J.O. Patterson Sr. established protocols of worship, policy and practices. A new constitution and official manual of the church were completed in 1973. COGIC became a major force in the collective Black Church and worldwide Pentecostal movement and experienced rapid growth in many sectors as one of the fastest growing and largest religious groups in the United States.
As the first elected Presiding Bishop, Bishop J.O. Patterson Sr. established the Charles Harrison Mason Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia; the C. H. Mason System of Bible Colleges; the J. O. Patterson Sr. Fine Arts Department; the Historical Museum and Fine Arts Center, organizer of the Charles Harrison Mason Foundation and the Presiding Bishop's Benefit Fund which provides scholarships. He expanded the COGIC Bookstore and COGIC Publishing House. In 1982, he led COGIC in its Diamond Jubilee in a celebration of the International Holy Convocation. He established the World Fellowship of Black Pentecostal Churches and initiated COGIC membership into the Congress of National Black Churches. His dream was to establish an international ministry complex known as "Saints Center" and an accredited institution known as "All Saints University". Subsequently, he was elected four times as Presiding Bishop uncontested. He consecrated and appointed more than 100 bishops during twenty-one years of leadership. His initiatives allowed the church's growth to exceed four million in the United States in 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 J.O.. Patterson Sr. in 1990. L.H. Ford was pastor of the St. Paul COGIC in Chicago and was Presiding Prelate of the Historic Illinois First Jurisdiction. L.H. Ford was a strong advocate for social justice and became nationally recognized after the horrific death of Emmett Till. As the funeral officiant, he also gave the eulogy for Emmett Till at Robert's Temple COGIC in 1955. In Chicago, he organized voter registration initiatives and protested against lodging segregation in Memphis, TN while participating in COGIC Holy Convocations in the midst of the Civil Rights era. His emphasis as Presiding Bishop was a return to the historic foundations or as he would described "The Old Landmark" of early COGIC practices and traditions.He was critical of the use of high church liturgy, vestments, and modernity that had been introduced to the church. He dedicated his efforts reminding COGIC members of the sacrifices of the pioneers of COGIC. He reopened Saints Academy and College and constructed the multi-million dollar Deborah Mason Patterson Hall in Lexington, Mississippi. He renovated several COGIC structures in Memphis,TN, including Mason Temple. L.H. Ford is most notably credited with bringing President Bill Clinton, who was a personal friend and the only U.S. President to 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 Sr was elected Presiding Bishop after the death of Bishop Ford in 1995. C.D.Owens gained national attention in the church as the President of the Youth Department. C.D. Owens was a noted evangelist, pastoring 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. Bishop 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, placing the COGIC on a solid financial status. C.D. Owens outlined a progressive plan to position the COGIC for ministry in the twenty-first century known as "Vision 2000 and Beyond." In the year 2000 at the Ninety-Third International Holy Convocation, the General Assembly of the COGIC elected Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson to replace Bishop C.D. Owens as Presiding Bishop. C.D. 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 began his ministry as co-pastor of the Holy Temple COGIC with his father, Bishop W.A. Patterson. In 1975, he resigned as co-pastor, withdrawing his membership in the COGIC because of leadership disagreements with his uncle, J.O. Patterson Sr. concerning an establishment of another jurisdiction in the city of Memphis. J.O. Patterson Sr. was the Presiding Bishop at that time. G.E. Patterson established the Temple of Deliverance, the Cathedral of Bountiful Blessing which grew to become the largest Pentecostal church in Memphis with over 14,000 members. 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. In 2000, he was elected as the Presiding Bishop of COGIC.He re-ignited the church to be a flagship Pentecostal denomination. He was able to bridge denominational barriers and encourage non-COGIC ministries to work collboratively with the COGIC denomination. He established COGIC Charities which has provided thousands of dollars in college scholarships and disaster relief efforts such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Bishop C.E. Blake Era (2007–present)
Bishop Charles E. Blake assumed leadership and elected Presiding Bishop of the church after the death of Bishop G.E. Patterson in March 2007. Bishop 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. C. E. Blake served as the Presiding Prelate of the First Jurisdiction of Southern California. Bishop Blake led COGIC through the death of G.E. Patterson while preparing the church for its 100th Holy Convocation; an important milestone for the church. Bishop 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 cities 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, Bishop Blake led more than 50,000 delegates to the 103rd International Holy Convocation to St. Louis, Missouri vice Memphis, Tn.
Theology and Beliefs
COGIC is a trinitarian Holiness Pentecostal denomination. The church teaches three separate and distinct works of grace that God performs in the life of believers namely: salvation, sanctification, and the baptism or infilling of the Holy Spirit. The church declares to be evangelical in ministry, fervently fundamental in doctrinal practices and distinctively Pentecostal in worship and expression.
COGIC Statement of Faith
The beliefs of the Church of God in Christ are briefly written 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 (Him).
- 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 doctrine and practice. 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. Christ is the head of the church. He is the only mediator between God and humanity, and there is no salvation in any other. COGIC teaches that the Holy Spirit is alive and active in the world. The Holy Spirit 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 exist as manifestation of 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 Christ.
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 or Holy Spirit is an experience subsequent to conversion and sanctification, can be experienced by all believers who ask for it. As a Pentecostal church, COGIC teaches that when one is baptized in the Holy Spirit, the believer will experience an initial evidence of speaking in tongues (glossolalia) 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 Lord 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, COGIC continues to embrace its holiness heritage, teaching moderation in dress, appearance, participation in secular entertainment and prohibitions against profanity, alcohol, substance abuse and immoral behavior. The church has a tradition of prayer, fasting, praise, and consecration that was once unique to Holiness or Pentecostal groups. Many mainline denominations and countless nondenominational churches that once rejected these beliefs and practices have adopted these distinctions in their worship liturgy and lifestyle practices.
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
- Presiding Bishop - Bishop C.E. Blake
- 1st Assistant Presiding Bishop - Bishop P.A. Brooks
- 2nd Assistant Presiding Bishop - Bishop J.W. Macklin
- General Secretary - Bishop J.H Lyles, Jr.
- General Treasurer - Bishop Charles Harrison Mason Patterson
- Financial Secretary - 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, Chaplains, Pastors, Ordained Elders,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, overseeing the day-to-day operation 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, elected 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 (2007–present) and Board Member (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 - Bishop James Hunt
- Chairmen of the Board of Bishops - Bishop John Henry Sheard
- 2nd Vice Chairman of the Board of Bishops - Donald R. Murray
- Chairman of the General Council of Pastors and Elders - Superintendent Michael Eaddy
- Chairman of AIM - Superintendent Lindwood Dillard
- Chairman of the Men's Conference- Bishop Darrell L. Hines
- Adjutant General - Bishop Matthew Williams
- Chairman of the National Judiciary Board - Superintendent Thomas Jackson Jr
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)
- National Judicial Conference (June)
- 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 holistic 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 formally organized under "Father" F.C. Christmas (1916–1944). 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 who appointed Missionary Lucille Cornelius to be Chairlady, the first woman to lead the supervision of COGIC women in the Sunday School Department. Mother Jones of Arkansas became the first National Field Representative under Bishop Patrick. There 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. These offices are found in every local, district, and jurisdiction to support development and growth of the Sunday School. In 1946, the National Sunday School Congress began to meet with the Young People's Willing Workers (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 is Mother Cleolia Penix of Chicago, Illinois.
Women in COGIC have been influential in the leadership and organization of the church since its inception. They are the largest department in the COGIC. 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. However, COGIC licensed female evangelists do serve as chaplains in military, federal, state, and local institutions requiring chaplains. Bishop Mason was opposed to the ordination of women to formal ministry, but in 1911 created an autonomous department to promote the ministry 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 adviser 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 jurisdictional 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 Jurisdictional Supervisor of Women for Texas Southwest Jurisdiction under the Late Bishop T. D. Iglehart. 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–to present) of Goose Creek, South Carolina. She is also the Jurisdictional Supervisor 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.Mother Barbara McCoo Lewis serves as the Assistant General Supervisor of the Department of Women. She is the Jurisdictional Supervisor for the First Jurisdiction, Southern California.
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 Dr. Benjamin Stephens of Grandview, Missouri, 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, Bishop Carlis Moody, Sr. of Evanston, Illinois, was appointed by Bishop J. O. Patterson to be president of the Department of Home and Foreign Missions. Bishop Carlis 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 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, Tramaine Hawkins, Be Be and Ce Ce Winans, The Winans, John P. Kee, 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 (Jackie Clark-Chisholm, Elbernita "Twinkie" Clark-Terrell 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, 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, D'Extra Wiley (II D Extreme) and Michelle Williams (Destiny's Child). The current leader of the International Music Department is Dr. Judith Christie McAllister 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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At the COGIC 107th Holy Convocation in St Louis in 2014, Superintendent Earl Carter delivered a speech in which he referred to gay men as "sissies", "perverted and lost", and said "You want to feel like a girl; I wish God would give you the monthly of a girl; I wish He had you bleeding out of your butt."  COGIC Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake distanced himself from these statements and issued a public apology, saying "I apologize for what seemed to be a harsh, uncompassionate, disrespectful spirit on the part of that speaker."  Bishop Blake also apologized to a young man who, following Superintendent Carter's statements, came forward to proclaim that he had been delivered from homosexuality, in a testimony that "literally went viral, and… brought upon him criticism and sardonicism" and later admitted that he felt pressured to do so by Carter's sermon.
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