United Holy Church of America
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|United Holy Church of America
|Region||United States, Caribbean, Africa|
|Headquarters||Greensboro, North Carolina, USA|
|Founder||Bishop L.M. Mason|
The United Holy Church of America, Inc. is a predominantly black Pentecostal Holiness Christian denomination, and the oldest African-American Holiness-Pentecostal body in the world. The International Headquarters is located in Greensboro, North Carolina. The UHCA consists of 516 churches, 17 districts, and 8 territories. The largest and the oldest district of the connectional body is the Southern District Convocation (Goldsboro, NC).
This church was organized as the outgrowth of what was called a "holiness revival", sparked by the meetings held by Isaac Cheshier at Method, North Carolina (a suburb of Raleigh), in 1886. It began as a regional body. In 1900 this body called itself Holy Church of North Carolina, and later, as it grew, the Holy Church of North Carolina and Virginia. In the early 1900s, the church added a Pentecostal understanding. In 1916 the name United Holy Church of America was adopted, and the church was incorporated on September 15, 1918. The United Holy Church of America is the oldest African American Holiness-Pentecostal body in the world. Many independent churches were established.
The church was born in Method, NC, in May 1886. On October 13, 1894, in the city of Durham, North Carolina, the first convocation was organized. Those present were G.A. Mials, H.C. Snipes and S.S. Freeman, all of Raleigh, North Carolina; present also was G.W. Roberts of Durham, North Carolina, and L.M. Mason of Method, North Carolina. On October 15, 1900, a convention was called by the Rev. C.C. Craig to meet at Durham, North Carolina, to prepare a discipline for the government of the churches. Those present were H.C. Pettiford, H.C. Snipes, L.M. Mason, G.W. Roberts, Mrs. Emma E. Craig, and Mrs. L.J. Roberts.
The church was first known as the "Holy Church of North Carolina", and later as the "Holy Church of North Carolina and Virginia". In September 1916, in a Convocation assembled at Oxford, North Carolina, the name was changed to the United Holy Church of America. On September 25, 1918, the Church was incorporated in the state of North Carolina under the name of the United Holy Church of America Incorporated. The Southern District of the United Holy Church of America came into being in the year 1894 in the city of Durham, North Carolina. This was the first and the largest of all the districts in the connection. It was organized by Elders C.C. Craig, L.M. Mason, George W. Roberts, H.C. Snipes, and H.C. Pettiford, along with Mother E.E. Craig, and Mrs. L.J. Roberts. Elder L.M. Mason was chosen as its first president.
In June 1920, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, bishops H.L. Fisher and G.J. Branch and other general officers met at a call-meeting of the independent group of Holy Churches in this city and nearby towns, and organized the churches into a district known as the Northern District Convocation of the United Holy Church of America, Inc. Bishop G.J. Branch of Goldsboro, North Carolina was chosen as the president of the district embracing the states of New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland and the District of Columbia.
Following this, in 1924, in the city of Columbus, Ohio, at the Gospel Tabernacle Church, whose pastor was Elder John E. Harris, the Northwestern District was organized into a District Convocation by Bishop G.J. Branch, Bishop H.L. Fisher, and Bishop J.D. Diggs, along with other General officers of the Church. Bishop J.D. Diggs of Winston-Salem, North Carolina was chosen as its first president. Other officers were Bishop H.H. Hairston and Bishop S.G. McCoy. The states comprising this district were Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, West Virginia, Western Pennsylvania, Kentucky and Eastern Illinois.
The New England District, embracing the states of the New England area, was organized in August 1925. Bishop J.W. Houston was chosen as the first president of this district.
The Central Western District was organized in 1930. The organizers were Bishop J.W. Houston, Elder Otis E. Evans, Mother Addie Houston, and Mother Susie Evans.
The United Holy Church district on the Pacific Coast was originally known, in 1924, as the Union of California United Holy Churches. In 1936 this district was named the Pacific Coast District, and later the Western District. The first headquarters for the district was in Los Angeles, and later in San Francisco. Bishop Henry Lee Fisher was the chief organizer of this district.
The West Virginia District was organized in 1935 through the work of Bishop J.D. Diggs after being separated from the Northwestern District the previous year. The Southeastern District, originally known as the Florida-Georgia District, was organized in 1948 by Bishop G.J. Branch.
The Bermuda District, covering the entire island of Bermuda, was organized in 1921 by Bishop Henry Lee Fisher. Associated with him in this effort were Elders Thomas Trott, C. H. Caisey and Patrick Mills, and Miss Majorie Trott.
In the early history of the Barbados District, Evangelist Rosa B. Hawkins of San Francisco, California, organized five churches on the island of Barbados; however, these churches later joined with another Pentecostal body. The churches in Barbados that are presently a part of The United Holy Church of America were organized by the late Bishop Harry Townsend Gentles. He founded Mt. Olive United Holy Church in 1949, and it later became the headquarters church for the District. Bishop Gentles brought together some independent churches and organized new ones as well. These churches grew into the present-day Barbados District.
The Virginia District was organized by Bishop W.N. Strobhar. Bishop Thomas E. Talley was appointed the first president, and Bishop S. G. McCoy served as vice president. The first convocation was held in August 1969 in Portsmouth, Virginia, and Mrs. Elsie Harris served as its first secretary. So December 10, 1969, at Fisher Memorial United Holy Church in Durham, North Carolina, the Western North Carolina District was organized by Bishop W.N. Strobhar and other General officers. Bishop A.W. Lawson was appointed the first president, and Bishop N.M. Midgett was chosen to serve as vice president. The Central Pacific District was founded in March 2005 with Bishop Rafael Fortier, Jr., as its first president. The district began with its headquarters in San Francisco, California.
From January 1927 to March 1975, the Church experienced a breach in its Certificate of Incorporation. Through a Certificate of Rescission and a resolution passed at a General meeting, the Certificate of Incorporation was amended to allow the Church to exist as a perpetual institution. The Church's corporate status as a non-profit religious organization now exists in perpetuity. The Tenth Article of the 1918 Certificate of Incorporation was amended to reflect this change.
In 1977, the Church divided when the Southern District Convocation, located in Goldsboro, North Carolina withdrew from fellowship with the parent body. However, in May 2000 in the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, the Southern District Convocation was reunited with the connectional body at the Quadrennial Session.
Church Affirmation of Faith
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The Church states that
- We believe in the Father who is God Almighty. The Creator of all things and the Preserver of Light and Life.
- We believe in the Son, who is Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son. He was human and divine, truly lived, suffered and died, rose again from the dead, ascended on high and is coming again.
- We believe that Jesus was sent by God to man. That whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.
- We believe in the Holy Ghost, who was sent from God the Father and the Son. That the Holy Spirit convicts and converts sinners, dwells in the believer, keeps the believer from the power of sin and leads him to the father, through His Son, Jesus Christ.
- We believe the Bible is the word of God, given by inspiration through holy men. That in the bible, God seeks to reveal his will to man and man seeks to respond to God's revelation.
- We believe that the union of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost are revealed through His church. That all believers are united into one body - the Church.
- We believe that Christ is coming back for His holy Church, without spot or wrinkle.
- That without holiness in Spirit, soul and body, no man shall see the Lord. Amen."
- Africa-Ghana District
- Barbados District
- Bermuda District
- Central Pacific District
- Central Western District
- Kentucky District
- New England District
- Northern District
- Northwestern District
- South Carolina District
- South Eastern District
- Southern District Goldsboro
- Southern District Henderson
- Virginia District
- Western District
- Western North Carolina District
- West Virginia District
- St. Lucia-West Indies District
United Holy Church of America Governance
General President, General Vice-President, and General 2nd Vice-President, Bishops' Council, General Board of Bishops, Board of Elders (district and general church levels), District Board of Presbytery, District Presidents, District Elders, District & General Departments of Evangelism & Extension, Missions, Ushers, Music, YPHA (Young Peoples' Holy Association), BCS (Bible Church School), Publications, and the Holiness Union . The United Holy Church is broken down into districts, sub-districts and then local churches.
Bishops, Pastors, Elders (Ordained Ministers), Licensed Ministers (Evangelists, Reverends, Ministers,etc.) District Board of Presbytery handle the applicants for ministerial licensing and ordination. While in cases of ordination some of the applicants are also tried before the District Board of Elders as well.
The United Holy Church of America holds the distinct honor of being the oldest African American Holiness-Pentecostal body in the world. As a result, many organizations have been influenced by the UHCA. Mount Calvary Holy Church of America split from the United Holy Church in 1929 to form their own holiness Pentecostal body. Mount Sinai Holy Church of America separated from the mother church in 1924 to form an organization to create gender equality in episcopal ordination. The Church of God in Christ (COGIC), Fire Baptized Holiness Church of God of the Americas and the United Holy Church consider each other as sister organizations. The United Holy Church was one of the first churches that ordained women to become pastors and elders and later on bishops. United Holy Church's annual "Holy Convocation" is held every May. District convocations are held at set times within the district. The Holiness Union is the official church organ and magazine of the United Holy Church of America. There is no solid stance on Pentecostal doctrine. The United Holy Church of America has the United Christian College Goldsboro, NC as one of the main educational and training institutions in the body.
Standards of conduct
The Church has the following general rules:
- Clothing and articles of jewelry should be modest and without ostentation.
- All local churches are exclusively places of worship, not for activities such as fairs, worldly festivals, other worship programs, or any other kind of untoward activity.
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- The Church is the mystical union of all believers with Christ as its head through which He operates, saves souls, reveals God's nature and will to men, and does mighty works, thus glorifying the Father who is in Heaven. (Ephesians 1:22,23; 5:32; Galatians 1:25; Romans 12:14-21; 1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
- The Christian Church, according to the New Testament, is an inclusive company of baptized believers, called out from the world and organized on a definite plan in order to accomplish God's divine purposes, and through which the ordinances and sacraments are administered.
- Therefore, the mission of the United Holy Church of America Inc., is to promote Christian doctrine, values and fellowship for the purpose of extending holiness throughout the world through the teaching and preaching of the Word of God, and the establishing of programs and activities which minister to the temporal as well as the spiritual needs of humankind.
- To implement this mission, we believe that it is necessary to set forth appropriate organizational structures, to exercise discipline, to elect and sustain officers, to acquire, hold and bequeath property, and to superintend the distribution of financial resources as we bear witness to the Lordship of Jesus Christ in obedience to His Great Commission.
Former general presidents and presiding prelates
- Rt. Rev. L.M. Mason 1894-1901
- Rt. Rev. W.H. Fulford 1901-1916
- Rt. Rev. Henry L. Fisher 1916-1947
- Rt. Rev. G.J. Branch 1947-1949
- Rt. Rev. Henry H. Hairiston 1949-1963
- Rt. Rev. Walter N. Strobahr 1963-1980
- Rt. Rev. Joseph T. Bowens 1980-1992
- Rt. Rev. Thomas E. Talley 1992-1996
- Rt. Rev. Odell McCollum 1996-2005
- Rt. Rev. Elijah Williams 2005–2016
- Rt. Rev. Harry L Cohen 2016-Present
- The Official Web Site of the United Holy Church Of America
- The Southern District Convocation
- The Northern District Convocation
- The Virginia District Convocation
- Gospel Tabernacle UHC
- Jerusalem UHC, Reidsville, NC
- Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood
- The History of the United Holy Church of America, Inc., by Chester W. Gregory, Sr.