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Church of God in Christ
Classification Protestant
Orientation Pentecostal
Polity Episcopal
Geographical area United States
Founder Charles Harrison Mason
Origin 1907
Memphis,TN
Separations Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. (separated 1907), Assemblies of God (separated 1914), Church of God in Christ, International (separated 1969)
Members 5,499,875[1]

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) is a Christian denomination. It is an historically African American Holiness-Pentecostal church. The church has congregations in nearly 60 countries around the world. With a membership of over 5 million in 2007 it is the largest African-American and largest Pentecostal church in the United States.[1]

Contents

History

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Origin

The Church of God in Christ was formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshipped Baptists, most notably Charles Price Jones (1865–1949) and Charles Harrison Mason (1866–1961).

Mason was a licensed Baptist preacher in Arkansas in the 1890s who was disfellowshiped by the local Baptist association for preaching Holiness. He became associated with a group of men who would become the early African American leaders of the Holiness Movement in the late 19th century. Charles Price Jones of Jackson, Mississippi, J. A. Jeter of Little Rock, Arkansas and W. S. Pleasant of Hazelhurst, Mississippi were a few of these early Holiness leaders. Many revivals were conducted leading to the establishment in Jackson, Mississippi of a new church when the first convocation was held in 1897. While seeking a name to distinguish this Holiness organization, Mason believed that the name Church of God was divinely revealed and biblically supported. The Church would be reorganized with Jones as General Overseer, Mason as Overseer of Tennessee, and Jeter as Overseer of Arkansas.

Pentecostal body

In 1906, Mason, Jeter and D.J. Young were appointed as a committee by Jones to investigate reports of a revival in Los Angeles, conducted by the itinerant preacher, William J. Seymour. Mason's visit to what was known as the Azusa Street Revival changed the direction of the newly formed Holiness church. Upon his return to Tennessee from the Azusa Street Revival, Mason began preaching and teaching the Pentecostal Holiness message.

In 1907, Jeter and Jones rejected Mason's teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit, resulting in a mutual separation. Jones continued to lead his adherents as a Holiness church, changing the name in 1915 to the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. Mason called a conference in Memphis, Tennessee, known as the Holy Convocation 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 Mason as General Overseer and Chief Apostle.

Mason was given authority to establish doctrine, organize auxiliaries and appoint bishops. It was during these formative years that Mason credentialed both whites and African Americans who would subsequently become leaders within other Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies Of God, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, and the United Pentecostal Church International.

From November 25 to December 14, Mason established what is commonly called the COGIC National Holy Convocation of Saints to be held annually in Memphis, Tennessee. The meeting was for worship, preaching, fellowship and to conduct any church business pertaining to the national organization.

The first national tabernacle was built and completed in 1925. This tabernacle was destroyed by fire in 1936. In 1945 Mason dedicated Mason Temple in Memphis as the church's national meeting site. Built in 1940 during World War II, its construction was a benchmark effort by a group of African-Americans during that period. It became the largest Black-owned church auditorium in America during the 1940s. The historic church auditorium is the location of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr's final message to the world. He delivered "I've been to the Mountaintop" speech from the pulpit of Mason Temple.

Recent history

The church has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception in 1907 with 10 churches. COGIC began originally in the southern states of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Arkansas. As African Americans migrated north during the Great Migration, converted members spread the church north and west. At the time of Bishop Mason's death in 1961, COGIC had spread to every state in the Union and many foreign countries with a membership of more than 400,000. In 1973, the church claimed a worldwide membership of nearly three million.

In recent years, the COGIC and the Assemblies of God have dedicated themselves to reconciling and healing the two organizations, which separated on racial lines in 1914, by working together in common ministries. Two signs of this reconciliation and healing are the 1994 Memphis Miracle and the School of Urban Missions of Oakland, California operated jointly by both denominations.

In 2007, the church celebrated its 100th Holy Convocation, an important milestone that was celebrated by the church[2] and even marked by a leading African-American hair gel company.[3]

Beliefs

The COGIC believes the Bible to be the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. COGIC doctrine is trinitarian, stressing repentance, regeneration, justification and sanctification. The church teaches that the baptism of the Holy Spirit is given to all Christian believers who ask for it. Holiness of life and practice are emphasized. The ordinances of the church are water baptism by immersion, the Lord's Supper and foot washing (the ordinance of humility).The church believes in divine healing, however, it does not advocate the exclusion of medical supervision.

Structure

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. The administrative and legislative authority of the church is vested in a General Assembly. The General Assembly is composed of ordained and/or credentialed pastors, elders, evangelists, missionaries, chaplains, and jurisdictional/auxiliary bishops.

The General Assembly elects a 12-person General Board (Presidium) from the college of bishops who serve functionally as apostles. The Presidium oversees the operation of the international church when the General Assembly is not in session. The Presidium includes a separately elected International Presiding Bishop who serves a term of four years and two appointed assistant presiding bishops. The current Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle is Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. National officers of the church are chosen at a General Assembly every four years unless special elections are warranted.

In addition to the General Board, there is a Board of Bishops, a National Trustee Board, Judiciary Board, Council of Pastors and Elders, and departmental presidents.

World headquarters are in Memphis, Tennessee, commonly referred to by members as the following: "Holy City of the Saints of God", "Jerusalem" or "the Holy Mecca of the Saints of God". The headquarters are housed at the Mason Temple. Each year, more than 50,000 representatives from COGIC churches meet in Memphis called the COGIC Holy Convocation. However, the 103rd annual gathering will meet for the first time in COGIC history in St. Louis, MO in the year 2010.

Departments and auxiliaries

Women's Department

Women in the COGIC have been influential in the leadership and organization of the church since its inception. Lizzie Woods Robinson (1911–1945) was the first "General Mother/Supervisor" of the church. Her successor, Lillian Brooks Coffey (1945–1964) was the organizer of the 1st International Women's Convention (1951) and was most influential in organizing many of the departments that exist within COGIC today. Foreign missions and schools were established through the leadership of women in the COGIC.

Department of Missions

The COGIC has churches, schools, missions, and medical clinics in nearly sixty nations. The COGIC operates schools of higher learning including the All Saints Bible College, Memphis,TN, the C. H. Mason Bible College, 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.

See also

References

External links


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