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Church of God of Prophecy
Church of God of Prophecy logo
Classification Non-Denominational
Orientation Holiness Pentecostal
Geographical area Worldwide
Founder A. J. Tomlinson
Origin 1923
Separated from Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)
Members 1,000,000 [1]

The Church of God of Prophecy is a Christian denomination with beliefs and principles similar to Pentecostal Holiness Christian faith. It is one of five Church of God bodies headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee that descended from a small meeting of believers who gathered at the Barney Creek Meeting House near the Tennessee/North Carolina border in 1886.[2]

The Church of God of Prophecy has congregations and missions in over 130 countries, with a membership of over 1,000,000 [1] In 2006, membership in the United States was 84,762 in 1,871 churches.[3] Ministries of the church include homes for children, bible training institutes, youth camps and ministerial aid. The Church operates Fields of the Wood, a Bible theme park and popular tourist attraction, near Murphy, North Carolina.



The church considers its real title to be the Church of God. For several years after the 1923 division between it and the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), there was controversy over which side of the division had the legal right to the name Church of God. This body distinguished itself as Church of God, over which A. J. Tomlinson is General Overseer. In 1952 a judge in Bradley County, Tennessee, ordered that the church add of Prophecy to the name Church of God for use in secular and business affairs, but allowed the use of Church of God for internal use.



Early history

In August 1886, Elder Richard Spurling (1810-1891), an ordained Baptist minister, rejected the dominant Landmark Baptist views of the church, which he believed were too credal and exclusive. With seven members from Holly Springs and Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Churches in Monroe County, Tennessee, and Cherokee County, North Carolina, he organized the Christian Union. These Christians hoped to free themselves from man-made creeds and unite on the principles of the New Testament. In September 1886, Spurling's son, Richard Green Spurling (1857-1935), was ordained as pastor of the Christian Union congregation. He also formed two other congregations. The father and son shared a vision to restore the church.

Around 1895, a revival under the preaching of B. H. Irwin swept into the area. Richard G. Spurling accepted Irwin's teachings on holiness, but was wary of the extreme direction in which he felt the movement was headed. But the revival was effective in moving Spurling's group away from the general faith and practice of Baptists and toward that of the Holiness Movement. In 1902, R. G. Spurling influenced a Holiness group led by W. F. Bryant to form the Holiness Church at Camp Creek, North Carolina. Spurling was elected pastor and Bryant was ordained as a deacon. The next year brought into the church an energetic and powerful leader, Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson or A. J. Tomlinson. Tomlinson, a former Quaker who experienced an inner change of regeneration and sanctification, came in 1899 to the Appalachian region as a missionary. He became acquainted with Spurling and Bryant and caught Spurling's vision of the restoration of the church. He united with the church at Camp Creek on June 13, 1903, and soon became the acknowledged leader.

New churches were organized in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. The first annual meeting of all the churches was held in 1906 in Cherokee County, North Carolina, and the name "Church of God" was adopted in 1907. Tomlinson professed a baptism of the Holy Spirit experience in 1908, which firmly established the church as part of the Pentecostal Movement. This took place under the preaching of Gaston B. Cashwell, a minister who was very influential in bringing Pentecostalism to North Carolina, the Appalachians and the east coast. In 1909, Tomlinson was elected General Overseer of the Church of God.

In 1923, the Church of God was disrupted by matters concerning finance and governance, leading to a division. The largest body resulting from the division exists as the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). What is now known as the Church of God of Prophecy was the smaller body and remained under the leadership of Tomlinson. Tomlinson continued as General Overseer over this church until his death in 1943.

The presbytery believed that God directed them to bring the younger son, Milton Ambrose Tomlinson (1906-1995), forward to leadership. This was confirmed by the General Assembly in 1944, and he became the General Overseer of the church. The additional phrase of Prophecy was added to the name on May 2, 1952. Under Milton Tomlinson's leadership, the church began the White Wing Publishing House, White Wing Christian Bookstores, The Voice of Salvation radio and TV programs, and numerous other ministries. He served as General Overseer until 1990. Past educational institutions (both of which are now defunct), include the Church of God of Prophecy Bible Training Institute, and also Tomlinson College. Both institutions were located in Cleveland, Tennessee.[4]


Homer Aubrey Tomlinson, older brother of Milton, formed a separate denomination, the Church of God (Huntsville, Alabama) under his leadership in 1943-1944. In 1957, Grady R. Kent went out of the Church of God of Prophecy and formed The Church of God of All Nations, which adopted its name in 1958.

When the church elected a new General Overseer in 1990 after the retirement of Milton Tomlinson, the stage was set for another division. A small body left in 1993 after a division in the church led to another church being formed by a group that felt that its congregation was led by God to appoint Robert J. Pruitt as their general overseer. That group, called is commonly known as The Church of God (Charleston, Tennessee).

Recent history

"Exclusivity" has never been an official church teaching. However, some ministers have subscribed to such teachings, and still hold them today, separate from the church's official stance on the subject. The church is working hard to correct the negative impression that this teaching has caused. In 2004, a joint cooperative world evangelism effort began between the Church of God (Cleveland) and the Church of God of Prophecy. This, and other efforts, are steps toward healing the effects of the long-time hurt and mistrust between the two organizations.

In 2006, at the church's bi-annual General Assembly, General Overseer Fred Fisher retired from this leadership role and a new General Overseer was appointed, Randy Howard. After a week long discussion between members at this same General Assembly, the church changed its long-standing interpretation of acceptable reasons for divorce and remarriage. The church agreed that people who had been divorced (for the cause of fornication) and were later remarried may become members of the Church of God of Prophecy. There was an overwhelming majority, made up of several thousand voting members, that voted for the change.

In 2009, Church of God of Prophecy UK and the New Testament Church of God UK will have a joint convention in Birmingham, England.


The Church of God of Prophecy considers the events of the late 19th century and the 20th century to be the modern history of the church.[5] They believe that the Church of God was founded by Jesus, and that it was restored in modern times (see the Great Apostasy). They consider the Reformation of Luther, the "Radical Reformation" of the Anabaptists, and the Great Awakenings in the United States as part of God's move in restoring the church, which was completed in 1903.

The Church of God of Prophecy accepts the Bible alone as the inspired, infallible, inerrant word of God, and as the highest authority in matters of faith and practice.[6] Water baptism by immersion, the Lord's Supper, and feet washing are held to be ordinances of the church. Individuals must profess to be born again in order to become members, as well as maintain a consistent Christian witness. This group does not maintain that an individual must be a member of their specific denomination to be a Christian.


  1. ^ a b About the Church of God of Prophecy
  2. ^ The five Church of God bodies are Church of God (Charleston, Tennessee), whose offices are located in Cleveland, but whose mailing address is Charleston; Church of God (Cleveland); Church of God of Prophecy; The Church of God (Jerusalem Acres); and The Church of God for All Nations
  3. ^ "2008 Yearbook of American & Canadian Churches". The National Council of Churches. Retrieved 2009-12-15.  
  4. ^ Hill, Samuel S. (2005). Encyclopedia of Religion in the South. Mercer University Press. ISBN 0865547580.  
  5. ^ "History of the Church of God of Prophecy". Retrieved 2008-10-12. "The Church of God movement began over one hundred years ago in the humble hearts of earnest believers in the rural mountains of Cherokee County, North Carolina. Following a miracle-filled revival that took place in a schoolhouse near Camp Creek in 1886, a small congregation formed a Christian Union to pray and study the scriptures."  
  6. ^ The Beliefs of the Church of God of Prophecy, Church of God of Prophecy website, accessed June 22, 2008

Further reading

  • R.G. Robins, "A.J. Tomlinson: Plainfolk Modernist", New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.
  • Encyclopedia of Religion in the South, Samuel S. Hill, editor
  • Gates Shall Not Prevail, by Raymond A. Carpenter
  • Handbook of Denominations in the United States, by Frank S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill, and Craig D. Atwood
  • The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements, by Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. Van Der Maas

External links


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