Church of God in Christ

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The Church of God in Christ, Inc. is a Pentecostal body which is the sixth largest Christian Church in the United States and perhaps the nation's largest African American denomination.

The Church of God in Christ was formed in 1897 by Bishop Charles Harrison Mason (1866-1961), who severed ties with the Baptists. Mason was licensed to preach by Mt. Gale Missionary Baptist Church of Preston, Arkansas. He entered Arkansas Baptist College in 1893, but soon became dissatisfied and withdrew. He became connected with Charles P. Jones of Jackson, Mississippi, J. A. Jeter, of Little Rock, Arkansas, and W. S. Pleasant of Hazelhurst, Mississippi, as they moved into the Holiness movement. As the result of a revival breaking out in Jackson, Mississippi, a new church, eventually called the Church of God, was formed. The first convocation called by these Holiness brethren was held in 1897 at the Mt. Helm Missionary Batpist Church in Jackson. Around 1906, while seeking a name to distinguish this body from others of the same title, Mason felt the name Church of God in Christ was revealed to him. This he supported with I Thessalonians 2:14, and the name was accepted.

Mason's visit to the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1907 changed the direction of the church. He, along with J. A. Jeter and D. J. Young, were appointed in 1906 as a committee to investigate the reports of the revival. Upon his return to Tennessee, Mason began to teach the Pentecostal experience he had found in California. Jones and Jeter rejected the Pentecostal manifestations and the church split between them and Mason's followers. Mason called a conference in Memphis, and reorganized the Church of God in Christ as a Pentecostal body. Both divisions went under the same name until about 1915.

The current Presiding Bishop (2004) is Dr. Gilbert Earl Patterson, who is the founding pastor of the Temple of Deliverance Church of God in Christ. Other bishops include Charles E. Blake, the Pastor of The West Angeles Cathedral, and J. N. Haynes, the Pastor of The Gospel Temple Church of God in Christ. World headquarters are located in Memphis, Tennessee. By some estimates, the church has a worldwide membership of 8,000,000 members.

Related bodies include the Church of Christ (Holiness) U.S.A. (those who rejected the Pentecostal movement and followed the leadership of C. P. Jones), the Church of God in Christ, Congregational (a group of churches that withdrew in 1932 under the leadership of Bishop J. Bowe, who taught the church should have congregational rather than episcopal government), and the Church of God in Christ, International (a group led by Bishop Illie Jefferson that rejected a reorganization of the church and formed a new body in Kansas City, Missouri in 1969).

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