Thesis: Church of God in Christ

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[. . .] IV. Mason -- Elected Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ

Mason was elected the Chief Apostle of the church at this meeting in addition to the Articles of the Religion of the Church being amended with the addition of a 'Pentecostal paragraph'. (Owens, 2002) A belief in sanctification is reported to have been "at the same time retained" by the Church of God in Christ. (Owens, 2002) It is reported by Owens that stated in the official manual of the Church is the following: "We therefore, believe that before a believer can be filled with the Holy Ghost, he must first be sanctified." (COGIC Manual, 1973, p.59 in: Owens, 2002) These actions sealed the split between the Holiness and the Pentecostal segments of the Church of God in Christ permanently. For two long years, a court battle ensued over which segment of the Church held the right to use the church name and charter. The case was heard in the court of Shelby County, Tennessee that handed down a decision in the favor of the Pentecostal Assembly.

V. Legal Dispute

The article entitled "Opinion" published in The Whole Truth (April 1968) states that the ruling was made upon the basis of the fact that the Church of God in Christ had not been legally incorporated at that time stating:

"It is insisted on behalf of the complainants that the church to which the defendants and complainants belong is a member of an association of churches under control of a superior council…It has no authority whatever over the individual churches. Its action can only be in any case advisory. Indeed, we do not think that any council has ever been organized. It appears that in January 1906, there was a meeting of ministers of various colored churches professing sanctification; and there was a meeting in august 1906. At this meeting there was present the pastor of the church of South Wellington street Memphis, [Mason] which is the subject of the present controversy and also member -- one Murphy. The evidence however, fails to show that either of these persons were commissioned to place the church under the authority of the alleged superior council nor does it appear that there was such authority conferred upon other person persent. It appears that the two meetings in Jackson, Mississippi, above referred to were what is called holiness meetings composed largely of ministers of that persuasion. It is true that while these men were present, they undertook to affect some kind of organization and appointed three men whom they called overseers, C.P. Jones' supposed jurisdiction was the State of Mississippi, Mason's the State of Tennessee, Jeter's the State of Arkansas. Their powers according to Jones consisted principally in watching over the churches and seeing that no improper ministers officiated. It required two of them top authorize a minister to act as such, and it seems they assumed the authority to dispose of ministers also. We cannot find in the record any sufficient evidence that this authority was conferred upon these men by the churches. We are likewise unable to find in the record nay-sufficient evidence that the alleged superior council had conferred upon it any authority by the churches; certainly not by the congregation whose church is in controversy in the present case. We think the overwhelming weight of evidence shows that the defendants' [Mason's] church belongs to the congregational order, and that it is not subject to oversight by any superior ecclesiastical organization." (Owens, 2002)

Because the Church of God in Christ was not incorporated when this dispute took place, Mason had the capacity to keep the control of the name Church of God in Christ. The Holiness segment of the church reorganized as Church of Christ (Holiness) USA. At the insistence of Mason the worship and prayer traditions of the religion of slaves were retained including "the prayer circle, lively worship (such as shouting, jumping) and the 'Holy Dance'." (Owens, 2002) The Church was led by Mason in its development of a "new Pentecostal spirituality." (Owens, 2002) The leadership of Mason resulted in the Church of God in Christ moving "from the inward focus on personal perfection of the Holiness Movement to an outward focus that saw the social suffering of the oppressed as something that he Christian community should address and ameliorate." (Owens, 2002) Following the split the Church of God in Christ grew quickly soon becoming the largest African-American Pentecostal denomination in the world." (Owens, 2002)

Owens states that Mason is considered to be a prophet that transcends race and one who did not forget how important race is but one who would not be "confined to a race." (Owens, 2002) During the period between 1907 and 1914 Mason is reported to have ordained 350 white ministers" and the result is that there were an equal number of African-American and white ministers in the Church of God in Christ. (Owens, 2002, paraphrased) It was clear in 1913 that the Pentecostals shift toward denominationalism "they would follow the segregating practices of American culture." (Owens, 2002) In 1913 it is reported that invitations were sent by E.N. Bell and H.A. Goss which stated that a "general council of 'all Pentecostal saints and Churches of God in Christ would convene in April 1914 in Hot Springs, Arkansas." (Owens, 2002) This invitation is stated to have only gone to the white saints." (Owens, 2002) Mason's view of church race relations is summed up in his statement of: "The church is like the eye: it has a little black in it and a little white in it, and without both it can't see." There was a "exodus of whites" from the Church of God in Christ resulted in the formation of the Assemblies of God and this is noted to have been "of crucial importance to the future development of the Pentecostal movement, effectively marking the end of a notable experiment in interracial development."

It is interesting to note the history of Pentecostalism both in terms of its historical roots as well as its roots in America as related in the work of Harvey Cox entitled "Fire From Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century." The work of Harvey Cox (2001) questions why it is that Presbyterians, Methodists and Episcopalians "seem to be losing members -- down 20 to 40%…" while Pentecostalism is growing rapidly and Latin America, African and parts of Asia." Cox states that the Pentecostals are so named based on a story related in chapter two of the Acts of the Apostles, which describes how the followers of Christ who had recently been crucified gathered to mark the Pentecost in Jerusalem, fifty days after Passover. It is stated that there was a sound "from on high 'like the rush of mighty wind'. The Holy Spirit filled them, tongues 'as of fire' crowned their heads, and to their amazement, each began to understand what the other was saying even though they came from 'every nation under heaven' and spoke many different languages. It seemed that the ancient curse of Babel -- the confounding of languages -- had been reversed and that God was creating a new inclusive human community in which Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia could all live together." (Cox, 2001) The first Pentecostal movement in the United States was that of the Quakers who struck out from England to get away from persecution based on their religious beliefs and practices. William Penn and his Quaker followers are described as "a band of eighteenth century holy rollers" and it is stated that William Penn was in addition a "social visionary" who had the desire to "build a colony that would, as far as possible, replicate the heavenly Jerusalem here below." (Cox, 2001)

VI. Response to Racism and Social Stratification (Baer and Jones, 1992)

The work of Baer and Jones (1992) entitled "African-Americans in the South: Issues of Race, Class and Gender" states that the Black Holiness Pentecostal sects "emerged as responses to changes in the American political economy during the decades following the Civil War, but particularly following the turn of the century. The Holiness movement is stated to emerge due to the initiative to bring about a restoration to the doctrine of Wesley termed 'entire sanctification' in white Methodism after the Civil War. The holiness movement is stated to have in the beginning started "as an urban force among the better educated circles and including leading figures in the Methodist Church, its most radical wing attracted primarily Methodist and some Baptists in the rural South and Midwest." (Baer and Jones, 1992) Some of the black holiness sects are stated to have "appeared on the periphery of the larger Holiness movement, and occasionally poor white sand blacks joined together for interracial Holiness fellowships" although… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Church of God in Christ.  (2011, March 17).  Retrieved May 20, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/church-god-christ/3667425

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https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/church-god-christ/3667425.