COGIC and the Black Church: Cornerstones of the African American Journey
And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. 3 Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance – Acts 2:2-4
BISHOP CHARLES HARRISON MASON founded the Church of God In Christ (COGIC) denomination in 1897. COGIC would follow the rich Christian heritage of historically African American denominations such as:
- The African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME)
- AME Zion
- The National Baptist Convention
and many others. Named for 1 Thessalonians 2:14, COGIC emphasizes the importance of the three supernatural extraordinary manifestations which occurred on the Day of Pentecost (the 50th day after the Passover, or Easter) as being necessary to experience all believers in Christ Jesus: the sound from heaven of a mighty wind, the appearance of tongues of fire upon believers, and the power to speak in tongues, in accordance with the scriptures in Acts 2:1-4.
Christianity is central to African American tradition, history, and culture. COGIC is a church of the Lord Jesus Christ in which the Word of God is preached, ordinances are administered, and the doctrine of sanctification, or holiness, is emphasized as being essential to the salvation of mankind. The COGIC traditions and manner of praising and worshiping the Lord have historically been seen as being more connected to African traditions.
In 1895, Elder Charles Harrison Mason met Elder C.P. Jones of Jackson, MI; Elder J.E. Jeter of Little Rock, AR; and Elder W.S. Pleasant of Hazelhurst, MI, all of whom became Bishop Mason’s close companions in ministry.
The Baptist preachers conducted a revival in 1896 in Jackson, MI, where large numbers of people were converted, sanctified, and healed by the power of faith. However, the teachings of Elder Mason on the doctrine of sanctification caused his expulsion from the Baptist denomination under the Mississippi State Convention.
In 1897, when he and his group of pioneering, persistent preachers returned to Jackson, Elder Mason was forced to deliver his first message from the steps of the local courthouse. A Mr. John Lee provided the living room of his home the next night, and because of the overwhelming number of attendees, a Mr. Watson subsequently offered the use of an abandoned warehouse. Land was soon bought, upon which Elder Mason established a small church with Elder Mason, Elder Jones, Elder Pleasant, and 60 charter members.
In March of 1907, Elder Mason, Elder Young and Elder Jeter journeyed to Los Angeles, CA, to attend the Azusa Street Revival, led by Minister William J. Seymour. This became a turning point for Elder Mason when he experienced an outpouring of the Holy Spirit:
“The Spirit came upon the saints and upon me…Then I gave up for the Lord to have His way within me. So there came a wave of Glory into me and all of my being was filled with the Glory of the Lord. So when He had gotten me straight on my feet, there came a light which enveloped my entire being above the brightness of the sun. When I opened my mouth to say Glory, a flame touched my tongue which ran down me. My language changed and no word could I speak in my own tongue. Oh! I was filled with the Glory of the Lord. My soul was then satisfied.” – Bishop Charles Harrison Mason
Upon his return to Memphis, Elder Mason began to proclaim of his new Pentecostal experience. However, Elder Mason’s contemporaries, Elder Jeter, Elder Jones and others, regarded his new Holy Spirit experience as a delusion. The General Assembly of the church withdrew the “right hand of fellowship” from Elder C. H. Mason, who then called a conference in Memphis, TN of all ministers who believed in receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost according to the scriptures in Acts 2:1-4. Those who responded to Elder Mason’s urgent call were: E. R. Driver, J. Bowe, R.R. Booker, R. E. Hart, W. Welsh, A. A. Blackwell, E. M. Page, R.H. I. Clark, D. J. Young, James Brewer, Daniel Spearman and J. H. Boone.
THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST TODAY
In 1907, the first Pentecostal General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ was thus organized. Elder C. H. Mason was chosen unanimously as the General Overseer and Chief Apostle of the denomination. He was given complete authority to establish doctrine, organize auxiliaries and appoint overseers.
Today, COGIC has grown from 10 congregations in 1907 to the largest Pentecostal group in America today. As West Angeles’ own Bishop Charles Edward Blake, Sr. currently serves as COGIC’s Chief Apostle and Presiding Bishop, the National Council of Churches ranks COGIC as the largest Pentecostal denomination and the 4th largest Christian denomination in the United States.
Internationally, COGIC can now be found in more than 60 nations, including Egypt, the Ivory Coast, and Israel. Its global membership is estimated to be between 6-8 million, comprising of more than 15,000 congregations worldwide. COGIC is at the forefront of transforming and winning the nations to Christ worldwide.