Orientation/Classification: Pentecostal-Holiness / Protestant
Adherents Consider Themselves: Christians
House of Worship: Church
Religious Leader: Chaplain, pastor, bishop, ordained elder, apostles. COGIC does not ordain women as elder or bishop. Women do serve as lay leaders within the church.
Population: Estimated over 6.5 million members and 12,000 churches world-wide
POINTS OF CONTACT
Churches are organized into jurisdictions, each under the authority of a bishop. COGIC has departments to further support the work of the church. These departments include the Women’s Department, the Sunday School Department, the Youth Department (known as Young People Willing Workers, or YPWW), and Missions and Evangelism. As COGIC has continued to grow, new departments, auxiliaries and ministries have been established, including the Music Department, the National Adjutancy, the Men’s Department, COGIC Charities, and Urban Initiatives, to name a few. These auxiliaries are found in nearly every church, district and jurisdiction in COGIC.
The church has a tradition of prayer, fasting, praise and consecration that was once unique to Holiness or Pentecostal groups. Many Mainline Protestant denominations and countless nondenominational churches that once rejected these beliefs and practices have adopted them in their worship liturgy and lifestyle practices.
As a classical Pentecostal Holiness church, COGIC continues to embrace its holiness heritage, teaching moderation in dress, appearance and participation in secular entertainment as well as prohibitions against profanity, alcohol, substance abuse and immoral behavior. COGIC is a conservative denomination. Dress should be modest and business-formal. Touch between the genders should be limited.
COGIC clergy are allowed to be married. Remarriage is highly discouraged, except in the case of the death of a spouse. Divorce is considered inconsistent with biblical teachings and highly discouraged as well. COGIC considers any sexual relationship outside of the sanctity of marriage to be at odds with the sovereign will of God. COGIC clergy do not officially sanction or recognize same-sex relationships. COGIC continues to maintain its official position against legalizing same-sex marriage and homosexuality.
When scheduling meetings and planning outreach, be aware of the following annual events, while also avoiding Sundays:
- Leadership Conference (January)
- General Assembly and Call Meeting (April) in Memphis
- Men Perfecting Men Conference (May)
- General Council of Pastors and Elders (May)
- International Women’s Crusade and Convention (May)
- National Judicial Conference (June)
- Auxiliaries in Ministry (AIM) Conference (July)
- Bishop Mason’s Birthday/Founder’s Celebration (September)
- Bishop’s Conference (September)
- International Holy Convocation and General Assembly (November)
The church has two structures to govern its affairs: civil and ecclesiastical. The civil structure of the Church of God in Christ includes a President, First Vice-President, Second Vice-President, General Secretary, General Treasurer and Financial Secretary. All officers are elected by the General Assembly. The General Secretary, General Treasurer and Financial Secretary terms run concurrent with the presidential administration, which is elected every four years.
The ecclesiastical authority of the church is vested in a General Assembly, composed of the members of the General Board, jurisdictional/ auxiliary bishops, jurisdictional supervisors, chaplains, pastors, ordained elders, four district missionaries and six lay members from each jurisdiction. The General Assembly elects a 12- person General Board (Presidium) every four years from the College of Bishops, who serve as Apostles of the church. As a result, the General Board exercises great authority over the church. The Presidium includes a separately elected International Presiding Bishop who serves a term of four years and who then appoints two Assistant Presiding Bishops. The current Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle is Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr., who is the Senior Pastor of West Angeles Church of God In Christ. National officers of the church are chosen at the General Assembly every four years unless special elections are warranted.
The General Assembly is the supreme authority over the church in matters of faith and practice. Jurisdictions range in size between 30 and 100 churches. Each state in the U.S. consists of at least one jurisdiction, and several states have more than one jurisdiction. These jurisdictions are then subdivided into districts, which consist of five to seven churches and are governed by superintendents (ordained elders or pastors). There are more than 200 ecclesiastical jurisdictions around the world, with 170 in the United States. Jurisdictions are similar to the national church in terms of composition, polity and procedure.
In 1907, Charles Harrison Mason formed the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) after his Baptist church expelled him. Mason was a member of the Holiness movement of the late 19th century. In 1906, he attended the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles. Upon his return to Tennessee, he began teaching the Pentecostal Holiness message. However, Charles Price Jones and J. A. Jeter of the Holiness movement disagreed with Mason’s teachings on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.
Jones changed the name of his COGIC church to the Church of Christ (Holiness) USA in 1915. At a conference in Memphis, Tennessee, Mason reorganized the Church of God in Christ as a Holiness Pentecostal body. The headquarters of COGIC is Mason Temple in Memphis. It is the site of Martin Luther King’s final sermon, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” delivered the day before he was assassinated.