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Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)

Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee)

Overview
The Church of God, with headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee
Cleveland, Tennessee
Cleveland is a city in Bradley County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 41,285 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Bradley County...

, is a Pentecostal Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

. With over seven million members in over 170 countries, it is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world. In the United States, it reports 1,076,254 members, making it the nation's 22nd largest Christian church.

The movement's origins can be traced back to 1886 with a small meeting of Christians at the Barney Creek Meeting House on the Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

/North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 border, making it the oldest Pentecostal denomination in the United States.
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The Church of God, with headquarters in Cleveland, Tennessee
Cleveland, Tennessee
Cleveland is a city in Bradley County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 41,285 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Bradley County...

, is a Pentecostal Christian denomination
Christian denomination
A Christian denomination is an identifiable religious body under a common name, structure, and doctrine within Christianity. In the Orthodox tradition, Churches are divided often along ethnic and linguistic lines, into separate churches and traditions. Technically, divisions between one group and...

. With over seven million members in over 170 countries, it is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the world. In the United States, it reports 1,076,254 members, making it the nation's 22nd largest Christian church.

The movement's origins can be traced back to 1886 with a small meeting of Christians at the Barney Creek Meeting House on the Tennessee
Tennessee
Tennessee is a U.S. state located in the Southeastern United States. It has a population of 6,346,105, making it the nation's 17th-largest state by population, and covers , making it the 36th-largest by total land area...

/North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 border, making it the oldest Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The Church of God's publishing house is Pathway Press.

Name


The precise legal name of this body is Church of God. In 1953, the Supreme Court of Tennessee determined that it alone was entitled to use the simple name Church of God, after a protracted court case involving donations that were intended for its orphanages that were being received by other groups using the same name. The group however uses Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) in order to distinguish it from other bodies who use the words Church of God in their titles.

Origins (1886-1902)


R. G. Spurling (1857-1935), a Missionary Baptist minister, and his father Richard Spurling (1810-1891), an ordained elder
Elder (Christianity)
An elder in Christianity is a person valued for his wisdom who accordingly holds a particular position of responsibility in a Christian group. In some Christian traditions an elder is a clergy person who usually serves a local church or churches and who has been ordained to a ministry of Word,...

, rejected some of the views of the Baptists in his area as not being in accord with New Testament
New Testament
The New Testament is the second major division of the Christian biblical canon, the first such division being the much longer Old Testament....

 Christianity. R. G. Spurling disagreed with Landmarkism
Landmarkism
Landmarkism is a type of Baptist ecclesiology--it may also appear as Old Landmarkism in some works. Adherents are normally styled Landmark Baptists or simply Landmarkers within the United States, but are known as Landmarkists in the United Kingdom. The term Landmarkism originates in : "Remove not...

, an ecclesiology
Ecclesiology
Today, ecclesiology usually refers to the theological study of the Christian church. However when the word was coined in the late 1830s, it was defined as the science of the building and decoration of churches and it is still, though rarely, used in this sense.In its theological sense, ecclesiology...

 which held that only Baptists were true Christians and that they should not associate with Christians of other traditions. Spurling felt that there needed to be another reformation of the Church that went beyond the Protestant Reformation
Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a 16th-century split within Western Christianity initiated by Martin Luther, John Calvin and other early Protestants. The efforts of the self-described "reformers", who objected to the doctrines, rituals and ecclesiastical structure of the Roman Catholic Church, led...

 so that Christians would be united together by love and not by creed
Creed
A creed is a statement of belief—usually a statement of faith that describes the beliefs shared by a religious community—and is often recited as part of a religious service. When the statement of faith is longer and polemical, as well as didactic, it is not called a creed but a Confession of faith...

s, which he believed divided. As long as something was not contrary to the New Testament, believers should be able to practice their faith in the form they chose.

Although not intending to form a new church or denomination, their rejection of Landmarkist values placed them in conflict with traditional churches in that area. Within a short period of time it became clear that they would not be allowed to remain as members of their churches. On August 19, 1886, after being barred from his local Baptist church, he and eight others organized the Christian Union at the Barney Creek Meeting House in Monroe County, Tennessee. They agreed to free themselves from man-made creeds and unite upon the principles of the New Testament. Between 1889 and 1895, Spurling organized three other congregations, all with the name Christian Union and functioning independently under Baptist polity. While this group would later disband and its members return to their original churches, the Church of God traces its origins to this 1886 meeting.

In 1896, three Tennessee evangelists (William Martin, Joe M. Tipton, and Milton McNabb) with links to Benjamin H. Irwin's Fire-Baptized Holiness Church
Fire-Baptized Holiness Church
The Fire-Baptized Holiness Church was a radical holiness Christian denomination in North America and was involved in the early formation of Pentecostalism. Founded in 1895, it merged with the Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1911, forming a new denomination now known as the International Pentecostal...

 brought the message of entire sanctification to the western North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 countryside when they held a revival in the Schearer Schoolhouse near Camp Creek in Cherokee County
Cherokee County, North Carolina
- Transportation :Cherokee County is well known in North Carolina as the westernmost of the state's 100 counties. Several US and state highways serve the county, linking it with other regions of North Carolina, along with the neighboring states of Georgia and Tennessee.US 64 - the longest highway...

. A feature of this revival was that some participants, including children, spoke in tongues when they experienced sanctification. This phenomenon caused great excitement and controversy in the community, and leading Baptist and Methodist leaders soon denounced the revival. Several of the worshiper's homes, as well as a provisional meeting house were burned by mobs opposing the new revival.

The worshipers began to meet in the house of William F. Bryant (1863-1949), a Baptist deacon
Deacon
Deacon is a ministry in the Christian Church that is generally associated with service of some kind, but which varies among theological and denominational traditions...

 prior to his joining the holiness movement, who assumed leadership of the group. R.G. Spurling became often worshiped with the small fellowship and was the driving force behind its 1902 decision to organize into a church, called the Holiness Church at Camp Creek. Organization was made necessary because Irwin's more fanatical teachings were influencing the movement, and there was a need for authority to discipline erring members.

Tomlinson era (1903-1923)


It would be Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson
Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson
Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson a former Quaker, united with the Holiness Church at Camp Creek in 1903. With his drive, vision, and organizational skills, he was elected the first general overseer of the Church of God in 1909. He also served as the first president of the church's Lee University...

 and his organizational skills, however, that would be responsible for the growth of the Camp Creek Holiness Church into a national denomination. A Quaker and colporteur for the American Bible Society
American Bible Society
The American Bible Society is an interconfessional, non-denominational, nonprofit organization, founded in 1816 in New York City, which publishes, distributes and translates the Bible and provides study aids and other tools to help people engage with the Bible.It is probably best known for its...

, Tomlinson had received the sanctification experience and had connections with Frank Sandford
Frank Sandford
Frank Weston Sandford was the founder and leader of an apocalyptic Christian sect, informally called "Shiloh" and eventually known officially as "The Kingdom." Sandford was early attracted to premillennialism, the Higher Life movement, the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit, and divine healing;...

's Shiloh church in Durham, Maine
Durham, Maine
Durham is a town in Androscoggin County, Maine, United States. The population was 3,419 at the 2000 census. It is included in both the Lewiston-Auburn, Maine Metropolitan Statistical Area and the Lewiston-Auburn, Maine Metropolitan New England City and Town Area.-Geography:According to the United...

. While not an ordained minister, churches often invited him to preach. The church at Camp Creek had known Tomlinson for seven years before they asked him to join their church in 1903. After climbing what is now known as Prayer Mountain in Murphy, North Carolina
Murphy, North Carolina
-Household Income:The median income for a household in the town was $24,952, and the median income for a family was $35,234. Males had a median income of $30,395 versus $16,908 for females. The per capita income for the town was $16,926...

, and reportedly being divinely assured that this fledgling church was indeed God's reestablishment of the New Testament church, Tomlinson joined the church and was soon elected its pastor. This allowed Spurling and Bryant to pursue evangelism. Fourteen new members were added to the church in the first year of Tomlinson's pastorate, and other churches were soon established in Georgia and Tennessee.

By 1905, there was a desire for greater organization among the churches. Delegates from four churches met at Camp Creek in January 1906 to conduct the 1st General Assembly of the "Churches of East Tennessee, North Georgia and Western North Carolina". Though the intention was still to avoid the creation of a creed and denomination, the members' consensus on certain endeavors and standards laid the groundwork for the future denomination. The Assembly declared, "We hope and trust that no person or body of people will ever use these minutes, or any part of them, as articles of faith upon which to establish a sect or denomination", and that it was not "a legislative or executive body, judicial only". The 1st Assembly decided that foot washing was on the same level as the sacrament
Sacrament
A sacrament is a sacred rite recognized as of particular importance and significance. There are various views on the existence and meaning of such rites.-General definitions and terms:...

 of communion
Eucharist
The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

 and, like other holiness groups, condemned the use of tobacco
Tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

. Tomlinson served as moderator and secretary. The name "Church of God" was adopted in 1907, and Tomlinson was elected general overseer in 1909.

The Church of God was a part of the holiness movement
Holiness movement
The holiness movement refers to a set of beliefs and practices emerging from the Methodist Christian church in the mid 19th century. The movement is distinguished by its emphasis on John Wesley's doctrine of "Christian perfection" - the belief that it is possible to live free of voluntary sin - and...

 and believed in entire sanctification as a definite experience occurring after salvation. While individuals had spoken in tongues in the 1896 revival, tongues were not understood as the initial evidence of baptism in the Holy Spirit. As news of the Azusa Street Revival
Azusa Street Revival
The Azusa Street Revival was a historic Pentecostal revival meeting that took place in Los Angeles, California and is the origin of the Pentecostal movement. It was led by William J. Seymour, an African American preacher. It began with a meeting on April 14, 1906, and continued until roughly 1915...

 began to spread and reach the Southeast, Church of God adherents began to seek and obtain Spirit baptism. Tomlinson was one of these seekers. In June 1907, he traveled to Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham is the largest city in Alabama. The city is the county seat of Jefferson County. According to the 2010 United States Census, Birmingham had a population of 212,237. The Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area, in estimate by the U.S...

, to attend a meeting of M. M. Pinson and Gaston B. Cashwell
Gaston B. Cashwell
Gaston Barnibus Cashwell was an early Pentecostal leader in the southern United States. He was born in Sampson County, North Carolina. His importance lies in bringing several Holiness movements into the Pentecostal camp....

. After being baptized in the Spirit at Azusa Street, Cashwell returned to the South spreading the revival and bringing many holiness groups into the Pentecostal fold. Tomlinson invited Cashwell to Cleveland, Tennessee, and it was under Cashwell's preaching that he received the Pentecostal blessing. After Tomlinson's experience, the Church of God would firmly identify as a Pentecostal church.

In 1910, the official publication, The Church of God Evangel, was founded and remains the oldest continuous Pentecostal publication. Growth followed in the years after organization. In 1902, there was one church with 20 members. By 1910, there were 1,005 members in 31 churches throughout the Southeastern United States.

Schisms


In 1923, Tomlinson was impeached, causing a division which led to the creation, by followers of Tomlinson, of what would become known as the Church of God of Prophecy
Church of God of Prophecy
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...

. The impeachment was the result of lax financial bookkeeping on Tomlinson's part. One explanation often cited for financial discrepancies was that Tomlinson may have used church funds to support struggling pastors and churches and had, on many occasions, reappropriated money from otherwise-designated funds, causing shortfalls. Although there was no indication that Tomlinson used church funds for himself, there were many within the organization who felt that this type of imprudence was an indicator of serious flaws within the organizational structure of the church.

When his handling of finances was called into question, it appears that Tomlinson took offense at the implications against his integrity, and perhaps to having his long-term and substantial authority questioned. Some, mostly in later splinter groups, have suggested that the financial issues were used as an attempt to move the church to a more democratic footing, with the office of General Overseer becoming an elective and termed office, instead of, as then existed, an office where Tomlinson served by general acclaim of the church-at-large. These splinter groups continue to maintain that this change moved the church away from being a theocracy
Theocracy
Theocracy is a form of organization in which the official policy is to be governed by immediate divine guidance or by officials who are regarded as divinely guided, or simply pursuant to the doctrine of a particular religious sect or religion....

, however, under both systems, the office of General Overseer was selected by the approval of the church. Even during Tomlinson's tenure there was no rule or tenet that prevented an Overseer from being removed.

Both sides of the controversy now tend to admit missteps by either side: by Tomlinson in taking too much umbrage at the questioning; and by those who questioned him for perhaps having more in mind than simple financial probity, and thus not addressing the matter in a way that would have been more conducive to reconciliation. In recent years the Church of God (Cleveland) and the Church of God of Prophecy have moved beyond these issues and have developed a close interdenominational fellowship. The two groups are now working together in many areas of church ministry, meetings, and evangelistic outreach.

The practice of snake handling
Snake handling
Snake handling or serpent handling is a religious ritual in a small number of Pentecostal churches in the U.S., usually characterized as rural and Holiness. The practice began in the early 20th century in Appalachia, spreading to mostly coal mining towns. The practice plays only a small part of...

 briefly became a controversy in the denomination in the 1920s after it was endorsed by George Went Hensley
George Went Hensley
George Went Hensley was one of the founders of the Church of God with Signs Following, a 20th century snake handling movement that was centered in the southeastern United States. A Tennessee native, Hensley contributed to the popularization of snake handling in North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee...

, a Church of God minister. The practice was quickly repudiated by the Church of God leadership and Hensley and the small number of congregations which practiced it left to become independent congregations generally using the name Church of God with Signs Following
Church of God with Signs Following
The Church of God with Signs Following is the name applied to Pentecostal Holiness churches that practice snake handling and drinking poison in worship services, based on an interpretation of the following biblical passage:...

. Hensley died in 1955 after being bitten by a snake during a church service.

Related bodies

  • Church of God (Chattanooga)
    Church of God (Chattanooga)
    The Church of God is a Pentecostal Holiness Christian denomination located mostly in the Southeastern United States. Its origins can be traced to a small meeting of Christians at the Barney Creek Meeting House in Monroe County, Tennessee in 1886...

     (org. 1917)
  • Church of God with Signs Following
    Church of God with Signs Following
    The Church of God with Signs Following is the name applied to Pentecostal Holiness churches that practice snake handling and drinking poison in worship services, based on an interpretation of the following biblical passage:...

     (org. circa 1922)
  • Church of God of Prophecy
    Church of God of Prophecy
    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...

     (org. 1923)
  • Church of God, House of Prayer
    Church of God, House of Prayer
    The Church of God, House of Prayer is a Pentecostal holiness body of Christians.-History:The Church of God, House of Prayer, founded in 1939 by Harrison W. Poteat and incorporated in 1966, is doctrinally similar to the Church of God . They are Trinitarian and Arminian in theology, holding a...

     (org. 1939)
  • Church of God (Huntsville, Alabama)
    Church of God (Huntsville, Alabama)
    The Church of God is a Pentecostal holiness body of Christians, once based in Huntsville, Alabama.The Church of God shares a common history with the Church of God of Prophecy up until their division in 1943. The Church of God was led by Ambrose J. Tomlinson until his death...

     (org. 1943)
  • The Church of God (Jerusalem Acres)
    The Church of God (Jerusalem Acres)
    The Church of God is a holiness Pentecostal body that descends from the Christian Union movement of Richard Spurling, A. J. Tomlinson and others...

     (org. 1957)
  • The Church of God for All Nations
    The Church of God for All Nations
    The Church of God for All Nations is a theocratic Pentecostal holiness body of Christians.Samuel Doffee, born February 2, 1931 and died April 23, 2010, formed The Church of God for All Nations in 1981. Doffee had been previously associated with the Church of God of Prophecy and The Church of God ,...

     (org. 1981)
  • Church of God (Charleston, Tennessee)
    Church of God (Charleston, Tennessee)
    The Church of God or TCOG is a Holiness-Pentecostal movement based in the United States. The church's actual name is The Church of God; however, the parenthetical phrase Charleston, Tennessee is added to distinguish it from similar sounding organizations. The Church of God was organized in 1993...

     (org. 1993)

Recent history


During the latter half of the twentieth century, the Church of God gradually relaxed what they call their Practical Commitments; separate from their Declaration of Faith, which are the biblical beliefs of the church. These practical commitments are the social practices of the church, and originally included "That members dress according to the teachings of the New Testament", "That our members conform to the Scripture relative to outward adornment and to the use of cosmetics, etc. that create an unnatural appearance", as well as other admonitions concerning hair, ornamental jewelry, "mixed swimming", television/movies, dances, and "ungodly amusements". Many of these practical commitments were modified as the church adapted to ministry outside of its southeastern U.S. roots, however the Declaration of Faith has not been modified since its inception.

Declaration of faith


The Declaration of Faith is the Church of God's doctrinal standard. It articulates both an evangelical and Pentecostal doctrinal position with Wesleyan influences. The following is a summary of the Declaration of Faith:
  • Verbal inspiration of the Bible
    Bible
    The Bible refers to any one of the collections of the primary religious texts of Judaism and Christianity. There is no common version of the Bible, as the individual books , their contents and their order vary among denominations...

  • One God
    God in Christianity
    In Christianity, God is the eternal being that created and preserves the universe. God is believed by most Christians to be immanent , while others believe the plan of redemption show he will be immanent later...

     existing as a Trinity
    Trinity
    The Christian doctrine of the Trinity defines God as three divine persons : the Father, the Son , and the Holy Spirit. The three persons are distinct yet coexist in unity, and are co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial . Put another way, the three persons of the Trinity are of one being...

  • Death, burial
    Entombment of Christ
    The Entombment redirects here. For other uses, The Entombment The Entombment of Christ, that is to say the burial of Jesus Christ, occurred after his death by crucifixion, when, according to the gospel accounts, he was placed in a new tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathea.-Biblical account:All four...

    , resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ
  • All have sin
    Sin
    In religion, sin is the violation or deviation of an eternal divine law or standard. The term sin may also refer to the state of having committed such a violation. Christians believe the moral code of conduct is decreed by God In religion, sin (also called peccancy) is the violation or deviation...

    ned and repentance
    Repentance
    Repentance is a change of thought to correct a wrong and gain forgiveness from a person who is wronged. In religious contexts it usually refers to confession to God, ceasing sin against God, and resolving to live according to religious law...

     is necessary for forgiveness
    Forgiveness
    Forgiveness is typically defined as the process of concluding resentment, indignation or anger as a result of a perceived offense, difference or mistake, or ceasing to demand punishment or restitution. The Oxford English Dictionary defines forgiveness as 'to grant free pardon and to give up all...

  • Justification
    Justification (theology)
    Rising out of the Protestant Reformation, Justification is the chief article of faith describing God's act of declaring or making a sinner righteous through Christ's atoning sacrifice....

    , regeneration
    Regeneration (theology)
    Regeneration, while sometimes perceived to be a step in the Ordo salutis , is generally understood in Christian theology to be the objective work of God in a believer's life. Spiritually, it means that God brings Christians to new life from a previous state of subjection to the decay of death...

    , and the new birth are by faith
    Faith in Christianity
    Faith, in Christianity, has been most commonly defined by the biblical formulation in the Letter to the Hebrews as "'the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen". Most of the definitions in the history of Christian theology have followed this biblical formulation...

     in Christ's blood
  • Sanctification
    Sanctification
    Sanctity is an ancient concept widespread among religions, a property of a thing or person sacred or set apart within the religion, from totem poles through temple vessels to days of the week, to a human believer who achieves this state. Sanctification is the act or process of acquiring sanctity,...

     subsequent to the new birth
  • Holiness
    Sacred
    Holiness, or sanctity, is in general the state of being holy or sacred...

     as God's standard of living for his people
  • Baptism with the Holy Spirit
    Baptism with the Holy Spirit
    Baptism with the Holy Spirit in Christian theology is a term describing baptism in or with the Spirit of God...

     subsequent to "a clean heart"
  • Speaking in tongues is the initial evidence of baptism with the Holy Spirit
  • Water baptism by immersion
  • Divine healing provided for all in Christ's atonement
  • The Lord's Supper
    Eucharist
    The Eucharist , also called Holy Communion, the Sacrament of the Altar, the Blessed Sacrament, the Lord's Supper, and other names, is a Christian sacrament or ordinance...

     and footwashing
  • The Premillenial Second Coming of Christ
  • The resurrection
    Resurrection
    Resurrection refers to the literal coming back to life of the biologically dead. It is used both with respect to particular individuals or the belief in a General Resurrection of the dead at the end of the world. The General Resurrection is featured prominently in Jewish, Christian, and Muslim...

     of the righteous to eternal life and the wicked to eternal punishment

Practical Commitments


The Church of God offers its members guidelines for Christian living called Practical Commitments. A summary is given below.
  • Spiritual Example: Demonstrate commitment to Christ through the practice of the spiritual disciplines (prayer
    Prayer in Christianity
    Prayer has been an essential part of Christianity since its earliest days. Prayer is an integral element of the Christian faith and permeates all forms of Christian worship...

    , praise
    Praise
    Praise is the act of making positive statements about a person, object or idea, either in public or privately. Praise is typically, but not exclusively, earned relative to achievement and accomplishment...

    , worship
    Christian worship
    In Christianity, worship is adoration and contemplation of God.-Overview:Throughout most of Christianity's history, corporate Christian worship has been primarily liturgical, characterized by prayers and hymns, with texts rooted in, or closely related to, the Scripture, particularly the Psalter;...

    , confession
    Confession
    This article is for the religious practice of confessing one's sins.Confession is the acknowledgment of sin or wrongs...

    , fasting
    Fasting
    Fasting is primarily the act of willingly abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for a period of time. An absolute fast is normally defined as abstinence from all food and liquid for a defined period, usually a single day , or several days. Other fasts may be only partially restrictive,...

    , meditation
    Christian meditation
    Christian meditation is a form of prayer in which a structured attempt is made to get in touch with and deliberately reflect upon the revelations of God. The word meditation comes from the Latin word meditārī, which has a range of meanings including to reflect on, to study and to practice...

     and study); demonstrate commitment to the body of Christ through loyalty to God and commitment to his church; and demonstrate commitment to the work of Christ through being good stewards.
  • Moral Purity: Engage in activities which glorify God in the body and which avoid the fulfillment of the lust
    Lust
    Lust is an emotional force that is directly associated with the thinking or fantasizing about one's desire, usually in a sexual way.-Etymology:The word lust is phonetically similar to the ancient Roman lustrum, which literally meant "purification"...

     of the flesh
    Flesh (theology)
    In Christianity, the word "flesh" is used in English as a metaphor to describe sinful tendencies. A related turn of phrase identifies certain sins as "carnal" sins, from Latin caro, carnis, meaning "flesh." Saint Paul makes this connection in Romans 7:18, in which he says:In religious language,...

    . Sinful practices condemned included: "homosexuality, adultery
    Adultery
    Adultery is sexual infidelity to one's spouse, and is a form of extramarital sex. It originally referred only to sex between a woman who was married and a person other than her spouse. Even in cases of separation from one's spouse, an extramarital affair is still considered adultery.Adultery is...

    , worldly attitudes (such as hatred
    Hatred
    Hatred is a deep and emotional extreme dislike, directed against a certain object or class of objects. The objects of such hatred can vary widely, from inanimate objects to animals, oneself or other people, entire groups of people, people in general, existence, or the whole world...

    , envy
    Envy
    Envy is best defined as a resentful emotion that "occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it."...

    , jealousy
    Jealousy
    Jealousy is a second emotion and typically refers to the negative thoughts and feelings of insecurity, fear, and anxiety over an anticipated loss of something that the person values, particularly in reference to a human connection. Jealousy often consists of a combination of presenting emotions...

    ), corrupt communication (such as gossip
    Gossip
    Gossip is idle talk or rumour, especially about the personal or private affairs of others, It is one of the oldest and most common means of sharing facts and views, but also has a reputation for the introduction of errors and variations into the information transmitted...

    , angry outbursts, filthy words), stealing, murder
    Murder
    Murder is the unlawful killing, with malice aforethought, of another human being, and generally this state of mind distinguishes murder from other forms of unlawful homicide...

    , drunkenness and witchcraft". Christians are to read, watch and listen to those things which are of positive benefit to spiritual well-being and not to attend or watch performances of a demoralizing nature.
  • Personal Integrity: Live in a manner that inspires trust and confidence, bearing the fruit of the Spirit and seeking to manifest the character of Christ in all behavior.
  • Family Responsibility: The family is foundational to society and the church; Christian worship and discipleship should begin in the home. Marriage is a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman; the only biblical allowance for divorce is fornication
    Fornication
    Fornication typically refers to consensual sexual intercourse between two people not married to each other. For many people, the term carries a moral or religious association, but the significance of sexual acts to which the term is applied varies between religions, societies and cultures. The...

    . Remarriage after divorce should only occur after a thorough understanding of and submission to scriptural instructions. God created men and women with different characteristics and different responsibilities. Divine harmony is maintained when the husband is head of the home, parents nurture and admonish their children, and children obey and honor their parents.
  • Behavioral Temperance: Practice temperance in behavior (self-control and moderation) and abstain from activities and attitudes which are offensive to others or which lead to addiction or enslavement, such as "abstain from all alcoholic beverages and other habit-forming and mood-altering chemical substances and refrain from the use of tobacco in any form, marijuana and all other addictive substances, and further, must refrain from any activity (such as gambling or gluttony) which defiles the body as the temple of God or which dominates and enslaves the spirit that has been made free in Christ".
  • Modest Appearance: Demonstrate the scriptural principle of modesty (chaste in thought and conduct) by appearing and dressing in a manner that will enhance Christian testimony and will avoid pride, elaborateness or sensuality.
  • Social Obligation: Fulfill obligations to society by being good citizens, by correcting social injustices, and by protecting the sanctity of life (abortion and euthanasia of aged, mentally incompetent, terminally ill and otherwise handicapped, for reasons of personal convenience, social adjustment or economic advantage, are morally wrong).

Structure


The Church of God possesses an episcopal polity
Episcopal polity
Episcopal polity is a form of church governance that is hierarchical in structure with the chief authority over a local Christian church resting in a bishop...

 and is the most centralized Pentecostal denomination in America.

International


The daily operations of the denomination are in the hands of the International Executive Committee, composed of the general overseer, assistant overseers, and the secretary general. The International Executive Council is empowered to consider and act on all matters concerning the interest and welfare of the Church of God. It adopts the agenda for the International General Council. The members are the general overseer (presiding bishop), the three assistant general overseers (executive bishops), the secretary general, and the Council of Eighteen. The International General Council is a body composed of all ordained ministers of the Church of God which meets biennially to consider all recommendations of the International Executive Council and recommend action to the International General Assembly. It elects the Council of Eighteen and also nominates international officers for election.

The International General Assembly meets biennially to elect officers and consider all recommendations from the International General Council. It is composed of all members and ministers of the Church of God 16 years old and above who are present and registered. Officers elected include the general overseer, the assistant general overseers, the secretary general, and the directors of the church's missionary and Christian education ministries.

Local


State or regional overseers provide leadership at the lower level of the church. Local pastors are appointed by the overseer in consultation with the local church. The Church of God recognizes several ranks of ministry. The primary ones are ordained minister, licensed minister, and exhorter. There are also categories of licensed minister of Christian education and licensed minister of music.

Higher education


The Church of God (Cleveland) operates two universities, the older of which is Lee University
Lee University
Lee University is an American accredited, private, four-year liberal arts college located in Cleveland, Tennessee, United States. It is historically affiliated with the Church of God, a Pentecostal denomination, and was the denomination's Bible Training School from 1918 until 1947, when the name...

 in Cleveland, established in 1918. The Church of God also has another University in Oakland, California called Patten University
Patten University
Patten University is a private institution of higher education in Oakland, California.The school was founded in 1944 by evangelical preacher Dr. Bebe Patten as the Oakland Bible Institute, and was affiliated with the Christian Evangelical Churches of America, a denomination established by Dr. Bebe...

, established in 1944, that serves its West Coast members and students interested in an urban experience . The denomination operates Bible colleges in several countries, including International Bible Colleges in Canada and Seminario Bíblico Mexicano, founded in 1979, in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, as well as Mt. Zion Bible College and three others in India. In response to the need for a seminary, the Church of God Graduate School of Christian Ministries (now the Pentecostal Theological Seminary) opened in 1975.

Music


In the early 1900s, the church was sometimes called "The Singing Church" due to the exuberance of the singing and the strong reliance upon music as part of the worship service. While the churches within the denomination today utilize many different musical styles, music, in general, continues to play a very important role in the local churches. Lee University's music program is considered one of the school's main specialties, and has a reputation for excellence. The official Church of God Music Ministries Department is known as Spirit Sound Music Group. This department produces studio recordings and conducts music conferences during the year.

Notable ministers

  • Steve Brock (Minister/Recording Artist)
  • Raymond F. Culpepper (General Overseer)
  • Jentezen Franklin (Pastor of Free Chapel Worship Center)
  • Keith Hawes (Evangelist/Pastor of New Covenant Church of God)
  • Steve Lowery (Pastor of National Church of God)
  • T.L. Lowery (Former Pastor of National Church of God)
  • G. Dennis McGuire
    G. Dennis McGuire
    G. Dennis McGuire is a pastor, evangelist, and administrator in the Church of God denomination. He served two terms as the General Overseer and has also been First and Second Assistant General Overseer...

     (Former General Overseer)
  • Perry Stone (Evangelist/director of Voice of Evangelism)
  • Lamar Vest (President/CEO of American Bible Society)
  • Tom Madden (Youth and Discipleship Director)
  • Gary Lewis (Assistant Youth and Discipleship Director)

Further reading

  • Conn, Charles W. Like a Mighty Army.
  • Conn, Charles W. Where the Saints Have Trod: A History of Church of God Missions. Cleveland: Pathway Press, 1957.
  • Crew, Michael. The Church of God: A Social History. University of Tennessee Press, 1990.
  • Robins, R.G. Tomlinson. Plainfolk Modernist. Oxford: University Press, 2004.

External links