From its humble beginnings in 1897 as a holiness church under the leadership of C.H. Mason, J.A. Jeter, and C.P. Jones, to its reorganization as a pentecostal/holiness church in 1907 until recent times, the roots of the church were hailed as valuable to helping individuals understand the nature of God, the church and the uniqueness of the Saint in this world. The Saint was proud to display a difference of being light in a world of sin and darkness. In fact calling one another "Saints" sprung out of the Church Of God In Christ as the Baptist church didn't call their members by that term and the Catholic church held that designation for those who were dead or who had departed from this life.
|Bishop O.T. Jones Sr.|
2nd Senior Bishop
One would think this is a silly question but we must not forget that the rise of The Church Of God In Christ International, a totally separate organization that claims the same founder (Bishop C.H. Mason) and successor leadership (Bishop O.T. Jones Sr.) was an offshoot of the Church Of God In Christ, Mem. Tn., claims. The COGIC International began in Chicago, Illinois, and if it were not for the voice of the Presiding Bishop C.H.Mason on tape, would have eclipsed what we know today as the Grand Ole Church Of God In Christ Inc. of Mem.Tn. This new church was, in part, because of a dispute over leadership and what the church would value doctrinally. The older Bishop O.T. Jones did not value or esteem the doctrine of the Holy Ghost as highly as Bishop C.H. Mason and there was a conflict over the biblical necessity of tongues. Of course there was also dispute over procedure and certain rules regarding whether the church constitution allowed for a Presidium of Bishops to lead or whether the power was vested in a sole authority or Presiding Bishop similar to the late Bishop C.H. Mason, and exactly how much authority that leader actually had. In a strange sort of way, similar questions may be arising today.
Non-Delegate Lockout Of The General Assembly
Not only have former Presiding Bishops (Chandler Owens) held that the Presiding Bishop held authority similar to that of the "Pope", but the current core of Bishops seem to be slowly wielding power away from the people, even if it's little by little. Example: In 2010 the General Assembly was closed to anyone who was not a delegate. According to General Secretary, Bishop Lyles, this was due to space limitations, however there was no provision made for non-delegates, or other members of the church, to observe proceedings. One may think this means little, but nothing is further from the truth. Only the delegates to the General Assembly have the power to set forth votes on certain issues, and actually set church policy. Non-delegates or witnesses, can be and are also members of the church, but in this case, those non-delegate members have been lowered to the status of non-members and outside observers, fully dependent upon second hand accounts of events within the church that they support both financially and through attendance.
|Bishop J. C. Gilkey|
Kansas Southwest COGIC
As one can see the General Assembly is one of the most important parts of the church and is the only place where there is participation from the "common member". In that session one will hear about certain practices that the leaders are proposing and could possibly be a part of the church's direction. Delegates could question the actions of the Bishops or the official position of the national church in these meetings. One such action that may be questioned could be why Bishop J.C. Gilkey of Kansas has sued a church in his jurisdiction and obtained a judgement against it for tithes and offerings? At the death of the founding Pastor, all the church wanted to do was go to another jurisdiction in the same Grand Ole COGIC...Instead Bishop Gilkey, took out the other part of the church Constitution, (The Green and White manual ~ the additions to the Black manual) and decided that it was better to sue the church than to allow the people to serve God and the church as to how they saw fit. In fact 100% of the membership was in agreement with the proposed change. What makes matters worse is that this was done under the guidance of the current General Board of Bishops, who are authorities on most actions such as this by member churches. We should ask, are the actions of Bishop Gilkey a fair practice of the church? Is this how leaders allow the lest among us to be treated within their church? If we are locked out of the General Assembly these questions can neither be asked nor answered.
At the convocation, the members of the church were asked for $20 each to support the church. If 10% of the over 6 million members responds, this creates $12 Million from the membership of the church by itself. Ultimately, this could be called "Taxation Without Representation". Has anyone told our leadership that there was a war fought over this same type of issue? Has anyone mentioned that the membership is not simply a "cash cow" to fulfill the programs of the leaders while those same members are left exposed?
Some individuals think that because the church is Episcopal in nature that it is controlled by the Bishops and Presidium of the church. That is not wholly correct. The General board Of Bishops are the "Ex-Officio Directors Of The Corporation" The General Board including the Presiding Bishop is elected and set in place by the General Assembly. When the General Assembly is not in session the General Board under the direction of the Presiding Bishop makes decisions on behalf of the church. Those decisions can be "overruled, amended, repealed, or modified by the General Assembly" [COGIC Manual 1973 reprint 1991; Section A. #1: The General Board, Its Organization, Powers And Duties pg. 4]
The General Assembly on the other hand is
"the supreme legislative and judicial authority of the Church Of God In Christ. It is the only tribunal which has the power to express doctrines and creeds of the church, and its decisions shall be bidding on all members of the Church Of God In Christ." [COGIC Manual 1973 reprint 1991; Section B. The General Assembly pg. 8]
Since we see that the General Assembly is an important body within the church, then we should ask, who are the members of the General Assembly? Anyone? With limited exception, that answer is no. I'll explain.
In order to qualify as a member of the General Assembly, one has to be:
a- Members of the General Board (Presidium of Elected Bishops)
b- Jurisdictional Bishops
c-Jurisdictional Supervisors of Women's Work
d- Pastors of local churches and Ordained Elders
e- two (2) District Missionaries and one (1) lay delegate from each Jurisdictional Assembly; and
f- Such foreign delegates as may be determined by the General Assembly in session
[Section B: The General Assembly Sub. 1: Pg. 9]
Under Section B Sub. 2 'Election And Certification Of Delegates' Sub Section (a), the only automatic delegates are individuals from categories a, b, and c as listed above. All other individuals must be "elected by the Assemblies of their respective Ecclesiastical Jurisdictions" (pg.9) and issued a "certificate of election" which is registered by the General Secretary of the church. He then issues "certificates of registration" for that year only. Being a delegate is not perpetual.
The Change Of Dates Of The Holy Convocation In 2011
Under the direction of current Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, the new Church Of God In Christ has not only announced that it will remain in St. Louis through 2013 but it has also announced a new date for the Holy Convocation in 2011. The new date is Oct. 31st through Nov. 9th 2011. That would not be unusual if it were not for the fact that the old date, beginning the first Tuesday AFTER the first Sunday in November was officially adopted as Holy Week by the church in its General Assembly session in 4/1980. Remember, the General Assembly is supposed to be the primary body performing certain duties of the church and establishing certain policy. In fact here is the language of the resolution from the former official rule of the church:
RESOLUTION AUTHORIZING THAT THE WEEK EMBRACING TUESDAY AFTER THE FIRST SUNDAY IN NOVEMBER THROUGH THE FOLLOWING SUNDAY BE DECLARED HOLY WEEK TO ALLOW ATTENDANCE OF THE SAINTS AT THE HOLY CONVOCATION IN MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE.
WHEREAS, the Church of God in Christ has traditionally celebrated its annual Holy Convocation beginning Tuesday after the first Sunday in November for the succeeding ten days; and
WHEREAS, the Church of God in Christ is recognized as one of the largest Pentecostal bodies of themajor religious denominations in the world; and
WHEREAS, the constituency or the Church of God in Christ is composed of all classes and professions of
WHEREAS, our membership attends the Convocation annually from all over the world in order to serve
God in the tradition of our Church, now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED: That the week embracing Tuesday after the first Sunday in November through the following Sunday will be, and is hereby, declared Holy Week to encourage and permit the Saints everywhere to attend the Holy Convocation at our National Headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee."[Pgs. 75 and 76 Green and White Manual Proposed Amendment Passed 4/80]
The question is did the General Assembly authorize this change of date? It could possibly be that they did by adopting an alternate resolution as an addition to the Green and White manual in the 2010 session of the General Assembly, but if so, non-delegates were locked out and don't know other than what they are told by those who were delegates and allowed to attend the session. So the communication goes like this..."give an offering, support the church, but you can't come in, because there's no room in the inn."
Popularization Of The Church Of God In Christ
COGIC yet moves in many of its established traditions, but recently, it has begun to expand and enlarge its boarders. In fact, greater and more enhanced community presence through Presiding Bishop Blake and West Angeles inspired Urban Initiatives has now taken front and center for all churches. As a member of the church, the expansion of the church is not the problem. I think most fully agree that the church should do and excel in community ministry. But at what cost? Is the identity of the church being compromised in order to do community ministry? For instance, one of the highlights of the convocation was the address to the Convocation by President Barack Obama:
While we can look at the President's record of being a major inclusionist, even establishing gay-friendly policies to impose upon the church and all that will seek certain types federally sponsored grants and funding, being pro-choice, (as in the baby's life is less important than an adults choice to kill it) and with a health-care reform policy (which offers some improvements) and tax policy that together, are not only anti-business, but are also consistently proving to be harmful to the savings, income and wealth creation of millions of Americans, you would think that the church would be cautious in receiving certain accolades and allowing the emotion of a political attachment to mingle or intertwine with our spirituality. However, as one can tell, none of those things cause concern for most of us, as confirmed by the loud applause that the video from President Obama received. The question is, do we need political attention to validate this church or authenticate the direction, history and relevance of the church? If we do we are in trouble because politicians come and go. On the other hand, I guess it's just nice to be acknowledged.
Advent Of COGIC Mega-Ministry
Never before have the stars shined so brightly in the church. Not only are those who have arrived within the art and entertainment industry clamouring for the COGIC stage, one of the most notable transformations of the new COGIC, we observe the desire to promote large financially successful congregations, attract stage and cinema personalities and otherwise mingle with the "in crowd". Maybe this is due to the fact that our Presiding Bishop has a 25,000 member church, (West Angeles Cathedral) or could it be for some other reason? To be clear, Growth isn't the problem. Increased influence isn't the problem. The point where growth or increased influence causes other things to become irrelevant is the problem. Does the seeming new philosophy of the church affirm that all ministries are valuable, or does the size of the church, aesthetics and the degrees or accolades of the church and pastor, now indicate a certain superior standard of relevance within the new COGIC? Is the storefront as valuable as the mega ministry and which church will the "stars" and recording artists choose to go when ministering to the public? Then, at what cost will this be done?
At the 2010 Convocation, the virtues of community ministry were hailed. Two of those virtues included, gaining more members and consequently increasing tithe and offering revenues. Although that relationship may exist for some, I know that community ministry is done because God said that it should be done. Community ministry is taxing, expensive and should be done in spite of cost/return on investment ratios. The hungry are fed because it is right, not because it is profitable, neither because it attracts membership. Prisoners are visited because it is right, not because it opens political doors or increases attendance.
The old church wasn't confused on this issue. The lack of political involvement yielded a realness that was unmeasured. So the question is can the new COGIC balance the old dedication and service with a new progressive spirituality and call to come up in the world?
Failure To Address Victims Issues
The Church Of God In Christ has done well in addressing issues whenever the church may be, but has failed and refused to address the issues of the individuals who are left hurting by charlatan ministers and ministries who have sexually abused and molested members. ReportCOGICabuse.com has kept a tab on the issues without doing undercover investigations and the numbers are startling and cannot be denied. Although the trail of ministers is great what of the victims? Why are they left out? Maybe it is not convenient. Maybe there is a fear that it will cost too much. I asked and still have not yet received and answer.
Whatever the reason, the church only need to adjust itself to undo the damage that it has allowed. There is a new program that addresses pastors and leaders making it more difficult to abuse and molest followers. There is increased education upon the membership in what to do and how to avoid these pitfalls, but what of the victims?
The Word Of Prophecy
Recently, I received a word regarding the Church Of God In Christ, from an experienced and seasoned member within it. I will not disclose their identity but by their permission I am able to share this much with you. This is what they said:
"Look for COGIC, to go through drastic changes, in the upcoming months and the next 2 years. Look for hidden agendas to be exposed and God literally “snatching down” left and right. It is destined and it must happen or the very elected will miss God. A lot of the saints, especially our older saints are looking bewildered and wondering what is going on or what will happen next to this church? When you see persons like Jessie Delano Ellis hanging around especially near the presiding Bishop and on the platform, it is not to be taken lightly . Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr had a lot of problems with Bishop Ellis, and now he is too close to the Presiding Bishop and it is not for nothing?? There is an agenda. You are going to see more young men (the ages of 49-55) make their claim, fight for their claim for the office of the Bishopric. It is going to be a battle for positions, like you have never seen before. People, are going to do whatever it takes for a “position” and that is why judgment will and has come."
A person that was witnessing the consecration of Bishop's online, rendered the following comment (that somehow got through):
A person that was witnessing the consecration of Bishop's online, rendered the following comment (that somehow got through):
"according to the scripture, the bishop is suppose to have one wife. I just saw a bishop being ordained as a bishop and he has a living wife, and married another. Help me with this"
Although I don't know who the person was that they were referencing, not only did a twice married Bishop receive their consecration but one also also from California, died the Saturday night before they were to be consecrated Sunday morning. Another individual had a stroke at the end of his message on Saturday night and was hospitalized. He too was a "shining star" of the church until a rift in his first marriage.
When we think of what the church is and what it used to be, we realize that we have a long way to go to recapture the glory of God. Some will read this and think this is hating on the church. However we are constrained to tell the truth, for only the truth will help us and God will only honor what is done in truth and thruthfully.