The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) was formed in 1897 by Bishop Charles Harrison Mason in a wooden structure in Lexington, Mississippi. He was seeking to unify African Americans who had been divided; he established and preached a message of hope and holiness among the people.
Bishop Mason was the son of enslaved parents and was born on September 8, 1866, in Shelby County, Tennessee. He often faced criticism from his community because of his intense devotion to religious readings and his opposition to African Americans joining other denominations. It is believed that Mason’s fervor for holiness originated from his experiences at a rural white pentecostal church.
Mason was baptized in the Church of God in Christ at Hickory Hill, Mississippi, in December 1886. This new denomination sought to combine the best of Baptist and Methodist traditions for African Americans. It expressed a profound commitment to racial issues. Bishop Mason became a pastor in 1893 and eventually united the churches under the nationwide Church of God in Christ incorporation.
In 1907, Bishop Mason established the organization’s first publication, The Voice of Healing, which provided a platform for the dissemination of information and unbridled enthusiasm for the organization’s mission. He traveled extensively, encouraging church members to embrace holiness and to participate in social activities.
Under his leadership, COGIC and its members made significant contributions to the African American political, spiritual, and educational landscape. Mason was very much involved with the civil rights movement, especially leading up to the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, and helped struggling African Americans in the disenfranchised Bible Belt of the rural South. He was a spiritual leader and interfaced with political leaders, helping to pave the way for future generations to enter mainstream society.
Mason passed away on November 17, 1961, due to complications from diabetes. He is remembered as the founder of what is now the fastest-growing African-American Pentecostal denomination in the United States.
He is also regarded as a pioneer of modern Pentecostalism and as the leading churchman fostering a spirit of racial justice in America. During this time, the Church of God in Christ had approximately 600,000 to 750,000 members in approximately 5,000 churches. The Church of God in Christ is a global Christian faith and fellowship, representing millions of members in more than 80 countries.
The church offers a powerful gospel message that is centered around holiness and social and economic justice. Its legacy continues to be celebrated and honored as a pillar of strength, self-determination, and advancement for African Americans in their history. The dedication and commitment of Bishop Charles Harrison Mason to cultivate a powerful, faith-driven African American movement will always be remembered.
(c) Apostle Jonas Clark
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