The History of C.O.G.I.C
The Bigger Picture
The Church of God In Christ (COGIC) was founded in 1897 and organised in 1907 by Bishop Charles Harrison Mason. Mason believed that the name taken from 1 Thessalonians 2:14 was divinely revealed and biblically inspired. Mason believed that God said, "If you take the name that I give you, they would never build a building that would hold all those who would come." The group adopted the name and COGIC began to grow throughout the south. C.P Jones was elected the General Overseer; C.H. Mason was selected as Overseer of Tennessee, and J.A. Jeter as selected as Overseer of Arkansas.
Charles Harrison Mason began his religious life in the 1890s as an ordained Baptist minister in Arkansas. In 1906, Mason and other ministers were appointed as a committee by Jones to go to Los Angeles when they began to hear about an outpouring of the Holy Spirit conducted by the itinerant preacher, William J. Seymour. Mason's visit to what was known as the Azusa Street Revival began on Bonnie Brae Street.
In fact, the Bonnie Brae House at 216 N. Bonnie Brae Street, where Seymour initiated the revival, is actually owned by the Church of God in Christ today. The revival then moved from Bonnie Brae Street to Azusa Street and it is believed it was to Azusa Street where Bishop Mason actually came and received the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
He then began to participate in the Azusa Street Revival. Inspired by what he heard in Los Angeles, upon his return to Tennessee from the Azusa Street Revival, Mason began preaching and teaching the Pentecostal Holiness message in COGIC congregations’.
In 1907 at the general convocation held in Jackson, MS, a great debate occurred where Jones and Jeter rejected Mason's teaching on the baptism in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues as the initial evidence. They had been teaching and preaching that "sanctification" was the baptism of the Holy Spirit and that tongues could be a sign but not the only sign that one had been baptized.
This debate and disagreement resulted in Mason's expulsion from the church. Later that same year, Mason called a meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, and reorganized the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) as a Pentecostal-Holiness body. After years of litigation over the use of the name by the two groups, Mason's group was awarded the original charter. Thus COGIC became the first legally chartered Pentecostal body incorporated in the United States.
The early pioneers (Elders) of this newly formed Pentecostal body in 1907 became the first Pentecostal General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ. They unanimously chose Mason as General Overseer and Chief Apostle. Mason was given authority to establish doctrine, organize auxiliaries and appoint bishops.
The Church of God in Christ began originally in the southern states of Arkansas, Tennessee, and Mississippi. As African Americans migrated north during the Great Migration, converted members spread the church north and west. In additional to his own efforts, Bishop Mason sent dozens of charismatic preachers and evangelists to major cities and urban areas north and west to spread the COGIC.
Rev. Charles Mason built the Church of God in Christ on the doctrine given on the Day of Pentecost to the Disciples (Act 2:41).
The first national tabernacle was built and completed in 1925. However, this tabernacle was destroyed by fire in 1936. Built between 1940 and 1945 Mason dedicated Mason Temple in Memphis as the administrative and spiritual centre of the Church of God in Christ. The temple is the centrepiece of a group of six buildings that form the church's world headquarters. Mason Temple was financed by church members who were hare croppers, cotton pickers, and domestic servants. When completed, the nearly 5000 seat building became the largest church auditorium of any black religious group in America.
In 1911 Bishop Mason created the first National Office for COGIC women naming Mother Elizabeth ‘Lizzy’ Woods Robinson (also known as Robertson) an active member of the church, as the overseer of women.
Lizzy was first introduced to Bishop Mason in 1906 in Demount Arkansas. She was at that time the matron of the Baptist Academy and a woman of very high standing through her outstanding record in public speaking and as a teacher of the word of God. Bishop and his ministers explained their mission and the scriptures to her and she listened with interest, she then confessed ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God’ and then and there received baptism of the Holy Ghost. Lizzy was given the right hand of fellowship when she visited the convention in Arkansas.
After his death, Bishop Mason was entombed in Mason Temple, the only person ever so honoured in the city of Memphis.
Bishop Charles Harrison Mason died on November 17, 1961 at the age of 95. He had led COGIC for 54 years. As founder, Bishop Mason had absolute power and authority over all matters of church polity. After his death, according to the 1952 church constitution, the control of the church reverted to the board of bishops, but the constitution did not specifically outline a clear successor and the powers granted to the leadership after his death. COGIC mourned the loss of Bishop Mason for the period of one year before determining new leadership of the church.
At a constitutional convention in February 1968 COGIC drafted and approved a new constitution that dissolved the office of the Senior Bishop and the Executive Board and created the office of the Presiding Bishop and a General Board who would be elected every four years to preside over the church. The General Assembly would have the supreme authority over the church to decide matters of faith and practice. On November 14, 1968, the General Assembly of the COGIC elected the first General Board and Presiding Bishop of the church.
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