A BRIEF HISTORICAL SKETCH OF THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST, INTERNATIONAL (Arkansas)
In the year of 1895, Elders C.P. Jones, J.A. Geter, C.H. Mason and others while searching the scriptures, saw that they could not be saved without holiness. They were sanctified through the truth and began to preach this doctrine to their hearers. Because of such doctrine, they were ejected from the Baptist Church. Later in that same year, those same brethren congregated themselves and were known as the Church of God: Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 1:2:10-32; 2 Corinthians 1:1 and 1 Timothy 3:5:15.
Because the Truth of the gospel was being assailed on every side and many false doctrines were being introduced by those who proclaimed the name but denied the power thereof, Elder C.H. Mason, being set forth to defend the Gospel, prayed earnestly for a name that would not depart from the scriptures and at the same time, distinguish the true followers from the false. It was in this attitude, that Elder Mason, while walking along a certain street in Little Rock, Arkansas, received from the Holy Ghost the name "Church of God in Christ," with the following scriptures to support it: 1 Thessalonians 2:14 - "For ye brethren became followers of the churches of God in Judea are Christ Jesus; for ye have suffered like things of your own countrymen even as they have of the Jews; 2 Thessalonians 1:1 - "Paul and Silvanus and Timotheus unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ;" and finally, Galatians 1:22 -"And was unknown by face to churches of Judea which were in Christ."
The union lasted until the year 1906, when a great revival was held in Los Angeles, California, under the auspices of Elder W.J. Seymour. Elder C.H. Mason, along with many other, attended this meeting and received the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the signs of speaking with other tongues according to Acts 2:4 - "And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues as the spirit gave them utterance."
Elder Mason returned preaching this New Testament doctrine, to which many of the brethren were averse. In August 1907, the General Assembly convened at Jackson, Missisisippi, with Elder C.P. Jones presiding as General Overseer, who was also averse and opposed to the so-called new doctrine promulgated by Elder C.H. Mason and others. After a very lengthy discussion, the assembly withdrew from Elder Mason and all who promulgated the doctrine of speaking with tongues, the right hand of fellowship.Later in the same year, Elder C.H. Mason called a meeting in Memphis, Tennessee, of all the Ministers who believed in receiving the Holy Ghost baptism according to the scriptures, Acts 2:4. Among the group of Elders who responded to this great call were: E.R. Drivers, and J. Bowed; R.R. Booker, W.M. Roberts, R.E. Hart, D.W. Welch, A.A. Blackwell, E.M. Page, R.H.I. Clark, D.J. Young, and James Brewer, Daniel Spearman and J.H. Boone. These brethren formed the First General Assembly of the Church of God In Christ, whose faith was founded upon the doctrine of the Apostle as received on the day of Pentecostal. The Lord gave Elder C.H. Mason to be the Chief Apostle, to which the entire assembly agreed. Under the leadership of Apostle Mason, the church witnessed tremendous growth and spiritual grace.
As the years moved along it became necessary for the Chief Apostle to set up state assemblies over which he appointed overseers. As the work of the church grew in the country until scores were being added daily and church edifices were being erected across the nation and in foreign lands, it was laid on the heart of the Apostle to consecrate five of the overseers to the office of the Bishopric in the church.In 1933, Apostle Mason, by the laying on of the hands, assisted by the prayers of the Overseers and Elders and the General Convocation, set apart five Overseers for the office of Bishop in the church, who were, incidentally, the first five Bishops in the Church of God in Christ, aside from Apostle Mason, who received the title and office of Senior Bishop. Those consecrated were: Bishop I.S. Staffors, Detroit, Michigan; Bishop E.M. Page, Dallas, Texas; Bishop W.M. Robert, Chicago, Illinois; Bishop O.T. Jones, Philadelphia Pennsylvania; and Bishop R.F. Williams, Cleveland, Ohio.
In 1961, the founder and Senior Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, was called home to be with the Lord. The saints were preparing around the world, to attend the 54th Holy Convocation and General Assembly of the Church of God in Christ, in Memphis Tennessee, when the message was sent out that Bishop Mason had fallen asleep in Jesus in Detroit, Michigan. In the General Assembly, it pleased the saints to wait a year before selecting a successor to our father in the Gospel.In the Holy Convocation of 1962, the only surviving Bishop of the original five, which had been consecrated in 1933, Bishop Ozro Thurston Jones, Sr. of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, was elected to the office of Senior Bishop of the Church of God in Christ. For two years, Bishop Jones presided over the church in peace, going throughout the brotherhood, continuing the work of the Lord as founded by the late Bishop Mason. In 1969 at Evanston, Illinois, Bishop William David Charles Williams, Sr., of Evanston, Illinois, sent out a call for all of the brethren who would contend for the original doctrines, which were laid down by the founding fathers and for the only constitutional system of government of our church, namely, leadership under a Senior Bishop rather than a twelve man board, to meet him and declare themselves to be in the original church. A great quorum of Bishops, Elders and workers, met in Evanston in the month of April of that same year. The Lord, as He did in 1907 and in 1962, gave to the entire assembly the person who should lead the church in the capacity of Senior Bishop and the Chief Apostle in the person of Dr. William David Charles Williams, Sr. of Evanston, Illinois. In this same meeting the General Assembly sent out a Committee of Recommendations who returned with a recommendation that the church not depart from the scriptures and thus they suggested that the communion be called and character as "THE CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST INTERNATIONAL." to which the entire General Assembly attested. In the General Conference of 1970 in the month of April in New York, New York the General Council elected that the General Headquarters shall be fixed at Evanston, Illinois. Later in the same year at the General Holy Convocation, which was held at Hartford, Connecticut, the Sixty-Third Annual Session of the Holy Convocation convened and approved the appointments of the Senior Bishop to the Episcopacy of the church. Dr. Omega Wicks Sorrells of Dallas Texas was chosen as the National Supervisor of the Women Work. In the years that followed, Bishop Williams presided as Senior Bishop and Chief Apostle over the work with harmony and peace, going throughout the brotherhood continuing in the work of the Lord as founded by the late Bishop Mason. The church moved to a new level of growth, the Lord added over 18 dioceses to the work. Under Bishop Williams' leadership a National Building Fund was established and continues to grow even unto this day. In November of 1983, the Lord saw fit to call Senior Bishop William D. C. Williams, Sr. home. The Church was saddened by the passing of our organizer Bishop Williams, but was determined to stay together and continue the teaching of our spiritual father. The following year, 1984, at the National Spring Conference in Evanston, Illinois, the General Assembly was pleased to fill the vacancy of the Office of the Senior Bishop. At that meeting Bishop Tony Clemon was elected and accepted by the General Assembly as the Senior Bishop and Chief Apostle. He was later installed and Consecrated to that office at the General Holy Convocation held in Waterbury, Connecticut. In the years that followed, Bishop Clemon presided as Senior Bishop and Chief Apostle over the work and brought the church to a new height of excitement both naturally and spiritually. There is no doubt in the minds of the people that God truly chose Bishop Clemon to rally the people and spurn them to move towards acquiring a National Headquarters. In January of 1988, the Lord saw fit to call Bishop Clemon home. Although he did not live to see it, it was during his administration that the funds to purchase our present National Headquarters were raised. His words to the church, "Be Thou Faithful Unto Death", will always be remembered. The following April, Bishop John H. Davis (National Chairman under Bishop Clemon) was elected to the Office of Senior Bishop and Chief Apostle. On Saturday, August 13, 1988, Bishop Davis was Consecrated and installed as the Fifth Senior Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ International at the Parkview Hilton Hotel, Hartford, Connecticut. Bishop Davis' main concern is the continual, anointing from the Lord to do God's will and work. As of this writing, we have purchased a beautiful Headquarters located at 125 N. Fisher St. in Jonesboro, Arkansas; not far from where God gave our founding father, Bishop C.H.Mason, the name of our church. We have also grown from eighteen to twenty-five dioceses (jurisdictions) and still growing. Be it known that God is still blessing and sending his spirit as this great Church of God in Christ International moves on, into the new millennium.
Your brethren in Him,
The Bishops' Staff