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Alexander C. Stewart Deposits Important African-American Pentecostal Collection at FPHC

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William L. Bonner (left), Chief Apostle of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc., with Alexander C. and Shirlene Stewart on their wedding day, June 22, 1985, at Solomon’s Temple, Detroit, Michigan.

Alexander C. Stewart, the respected historian of the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, Inc. (COOLJC), has deposited an important African-American Pentecostal collection at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC).

Stewart has a long history in both Trinitarian and Oneness African-American churches. He was raised in Bethel Gospel Assembly, the large Harlem congregation affiliated with the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God. In 1974, while still in high school, he accepted the Oneness message and became a member of Greater Refuge Temple, the COOLJC headquarters church located in Harlem. Immediately upon joining his new church, he began collecting historical materials relating to African-American Oneness Pentecostalism.

Stewart described his passion for preserving Pentecostal history: “My life was changed, and I wanted to ensure the preservation of the legacy, heritage and contributions of African Americans and African-Caribbean Americans to Pentecostalism and American religion. As denominations and religious movements mature, generations become disconnected from the values, struggles and sacrifices of their founders. We must remember where we came from, and we must know our roots, so we can shape the future for this generation and the next.”

Alexander Stewart has served the COOLJC in various capacities. In 1988, he was appointed Chairman of the Church History Committee for the Greater Refuge Temple Board of Youth Education. He was editor of the Board’s periodical, Educationally Speaking. In 1991, he was appointed Assistant Historian, serving under Dr. Robert C. Spellman. Stewart and his wife, Shirlene, moved in 1993 to Columbia, South Carolina, and assisted Chief Apostle William L. Bonner in planting a new congregation. When the W. L. Bonner School of Theology (now W. L. Bonner College) was established in Columbia in 1995, Alexander and Shirlene were founding faculty members. He holds a Masters of Theology (Parkerburg Bible College, 2002) and a Masters of Theological Studies (Regent University, 2014).

A careful researcher and writer, Stewart has edited or written for numerous scholarly and church-related publications. His first book, The Silent Spokesman: Bishop Robert Clarence Lawson (1994), was co-authored with Sherry Sherrod DuPree. He also served as editorial and research consultant for the 1999 biography of Presiding Bishop William L. Bonner, And the High Places I’ll Bring Down. He also wrote three articles in The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization (Blackwell, 2011), edited by Dr. George Thomas Kurian. He is a longtime member of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and he has presented three papers at the society’s annual meetings.

Stewart

A few publications from the Alexander C. Stewart Collection.

The Alexander C. Stewart Collection consists of 6 linear feet of publications, newspaper clippings, and correspondence, primarily relating to the COOLJC, other African-American Oneness Pentecostal churches, and Bethel Gospel Assembly. The bulk of the collection documents the development of the COOLJC over the past 30 years, with special attention to denominational publications and W. L. Bonner College.

Stewart began depositing materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center over 20 years ago and has continued to add items over the years. Due to the collection’s size and importance, the items have been brought together and recataloged as a special collection, which will aid researchers. Stewart has placed additional collections of materials at the following repositories: the United Pentecostal Historical Center (Hazelwood, MO), Schomburg Center for Black Research (New York Public Library), and Pan-African Archive of the William Seymour College (Bowie, MD).

The Alexander C. Stewart Collection is important, as it provides researchers access to materials that may otherwise be difficult to find. African-Americans, other than the iconic figures of William J. Seymour and Charles H. Mason, are often neglected in standard Pentecostal history books. This is ironic, as African-Americans played leading roles in the origins and development of Pentecostalism in America. In concentrating on the development of certain white segments of the movement, historians often have under-represented the stories of ethnic minorities and those in the plethora of smaller Pentecostal denominations. In recent years, the FPHC has attempted to remedy this problem by building bridges across the racial, linguistic, national, and denominational divides, intentionally collecting materials from the broader Pentecostal movement.

The Alexander C. Stewart collection fills in important gaps in the FPHC’s collections by making accessible a large amount of primary and secondary source materials on the COOLJC, which is the second largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The Alexander C. Stewart Collection takes its place alongside other significant African-American Pentecostal collections deposited at the FPHC in recent years, including:

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Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

 

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Assemblies of God 2015 Statistics Released, Growth Spurred by Ethnic Transformation

Samoan District Council 2013 -2

The Assemblies of God is one of the few major denominations in the United States to show continuing growth. But the real story is the ethnic transformation of the Assemblies of God. It is becoming less white and more reflective of the ethnic, linguistic and social diversity that exists in the global church.

When the Assemblies of God (AG) released its 2015 statistical reports this month, the press release noted that the denomination’s number of U.S. adherents had grown for 26 consecutive years. In 2015, the AG showed growth of 1.4% to 3,192,112 U.S. adherents. This was almost double the growth rate of the U.S. population, which increased by 0.77%.

The number of U.S. churches also showed growth (from 12,849 to 12,897, up 0.4%), as did the numbers of members (up 0.3%), ministers (up 0.5%), and major worship service attendance (up 1.7%). Statistics for other key indicators of church health–including conversions, Spirit baptisms, and water baptisms–have not yet been released.

Much of the numerical growth in the Assemblies of God in recent decades has been among ethnic minorities. From 2001 to 2015, the number of AG adherents increased by 21.5%. During this period, the number of white adherents decreased by 1.6% and the number of non-white adherents increased by 76.8%. From 2014 to 2015, the percentage of white adherents dropped from 57.6% to 57.2%. It should be noted that the number of white adherents in the U.S. includes quickly-growing constituencies of immigrants from places such as the former Soviet Union and Romania. Without these new white immigrants, the white constituency in the Assemblies of God would be falling even more quickly.

The growth of the Assemblies of God is in marked contrast to most mainline Protestant denominations in the U.S., which have witnessed significant numerical declines in recent decades. From 1975 to 2015, the Presbyterian Church (USA) lost 56% of members; United Church of Christ lost 48%; The Episcopal Church lost 36%; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America lost 30%; and the United Methodist Church lost 27%. Others showed increases, including the Southern Baptist Convention (20%) and the Roman Catholic Church (42%). During the same period, the Assemblies of God grew by 158%, from 1,239,197 adherents in 1975.

While mainline denominations have been declining for decades, in recent years some evangelical groups, such as the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), have also begun to decline. SBC membership has decreased for nine straight years, prompting some pundits to predict the slow death of evangelicalism. Others have pointed out that Pentecostal and non-denominational churches show continuing growth. Faith trends expert Ed Stetzer has argued that American Christianity is undergoing “evangelicalization,” noting that the percentage of Americans who identify as evangelical or born-again is increasing. And much of that growth can be attributed to soaring numbers of ethnic minorities in churches.

In 2015, over 42% of U.S. Assemblies of God adherents were non-white. This is comparable to the ethnic diversity in the U.S. Catholic Church. According to a recent Pew study, 41% of U.S. Catholics are now racial and ethnic minorities (up from 35% in 2007). The study also revealed that 24% of evangelical Protestants (up from 19%) and 14% of mainline Protestants (up from 9%) are also racial and ethnic minorities.

The ethnic breakdown of the AG in 2015 showed significant diversity: Asian/Pacific Islander (4.8%); Black (9.7%); Hispanic (23.0%); Native American (1.5%); White (57.2%); and Other/Mixed (3.9%). These stats suggest that the AG closely mirrors the ethnic makeup of the U.S. population as a whole. The 2010 U.S. census revealed the following racial breakdown of the U.S. population: Asian/Pacific Islander (5%); Black (12.6%); Hispanic (16.3%); Native American (0.9%); White (63.7%); and Other /Mixed (6.2%).

The AG districts with the greatest percentage growth in the number of adherents from 2010 to 2015 are as follows: National Slavic (152%), Midwest Latin American (58%), North Dakota (56%), Minnesota (55%), German (51%), Korean (33%), Texas Louisiana Hispanic (29%), Hawaii (29%), South Texas (26%), and Brazilian (24%). Due to the changing borders of the Hispanic districts, which doubled from seven to fourteen in the past six years, data for most of these districts was unavailable for purposes of comparison.

The AG’s growth in America is partly due to immigration. The Assemblies of God is a global church. The Assemblies of God reported 67,992,330 adherents worldwide in 2015. About 1% of the world’s population is AG. Fewer than 5% of AG adherents worldwide live in the U.S. Pentecostals who move to America from other regions of the world often bring with them a faith, burnished by persecution and deprivation, that is an important part of their identity. Pentecostal refugees who move to America are like pollen scattered by a strong wind — they plant churches wherever they happen to land. Strong African, Slavic, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Hispanic AG churches are taking root in American soil, and their congregations sing, preach, and testify in the tongues of their native countries.

Interestingly, this demographic shift is also helping to usher in a global re-alignment of Christianity. Anglican, Presbyterian, and Methodist Christians in Africa, Asia, and Latin America are generally evangelical in belief, if not Pentecostal in worship, and often have much more in common with their brothers and sisters in the Assemblies of God than they do with liberal members of their own denominations in the West.

The Assemblies of God is growing in America, due largely to a transformative demographic shift that has been underway for decades. The founding fathers and mothers of the Assemblies of God laid the foundation for this ethnic shift when they committed the Assemblies of God in November 1914 to “the greatest evangelism that the world has ever seen.” In 1921 the Assemblies of God adopted the indigenous church principle as its official missions strategy, in order to better carry out world evangelism. The implementation of this strategy — which recognizes that each national church is autonomous and not controlled by Western interests — resulted in the development of strong national churches and leaders. And now, in a fitting turn of events, those churches are sending missionaries to America.

By Darrin J. Rodgers, M.A., J.D.
Director, Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

Photo: Scott Temple (Director of Ethnic Relations for the Assemblies of God) and Bill Welch (Alaska District Superintendent) pray over elected officials of the newly-formed Samoan District Council, in a meeting at Anchorage, Alaska, September 2013. By 2015, the Samoan District Council, which serves Samoans in the United States, had grown to 54 churches with 5,444 adherents.

Stats 2016 chart1Stats 2016 chart2

Sources for charts:
Assemblies of God
Episcopal Church
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Roman Catholic Church
Southern Baptist Convention
United Church of Christ
United Methodist Church

Notes:
ELCA: Formed in 1987 by a merger of three bodies: American Lutheran Church (1960-1987); Lutheran Church in America (LCA) (1962-1987); and Association of Evangelical Lutheran Churches (AELC) (1976-1987). Tallies for 1975, 1980, and 1985 include stats of predecessor bodies. The AELC was a split from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod (LCMS) in 1976. The 1975 tally does not include stats for LCMS churches which later formed the AELC, which has the effect of understating the ELCA’s loss from 1975 to the present.
PC(USA): Formed in 1983 by a merger of United Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A. and the Presbyterian Church in the United States. Tallies for 1975 and 1980 include stats of predecessor bodies.

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Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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Junior Bible Quiz Pioneer George Edgerly with the Lord at Age 76

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George Allan Edgerly, 76, of Springfield, Missouri, left this life on May 21, 2016. He was born in Selma, Iowa, on July 14, 1939, to Ralph and Edith (Tweedy) Edgerly. George graduated from Eldon High School and attended college at Parsons College in Fairfield, Iowa, and the Open Bible College in Des Moines, Iowa. He later took classes at Drury College and North Central Bible College. He married Atha Waydene Martley on November 16, 1958, and to this union was born four children: Ruth, Dawn, Max, and Jorin.

George was ordained with the Assemblies of God in 1963 and pastored several Assemblies of God churches in Iowa: Colfax, Afton, Gray, Truesdale, Grinnell and Ottumwa. From 1970-1973, he was district Sunday school and youth director for the Iowa District. He also worked several years as the research and field services coordinator in in the Sunday School Department for the national office of the Assemblies of God before becoming Christian education director for the Minnesota District in 1980. Edgerly wrote widely on church growth and Christian education, with articles appearing in several Assemblies of God publications. He was the coauthor of the 1984 staff training book, Strategies for Sunday School Growth. He served for a time as north central area field representative for the Gospel Publishing House and Radiant Life curriculum before rejoining the national Sunday School Department in 1985, being named its head in June 1987.

Edgerly was a mainstay of Assemblies of God Bible Quiz ministry almost from its beginning in 1962, and was a major force in the creation of Junior Bible Quiz in 1975. He began coaching in 1965, leading Gray, Iowa, to four straight district second-place finishes. From 1986-1998 Edgerly coached Park Crest Assembly of God, Springfield, Missouri, leading the teen Bible Quiz team to frequent appearances at TBQ nationals. In 1990 that team was national runner-up and in 1992 was the national TBQ champion. He authored the Assemblies of God Bible Quiz study guide for a number of years, beginning in 1973. He also authored the Junior Bible Quiz Fact-Pak and the Teen Bible Quiz Coaches Manual. He believed his involvement with Junior Bible Quiz to be his greatest legacy.

After retiring from the national Sunday School Department, George Edgerly pastored First Pentecostal Assembly of God in Ottumwa, Iowa from 1999-2006 where he also started a Bible Quiz ministry. From 2006-2008 he co-pastored First Assembly in Grinnell, Iowa. His retirement years were spent living in Springfield, Missouri.

George was preceded in death by his parents and an infant daughter, Ruth. He is survived by his wife, three children, and five grandchildren, and a host of other relatives and friends.

Visitation will be held at Walnut Lawn Funeral Home in Springfield, Missouri, on Wednesday, May 25th, from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. Funeral services will be at Life 360-Parkcrest Campus, Springfield, Missouri, at 10:00 am on Thursday, and at First Pentecostal Assembly of God, Ottumwa, Iowa, at 10:00 am on Friday with Pastor Richard Schlotter officiating. Burial will follow at Mt. Moriah Cemetery near Douds, Iowa.

Contributions can be made in George’s name to the Once Lost Now Found ministry at First Pentecostal Assembly of God in Ottumwa, Iowa.

Posted by Glenn Gohr

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Collection of Madison R. Tatman, Oneness Pentecostal Pioneer, Deposited at FPHC

Tatman

The personal papers and publications of Madison R. Tatman (1872-1953), an early Pentecostal evangelist who was active in both Trinitarian and Oneness Pentecostal circles, were recently deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. Known as the “Cyclone Evangelist,” Tatman traveled across North America and interacted with many key figures of the early Pentecostal movement.

Tatman started in the ministry in 1902 in the General Eldership of the Churches of God in North America (also known as the Winebrenner Church of God), a German Arminian Baptist denomination with congregations located mostly in Pennsylvania and the Midwest. After experiencing the baptism of the Holy Spirit in the spring of 1906, Tatman identified with the Pentecostal movement and transferred his credentials to the Apostolic Faith Mission.

Articles and revival reports by Tatman appeared in various early Pentecostal periodicals. He also published a book of sermons and poetry, 12 Loaves of Living Bread (1935), and several tracts and booklets. One of Tatman’s tracts, “Why I Left the Mission” (1911), detailed his disagreements with Chicago Pentecostal leader William H. Durham. In 1915, Tatman was re-baptized in the name of Jesus and received credentials from the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.

In 1924, he transferred his credentials to the Assemblies of God, noting that he disliked “the quarreling, fighting, quibbling and strike over different doctrinal points” among the Oneness advocates. While in the Assemblies of God, he served as pastor of Glad Tidings Revival Assembly in Oakland, California. Tatman left the Assemblies of God in 1927 and returned to the Oneness fold and served as a pastor and evangelist until his death in 1953.

Madison R. Tatman’s personal papers and publications, deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center by an anonymous donor, consist of approximately 250 pages of sermon notes, correspondence, poetry, newspaper clippings, tracts, an unpublished book manuscript, and 20 photographs. The Tatman collection, which provides valuable insight into segments of the Pentecostal movement that are otherwise poorly documented, will be a boon to researchers.

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archive in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: www.iFPHC.org

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James L. Tyson Deposits Important African-American Oneness Pentecostal Collection at FPHC

James Tyson

Bishop James L. Tyson (left) with Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center Director Darrin Rodgers, showcasing his collection

The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW), organized in 1907 in Los Angeles in the midst of the Azusa Street revival, emerged to become the largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination in the United States. The influence of the PAW stretched far, and its intentional interracial character continued long after the fires of the Azusa Street revival dimmed. Its most prominent presiding bishop, G. T. Haywood, was so esteemed by early Assemblies of God leaders that, when the Oneness movement became a point of contention in 1915, Haywood was asked to represent the Oneness position on the Assemblies of God’s General Council floor.

Despite the significance of the PAW, its history has been neglected by most standard histories of the Pentecostal movement. Over thirty years ago, James Laverne Tyson, the son of PAW Bishop James E. Tyson, felt the call to document and publish the history of his ancestral church. He interviewed the founding fathers and mothers of the PAW and collected rare publications and photographs. He authored eight books and numerous pamphlets, mostly about PAW history. His first book, Before I Sleep (1976), is a biography of Haywood, and his seminal work, The Early Pentecostal Revival (1992), is the benchmark history of the PAW from its inception to 1930.

Tyson recently retired from the pastorate and, in November 2015, he deposited his collection of PAW historical materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. Tyson noted, “Decades ago when I started my historical research, one of the first places I went was the Assemblies of God Archives.” The former director, Wayne Warner, provided Tyson with access to information about the earliest years of the Pentecostal movement. The Assemblies of God Archives was renamed the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center in 1999. Tyson continued, “Now, at the end of my career, it is fitting that my life’s work should reside at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center for future generations of scholars who can pick up where I left off.”

Researchers at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center are now able to view the James L. Tyson Collection, which includes approximately 550 periodical issues, 150 books, 540 original photographs, and 4 linear feet of his files and research notes. The bulk of the publications date from the early 1920s through the late 1970s and include numerous histories of significant congregations, souvenir journals from PAW events, funeral programs, and assorted minute books and directories. Importantly, the collection includes the original 1918/1919 and 1919/1920 PAW minute books. The photographs, many of which have never been published, mostly date from the 1910s through the 1960s and include large rolled prints of early conventions. The collection includes many publications from the PAW’s historic headquarters church, Christ Temple (Indianapolis, Indiana), which Tyson’s father pastored. While the collection includes chiefly PAW materials, it also includes rare items from groups that broke away from the PAW, including the Bible Way Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ World Wide (founded by Smallwood E. Williams) and the Pentecostal Churches of the Apostolic Faith (founded by S. N. Hancock). Tyson previously owned additional artifacts and publications, which he had already given to several PAW bishops.

Christian Outlook

This original May 1931 issue of The Christian Outlook, the official periodical of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, is among the approximately 540 periodical issues in the James L. Tyson Collection.

The James L. Tyson Collection fills in a significant gap in the collections of the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center. In recent years, the FPHC has acquired several major African-American Pentecostal collections, including:

Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr. Collection (Patterson served as Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, 1968-1989)
Mother Lizzie Robinson/Rev. Elijah L. Hill Collection (Robinson was the founder of the Church of God in Christ Women’s Department)
• Robert James McGoings, Jr. Collection (McGoings was a prominent African-American Oneness Pentecostal from Baltimore, Maryland)
• Alexander Stewart Collection (Stewart was raised in the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God and is the historian for the Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith, which is the second largest African-American Oneness Pentecostal denomination)

__________________
Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC, located in the Assemblies of God national offices, is the largest Pentecostal archives and research center in the world. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org
Website: http://www.iFPHC.org

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Brazilian Pentecostal Denomination (Igreja de Cristo Pentecostal no Brasil) Triples in Size, Deposits Publications at Heritage Center

A small portion of the collection of Igreja de Cristo Pentecostal no Brasil publications deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

A small portion of the collection of Igreja de Cristo Pentecostal no Brasil publications deposited at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center

The International Pentecostal Church of Christ (IPCC) has its roots in America, but its membership outside the US far exceeds its American counterpart. Dr. Clyde Hughes, Missions Director of the IPCC, recently traveled to Brazil, where he spoke at the church’s national convention. The Igreja de Cristo Pentecostal no Brasil has tripled in membership since 1993 and, last year, had 31,111 members. Hughes brought back a large collection of the church’s Brazilian publications and deposited them at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center, which is the largest Pentecostal archives in the world. It is important that voices of Pentecostals around the world be accessible to church leaders, students, and researchers!

Do you have Pentecostal historical materials that should be preserved? Please consider depositing these materials at the Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center (FPHC). The FPHC is located in the Assemblies of God national offices. We would like to preserve and make your treasures accessible to those who write the history books.

Flower Pentecostal Heritage Center
1445 North Boonville Avenue
Springfield, Missouri 65802 USA
Phone: 417.862.1447 ext. 4400
Toll Free: 877.840.5200
Email: archives@ag.org

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State Historical Marker to be Dedicated October 16, 2015, in Lexington, MS, Honoring COGIC Birthplace

Holmes_County_CourthouseThe Church of God in Christ Board of Bishops, chaired by Bishop John H. Sheard, has sponsored the placement of a state historical marker in Lexington, Mississippi, the city where Charles H. Mason founded the Church of God in Christ in 1897.

The Mississippi Department of Archives and History approved the marker, which will be unveiled and dedicated on Friday, October 16, 2015, at 1 pm at the south end of the Holmes County Courthouse, 200 Court Square, Lexington, Mississippi. A dedication program includes several speakers of national importance, and state and local government officials will be present. The public is invited to the dedication.

The Church of God in Christ, the largest Pentecostal denomination in the United States, is now headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. However, the church’s roots in Lexington, 150 miles south of Memphis, have often been overlooked. The Pentecostal Heritage Connection, led by Mary P. Patterson, assembled the dedication program. “If Memphis is the Church of God in Christ’s Jerusalem,” states Patterson, “then Lexington is its Nazareth.” Patterson, the widow of former Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr., is particularly interested in helping young people to learn more about their heritage. She has organized tours of Church of God in Christ historic sites in Lexington since 2006.

Lexington has played a prominent role in Church of God in Christ history. Bishop Charles H. Mason (1864-1961) began his ministry in 1893 in Preston, Arkansas. Shunned by the African-American Baptist community in Jackson during the 1890s due to his teachings on holiness, Mason brought his revival to Lexington in 1897. He began preaching on the steps of the Holmes County Courthouse and later moved to private homes and an abandoned gin house. During his time in Lexington, Mason established St. Paul Church of God in Christ, which became known as the “mother church” of the Church of God in Christ denomination.

Mason faced opposition in Lexington, coming from those who disapproved of his holiness preaching and his pacifism and interracialism. He was incarcerated in the Holmes County Courthouse in 1918 for allegedly preaching against World War I, despite having sold bonds to help the war effort. The jail cell which housed Mason has been preserved and is open to the public. Hundreds of people each year visit the jail cell, which is decorated with colorful murals depicting Mason’s incarceration.

Lexington was also home to Saints Industrial and Literary School, established to train African American children by Sister Pinkie Duncan and Professor James Courts in 1918. Under Dr. Arenia Mallory, president of the school from 1926 to 1983, the school became known as Saint’s Academy and was a prominent K-12 school in the community. Dr. Mallory was a leading advocate for civil rights and the poor in Holmes County. The school closed in 2006.

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