Church of God of Prophecy
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The Church of God of Prophecy is a Christian denomination with beliefs and principles similar to Pentecostal Holiness Christian faith. It is one of five Church of God bodies headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee that descended from a small meeting of believers who gathered at the Barney Creek Meeting House near the Tennessee/North Carolina border in 1886.
The Church of God of Prophecy has congregations and missions in over 130 countries, with a membership of over 1,500,000. In 2006, membership in the United States was 84,762 in 1,871 churches. Ministries of the church include homes for children, bible training institutes, youth camps and ministerial aid.
The church internally refers to itself Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), there was controversy over which side of the division had the legal right to the name and who was really the true "Church of God". This (COGOP) body was definitely a part of the original "Church of God", over which originally A. J. Tomlinson was the General Overseer. These two churches became divided over church idealism which could not be compromised on or resolved by either side, (the one Church of God would be governed by twelve men in the upper room "called elders" and the other church would be governed and overseen by one man A.J. Tomlinson). In 1952 after many many court cases, they finally got their judgement, a judge in Bradley County, Tennessee, ordered that A.J's. church will add "of Prophecy" to their name, because this "Church of God" likes to fulfill bible prophecies, so the ruling was, for use in secular and business affairs this name "Church of God "of Prophecy"" will be used going forward to distinguish the two churches, this is similar to (DBA) "Doing Business As" in business dealings.
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In August 1886, Elder Richard Spurling (1810–1891), an ordained Baptist minister, associated with the Latter Rain movement, rejected the dominant Landmark Baptist views of the church, which he believed were too credal and exclusive. With seven members from Holly Springs and Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Churches in Monroe County, Tennessee, and Cherokee County, North Carolina, he organized the Christian Union. These Christians hoped to free themselves from man-made creeds and unite on the principles of the New Testament. In September 1886, Spurling's son, Richard Green Spurling (1857–1935), was ordained as pastor of the Christian Union congregation. He also formed two other congregations. The father and son shared a vision to restore the church.
Around 1895, a revival under the preaching of B. H. Irwin swept into the area. Richard G. Spurling accepted Irwin's teachings on holiness, but was wary of the extreme direction in which he felt the movement was headed. But the revival was effective in moving Spurling's group away from the general faith and practice of Baptists and toward that of the Holiness Movement. In 1902, R. G. Spurling influenced a Holiness group led by W. F. Bryant to form the Holiness Church at Camp Creek, North Carolina. Spurling was elected pastor and Bryant was ordained as a deacon. The next year brought into the church an energetic and powerful leader, Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson or A. J. Tomlinson. Tomlinson, a former Quaker, who experienced an inner change of regeneration and sanctification, came in 1899 to the Appalachian region as a missionary. He became acquainted with Spurling and Bryant and caught Spurling's vision of the restoration of the church. He united with the church at Camp Creek on June 13, 1903, and soon became the acknowledged leader. He later reportedly could be heard barking and wailing in prayer as well as other strange and erie manifestations, leading many to believe that we was possessed by a demon.
New churches were organized in North Carolina, Tennessee, and Georgia. The first annual meeting of all the churches was held in 1906 in Cherokee County, North Carolina, and the name "Church of God" was adopted in 1907. Tomlinson professed a baptism of the Holy Spirit experience in 1908, which firmly established the church as part of the Pentecostal Movement. This took place under the preaching of Gaston B. Cashwell, a minister who was very influential in bringing Pentecostalism to North Carolina, the Appalachians and the east coast. In 1909, Tomlinson was elected General Overseer of the Church of God.
The present day Church of God of Prophecy officially accepts the Bible as God’s Holy Word, inspired, inerrant, and infallible and as the highest authority in matters of faith and practice. This expression, rightly divided, is evidence that the early 20th century organizers of the Church of God of Prophecy were heavily influenced by the works of C. I. Scofield, in particular his writings on dispensationalism.
In 1923, the Church of God was disrupted by matters concerning finance and governance, leading to a division. The largest body resulting from the division exists as the Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee). What is now known as the Church of God of Prophecy was the smaller body and remained under the leadership of Tomlinson. Tomlinson continued as General Overseer over this church until his death in 1943.
The presbytery believed that God directed them to bring the younger son, Milton Ambrose Tomlinson (1906–1995), forward to leadership. This was confirmed by the General Assembly in 1944, and he became the General Overseer of the church. The additional phrase of Prophecy was added to the name on May 2, 1952. Under Milton Tomlinson's leadership, the church began the White Wing Publishing House, White Wing Christian Bookstores, The Voice of Salvation radio and TV programs, and numerous other ministries. In 1961 the publishers at the White Wing Publishing House and Press considered M. A. Tomlinson to be "God's spokesman", a belief which was shared among the church at large. M. A. Tomlinson served as General Overseer until 1990. Past educational institutions (both of which are now defunct), include the Church of God of Prophecy Bible Training Institute, and also Tomlinson College. Both institutions were located in Cleveland, Tennessee.
"Exclusivity" has never been an official church teaching. However, some ministers have subscribed to such teachings, and still hold them today, separate from the church's official stance on the subject. The church is working hard to correct the negative impression that this assumption has caused. In 2004, a joint cooperative world evangelism effort began between the Church of God (Cleveland) and the Church of God of Prophecy. This, and other efforts, are steps toward healing the effects of the long-time hurt and mistrust between the two organizations.
In 2006, at the church's bi-annual General Assembly, General Overseer Fred Fisher retired from this leadership role and a new General Overseer was appointed, Randy Howard. After a week long discussion between members at this same General Assembly, the church changed its long-standing interpretation of acceptable reasons for divorce and remarriage. The church agreed that people who had been divorced (for the cause of fornication) and were later remarried may become members of the Church of God of Prophecy. There was an overwhelming majority, made up of several thousand voting members, that voted for the change. Many wishing to conform to the original denomination from which they split and return to the correct ideals they once believed (taking the original name)
From early on, the Church of God of Prophecy has believed its principles are based on the Holy Bible, and continually researches scriptures through various committees. At the Eleventh Annual Assembly in 1915, the General Overseer stated in his annual address, "We do not claim to have reached perfection; we are only searching for it." The following doctrinal insights reflect current findings through the Church of God of Prophecy International Assembly. The leadership acknowledges through various studies and writings that there are human limits of spiritual comprehension. Therefore, the organization continually studies for greater knowledge of God's design for His Church and attempts to better align itself to the New Testament teachings of Christianity in order to continually grow and develop into the "fullness of the stature of Christ".
Henceforth, following each Assembly, the Biblical Doctrine and Polity Committee would be expected to make any further adjustments that would be required in light of this mandate to reflect Assembly decisions.
From its beginnings, the Church of God of Prophecy has asserted that its beliefs are based on "the whole Bible rightly divided." Water baptism by immersion, the Lord's Supper, and feet washing are held to be ordinances of the church. Individuals must profess to be born again in order to become members, as well as maintain a consistent Christian witness. This group does not maintain that an individual must be a member of their specific denomination to be a Christian.
The Church of God of Prophecy is firm in its commitment to orthodox Christian belief. It affirms that there is one God eternally existing in three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It believes in the deity of Christ, His virgin birth, His sinless life, the physical miracles He performed, His atoning death upon the Cross, His bodily resurrection, His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and His personal return in power and glory at His second coming. It professes that regeneration by the Holy Spirit is essential for the salvation of sinful mankind.
It teaches the belief that the sinner is brought to an awareness of the need for salvation through the convicting work of the Holy Spirit. It teaches the belief that in sanctification by the blood of Christ, one is made holy. It affirms the present, active ministry of the Holy Spirit who guides the Church and by whose indwelling and empowerment that individuals are able to live godly lives and render effective service to God and others. It teaches the oneness and ultimate unity of believers for which our Lord prayed, and that this should be visibly displayed "that the world may know, see, and believe" God’s glory, the coming of His Son, and the great love He has for His people (John 17:20–23). The organization is committed to the sanctity of the marriage bond and the importance of strong, loving Christian families.
The Church teaches (and many members believe) that it embraces all biblical doctrines as taught in the New Testament. The particular interpretation of the teachings (primarily from the New Testament) were originally introduced in a series of 29 sermons delivered on the Voice of Salvation radio program by M. A. Tomlinson, several doctrinal beliefs of the church became summarized by the 29 Prominent Teachings.
The Church of God of Prophecy is a vibrant, worldwide body of believers, united in worship, working hand-in-hand to share God’s love and a message of hope to the broken-hearted. The Church of God of Prophecy has over one-and-a-half million members, worshipping in over 10,000 churches our missions in 125 nations of the world. Nearly 90% of our global membership is outside of North America. The Church of God movement began over one hundred years ago in the humble hearts of earnest believers in the rural mountains of Cherokee County, North Carolina. Following a miracle-filled revival that took place in a schoolhouse near Camp Creek in 1886, a small congregation formed a Christian Union to pray and study the scriptures. Soon led by an energetic young pastor from Indiana named A.J. Tomlinson, the group was more formally organized in 1903 into the Church of God and relocated its headquarters to neighboring Cleveland, Tennessee the following year. From Appalachia to the World, the century that followed saw great growth in all the branches of this movement.
From the beginning, these spiritual pioneers traced their roots to the New Testament church and considered themselves a continuation of the Spirit-filled Christianity exhibited in the book of Acts. This desired connection with early Christian expression continues today with a mandate that all church decisions be committed to prayer and based on scripture. In contemporary theological terms, the Church of God of Prophecy is a Protestant, Evangelical, Wesleyan holiness, Pentecostal movement that believes in man’s freewill regarding salvation.