Church of God in Christ
   The largest Pentecostal church in the United States, the Church of God in Christ is a predominantly African-American church that in the late 20th century became a significant international force. The church has its origin in the Holiness movement in Mississippi, the first congregation being founded in 1897. Crucial to its history was the visit of Charles Harrison Mason (1861-1961) and two other clergy to meetings at the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles in 1907. There they received the Pentecostal blessing complete with speaking in tongues. The Pentecostal message was not well received among their former colleagues, and the three men and a small following left. originally an interracial group, most (but not all) of its white members would later become part of the Assemblies of God.
   The church was led by Mason for 44 years and is now led by an elected presiding bishop. it is a Holiness Pentecostal fellowship, preaching that the Christian life is punctuated with three main experiences: justification, sanctification, and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
   The church became an international body in the 1920s with affiliated congregations in Canada, Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, and several Caribbean islands. The spread to Latin America was assisted by leadership from Latino congregations in the United States. In the years since World War ii, the church has developed an extensive presence in Asia, the largest membership being in india. it developed in Europe following the migration of American members to England, Germany, Italy, and Bulgaria. The church now has some 6 million members in 60 countries, of which 4 million reside in the United States.
   See also Pentecostalism.
   Further reading:
   ■ ithiel C. Clemmons, Bishop C. H. Mason and the Roots of the Church of God in Christ (Bakersfield, Calif.: Pneuma Life, 1997)
   ■ Lucille J. Cornelius, compiler, The History of the Church of God in Christ (n.p.: 1975).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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