Brief History of Church of God in Christ
The Church of God in Christ was formed in 1897 by a group of disfellowshiped Baptists, most notably Charles Price Jones (1865–1949) and Charles Harrison Mason (1866–1961). In the 1890s, Jones and Mason were licensed Baptist ministers in Mississippi who had begun teaching the Wesleyan doctrine of Christian perfection or entire sanctification as a second work of grace to their Baptist congregations. Mason was heavily influenced by the testimony of the African-American Methodist evangelist Amanda Berry Smith, one of the most widely respected black holiness evangelists of the nineteenth century. Her life story led many African Americans into the holiness movement, including Mason who testified to receiving sanctification after reading her autobiography.
In June 1897, Jones held a holiness convention at Mt. Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, attended by Mason and others from several states. During this time, they became the major promoters of the holiness doctrine among black Baptists. However, Wesleyan perfectionism conflicted with the Calvinist theology of the Baptists. Not unlike divisions that occurred within the Methodist Church over sanctification, the holiness conventions, revivals, and periodicals conducted by Mason and Jones caused a major controversy among black Baptist churches in Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas. The leadership of the Mississippi State Convention of the National Baptist Convention intervened and expelled Jones, Mason, and others who embraced holiness teaching. In 1897 after being expelled from preaching in baptist churches, Elder Mason founded the St. Paul Church in Lexington, Mississippi, the first and oldest COGIC church in the world.