CHURCH OF GOD IN CHRIST IN NORTHERN MISSISSIPPI
A HISTORICAL OVERVIEW
The Church of God in Christ got its humble beginning in the State of Mississippi in 1897. The development of the Church of God in Christ Organization was ignited through the radical leadership of Elder C.P. Jones, Pastor of Mt. Helen Baptist Church in Jackson, MS, Elder W. S. Pleasants, Pastor of White Oak and Damascus Baptist Churches in Hazelhurst, Mississippi, and the Elder Charles Harrison Mason. As a result of their (Jones, Pleasants, & Mason) involvement in the Holiness movement, these leaders were ejected from the Baptist Churches in that area. After being excommunicated from the Baptist Fellowship, Pastors Jones and Pleasants along with Elder Mason organized the first group of the most Holy faith. Elder C. P. Jones was chosen to serve as Overseer and C. H. Mason was chosen to serve as the Evangelist of this newly established group. Inspired by God, many congregations were preached into the faith and buildings were erected.
In 1907, the issue concerning the Baptism of the Holy Ghost and speaking in other tongues brought about controversy among the brethren. As a result of this disagreement, in 1908 the group separated with many of the followers remaining with Elder C. P. Jones, the Overseer.
The Lexington Church went into litigation which lead to the appointment of Elder C. H. Mason as Overseer. He became Overseer of the group that believed in the Baptism of the Holy Ghost accompanied by speaking with other tongues as recorded in Acts 2:4 and Mark 16:15-18. The work, under Elder Mason’s leadership, continued to flourish.
The pioneer ministers who were responsible for the early strides in the Church’s growth spoke with authority the things concerning the Kingdom of God. They held that the practice and development of pure religion in this hectic age were just as necessary and paramount as in the days of the early church when the inhabitants of the earth in many regions had neither seen nor heard of Christ, God’s Anointed.
Elder C. H. Mason and followers, whose faith was founded upon the doctrine of the baptism of the Holy Ghost, formed the first assembly of the Church of God in Christ.
I. Elder J. A. Lewis (1909-1916)
In 1909 after legal suits, Dr. R. E. Hart advised this religious group to reorganize. From this reorganization, Elder J. A. Lewis was appointed State Overseer. He held his first State Convocation the same year (1909). Overseer J. A. Lewis was a visionary. He realized the need for this religious group to have a school. He had a strong and foresightful board of pastors working along with him. Under the leadership of Overseer Lewis a school was established in Lexington, Mississippi which proved to be a national success. Professor James Courts, an educator who had heard and believed the doctrine of Holiness, was chosen as the instructor. The first classes were taught in the basement of the St. Paul Church in Lexington.
Mrs. Jennie Watson, who was appointed State Mother of the Women’s Department, worked in harmony with the State Overseer. These two were diligent workers and highly esteemed for their work. After a few years as State Overseer, Elder Lewis gave up his post and left the State for Youngstown, Ohio.
II. Elder Stephen Rice (1916-1927)
Elder Stephen Rice, a very degenerative man, was appointed Elder Lewis’ successor in 1916. He was a very sagacious administrator who applied many workable measures for the expansion of the school by buying more land to add to the existing forty acres. Elder Rice built the first building on the original forty acres which is now the site of the beautifully refurbished Saints Academy and College.
After the death of Mother Jennie Watson, Mrs. Victoria Jones was appointed to preside over the Women’s Auxiliaries of Mississippi. Mother Jones was a great organizer and Bible teacher. During her tenure, the women’s work made great advancements.
Overseer Rice and Mother Jones presided over the Northern and Southern regions in Mississippi. They were highly honored and esteemed for their work for which the pastors and their churches thought to buy each of them a new vehicle. The plan to purchase the cars had been duly passed but the decision of the board was rescinded by Bishop C. H. Mason. In a short while the Board of elders saw the wisdom of Bishop Mason’s action. Mother Jones acquired an automobile on her own which later became a means of her complete undoing and was systematically removed from the office of State Mother. Mrs. Lizzie Belt was appointed to serve over the Southern region and Mrs. Fannie Beck over the Northern region to succeed Mother Jones. Overseer Rice was a prudent man. However, because of the manner in which he conducted the business of the State, dissension arose with some of the Ministers of Mississippi. The brethren succeed in their getting their grievance before Bishop Mason, who, after a fair and impartial hearing, decided it was best to remove Overseer Rice from that office in 1927.
III. Elder J. H. Henderson (1929-1943)
There was a transitory period of about two years that the work was carried on in the State by District Superintendents.
Bishop assumed the position of State Overseer. Mrs. Susie Mountlear served as Missionary with Elder Henderson and Mother Fannie Beck served with Elder J. H. Anderson over the other district. This arrangement proved to be unsatisfactory. It wasn’t long before Bishop Mason realized the need to appoint a State Overseer. In December 1929, Bishop Mason appointed Elder J. H. Henderson as State Overseer with Mother Fannie Beck serving in the capacity as Supervisor over the Women’s Department. This marked the beginning of a new era in Northern Mississippi. The work progressed in spite of the migrating of our people from the State of Mississippi to the industrial centers of the United States.
The Work Continues……….
The onset of Elder Henderson’s administration showed signs of great progress. Upon his arrival home from the Memphis Meeting, he showed his certificate of appointment and chose a young man whom he perceived to possess good business judgement to serve as his assistant. Little did the young man know that he would succeed Elder Henderson as the next State Overseer. However, this happened over a course of time. It was stated in a conversation between overseer J. H. Henderson and Bishop Charles Pleas that the young man had proven to be one of the most honest persons that he had been privileged to deal with. This statement, coming from a man with the integrity of Overseer Henderson, was quite a tribute. Overseer Henderson was a man of the highest moral standard. It was his desire that all ministers who served with him and under his authority exemplify purity of life and fidelity in business matters. He appointed committees, or a group of troubleshooters, and dispatched them to any section of the State when he believed it to be needful to defend the Church. However, Overseer Henderson was more often found in the group himself.
Overseer Henderson thought that the State could expand and give better service by being divided into districts. He called the Elders of the State to Clarksdale, Mississippi and proceeded to divide the State into Districts. There were six districts. At his request, rules to govern the districts were delineated by Assistant Overseer B. S. Lyle and Elder J. L. Pleas. After the rules were passed and adopted, Overseer Henderson appointed six District Superintendents to preside over the districts. Since the adoption of the ten original rules, four have been added. The districts had proven to be quite an asset to the State work as well as the rules to the districts. All District Superintendents and Missionaries had to walk by the same rules to eradicate any signs of friction.
The State Superannuation Board, an idea of the Assistant State Overseer, was created during the Henderson administration. Elder Henderson served the State for thirteen years in the capacity of State Overseer. During the latter part of his service as State Overseer his health began to decline.
However, this did not impede the vision that Elder Henderson had for the Church. His work was carried on by his interim Overseer and his aids. Elder Henderson finished his course and was laid to rest Wednesday, May 26, 1943 at 8: 00 p.m.
Many complications ensued after the death of Overseer Henderson, but his successor with the Board of Elders and the women who labored with them in the gospel, met every challenge and weathered every storm, The Church continued its progress in the State of Mississippi in spite of the fact that our country was embroiled in a two-front war. As in almost every case, when a great leader passes from the scene, people are uncertain about the next steps to take. The following day after Overseer Henderson was laid to rest, the Board of Elders of Northern Mississippi was called together in Greenwood, Mississippi to consider the matter of choosing a leader. After some deliberation, the group chose Elder B. S. Lyle as Acting Overseer. A signed petition was sent to Bishop C. H. Mason who was in California attending a State Convocation. Bishop Mason sent an immediate response granting the request of the Board and assuring them the formal appointment would be made in the General Convocation. This news was very encouraging to the brethren.
The newly named Overseer began laying the groundwork for an even greater expansion of the Church. Overseer Lyle’s first State Convocation was held in Belzoni, Mississippi in October 1943. It was considered one of the most outstanding convocations attested by the State. The plans that were proposed by the new State Overseer for the progress of the State seemed to have stimulated new life. Those plans received endorsement of the State Assembly as a whole. Included in this program of Bishop Lyle was the following: State Newsletter, “The Voice,” The creation of a State Headquarters, State Statistician, Statewide Evangelism and Evangelist Board consisting of presidents, Vice-Presidents, Secretary and Treasurer, a change and expansion of the superannuation program; and a merit system for all ministers. These and other progressive measures were introduced. Of course, some were successful while others were abandoned in favor of still more progressive measures. The Headquarters was built but on a somewhat lesser scale than the original plan. We had dormitories with modem baths, a fellowship center, office space for the District Superintendents, and an office for the Bishop. Each ofthe offices was equipped with desks and chairs and other necessities of the modern office.
Later, the edifice ofthe beautiful St. James Temple was erected with an approximate cost of $88,000. An initial gift of a $7,725 donation by the State Board plus the deed to the lot where the Temple presently stands, by the State Board of Trustees was given to the Pastor and congregation. This gift from the State was offered and accepted by the local congregation for the privilege of holding all Annual State Convocations in the Temple. It was therefore decreed that no future pastor nor congregation could ever deny the State this privilege. This solemn agreement made and entered into between the trustees of and for the local church and the State Trustee Board of Northern Mississippi could not be declared null and void as long as the present structure stood.
In 1955 another important milestone was reached in the progress of the State. It all happened in a simple, but very solemn, ceremony in which Overseer Lyle was consecrated to the Bishopric of the Church of God in Christ by Senior Bishop C. H. Mason. This marked another history-making accomplishment in a series of a long list of achievements by the man who served in the Office of State Overseer longer than any of his predecessors. To say that the Church progressed under the leadership of Bishop Lyle would be putting it very mildly. The measures introduced and put into operation by Bishop Lyle have not only served the State of Mississippi but other states as well.
Northern Mississippi had some very gradational leaders directing and overseeing the various departments that contribute to the continued movement of the Church. These leaders included personages as Mother Fannie Beck, Supervisor of the Women’s Department, Elder J. H. Anderson and Elder T. B. Copprue who respectively served as Superintendents of the Sunday School Department along with Mrs. Lillian Anderson as State Field Worker, Elder P. J. Henderson and Elder Percy Dean who respectively served as Presidents of the Youth Department along with Miss Ada Sheard as Chair Lady. There were nine Districts with an equivalent number of District Superintendents and Missionaries. There were 137 churches and missions, the greater part of which had small memberships; 71 Pastors; 18 Elders without charge; 12 Women Evangelists, and 10 Deaconess-Missionaries.
In the year of Jubilee we saluted and paid tributes to our leaders who had been used of God to build the Church during the period that they served, both past and present. We trust that the departments will enter the parade on the following pages to prove and certify the assertion that from 1909 to 1959, we witnessed “fifty YEARS OF PROGRESS AND SERVICE.”
In June 1972, Bishop B. S. Lyle finished the work that God had assigned to him in the Lord’s vineyard and was laid to rest.
A vision inspired by the Holy Ghost was given to a God-fearing, strong but humble man. This man had no thought of position nor power. His endeavor was just to five holy and please God. His heart and mind were pricked with a thought (What if?), which started as a dream (Can it be done?)
The creation of this new leader who would serve during this new day and this new era began on December 18, 1931 when Timothy Titus Scott was born to Elder Matthew and Melissa Ethel Scott in East Chicago, Indiana. He was one of ten children. He was saved at the tender age of eight years old. While growing up with his brothers and sisters, he was noted for being a unique child. He grew to become a very fine young man. He received his formal educational training at Andrew Chapel Elementary School in Madison County, MS, Union Elementary School and Richland Vocational School in Holmes County, MS. He continued his education and graduated from Saints Industrial School where he received his High School Diploma. In 1952, he was drafted into the Army where he remained until 1954. He furthered his education at Mississippi Valley State College where he received a B.S. degree in Social Science in 1958. After seeking God for a lifelong companion, he met and married Cherry Mae Mitchell on June 3, 1956. Through this union God blessed them with 10 wonderful children: Daniel, Timothy Jr., Deborah, Shadrach, Lester, Micah, Patrick, Jackie, Cynthia and Tina.
This strong, God-fearing but humble man always felt in his heart that God had a work for him to do in the ministry. He accepted his calling to preach God’s word in January 1950. After seeking God and laboring in the word, the legacy of faithfulness and dedication in a pastoral ministry began with the St. Matthew Church of God in Christ in Yazoo County, MS from 1955-58 and Mount Olive Church of God in Christ in Pickens, MS from 1957-58. For 21 years (1958-79), he served as Pastor of New Jerusalem Church of God in Christ in Drew, MS. He also served as the dedicated Pastor of Peter’s Rock Church of God in Christ in Starkville, MS from 1960-72.
There were uncertainties that clouded the minds of God’s people as to whom Bishop Lyle’s successor would be. Bishop J. 0. Patterson served as Interim Bishop throughout the Annual Holy Convocation in October of 1972. During this Convocation, Bishop J. 0. Patterson, Sr., the Presiding Bishop called a meeting with the State Board of Elders of Northern Mississippi to ascertain the desire of the brethren. Four names were placed on the ballot for the brethren to choose from. They were Superintendent 0. S. Sheard, Superintendent 1. Slack, Elder Percy Dean, and Elder T. Scott, Sr. The Elder Roy L. Winbush assisted Bishop Patterson in conducting the voting procedure. When the votes were counted, Elder T. T. Scott, Sr. received more votes than all ofthe other candidates put together. Bishop Patterson presented Elder T. T. Scott, Sr. to bring the message on Saturday, the Official Day of the Convocation. Following the message, Bishop J. 0. Patterson, Sr. appointed Elder Timothy Titus Scott, Sr. as the Jurisdictional Bishop of northern Mississippi. He also assumed Pastorship at St. James Temple Church of God in Christ in Clarksdale, MS. The appointment was approved by the General Board and Elder Timothy Titus Scott, Sr. was consecrated to the Bishopric in January 1973 by the Presiding Bishop and the General Board of the Church of God in Christ.
Northern Mississippi continued to escalate both spiritually and naturally under the leadership of this God-fearing leader. We recognize the numerous achievements under his administration which includes the daily operation of the Bishop Office Annex to the Jurisdictional Headquarters. The Annex comprises the Jurisdictional Bishop, Supervisor, District Superintendents, Jurisdictional Secretaries and Jurisdictional Auxiliaries’ offices.
Under the direction of our most profound and visionary leader the Jurisdiction has expanded eminently. Property in the Oil Mill alley behind the St. James Temple was purchased from Mrs. Mabel Thomas, Mr. Sidney May and Mr. Abe May. This property was developed for guest housing for the delegates and a living quarter for the Supervisor of Women’s Auxiliaries. On February 7, 1983, the Denton Holcomb Lumber Company property, located on Sunflower Avenue, Clarksdale, Mississippi, was purchase from Jack Denton for the sum of $80,000.00. While this property was being developed, the property adjacent to the lumber company near Riverside Seed Company became available. During our Annual State Convocation in October 1986, Bishop T. T. Scott led the saints on a tour through the Riverside Seed Company property. However, there were some doubts in reference to the feasibility of investing in the property by some of the brethren, but God had given our leader a vision for the property. He and the other members of his cabinet encouraged the saints to catch hold of the vision.
On December 30, 1986, this property was purchased by the Jurisdiction. The purchase of the Riverside Seed Company property proved to be one of the greatest initiatives made by the Jurisdiction. This property was developed into a Multi-Purpose Complex with a seating capacity of 1800, an Assembly Room that seats 300, the Jurisdictional Bishop’s Office, a Business Office, a Supervisor’s Office, Jurisdictional Officials’ Offices, District Superintendents’ Offices, Trustees’ Offices, three Conference Rooms, Laundry Rooms, Supervisor’s Suite and Executive Suite, seventy-five bedrooms with full bathrooms, a paved parking lot that accommodates three hundred fifty cars.
After the development of the property on Sunflower Avenues, St. James Temple Church of God in Christ purchased the annex from the jurisdiction for $52,000.00. St. James Temple also purchased the property located on Oil MU Alley from the Jurisdiction for $25,000.00.
During Bishop Scott’s administration two districts have been added to the Jurisdiction, District Eleven and Twelve. He has also instituted USAC-5 which consist of the Youth Department, Elder William Dean, Jr. served as Chairman until 1998, Elder Michael Hickmon presently presiding; the Sunday School Department, Elder G. L. Copprue- Evangelist Department, Elder Albert Pass, formally presided, Elder James Pullium; Home and Foreign Mission, Elder Bernell Hoyle, presently presiding, Elder James Rogers- and the Music Department, Elder Terrace Adams & Elder Michael Hickmon, presently presiding, Elder Michael Virgil; Chairlady Mrs. Ada Liddell, presently presiding, Mrs. Mary Scott- State Field Worker, Mrs. Pearlie Pearson, State Elect Lady- Mrs. Alma Hoyle. The Charles Harrison Mason System of Bible College was also instituted.
The Women’s Department was presided over by Mother Fannie Scott-Beck, a very efficient and firm leader. She served Northern Mississippi for many years. She served with the late Overseer J.H. Henderson, the late Bishop B. S. Lyle and the present Bishop T. T. Scott, Sr. At her demise, she stated in her will that her estate was to be sold and the proceeds donated to Saints Academy in Lexington and the northern Mississippi Jurisdiction. This charge was given to Bishop T. T. Scott and Dr. Arenia C. Mallory.
In 1975 Mother Ida Lee Harris was appointed Supervisor. She was an anointed woman of God whose leadership and guidance led the Women’s Department to higher heights in God. After the death of Mother Harris, Mother Ada S. Liddell was appointed Supervisor.
Mother Ada S. Liddell, a refined woman of God, served the Women’s Department with dignity and excellence. At the demise of Mother Liddell, Mrs. Sarah Braggs Gaston was appointed Supervisor.