Church of God

Church Of God, a denomination of Baptists in the United States, organized in 1830 by John Winebrenner, formerly a minister of the German Reformed Church at Harrisburg, Pa.

I. History. — During the period of Winebrenner's pastorate, revivals of religion were frequent within the bounds of his charge, and extended from it gradually to other churches and congregations, although some ministers of the German Reformed Church opposed the movement. As, in the mean time, Mr. Winebrenner's sentiments in regard to theology and church government underwent a change, and other preachers were raised up from among the converts whose views agreed with his, a call was made in 1830 for a Convention to organize an association. Mr. Winebrenner was chosen moderator of the Convention, and it was resolved to form a separate denomination, under the name "Church of God." — The Church took root chiefly in Pennsylvania and the Western States, having (in 1867) no eldership in the New England States and in New York, and but one eldership in the Southern Texas. The latter, at the beginning of the war, separated from the General Eldership because of the antislavery doctrines professed by it. At an annual meeting held in 1866, the Texas eldership expressed a desire to reunite with the General Eldership, but no definite resolutions were passed.

The eighth triennial General Eldership of the Church was held at Decatur, Illinois, on May 31, 1866, and the following days. The following Annual Elderships were represented: East Pennsylvania, West Pennsylvania, East Ohio, West Ohio, Indiana, Southern Indiana and Illinois, Iowa, German, Michigan. A. F. Shoemaker was elected speaker. Centralia College, in Kansas, was recognized as an institution of the Church, and it was resolved to establish another college in Ohio, West Pennsylvania, Indiana, or Illinois. The subscription list of the weekly denominational organ, the Church Advocate, was reported to be 2700, and resolutions were passed in favor of the establishment of a Sunday-school paper by the Board of Publication, and of a German paper by Rev. J. F. Weishampel. A series of resolutions was also adopted on the duty of loyalty, against slavery, and in favor of equal rights of all men, irrespective of color.

II. Doctrines. — (Gorrie, cited below.) The following is a full statement of the views of the denomination:

1. She believes the Bible, or the canonical books of the Old and New Testament, to be the Word of God, a revelation from God to man, and the only authoritative rule of faith and practice.

2. She believes in one Supreme God, consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that these three are co-equal and co-eternal.

3. She believes in the fall and depravity of man; that is to say, that man by nature is destitute of the favor and image of God.

4. She believes in the redemption of man through the atonement, or vicarious sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

5. She believes in the gifts and office-work of the Holy Spirit; that is, in the enlightening, regenerating, and sanctifying influence and power of the Spirit.

6. She believes in the free moral agency of man; that he has moral ability, because commanded to repent and believe, In order to be saved; and that the doctrine of unconditional election and reprobation has no foundation in the oracles of God.

7. She believes that man is justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of law, or by works of his own righteousness.

8. She believes in the necessity of regeneration, or the new birth; or in the change of man's moral nature, after the image of God, by the influence and power of the word and Spirit of God, through faith in Christ Jesus.

9. She believes in three positive ordinances of perpetual standing in the Church, viz. Baptism, Feet-washing, and the Lord's Supper.

10. She believes two things essential to the validity of baptism, viz. faith and immersion — that faith should always precede immersion; and that where either is wanting there can be no scriptural baptism.

11. She believes that the ordinance of feet-washing, that is, the literal washing of the saints' feet, according to the words and example of Christ, is obligatory upon all Christians, and ought to be observed by all the churches of God.

12. She believes that the Lord's Supper should be often administered, and, to be consistent, to Christians only, in a sitting posture, and always in the evening.

13. She believes in the institution of the Lord's day, or Christian Sabbath, as a day of rest and religious worship.

14. She believes that the reading and preaching of God's word, the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, and the offering up of prayers, are ordained of God, and ought to be regularly and devoutly observed by all the people and churches of God.

15. She believes in the propriety and utility of holding fast-days, experience meetings, anxious meetings, camp-meetings, and other special meetings of united and protracted efforts for the edification of the Church and the conversion of sinners.

16. She believes that the Gospel ministry, Sabbath-schools, education, the religious press, the Bible, missionary, temperance, and all other benevolent causes, ought to be heartily supported.

17. She believes that the Church ought to relieve and take care of her own poor saints, superannuated ministers, widows, and orphans.

18. She believes that the manufacture, traffic, and use of ardent spirits as a beverage or common drink, is injurious and immoral, and ought to be abandoned.

19. She believes the system or institution of involuntary slavery to be impolitic or unchristian.

20. She believes that all civil wars are unholy and sinful, and in which the saints of the Most High ought never to participate.

21. She believes that civil governments are ordained of God for the general good; that Christians ought to be subject to the same in all things, except what is manifestly unscriptural; and that appeals to the law, out of the Church, for justice and the adjustment of civil rights, are not inconsistent with the principles and duties of the Christian religion.

22. She believes in the necessity of a virtuous and holy life, and that Christ will save those only who obey him.

23. She believes in the visibility, unity, sanctity, universality, and perpetuity of the Church of God.

24. She believes in the personal coming and reign of Jesus Christ.

25. She believes in the resurrection of the dead, "both of the just and the unjust;" that the resurrection of the just will precede the resurrection of the unjust.

26. She believes in the creation of new heavens and a new earth.

27. She believes in the immortality of the soul; in a universal and eternal judgment; and in future and everlasting rewards and punishments.

III. Church Government. — "In church government this body is independent and congregational; yet the members of all churches, when duly organized, are subject to the supervision of a Church Council, composed of the preachers in charge and the elders and deacons of each church, all of whom are elected by the members. In addition to the councils of each local church, they have a confederation of churches called an 'Eldership,' consisting of all the pastors within certain bounds, and an equal number of ruling elders as delegates. She has, in addition to her local churches or stations, larger fields of operation, called circuits. Hence her ministers are some of them stationed, and others travel on circuits, and others are missionaries at large." The elderships meet annually. The General Eldership, which consists of delegates from Annual Elderships, is held every three years. The General Eldership owns and controls all the common property of the Church. No minister can be delegated to it who has not held a preacher's appointment for five years previous (Gorrie, cited below).

IV. Statistics. — The Church has a domestic and foreign missionary society and a printing establishment, all which are under the control of the General Eldership. A weekly paper, the Church Advocate (in 1867, 32d volume), and a Sunday-school paper, called the Gem (established in 1867), are published at Lancaster, Pa. The denomination in 1889 had 11 elderships, about 475 churches, 450 ministers, and 29,683 members. See Gorrie, Churches and Sects; Winebrenner, History of Religious Denominations; American Baptist Almanac; Annual American Cyclopaedia for 1866, p. 112.

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