A History of the Pentecostal Church of Godby Ronald R. Minor (General Secretary 1979-2005) and The Pentecostal Messenger Staff
On December 29 and 30, 1919 a small group of dedicated individuals met in Chicago, Illinois in an attempt to unite their efforts for evangelism. Among those present for this meeting were: John C. Sinclair, pastor of the Christian Apostolic Assembly, Chicago, Illinois; George C. Brinkman, who edited his own independent monthly paper, The Pentecostal Herald: J. A. Bell, an associate to Sinclair; Eli Jackson DePriest, an evangelist from Black Rock, Arkansas; Edward Matthews; Wilmer Artis; Thomas R. O’Reilly, an evangelist from Indianapolis, Indiana; R.E. McAlister, general secretary/treasurer of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada: Ida Tribbett, an evangelist from Sturgis, Michigan, who was also the first person ordained by the Pentecostal Assemblies of the USA; Elder W. C. Thompson, pastor of Chicago’s Church of God in Christ; and Watson Emet Tubbs, an evangelist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
At this organizational meeting the following officers were chosen: moderator, John C. Sinclair; secretary, George C. Brinkman; and treasurer, J. A. Bell. This newly-formed group also heartily accepted Brinkman’s offer and adopted The Pentecostal Herald as the official organ of the fellowship.
At the 1921 convention Edward Matthews was elected chairman and W. W. Pelton, treasurer. Due to growing dissatisfaction with the decisions and actions of the new leadership, a reorganization meeting was held on February 15, 1922 in Chicago, Illinois. J. D. Snowden was chosen as the temporary chairman for the meeting. New officers were elected and the name of the organization was changed from Pentecostal Assemblies of the USA to the Pentecostal Church of God. John B. Huffman was elected general chairman, George C. Brinkman, secretary and James Gillespie treasurer.
Although the Movement experienced growth during the Chicago era, this growth was hampered because the men in leadership positions were also involved in other activities. John B. Huffinan continued to pastor the church in Blytheville, Arkansas throughout his tenure as general chairman from 1922 to 1924.
Osborn V. Gilliland, who was elected general chairman in 1925, was not even present to call the 1926 convention to order. Rik Field, acting chairman of the 1926 convention, was elected general chairman in that convention and continued to serve until 1931. He proved to be a valuable leader, giving stability to the general program. Records view him as a fresh breed of leadership. He served in Chicago and helped move the General Office to Ottumwa, Iowa. During his five years as chairman (1926-1931), he traveled extensively and did much to promote fellowship and Bible holiness.
OTTUMWA, IOWA ERA
In the 1927 convention A. D. McClure was elected general secretary and his wife general treasurer. Since the McClures had been pastoring in Ottumwa, Iowa since 1923, they chose to retain that position. The offices were moved to Ottumwa making their continued support possible. In 1927 The Pentecostal Messenger became the official organ of the church with A. D. McClure as the editor. In addition to his local pastoral ministry (1923-1949), McClure freely served as general secretary (1927-1931), editor of the “Messenger” (1927-1933) and general moderator (193 1-1933). Some progress was experienced during the Ottumwa era, one of the major accomplishments was the organization of districts.
KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI ERA
After G. F. C. Fons was elected moderator in 1933, the General Offices were moved to Kansas City, Missouri. Frank Lindblade served as vice-moderator (1931-1935) and general secretary (1935-1937). He had considerable authority since McClure remained in Ottumwa pastoring a growing church. The new moderator elected in the 1933 convention, as well as the general superintendent elected in 1935, chose to continue their previous ministries in addition to serving in the General Office. (G. F. C. Fons pastored in Fort Smith, Arkansas; M. D. Townsend continued to serve as district superintendent in California.)
For a short period of time in 1938 and 1939, the General Offices were located in Fort Worth, Texas.
While in Kansas City, the General Offices were located in rented facilities on Troost St. and in the Schukert building. Later, for the first time in its history, the movement was able to purchase property (1101 Prospect Avenue) to house the General Headquarters.
According to The Pentecostal Messenger K. R. Camp, general secretary treasurer (1946-1955), comments concerning those years:
“For some two years the ground floor was used as the General Office and the upper floor as living quarters for both the general superintendent and the general secretary. In the year of 1943, printing equipment was purchased and the offices moved upstairs, the lower floor being used for the printing department. It was then that we first started to print our own literature. Our printing had been farmed out before, so this was a forward step.
“At this time, the office staff consisted of the general secretary with an elderly lady as his assistant and the printing department employed two full-time men and one part-time pressman.”
The words “of America” were added in 1934 after it was discovered that another group was operating under the name Pentecostal Church of God. The 30’s and 40’s were decades of growth, although they were punctuated with times of severe financial difficulties.
Marion D. Townsend was the first man officially titled General Superintendent serving from 1935 to 1937. During this time he continued in his position as the California district superintendent. When the convention insisted that the general superintendent move to the headquarters city, Townsend chose to remain in California. Therefore, the 1937 convention elected Harold M. Collins as general superintendent. He served capably from 1937-1942. During his term the Pentecostal Church of God began publishing Sunday school literature.
In the 1942 convention J. W. May emerged as the general superintendent. His term (1942-1947) was a time of tremendous growth. May reported that during his tenure as general superintendent, “The number of districts doubled and the churches and ministers more than doubled.” When J. W. May resigned in 1947, H. T. Owens was elected to serve the Pentecostal Church of God as general superintendent. He served effectively from 1947 to 1949. During this time plans were made to move the General Offices to Joplin, Missouri.
JOPLIN, MISSOURI ERA
M. F. Coughran served as General Superintendent from 1949 to 1953. Coughran was a man of dynamic and effective leadership. During his tenure the General Office faced and conquered seemingly insurmountable financial difficulties. In 1951 the offices were moved to Joplin, Missouri, where they have remained to the present time. When Coughran resigned in 1953, practically all the indebtedness for the new headquarters located at 1601 Maiden Lane in Joplin had been paid.
In 1953 R. Dennis Heard was called upon to accept the responsibilities of general superintendent and served with distinction for 22 years. During this time, the Movement continued to grow and God opened new doors of opportunities and ministries.
By 1957 the facilities on Maiden Lane were considered inadequate for needed expansion, and a four-story office building located at 312-316 South Joplin was purchased. Later an adjacent building, located on Wall St., was secured for the expansion of the printing plant. The printing plant was again moved in 1972 to the five-story Newman Building located at 602 Main St., and the General Offices were moved to the new executive center at Third and Main in downtown Joplin. In addition, the organization built the 13-story Messenger Towers retirement center.
In 1975 R. Dennis Heard asked not to be considered for another term. Roy M. Chappell was elected and served with excellence for 12 years. During his tenure much time and effort were spent restructuring and placing the movement in a sound financial position. Property was purchased and a new headquarters facility was built at 50th and Pennsylvania. The administrative offices were dedicated at the 1985 General Convention. A new facility to house Messenger Publishing House was constntcted in 1987. The international headquarters of the Pentecostal Church of God now enjoys lovely, commodious and functional facilities.
During his term the King’s Men Fellowship, Senior Christian Fellowship, Home Missions and Evangelists ministries were established.
Also, in the fall of 1983 the decision was made to merge the denomination’s two colleges, Southern Bible College, Houston, Texas and Evangelical Christian College, Fresno, California. The formation of a new nationally-sponsored learning center known as Messenger College located in Joplin, Missouri, is the outgrowth of this merger. The campus is located directly across the street from the General Headquarters facility.
In 1987 Roy M. Chappell accepted a pastorate in California and the convention called on James D. Gee to assume the leadership as general superintendent. He served very capably until the 2001 General Convention. Among his significant accomplishments were the establishment of the office of the Business Manager and the improved financial position of the organization, including paying off the mortgage on the headquarters building, the purchase of the 8.2 acres adjoining our headquarters property and most of the buildings on the Messenger College campus were constructed during his term. “Strategy 2000” and “Project Paraclete” were two of the significant initiatives of his administration. The impact of his 14 years of leadership will long be remembered.
The Department of Youth Ministries—known as the Pentecostal Young People’s Association until 1999—was the first department organized on the national level. It has been a vibrant force for reaching and ministering to the youth.
Although missions had been a vital part of the movement since its inception, the World Missions Department was not organized until 1929. Today, through its World Missions Department, the Pentecostal Church of God ministers to people in 56 nations and maintains ministers’ training schools in many of these regions. Worldwide, the Pentecostal Church of God now has over 512,000 constituents, over 4,348 churches and over 4,285 ministers.
In 1949 the Indian Missions Department was established to reach the “first Americans” for Christ. James James was the first director of Indian Missions. In 1955 Albert Neal was called upon to accept the responsibilities of this ministry. His ten years of dedicated and sacrificial service brought great progress in evangelism to the hidden people of America, the first Americans. In 1964, C. Don Burke was called upon to assist Albert Neal, and in the 1965 General Convention was elected as Director of Indian Missions. There are now over 70 missionaries, 53 churches, 51 outstations reaching 100 tribes with the Pentecostal Full-Gospel message and 45 Schools of Christ for ministers that are teaching and preparing the church on the reservation.
In 1953 the Department of Christian Education was established. The department assists in the publication of curriculum and other study materials, and conducts training programs around the nation to inspire and help teachers. The 2005 General Convention voted to change the name of the Department of Christian Education to the Department of Discipleship Ministries.
In 1957 the Pentecostal Ladies Auxiliary became a nationally organized department. Ladies’ groups were previously established in many districts; however, the national program opened up many new fields of labor. The name of this department was changed to Department of Women’s Ministries at the 1997 General Convention.
The Pentecostal Church of God presently has ten active duty chaplains ministering to the men and women in the military. Not only this, the PCG has three reservist chaplains, a Civil Air Patrol Chaplain, a Veterans Administration Chaplain and ten chaplaincy candidates in seminary.
Though often hindered by various difficulties, the Pentecostal Church of God has continued to move forward. Government restrictions, record keeping procedures and many other onerous burdens of a more-and-more complicated society have necessitated some changes in business practices. These challenges, along with tremendous economic pressures, producing a significant shortfall in the cash flow of the operational budget at the General Office, required an inordinate amount of administrative time and effort throughout the decades of the 1970’s, ’80’s and ’90’s. The financial position of the organization has greatly improved through the generous support of its constituents.
In 2001, Reverend Phil L. Redding, Arkansas District Secretary-Treasurer was elected General Superintendent/Bishop (a new title), re-elected in 2003 and served until 2005. Action was taken at the 2003 General Convention to change the title of the General Superintendent/Bishop to General Bishop; change from an insurance provision to a benevolent death benefit program; replaced the 5% Church Participation Program with a First Fruits (tithing) program; and updated its postion on marriage, divorce and remarriage, adopting a position paper on the subject.
At the 2005 General Convention in Addison, TX, Reverend Charles R. Mosier of Flint, Michigan was elected General Bishop. Reverend Mosier served as Michigan District Superintendent on two separate occasions, as World Missions Director from 1989 to 1999 and as the Assistant General Bishop for the Northeastern Division. The denomination approved a structural change establishing a General Council replacing the previous executive committee. Reverend Charles G. Scott, Pentecostal Church of God Stewardship Ministries Director, was elected as the General Secretary. Ministry Directors were: Reverends Loyd Naten, World Missions; C. Don Burke, Indian Missions; Reggie Powers, Youth Ministries; Pat Wilson, Home Missions; Billie Palumbo, Discipleship Ministries and Barbara Mosier, Women’s Ministries. Members of the General Council include six Assistant General Bishops: C. W. Goforth, Thomas Branham, Leon McDowell, Jan Lake, Donald Johnson and Wayman C. Ming, Jr. The convention placed a renewed emphasis on multi-cultural ministries, discipleship ministries and stewardship ministries.
On July 8, 2006, Reverend Charles R. Mosier went home to be with the Lord after serving as General Bishop for 11 months. Although this is a circumstance that the Pentecostal Church of God had never faced, God comforted, blessed and led us.
At General Convention 2007 in Joplin, MO, General Secretary Charles G. Scott was elected General Bishop and Assistant General/Southern Missouri District Bishop Wayman C. Ming, Jr. was elected General Secretary. Those chosen to serve on the General Council as Assistant General Bishops were: C. W. Goforth, Thomas Branham, Leon McDowell, Jan Lake, Donald Manning and Joseph G. Skiles.
Ministry Directors appointed by the General Board were: Reverends Loyd Naten, World Missions; C. Don Burke, Indian Missions; Harry O. “Pat” Wilson, Home Missions; Joe E. Skiles, National Youth Ministries and Janice L. Scott, Women’s Ministries.