Bishop Charles Harrison Mason
Expelled Baptist Went on to Found Church of God in Christ
When Charles Harrison Mason (1864-1961) was 14 years old contracted tuberculosis, his mother and siblings prayed for him and asked the parishioners at their local Baptist church to pray for him. Mason was reportedly miraculously healed. After fully recovering from the tuberculosis, it was then when he told his family and the local parishioners of the Baptist church “he believed God had healed him for the express purpose of alerting him to his spiritual duty.”
In 1893, at the age of 27, Mason began his ministerial career by accepting a local license from the Mount Gale Missionary Baptist Church in Preston, AK. During this period, Mason became enamored with the autobiography of Amanda Berry Smith, an African Methodist Episcopal church evangelist. Smith had converted to the new wave of Holiness that was spreading during the latter part of the nineteenth century. Those who had accepted the Holiness message testified to being “sanctified” and cleansed from sin. Mason claimed sanctification and began preaching the doctrine of Holiness and Sanctification in the local Baptist churches.
In 1895, Mason became acquainted with Charles Price Jones, a popular Baptist preacher from Mississippi who shared his enthusiasm for Holiness teachings, as well as J. E. Jeter from Little Rock, Arkansas, and W. S. Pleasant from Hazelhurst, Mississippi. These men spread the doctrine of Holiness and Sanctification throughout the African-American Baptist churches in Mississippi, Arkansas, and western Tennessee.
In June 1896, these men conducted a revival, preaching the message of Sanctification and Holiness that eventually led to their expulsion from the local Baptist association. In 1897, Mason and Jones formed a new fellowship of churches named simply “Church of God.” Mason suggested the name “the Church of God in Christ,” a name that he said came to him during a vision.
In March 1907, Mason was sent by the church to Los Angeles to investigate the Azusa Street Revival being led by Reverend William J. Seymour. His stay lasted six weeks, and before it was over he experienced the baptism of the Holy Ghost and spoke in tongues.
Soon after his experience in Los Angeles, he returned to Mississippi preaching the new Pentecostal teachings on the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. He found that Elder Jones, the general overseer of the group, was opposed to it. After much debate at the general convocation in June 1907, Mason was expelled from the church. Later in November, he established a new Pentecostal group in Memphis. He was elected the General Overseer of his group.
After years of conflict, in 1915 Mason won the legal rights to the name and charter of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). In the years that followed, Mason grew the fledgling denomination. He commissioned traveling evangelists to spread COGIC’s message, establishing working partnerships with various individuals, and particularly targeting the masses of African Americans headed for work in Northern cities in the Great Migration.
However, he is most known for his consistent, disciplined and deliberate prayer life. In fact, COGIC prides itself as a church built on prayer and fasting. Bishop Mason is credited with writing the prayer chant, “Yes Lord” that has become known worldwide and sung not only by COGIC, but countless churches and other denominations and reformations.