Charles Price Jones better known as C. P. Jones

“A young man from Mississippi became a key leader in [the Holiness Church] movement, and his name was Charles Price Jones, or better known as C. P. Jones. In 1895 he pastored the Mount Helm Baptist Church. Now, the church came out of another church called First Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. First Baptist Church — now, of course, you know, in many cities around the county you have two First Baptist churches oftentimes. There’s a white First Baptist and there’s a Black First Baptist — so, just First Baptist Church in Jackson.

“Before he came to Jackson, though, he also experienced what he called the ‘second work of grace,’ which is very much connected to the baptism of the Holy Spirit, except it wasn’t involved in speaking in tongues. There’s this concept of, you get saved and then you get sanctified as one thing, as opposed to sanctification being an ongoing process.

Bishop CH Mason.jpg

Reverend Charles Harrison Mason Sr. (1864 – 1961) American Pentecostal–Holiness pastor and minister, founder and first Senior Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, based in Memphis, Tennessee. It developed into what is today the largest Pentecostal church denomination and one of the largest predominantly African-American Christian denominations in the United States.

“In 1896, then, he accepted the Holiness doctrine and tried to lead his church into the deeper life — what he called the ‘deeper life in Christ.’ He tried to lead the church into more of the Holiness orientation. Now, C. P. Jones attracted many Baptists to his teachings, including many preachers. And among these preachers were people like W. S. Pleasant, J. A. Jeter, and another one that you’ve probably heard of, Charles Harrison Mason. C. H. Mason was a very, very key figure in twentieth-century African American church history. He was born in 1866, converted in 1880, licensed in the Missionary Baptist Church, and he experienced, again, the second work of grace in 1893.

Changing a Name

“Now, C. P. Jones wanted to change the name of the church to the Church of Christ in order to exalt Jesus, but he got strong resistance. This issue was then taken to court, and Jones won in lower court, but he lost in the Mississippi Supreme Court. The case was decided on the basis of the conditions under which the land for the church was donated. The land for the Mount Helm Baptist Church was given to a man named W. C. Helm, and he was a Presbyterian. He donated the land to build this church. Of course, the church then was named Mount Helm. So, C. P. Jones lost the case in the higher court. C. P. Jones and C. H. Mason then left Helm Baptist Church and founded a new Holiness church in Lexington, Mississippi with converts from the revivals that they had been doing all over the place.

“Now, C. H. Mason then named this new church the Church of God in Christ, Church of God in Christ. C. P. Jones teamed up with C. H. Mason, and they began to lead revivals in Lexington and in Jackson and other areas. C. P. Jones and C. H. Mason were excluded from the Baptist Association because of their beliefs. In 1897 C. P. Jones continued—let me see, he decided to do some revivals around, and he conducted the first Holiness Convention in Jackson, Mississippi. In 1900 the name of the movement became the Christ Association of Mississippi Baptist Believers in Christ—the Christ Association of Mississippi Baptist Believers in Christ.

“In 1906 the name of the national movement became the Church of God in Christ. Here we begin the Church of God in Christ, which has become one of the strongest and largest denominations in the African American community in the twentieth century.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit

“Now, the Church of God in Christ then sent J. A. Jeter, C. H. Mason, and D. J. Young to investigate the Azusa Street Revival under the leadership of William Seymour. They all received Seymour’s doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit, and in 1907 the Church of God in Christ became an official denomination. There was an extended discussion in this new denomination about the baptism in the Holy Spirit. Most in the Church of God in Christ rejected the doctrine of the baptism in the Holy Spirit. As a result, J. A. Jeter, C. H. Mason, and D. J. Young separated from C. P. Jones, and they started the Pentecostal wing of the Church of God in Christ. C. P. Jones assumed the leadership of the Holiness wing of the Church of God in Christ. And later, J. A. Jackson recanted his belief in the Pentecostal doctrine and rejoined C. P. Jones.

Growth of Multiple Denominations

“Now, C. H. Mason, then, was the first to incorporate the name Church of God in Christ as the name of the Pentecostal denomination, or the Pentecostal wing of the movement. This happened in 1915, and C. H. Mason became the first bishop. C. P. Jones then incorporated the name Church of Christ (Holiness) USA in 1920, and he became the first bishop. C. P. Jones died in 1949. And then, finally, by 1998, the denomination, the Church of Christ (Holiness), had grown to about 10,400 members with 167 congregations—mostly concentrated in the Mississippi area, but some up the East Coast, in Virginia and other places. And of course, the Church of God in Christ has grown to about seven or eight million in that time.

{Excerpt from Carl F. Ellis Jr., CS251 History and Theology of the African American Church, Logos Mobile Education (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press), 2017.

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