C.H. Mason: A Man Sent From God
Dr. Leonard Lovett
Founder and Chief Apostle of the Church of God In Christ [1866 – 1961]
One of the most monumental figures in American Christianity, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, founding patriarch of the Church of God in Christ was born in 1866. Because of the impact of Bishop Mason, the face of American Christianity would never remain the same. He was born four years after Emancipation Proclamation to Jerry and Eliza Mason, former slaves and members of Missionary Baptist Church a few miles from Memphis. Indeed he was one sent from God. History was redemptive when little Charles Mason was stricken with a severe life threatening episode of fever and was miraculously healed by the power of God. One year after his fathers death (1879) he received Christ and was baptized into the Christian faith at the Mount Olive Baptist Church near Plummersville, Arkansas.
After ordination and marriage in 1891, Elder Mason sought to educate himself by admission to Arkansas Baptist College. By 1894, the young Mason had completed his studies within the Institute of the college. By 1895 the influence of the Holiness Movement with its emphasis on sanctification had impacted the youthful Elder Mason. Under Wesleyan influence, their message had come to embrace perfection, characterized by “perfect love.” A division within the Methodist church in 1880 formed as a result of a controversy over John Wesley’s doctrine of sanctification. One group stressed “perfect love” while a separate group stressed a Spirit baptism separate and distinct from conversion.
Sixty four years earlier (1816) Richard Allen had founded the African Methodist Episcopal Church as a direct result of racial divisions within the Body of Christ on earth. The emphasis on individualism tempered the spirit of the times and set the tone for the rise of black independent churches. Black worship and lifestyle proved to be problematic within mixed fellowships and resulted in the rise of independent black churches. In the midst of religious change and shifting loyalties, the youthful Elder Mason became attracted to the Holiness Movement In 1895, he met Charles Price Jones, a newly elected pastor of the Mt Helms Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Jones influenced by the doctrine of sanctification as a Baptist pastor in Selma, Alabama. The united preaching of Jones and Mason created a crisis for conservative Black Baptist leaders. The preaching of sanctification became so offensive both preachers were excommunicated from the Baptist denominational.