A partner of the Latvian Pentecostal Church association (LPCA) is the Church of God (COG), which is headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee, USA. It is the second biggest Pentecostal church association in the world with more than 7 million members in 180 countries and territories.

 

The beginning of the Church of God dates back to the late 19th century, when Pastor Richard Spurling with his son and eight other confederates on August 19, 1886 formed a Christian Union for the purpose of following the New Testament as their rule for faith and practice by moving away from man-made religious doctrines.

 

By 1895, Spurling founded three more churches. In 1902, Spurling’s son Richard Green Spurling created a Holiness Movement Church in North Carolina. In 1903 the church was joined by Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson, who created the spiritual, organizational and hierarchical structure of the church of God. Before joining the church, Tomlinson received a revelation in a prayer that this little church will become the reflection of the Church of the New Testament in today’s world.

 

Tomlinson’s vision and energy culminated in the creation of several churches in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee. The First General Assembly of the Congregations was convened in 1906. The name of the Church of God was adopted in 1907, but in 1909, E. Tomlinson was elected the first General Supervisor of the Church of God.

 

Initially, the Church of God was the church of the Holiness Movement. E. Tomlinson had not experienced the baptism of the Holy Spirit until his appointment as General Supervisor. This happened when a preacher from Azusa Street revival, Los Angeles was invited to the awakening church services in Cleveland. Gradually, the theology and spiritual principles of the Pentecostal church were strengthened in the teaching of the Church of God.

 

The first international mission of the Church of God began in 1909 in the Bahamas. Soon the missionaries of the Church of God began to visit different countries of the world. In 1926 the Church of God World Missions organization. was founded. Today Church of God works in all continents, except from Antarctica.

 

The missionaries of the Church of God work among American Indian and Spanish-speaking people, as well as Jews and African-Americans. The church chaplain service serves in the army, police stations, prisons, hospitals and elsewhere. Music plays an important role in the church ministry – the Department of Musical ministry of the Church of God is also known as the „Spirit Sound Music Group”. There is also a publisher „Pathway Press”.

 

Two universities operate at the church – Lee University in Cleveland and University of Pennsylvania in Auckland. The Church of God also has Bible colleges and schools in many countries of the world, including the Pentecostal Theological Seminary, USA, the International Bible College, Canada, the European Theological Seminary, Germany, Eurasian Theological Seminary, Russia, the Asian Christian Ministry Seminary in the Philippines, and others.

 

Over time, other denominations have been separated from the Church of God. In 1917 a branch of the Church of God was created with the centred in Chattanooga. In 1922, a radical Christian group separated from the central church and described itself as “Church of God with Signs Following”. Ambrose Tomlinson created the Church of God of Prophecy in 1923. In total, the name “Church of God” is given to eight Pentecostal church denominations. In 1953, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that the central Church of God should use the term “Cleveland, Tennessee” next to its name to distinguish it from other groups with a similar name.

 

The relationship between the Latvian Pentecostal Church association and the Church of God is governed by the agreement concluded in 1996. As a special point it stipulates that, due to different historical traditions, the washing of legs for Latvian congregations during the sacrament is not a bound practice as it is in other Churches of God. It is also stated that the supreme leader of LPCA, according to the Latvian tradition, may be called a bishop. The Church of God provides spiritual and practical support for LPCA. With its support the Christian School of Ministry of Latvia was founded in Jelgava. It should be noted that the International Church of God has no connection with the spiritual movement of the same name represented by Ārijs Roslēvičs in Latvia.

 

The Church of God is one of the most influential associations of Pentecostal church in the world. For over 120 years it has been a movement that focuses on the proclamation of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit. The global calling of the church is the evangelization of the world. At the same time, it is also a calling to apprenticeship, prayer and devotion, a calling to be a channel in God’s hands so people would experience the Pentecostal revival.

 

Web resources:

COD official web page
COD World Missions
COD in eastern Europe and CIS