The History of The Church of God
The Church of God was founded on June 13, 1903 by A.J. Tomlinson in Cherokee County, NC. At its inception, the church was known as The Holiness Church. In 1907, the name of the church was changed to Church of God. A.J. Tomlinson was named General Overseer of the church in 1914 after many years of leading the church. In 1923, he reformed the church after it began a decline into democracy.
After A.J. Tomlinson founded the Church of Prophecy Markers Association in 1941, he appointed Grady R. Kent as head over it in 1943. After Tomlinson’s death his son Milton was appointed as General Overseer. In the subsequent years, Grady Kent was instrumental in the Fields of the Wood project in Murphy, NC and the airplane program. He, along with several pilots and other personnel, flew with nine single engine airplanes to the Caribbean Islands and became known at “The Flying Bishop of America.” In 1948, the church adopted a resolution making the General Assembly the highest authority in the church. In 1953, the church changed its name from Church of God to The Church of God of Prophecy.
Grady Kent resigned from The Church of God of Prophecy on February 13, 1957 and led a reformation to return to God’s pattern of Theocratic Government – with an appointed leader, 12 apostles, 72 Prophets, and the 7 Men of Wisdom. 300 people made a decision to stand with him and his convictions. This group reorganized and in 1958 adopted its official name, The Church of God. He was then appointed Chief Bishop over The Church of God.
In 1958, a seven acre tract of land was purchased in Cleveland, Tennessee and became known as Jerusalem Acres. In May of 1962, Bishop Kent made a long-anticipated trip to Israel for the purpose of marking the site on Mt. Hattin where Jesus established the church. There, he built a marker, placing twelve stones, symbolic of the twelve apostles that Jesus ordained there, upon one large stone which represented the revelation of Jesus Christ whom upon the early church was built. He also introduced the concept of “New Testament Judaism” to the church as a restoration of the Judaic Heritage of first century Christianity.
Bishop Kent died on March 31, 1964 during the Passover season, at the time of the great earthquake in Alaska. Since then, several Chief Bishops have presided over the church: Marion Hall, Robert Somerville, and John Looper. In 1976, the Star of David Building on Jerusalem Acres was dedicated. This serves as the Headquarters building and Publishing house of The Church of God, today. From 1964 through the early nineties, the church began to lean away from the ideals on which it was founded.
In July 1996, Bishop Samuel Kramer was appointed the presiding Bishop over the church. Under his leadership, the church has fully returned to a Sabbath-keeping service schedule which had largely been abandoned under Looper’s administration and has worked to restore the full practice of Theocratic Government within the church.
On March 13, 2017, Bishop Lavell Craig was appointed the new Presiding Bishop over the church with Bishop Kramer retaining an honorary Bishop designation in honor of 22 years of service to the Presiding Bishop seat. Bishop Kramer went home to be with the Lord after faithfully serving in the church for 54 years on November 9, 2017.
Currently, the church is working towards restoration in light of Romans 11.