Church of God of Prophecy

The Church of God of Prophecy is a vibrant, worldwide body of believers, united in worship, working hand-in-hand to share God’s love and a message of hope to the brokenhearted.


The Church of God of Prophecy (CGP) accepts that its roots are connected to the Historical Church in the New Testament which was formed when Jesus “. . . called unto him whom he would and they came unto him. And he ordained twelve that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach” (Mark 3: 13, 14).

The modern history of the church is closely intertwined with several of the major religious movements that have swept across the United States and the world. The church has a rich heritage rooted in the Protestant Reformation, including the efforts of Zwingli, Luther, Calvin and others. More particularly, CGP’s legacy is what is referred to as the “Radical Reformation.” Radical reform groups such as Anabaptists, Mennonites, Baptists, and Quakers, contended that the principal reformers had fallen short of a complete renewal or restoration of God’s church. These radical reformers, in one way or another, determined to fully restore the church on deep spiritual experiences, personal piety, strict moral discipline, and proper biblical models. They sought to emulate the patterns of the church found in the Book of Acts, known practices of the apostolic age, and certain other early developments of the patristic period.

When groups of radical reformers immigrated to America in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, their ideas found fertile soil and flourished in the colonies. In America, as elsewhere, they emphasized experiential salvation, God’s love, and practical holiness. Love and holiness were, to them, the hallmarks of the true church, in contrast to the complicated and formal creedal-ism [and its subsequent institutionalism] prevalent in their day. Great revivals, some marked by Pentecostal manifestations, occurred among the radical reform groups, especially the Baptists and followers of George Whitefield and John Wesley. Following in this tradition, the forefathers of the CGP viewed their work as both a continuation and restoration of the Apostolic Church.

In August 1886, Richard G. Spurling (1857-1935) a Baptist minister, and his father Richard Spurling (1810-1891) an ordained Baptist Elder, reacted against the prevailing creedal-ism of their day, understood as inordinate dependence upon the Creeds of Christendom in place of the Scriptures. In their view, this had led to over-organization and the consequent lack of fervent Bible practice among many Baptists. The “Landmark Movement” had permeated Baptist congregations in the southern United States with an exclusivist view of the church, which the Spurlings rejected. Consequently, the Spurlings and seven other individuals came out of the Holly Springs and Pleasant Hill Missionary Baptist Churches in Monroe County, Tennessee and Cherokee County, North Carolina and organized what they believed to be a true restoration of the Apostolic Church. They called it “Christian Union” and constituted it upon principles comparable to the sixteenth-century Anabaptists. The group agreed to free themselves “from all (man)-made creeds and traditions . . . to take the New Testament, or law of Christ” as their “only rule of faith and practice, giving each other equal rights and privileges to read and interpret for yourselves as your conscience may dictate,” and to “sit together as the Church of God to transact business. . . .” In September of that same year, Elder Spurling ordained his son, R. G. Spurling, to be the pastor, with the consent of the congregation. He later moved on, and by some accounts, returned to the Baptist movement prior to his death in 1891. The younger Spurling, who, it appears, had an enduring passion for the initial vision, carried on Christian Union and succeeded in establishing at least two more congregations even though the initial congregation at Barney Creek in Monroe County, Tennessee, ceased to function. Some of the charter members from the original congregation helped to form the two succeeding congregations, and thus, the original organization was perpetuated.

In 1895, portions of western North and South Carolina, northern Georgia, and southeastern Tennessee, were agitated by the presence of the radical wing of the Holiness Movement. Benjamin Harding Irwin had come from the Midwest and greatly affected the region with his “fire-baptized” message. Spurling’s congregations were swept into this movement, thus moving away from some general characteristics retained from the Baptists, to the tenets of the Holiness Movement. R. G. Spurling himself accepted holiness but endeavored to modify the fanatical extremes toward which Irwin’s Movement tended. Those who experienced “fire-baptisms” were often difficult to manage, and thus, Spurling struggled to maintain control of his followers. In the summer of 1896, in Cherokee County, North Carolina, about 12 miles from Spurling’s congregations in Monroe and Polk Counties in Tennessee, an Irwin-influenced revival broke out. During those meetings, held in the Shearer schoolhouse in Cherokee County, some 130 persons were baptized with the Holy Ghost and spoke in unknown tongues. The principal leaders of this revival were William Martin (a Methodist), and Joseph M. Tipton, Milton McKnabb, and Billy Hamby, all Baptists. Each of these men had been acquainted with Spurling and had been influenced by him.

William F. Bryant, a Baptist lay preacher, was drawn into the Holiness Movement during the above noted revival. Eventually, he became the leader of the group in the Camp Creek area near the same Shearer school house. Several buildings where they had been meeting were demolished, and burned. At one time a group of 106 persons from the surrounding communities were present for the burning of one of the buildings that was deliberately torn down. This group included a justice of the peace, a sheriff, and local religious leaders of at least two denominations. This was an attempt to extinguish the fires of revival which had disturbed the more established churches in the vicinity. Baptist churches in the area excommunicated all those “harboring the modern theory of sanctification,” maintaining that sanctification was a “dangerous heresy.” Persecution, violent at times, continued. The opponents took special advantage of Bryant’s loosely-formed fellowship. Oppression from without, coupled with an internal lack of formal order and discipline, nearly devastated Bryant’s group. By 1902, the faithful but persecuted little band (now meeting in Bryant’s home) had dwindled to no more than 20 persons.

Indeed, had it not been for the wise counsel and influence of R. G. Spurling, Bryant and his company of believers may have vanished from history. But Spurling, who, since 1886, had witnessed his own Christian Union struggle for survival, persuaded Bryant to organize in order for the work to endure. Consequently, on May 15, 1902, the “Holiness Church at Camp Creek” was set in order. Spurling himself was selected by the congregation as pastor, and Bryant was ordained as a deacon. These steps, in their view, made the church permanent. In a real sense, Spurling’s vision for the restoration of God’s Church taking “the New Testament as the only rule of faith and practice,” was perpetuated through this act of organizing. By his presence and leadership, the remnants of Christian Union (1886) were, de facto, absorbed into the Holiness Church at Camp Creek in 1902.

Soon led by an energetic young pastor from Indiana named A.J. Tomlinson, the group was more formally organized in 1903 into the Church of God and relocated its headquarters to neighboring Cleveland, Tennessee the following year. From Appalachia to the World, the century that followed saw great growth in all the branches of this movement. From the beginning, these spiritual pioneers traced their roots to the New Testament church and considered themselves a continuation of the Spirit-filled Christianity exhibited in the book of Acts. This desired connection with early Christian expression continues today with a mandate that all church decisions be committed to prayer and based on scripture. In contemporary theological terms, the Church of God of Prophecy is a Protestant, Evangelical, Wesleyan holiness, Pentecostal movement that believes in man’s freewill regarding salvation.

The Church of God of Prophecy is a vibrant, worldwide body of believers, united in worship, working hand-in-hand to share God’s love and a message of hope to the brokenhearted. The Church of God of Prophecy has over one-and-a-half million members, worshiping in over 10,000 churches or missions in 135 nations of the world. Nearly 90% of our global membership is outside of North America