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Church of God in Christ Denomination Hit Hard by COVID-19

Multiple bishops and clergy members within the Church of God in Christ, a large African American Pentecostal denomination, have died of COVID-19. 

At least a dozen and perhaps as many as 30 have died, The Washington Post reported. 

The Church of God in Christ (COGIC) holds large regional meetings each year in February and MarchTwo of the regional meetings, the Historical Louisiana First Jurisdiction meeting in Shreveport, La., and the Kansas East Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction Ministers and Workers Conference in Kansas City, were held in mid-March and have been linked to COVID-19 outbreaks, per the Post.

The denomination has since closed its national headquarters and publishing house and canceled all international events as well as four of the church’s upcoming major conferences and meetings and calling for local leaders to stop gathering.

“I’d like to take this opportunity to unequivocally state that all Church of God in Christ local, district, state and international gatherings should absolutely cease,” Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr.Presiding Bishop & Chief Apostle for the Church of God in Christ, Inc., said in a video posted on the organization’s website. 

Blake said in a statement that the church cancelled its annual national Spring Call Meeting set for April, citing the desire to  “minimize the exposure that at-risk attendees may potentially place on the many who will come in contact with April Call delegates upon their return home,” saying the meeting will be rescheduled at “a more suitable future date.” 

The denomination’s First Jurisdiction of Michigan has been especially hard hit, the Los Angeles Sentinel reported, losing Bishops Robert E. Smith, Sr. and Robert L. Harris and Superintendents John D. Beverly, Paul E. Hester, Sr., Kevelin B. Jones, Myron E. Lett and Leon R. McPherson, Sr. 

Detroit TV station WXYZ also reported the death of Bishop Veodis Gaines of Greater Metropolitan Church due to the virus.

A church leader told WXYZ it was unclear when or where the virus spread throughout the Michigan region. 

Bishop Gerald O. Glenn, founder and pastor of New Deliverance Evangelistic Church in Chesterfield, Virginia, died April 11 after resisting officials’ recommendations to shut down services in the interest of social distancing, saying that God was “bigger than” the coronavirus.  

Bishop Timothy T. Scott, the leader of the Northern Mississippi Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction, who had served the church for more than 50 years, passed away April 4. He had attended a March 26 funeral in Clarksdale, Mississippi along with more than 300 others, WREG news said.  

L.A. area Bishop Anthony Pigee, Sr., the 49-year-old founder and senior pastor of Life of Faith Community Center, died April 8, per the Sentinel.

COVID-19 has been particularly lethal in the African American community because “it is a pandemic jumping on top of multiple pre-existing epidemics,” said CNN reporter Van Jones, who co-hosted a program called “The Color of Covid” on the network April 18.  

The program noted that black and brown communities have a disproportionate share of high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes and obesity, of people working in low-wage jobs as essential workers that put them in danger, and more who are underinsured, leaving them more vulnerable.  

The Church of God in Christ trusts in the miraculous healing and protective power of the Lord Jesus Christ,” Blake said in his statement. As He alone is our Keeper, we will continue to wholly put our trust and faith in Him. 


Anne Stych

Anne Stych is a writer in Charlotte, North Carolina.