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VIRUS PANDEMIC Forces Cancellation of COG General Assembly

 
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Post VIRUS PANDEMIC Forces Cancellation of COG General Assembly doyle
IMAGINE the shock if we were told that the upcoming Church of God General Assembly was cancelled due to a Virus Pandemic. Yet, that is exactly what happened to ministers and members of the Church of God in 1918. Here's why it happened AND why it devastated the COG financially at the time.

In 1918, a Spanish flu pandemic infected an estimated 500 million people (about one-fifth of the world population) and killed an estimated 20 to 50 million world-wide. In the U.S., there were drastic emergency quarantines; schools, theaters, sports venues and churches were closed. Various reports have ranged from 120,000 to 575,000 who died. The U.S. population then was about 103 million.

PANDEMIC IMAGES
https://www.bing.com/images/search?q=images+from+1918+flu+pandemic&form=HDRSC2&first=1&cw=1117&ch=443

In those early years of the Church of God, General Overseer A.J. Tomlinson raised a large portion of funding for Headquarters and general church endeavors, through General Assembly offerings, book and Bible sales, food stands (for those attending the Assembly) and magazine subscriptions.

AWAKENINGS
Since 1886, there had been scattered spiritual awakenings in the mountains of Eastern North Carolina. The incredible Shearer Schoolhouse revival of 1896, had begun as a "Sanctification" revival among Baptists and Methodists seeking a deeper walk with the Lord. Thank God for them. The Holy Spirit is still looking for folk like that.

After the "Shearer Outpouring," there were numerous Bible studies and small localized fellowships that sprang up throughout the area. We can remember that in the mountains then, it was still horse and buggy days. People didn't travel far from home. The roads were dirt and when it rained, quickly became "mud-rut roads" almost impossible to traverse.

However, it was not until 1903 when 10-12 people meeting in a ramshackle (to be kind) mountain shack, voted Quaker-background and Bible salesman A.J. Tomlinson, a Home Missionary from Elwood, Indiana to be their Pastor, that one of those small groups began referring to themselves as "Church of God."

Tomlinson had shared that if they would be called "Church of God," he would join them. His reference seems to have been from Scripture where Apostle Paul wrote to the "Church of God" (I Cor. 1-2). From the day Tomlinson joined the little unaffiliated group, the Church of God began to form and surge in growth.

FIRST CHURCH OF GOD LEAP OF FAITH
Sometime in 1904 or 1905, Tomlinson moved to Cleveland, TN. Others followed him those 60 backwoods, dirt-road miles from the poverty-stricken hills around Murphy, NC, to Cleveland, TN. Indeed, there are times when moving can open up greater opportunities.

Do we see the wisdom of Tomlinson in making that tactical move? Sometimes, to carry out the vision of accomplishment the Lord has placed in our heart, we must first lay the ground work for it. In order to be able to finance church growth, the people Tomlinson was pastoring, needed to find jobs.

The new church organization needed a financial base. Cleveland had large furniture factories where the mountain folks could find jobs. Plus, Cleveland, TN could open the small group's contact with the "outside world." It had the closest train station to Murphy, NC.

HELPING THEM UP, LIFTED THE CHURCH OF GOD UP TOO
We often talk about "Moving to the next level." It seems that is exactly what Tomlinson did and brought others along with him. As they began to prosper, so did the newly founded Church of God. He organized the "Church of God Temple" from which the North Cleveland Church of God has come.

He became the Pastor and Sunday School Superintendent. He began the Church of God Evangel Publishing House and was Editor of the Magazine.

BOLD VISIONARY
Without that bold and visionary move of faith from the mountains to Cleveland, it is possible the fledgling little group in the poverty-stricken mountains, would have dwindled away. Instead, his vision for the future set off events that have made it possible for thousands of COG Pastors to have a place to live, work, worship and reach people for Christ.

TRAINING UP A NEW ORGANIZATION
Tomlinson spent weeks and months at a time on those trains spreading the Gospel and sharing the good news about the "Church of God." One of his first excursions was to Florida where there were no COG congregations. Today there are hundreds that have over the years grown from contacts and friends Tomlinson made while there.

The 1917 General Assembly began Thursday, November 1 - Tuesday November 6. From the first official service under the Church of God name in 1903, without electricity and indoor plumbing in many areas, without telephone, radio, TV, computers, Microsoft, Google, email, texting, Twitter, Netscape etc, by the 1917 Assembly, the Church of God had grown to a membership of 10,076.

It had missionaries in the Caribbean, 22 State Overseers, 309 churches. 474 ministers and 10,076 members. From the Assembly in 1916 to the one in 1917, there was a 2,384 one-year membership increase.

A CHURCH OF GOD CHAMPION
Say what you want about A.J. Tomlinson, smear his name, doubt his sincerity or trash what one considers to be his motives (as some have done), but that Brother was a champion for God and for the Church of God. If we hold any position or draw a salary from any area of the Church of God, possibly we should at times give a nod of respect to A.J.T.

For the entire year from Nov. 1916 - Nov. 1917, the total Home Missions Offering for the Church of God, was $295.42. The COG Minutes of 1917, notes that "Expenditure’s to 'assist' 22 ministers in eleven states 'and some islands,' was $277.33; leaving a Home Missions balance for the entire organization, of $18.41.

The last night of the 1917 Assembly, the offering (normally the largest) was $44.42. So, to make ends meet for the COG organization AND prayerfully have funding for outreach, one can see how Tomlinson desperately needed to find ways of raising extra funding through book and Bible sales, magazine subscriptions, and food stands at the Assembly.

THE 1918 GENERAL ASSEMBLY WAS CANCELLED BY GOVERNMENT
Boom! Then, because of the flu pandemic, there was no 1918 General Assembly. Rushing to try and make up for the loss, Tomlinson scheduled two Assemblies in 1919.

However, many who were still recovering medically or in grief from Loved Ones who had died, did not come to either of them. When health fails or one’s heart is broken, we stay close to home. Plus, many were still wary of being part of a crowd. They did not have medicines as we do today, to fight off or recover from the flu.

Every Overseer or Pastor who has faced a major “shortfall” financially in ministry, can empathize with what Tomlinson and other churches leaders at the time, were struggling. Any of us who have sold chicken dinners, had bake sales and car washes to help fund our church, can understand the feelings church leaders were struggling with back then.

OUR PRECIOUS DOUGHNUT CHURCH
Oh sure, I agree that it is always best if regular tithes and donations are available to fund the church, but if not, it does hot hurt us to get over ourselves a bit and lead in some fundraising efforts. As a teenager, my wife Linda's home church sold so many Krispy Kream doughnuts by the box on Saturdays to help build a new church building, until to this day some of them lovingly call it "Our precious Doughnut Church."

VISIONARY ACCOMPLISHMENT CAME AT ONE OF HIS LOWEST TIMES
And yet, it could be remembered that in spite of struggling through a devastating time of financial struggles, Tomlinson did something that has trained many thousands for God's work. What he did has led them to win many hundreds of thousands to Christ.

REACHING UP AND OUT FROM THE BOTTOM
In 1918[/b], while scraping the bottom financially and possibly emotionally too from the strain of it all, with 18 students, A.J. Tomlinson began what is today Lee University.

Your comments pro or con are welcome. Feel free to share your heart. The above is my opinion. What's yours?

*Assembly statistics quoted from the 1917 Church of God General Assembly[ Minutes.

Doyle
writedoyle@gmail.com
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Last edited by doyle on 3/27/20 2:20 pm; edited 10 times in total
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2/17/20 1:01 pm


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Post UncleJD
I've still got the minutes from the assembly 1919. It belonged to my grandmother's family and its how I found out that counting her mother I was 4th gen COG and my children were 5th. That minutes book starts off with a recap of where the COG was at because of the epedimic. I need to dig it up and read it again. I once offered it to the PRC but they never acted very interested, I suppose they have some of them already. Golf Cart Mafia Capo
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Post Cojak
Thanks. That is interesting information. I don't remember reading about the big epidemic. WOW.
Born 1903 My dad came into the church in the mid 1920s. I have wondered a lot what happened to all of Dad's book of minutes.....
Anyway I appreciate the history lesson. I think A.J. did as well as he could at the time and under the circumstances. Cool
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Post (repeat from other post) Mat
The first year of the Bible Training School in Cleveland, one of the students died of the flu. AJT and Mary Tomlinson made part of their home a dorm for the unmarried students (also fed them their meals), and one of the students died in their home. In his diary, AJT reported several had been sick (including himself) with what he thought was the flu.

During that time, the Wilson administration was more concerned with the COG teaching of members not going to war than the effects of the flu. The church (and AJT) were subject to investigations and if I remember correctly the Evangel was censored.

It is said that doctors and nurses often refused to treat those who suffered from the flu, and towns people avoided contact. It was often left up to people of faith to take care of the sick and dying.

Mat

PS Some know, AJT was my great grandfather.
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Post Doyle, I don't ... Mat
Doyle, I don't think there were two assemblies in 1919, rather it may have been (got to check the sources) around 1913, when the assembly was moved from a winter month to a fall month (so two were done in that year).

What did occur after not having the assembly in 1918 was in the following couple of years the adoption of the ill conceived financial plan where all the tithes of local church were sent to Cleveland and then dispersed by a "committee" of seven based on need and effectiveness back to the local churches. Nothing like money issues to split a church and destroy a ministry.

I don't know if the difficult times of 1918 caused the church and AJT to favor this plan, or if they thought it was somehow Biblical (the early Acts church having all things common), but it was a disaster for the church and AJT.

The question I have had, is did AJT push for new ministries, such as expanding the publishing house, opening an orphanage, starting a the Bible school and building a new tabernacle, during a time he should have been consolidating gains. AJT is an example why a minister should not count his personal income as use for the church and the church as his personal ministry. In the end AJT lost all, and I have come to feel it was not worth the damage done to his ministry or reputation to "push" so hard.

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Post Carolyn Smith
I found this really interesting. Not related to the COG, but my great-grandfather and a great uncle died in the 1918 flu epidemic. My great-grandmother eventually remarried but she couldn't afford to take care of all of her children, so they were "farmed out" to other relatives. Eventually my grandmother went to an orphanage (not sure which one) and lived there until she was older. She learned to sew there and supported herself as a seamstress as an adult. It's hard to imagine that happening now. We never know what things will shape our lives.

Thanks for sharing!
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Post In many countries ... Mat
Carolyn Smith wrote:
I found this really interesting. Not related to the COG, but my great-grandfather and a great uncle died in the 1918 flu epidemic. My great-grandmother eventually remarried but she couldn't afford to take care of all of her children, so they were "farmed out" to other relatives. Eventually my grandmother went to an orphanage (not sure which one) and lived there until she was older. She learned to sew there and supported herself as a seamstress as an adult. It's hard to imagine that happening now. We never know what things will shape our lives.

Thanks for sharing!


Carolyn,

In many countries around the world what your family suffered through is still a reality. We are blessed to live in a nation with a social safety net and some of the best health care in the world. In 1918 there this was not the case, and if there is a major pandemic I "fear" the safety net in the US may not be strong enough.

Mat
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