Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson, Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey, Mother Barbara McCloo Lewis
Women play an important role in the Church of God in Christ. They are key influencers on the Church’s other departments, including service and education. Known officially as the Church of God in Christ, Inc. International Department of Women, this arm of the church was organized by founder Bishop Charles H. Mason in 1911, in conjunction with Lizzie Woods Robinson. It consists of boards, auxiliaries, units and circles whose goal is to provide teaching, training and ministry opportunities throughout their church community. They have a vested interest particularly in women, youth and children. (1)
They “remain committed to the values, legacy and biblical principle of holiness as taught in the Church of God in Christ…seek[ing] to model the love of Jesus in all [they] do” (Citation-AboutUs). The Women’s Department follows a motto of “World Evangelism – Better Homes, Better Schools, Better Communities for a Better World,” reiterating their focus on service and education brought about by a belief in one spiritual unity and the full inspiration of the Word of God (2).
Seal of the COGIC International Women’s Department
The Women’s Department is the largest department in the COGIC. The Church firmly believes that women are “gifted” and called to ministry and to serve their spiritual community in such a way. (Though, most higher-level clergy are in agreement that women should not be ordained as ministers.) (3) Like the highly-structured system of the ecclesiastical structure of the Church of God in Christ, the Women’s Department also follows a hierarchical system. A General Supervisor of Women is appointed for life by the Presiding Bishop and given full civil and spiritual authority to lead the International Women’s Ministry of the Church. There have been seven total General Supervisors: Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson, Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey, Mother Annie L. Bailey, Mother Mattie McGlothen, Mother Emma F. Crouch, Mother Willie Mae Rivers, and lastly, the recently appointed Mother Barbara McCoo Lewis. (4)
Following the position of General, or National, Supervisor are the offices of National Evangelist, State Supervisor, and lastly District Missionary, all in hierarchical order. These are all offices and positions that “afford women in the COGIC a great deal of power that is separate from, yet accommodating toward, the men of the church” (5). All of these women are known by the respectful title of “Mother,” as well as elderly female members of individual churches.
Church Deaconesses, The Rising Star COGIC, Fort Worth, Texas
Women in ministry in the COGIC are known as “missionaries.” Only women have the ability to be missionaries within the COGIC (6). On a local church level, the COGIC developed and still has a position called “Church Mother.” Church Mothers have historically served as the leader of the women’s ministries in local congregations across the United States and world. It is women who are to be given the acknowledgement of establishing many congregations, foreign mission opportunities, and schools.
Women such as the first General Supervisor and close friend of Charles H. Mason, Mother Lizzie Woods Robinson, won souls for the “kingdom of God.” Within this Church’s history, women have a particular responsibility for reproduction in the church. Ordained COGIC minister, H. Carlyle Church, Jr., goes so far as to call women “the lifeblood of the church,” and claim that “without women the COGIC could not exist.” (7)
Women at the annual Women’s International Convention (Pictured Center – Mother Barbara Lewis, future COGIC Women’s Deparment General Supervisor)
Second General Supervisor, Mother Lillian Brooks Coffey, was the organizer of the annual Women’s International Convention. The first convention was held in Los Angeles, California, in 1951. Los Angeles was an ideal city for the role it played in the Holiness Movement. Today, the International Women’s Convention is a meeting place for thousands of sanctified women to come together in prayer, learning, and Christ-living (Citation). Coffey is famous for saying, in regard to her position, “I am a servant of the most high God. God gave me this appointment and no man can take it from me” (8).
Dr. Arenia C. Mallory
Dr. Arenia C. Mallory did not hold a general supervisor position within the Women’s Department, but she is still widely considered one of the Church’s most influential female figures. She was a charter member of the organization, the National Council of Negro Women, and she used her national influence and connections to encourage a growth of women in her church community. Mallory’s actions were nothing short of remarkable, in what she accomplished in fifty years as an educator, activist, and leader. She worked throughout her service with the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and Mary McLeod Bethune (9). Dr. Mallory was influential in the Church of God in Christ’s stance on encouraging education for women. Her wholehearted conviction of the church’s place in the world as divinely-sanctioned by God meant all of the educational efforts she worked for came from her heart, and her belief that God had called her to serve her community (10).
H. Carlyle Church, Jr., in his essay, said the following when discussing the lack of clergy roles for women: “Women have held the COGIC together, especially during the dark days of the 1960s, have given the most of the money, are now the majority of the COGIC members, and yet are the marginalized people of the church. Nevertheless, their message and proclamation is one of hope, faithfulness to God and the church, belief in family values, loyalty to their husbands, purity of spirit and heart, and devotion to pentecostalism and holiness. God must be on their side. Even in the midst of this dichotomy of opinions about women in the ministry, the women have accommodated themselves well and have maintained their sense of liberation. Jesus has set women free to be what God has called them to be” (11).
There is no doubt that women play an important role in the Church of God in Christ. Their goals of providing teaching, training, and ministry opportunities throughout their church community have grown their department to the largest in the Church, both nationally and internationally. Under the leadership of Mother Lewis, the Women’s Department will continue to remain committed to the values and principles that the COGIC holds dear, while looking to God for answers and inspiration in carrying their Church through the rest of twenty-first century and beyond.
( watch from 00:00-02:44 or 03:55 )
( beginning at 03:27, Mother Kelly begins to lay hands and speak in tongues )
(1) The Church of God in Christ, Inc. Women’s Department, accessed November 22, 2017, http://www.cogic.org/womensdepartment/.
(2) The Church of God in Christ, Inc. Beliefs, accessed November 22, 2017, http://www.cogic.org/about-company/what-we-believe/.
(3) H. Carlyle Church, Jr., “The Accommodation and Liberation of Women in the Church of God in Christ,” Journal of Religious Thought (December 1, 1995), accessed November 22, 2017, EBSCOHost. (77-90)
(4) The Church of God in Christ, Inc. The Women’s Department – About Us – Our History, accessed November 22, 2017, http://www.cogic.org/womensdepartment/about-us/our-history/.
(5) H. Carlyle Church, Jr., “The Accommodation and Liberation of Women in the Church of God in Christ,” Journal of Religious Thought (December 1, 1995), accessed November 22, 2017, EBSCOHost. (77-90)
(9) Anthea D. Butler, Women in the Church of God in Christ: Making a Sanctified World. (Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2007), ___.
(11) H. Carlyle Church, Jr., “The Accommodation and Liberation of Women in the Church of God in Christ,” Journal of Religious Thought (December 1, 1995), accessed November 22, 2017, EBSCOHost. (77-90)
“Arenia Mallory.” Digital image. Emmanuel Ministries. Accessed December 9, 2017.
“Church Deaconesses.” Digital image. The Rising Star COGIC. Accessed December 9, 2017.
“General Supervisor – Mother Barbara McCoo Lewis.” Digital image. COGIC. Accessed
December 9, 2017. http://www.cogic.org/womensdepartment/about-us/mother-barbara-mccoo-lewis/.
“Mother Lillian Coffey.” Digital image. COGIC. Accessed December 9, 2017. http://www.cogic.org/womensdepartment/about-us/former-general-supervisors/mother-lillian-brooks-coffey/
“Mother Lizzie Robinson.” Digital image. COGIC. Accessed December 9, 2017. http://www.cogic.org/womensdepartment/about-us/former-general-supervisors/mother-lizzie-robinson/.
“Women’s Convention Attendees.” Digital image. LA Sentinel. Accessed December 9, 2017.
“Women’s Department Seal.” Digital image. COGIC. Accessed December 9, 2017. http://www.cogic.org/womensdepartment/.