A Peculiar Synergy: Matriarchy and the Church of God in Christ
Butler, Anthea D.
The dissertation is a history covering the years from 1912-1963 of the Women's Department of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). COGIC, the largest African American Pentecostal denomination, founded in 1897, has a Women's Department established by denominational head C.H. Mason that centers around the Church Mother. The Church Mother in the African American religious tradition is an older woman of the congregation, with exemplary spiritual and organizational skills, who acts, as sociologist Cheryl Townsend Gilkes terms " as a counterfoil to the Pastor". The office of Church Mother, an unordained leadership role, has extraordinary temporal and spiritual power within the congregation. Within COGIC, the role of Church Mother has been institutionalized, and has been used as an organizational tool to build the denomination, transmit doctrine, and shape behavioral and belief patterns by using a fictive family structure to achieve cohesion throughout the denomination. The Church Mother in COGIC operates parallel to, and in tandem with the exclusively male episcopate. The goal of this work will be to substantiate that although the ordained leadership roles were exclusively male, COGIC Church mothers were and are the teachers, enforcers, modelers and re-definers of Holiness-Pentecostal beliefs in COGIC, through their organization and participation in what is termed the "sanctified life". The dissertation chronicles the lives of three integral Church Mothers in the COGIC Women's Department, and their roles in shaping the policies and the theology of the denomination and the female members.