Can't they all just get along? If the subject is the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the answer is no.
When COGIC bishop David Grayson announced his plans last week for an elevation and consecration ceremony for the title of presiding bishop and chief apostle of his new denomination, all hell broke loose. In an unlikely break from the mother church, which is under the jurisdiction of presiding bishop G.E. Patterson, Grayson launched the Church of God in Christ (New Day). He explained the significance of the name ("It is a new day in the COGIC") during the ceremony before a capacity crowd at Greater Harvest Church.
The established church rushed to block the use of the COGIC name and has filed a restraining order against Grayson and New Day in Chancery Court. Besides demanding that the new church refrain from "advertising, describing, representing themselves, or from utilizing the words 'Church of God in Christ,' the order also prohibits them from "using, taking, converting, or diverting any real or personal property" belonging to COGIC.
"I told [Patterson] in November 2001 of my intentions to request a Tennessee jurisdiction. I met with him again in November 2002," said Grayson. "I didn't expect him to endorse it, but he said that he would not block [the plan], remain neutral, and let the board vote on it."
The vote never came before the COGIC delegates at the 2003 convention. In December, Grayson sent Patterson a letter of resignation after serving 35 years as a COGIC pastor. Tennessee Secretary of State databases show that the Church of God in Christ (New Day) received a certificate of authority with a name change on January 23rd.
"Everyone thinks that my desire to ordain women [as pastors] was the reason for the church's actions, but I don't think that had anything to do with it," Grayson said. Maybe not. In addition to that break from tradition, Grayson also plans to extend membership to non-COGIC churches. "As long as [other denominations] believe in all of the full-gospel teachings of the COGIC church, they can be included," he said. His denomination will host its own proceedings in July as the United Saints Convention.
So what makes the new church so appealing? "Bishop Grayson is inclusive, not exclusive," said COGIC minister Darrin Young. "In the [mother church], if you're not on the top shelf or if your church isn't very large, you're kind of left out. That's not the way it is here. Thank God for a New Day."
Patterson and COGIC have kept mum about the matter, choosing to present their case in court, but others have not been as quiet.
When serving court documents to Grayson last Friday, process server Rik Anderson said he saw the "not so Godly side" of COGIC (New Day). After attempts to contact Grayson for a "discreet" drop-off failed, Anderson said he arrived 10 minutes before the 7 p.m. jubilee service.
"I have no doubt that [Grayson] and his [public relations manager] Patricia Rogers had news crews alerted to come film the poor bishop as he was only trying to pray with his people and then was attacked by a mean ole process server," said Anderson. "I wish the cameras had gotten her threatening me with bodily harm too."
Both Rogers and Grayson denied that Anderson was threatened, but Rogers said she did alert the media.
Whether COGIC is successful in its case against the New Day church will be determined when the two sides meet in court February 9th. Either way, Grayson is not worried. "This too shall pass," he said.