by Madison J. Gray
BET–The Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the nation’s largest African American Pentecostal denomination, has been particularly affected by coronavirus as many among its leadership have died of the disease.
The Washington Post reports church leadership in states like Michigan, New York, California and Mississippi, all states where COGIC has a strong presence, have seen as many as 30 bishops and other clergy felled by COVID-19.
Deaths in the church include First Assistant Presiding Bishop Phillip A. Brooks of Detroit; Bishop Tony Scott of Clarksdale, Miss.; and Bishops Robert E. Smith of Flint, Mich., and Robert L. Harris, also of Detroit were reported by various news outlets. Similar losses have taken hold in Southern California, according to the Los Angeles Sentinel.
COGIC presiding Bishop Charles Blake has been providing directives for church members since March and has advised that services and other functions stop, including major conferences planned for 2020.
“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,” Blake said in a video to church members. “Saints of God, let us please continue to do all we can to contribute to the flattening of this pandemic’s curve. I cannot stress the vital importance of doing so for the safety and well-being of all.”
Like the National Baptist Convention, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and the United Methodist Church, COGIC is an institution within the African American community with 7.7 million members worldwide. People who study the Black church say what is happening to the denomination is another exposure to how health disparities are being exploited by coronavirus to harm African Americans.