Gospel Assembly Churches

Gospel Assembly Churches are non-denominational Christian Churches based in the United States. The churches were founded in 1914 by minister William Sowders (1879-1952).

Gospel Assembly churches
ClassificationNon-Denominational
OrientationPentecostal
PolityCongregational
Distinct fellowshipsNone
AssociationsNone
RegionWorldwide
HeadquartersUSA
FounderWilliam Sowders
Origin1914
Paducah, Kentucky
Congregations10s of thousands
MissionariesHaiti, Dominican Republic, India, Kenya, Burundi

OriginsEdit

The beginnings of Gospel Assemblies may be traced to Paducah, Kentucky in 1914 during the early American Pentecostal movement. Sowders, a former Louisville policeman,[1] evangelized primarily in the lower Ohio River valley region, settling in Louisville, where he established a congregation and ministered there until his death in 1952.[2] Sowders' designated successor, T. M. Jolly,[1] ministered in St. Louis until 1991.[3]

DoctrineEdit

Like other evangelical denominations, Gospel Assembly churches believe the Bible to be the pure Word of God. Members utilize the term 'the Body of Christ' to refer to their fellowship exclusively, and 'Babylon' to refer to the remainder of the church world. They consider their movement to represent a restoration of the early church.[4]

No formal doctrinal statement is published because they consider themselves to be continually growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord. However, they are distinctly nontrinitarian. Like most churches, primary worship services are traditionally held on Sundays, however, most often they are in the early afternoon, in a departure from standard practice.[5][6]

They believe in spiritual communion, meaning that their communion takes place over the fellowship of the Word of God, and therefore do not practice the literal Lord's Supper with the elements. Certain factions of the fellowship have likewise moved away from practicing literal water baptism and footwashing as an outward ritual, and instead, emphasize the spiritual aspects of the ordinances.

Order and practiceEdit

Gospel Assemblies is Pentecostal by experience. They ascribe to holiness as the result of a sanctified heart, expressed in standards of speech and demeanor, modest dress, and a lifestyle of humility and moderation.[7] Music is orchestral-based, with many of their published hymns and choruses having been written by their own members, particularly; Ruth Wetherington, John W. Fleming, Steven Marshall, Gilma Samaniego, Etta Perry, Della Allen, Paul Mears, Rhonda Palmer, Becky Farmer, Anthony Wilkinson, Tessie Belle, Mary Bunk, Peggy Shaw, Patricia Thompson, Elsie Hostetler, Margaret Wallender, Justin Walley, Julia Griner, Janice Gail Jolly, Janet King, Lois E. Albert, Norma Wilson, Mable Schofield, Michael T. Laramore, Beverly Raffield, Bernard Lewis, Lydia Oeschleager, Rachel Martin, Cynthia Leech, Matthew Beckley, Carol Anderson, Jim Fairhurst, Sandra Blackwell and Doris Daves.[8][9] Their worship services are conducted in 'open-order' fashion, somewhat similar to Quaker worship services, encouraging active participation by the congregation in music and in the ministry of the Word, as led by the spirit of God.

ConstituencyEdit

Gospel Assembly churches are located in 17 nations, including some in western Europe, southern Africa, Mexico, and the Caribbean region. While centered in the lower Midwest, Gospel Assemblies can be found in 39 U.S. states and four Canadian provinces, with 150,000 to 200,000 members in several thousand congregations internationally.[10] A schism from the group, founded by Lloyd Goodwin and based in Des Moines, Iowa, is almost identical in faith and practice but differs on issues of polity and leadership.[11] That group publishes a quarterly magazine, The Gospel of Peace.

FacilitiesEdit

In 1935, Sowders established the Gospel of the Kingdom campground at Shepherdsville, Kentucky for camp meetings, which still remains in use.[12] Ministerial meetings for doctrinal discussion are held at the campground which are known as "the threshing floor." The fellowship's largest church, a 3000-seat building in Louisville on Stone Street Road known as “The Convention Center”, is also used for conventions. Another very large congregation is in Houston.[2]

Cult accusations and cult-like practicesEdit

Former and current members feel that Gospel Assemblies possesses several characteristics of a sociological cult.[13][14] Former and current adherents cite spiritual abuse and "heavy shepherding," including control of activities, finances, time, possessions and relationships. The church has, however, refuted these claims.[15]

Former St. Louis minister Thomas Jolly, Sowders' handpicked successor, was convicted in 1993 of child sexual abuse, receiving probation for molesting girls who sought counseling.[16][17] Rev. Jolly stated numerous times that he was not guilty of charges.[18]

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Watchman Fellowship Profile: Gospel Assembly Church
  2. ^ Watchman Fellowship Profile: Gospel Assembly Church
  3. ^ "Church Attracts Protest Shelter For Minister In Sex Case Criticized". Cult Education Institute. 1993-08-16. Retrieved 2019-10-05.
  4. ^ https://www.watchman.org/profiles/pdf/gospelassemblychurchprofile.pdf
  5. ^ Gospel Assembly Church Indianapolis - Schedule
  6. ^ Godfrey Gospel Tabernacle - Godfrey, IL
  7. ^ "Gospel Assembly Church - Photos".
  8. ^ Voices of Praise. Gospel Assembly Music Staff, St. Louis, Missouri. 1982.
  9. ^ New Voices of Praise. Gospel Assembly Music Staff, St. Louis, Missouri. 1988.
  10. ^ "Church Directory".
  11. ^ "Gospel Assembly Church - Overview".
  12. ^ http://gospelkingdomcampground.org
  13. ^ "Gospel Assembly Church - Info on cults".
  14. ^ "Gospel Assembly Visitor Comments".
  15. ^ "Gospel Assembly Church - This church is not a cult, pastor says".
  16. ^ "St. Louis Post Dispatch - Police/Courts: Sexual Abuse". Cult Education Institute. 1992-09-26. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  17. ^ http://www.hiddenmysteries.org/religion/pentecostal/pentecostalpedofile1.shtml
  18. ^ http://tmjolly.com/

External linksEdit