Ministerial Fields of 1921 -1922

Of special interest in 1921 was the springing up of the large number (300) of Church of God members in the eastern United States. The exact origin of the eastern work at this tins is not clear. One of the most frequently mentioned names is Elder, or Bishop R. A. R. Johnson of Virginia, who apparently was a pentecostal Church of God minister. The indication is that much of the sudden Influx into the Church of God was from "outsiders" that joined the Church of God and were formerly pentecostals or Seventh Day Adventists. Other eastern ministers were Elder William Taylor Jones of Beacon, New York, (also a pentecostal), J. E. Codrington and E. J. Bensen in Philadelphia, W. A. Matthews and B.C. Manson of New York City, and V. A. Nelson, G. Lewis and Elder Samuel Smith. Elder B. C. Manson of New York City reported seventy-nine converts for the year.  There were two churches on Long Island.

Elders L.I. Rodgers and J.W. Crouse had a very successful meeting at Milan, Missouri, with forty converts. The next year when a new church building was dedicated, there were sixty-five members in all.

Dugger held debates in Oklahoma and elsewhere. E. F. Thorpe worked in northeast Arkansas and held a debate at Grubbs. Elder D. C. Plumb began preaching in Robeline, Louisiana, while E. A. Williams was in Lawrenceburg, Tennessee.  Elder Z. V. Black preached regularly near De Queen, Arkansas.

Elder Dummond held a tent effort in Fort Smith, Arkansas. Other southern efforts were by C. C. Cramer in Florida and R.A.R. Johnson in Scottsville, Virginia.  W. W. McMicken went to northern Alabama.

In Michigan, Elders L. A. Munger, Thomas Howe, George P. Wilson, M.C. Pennefl and W. J. Morse labored. A church of thirty-three members was raised up in West Olive.  Four were baptized at Jenisor Michigan.

In Missouri, Elder J. T. Williamson, a former law student, held gospel meetings.   L. I. Rodgers preached at Unionville, Missouri, and J. A. Riggs at Eastoh.   Riggs also went into Oklahoma, where he baptized eight at Fairview.  Unzicker preached at Dane Star Route, Oklahoma, while Barnes was in eastern Oklahoma.

In other areas, Salkeld and Slankard preached in Denver (Missouri?) and Elders J. G. Gilstrap and W. A. Damewood were in California. Elder G.W. Mossey preached in Kalispell, Montana.

A Negro "Elder James" reported that he and most of his Negro church of about fifty members in Kansas City were coming over to the Church of God.  Another Negro elder considering the move was G.S. Hayden, who had worked for several years in Omaha.

The Texas Church of God held a conference in February, 1922, in which George Ramirez was elected President, E. Echavarria, Secretary, and N. Ramirez, Treasurer.  There were 31 members in all, 19 at Hamlin, 6 in Olney, 2 each in Henrietta and Bridgeport, and one each in Wichita Falls and Dallas.

In the west, Elder A. H. Stith, formerly of Missouri, had moved to Idaho, where he initiated Church of God work there.  And Audley D. Porter and Henry L. Snyder distributed literature at Aberdeen and Grays Harbor, Washington.

1923:   To All Nations

By 1923, the "Big Push" was going at full gallop. The Messenger reported on January 16 that in the past month, some 41,888 pages of free literature had been distributed.  Arrangements were being made to print Church of God literature in Norwegian, Swedish, Danish, German, Spanish, and Chinese, as well as two of the languages of India. Dugger reported that "one hundred thousand dollars could be quickly used to great benefit in swiftly spreading the last message." Urgent calls for literature were coming in from all over the world. Dugger felt that Matthew 24:14 was being fulfilled, that Jesus would not come until the gospel of the kingdom went to every nation, and people of all languages entered the Church of God.  This he believed would take several years yet.


Milton Grotz and Pentecostalism

As early as 1913 or 1914, some pentecostal ministers had accepted beliefs similiar to the Church of God.  An evangelist Boatwright of Missouri taught Sabbath keeping and an annual Lord's Supper.

About 1923 there emerged a number of pentecostal types who were associated with the Church of God. It was 1924 when the German Sabbath keepers of the Dakotas came to be associated with the Church of God (with men like Kiesz, Dais and Straub), and these were definitely of the more emotional, pentecostal philosophy.

In January of 1923, Dugger reported that "there have been a number of ministers come in among us lately from other churches to whom we're giving encouragement until they prove their ability as workers of the Lord." As previously noted, large numbers of these pentecostalists were in the eastern United States.

One of the most prominent pentecostal Church of God ministers that appears at this time is evangelist Milton Grotz of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, who emphasized a "divine healing" ministry.  A.N. Dugger noted that he himself had believed from a child on the doctrine of prayer for the sick. His parents believed this, and his father, A. F. Dugger, practiced James 5:14-16.  Dugger remembers a case when a man had been given up as a hopeless case by doctors.  Elders A. F. Dugger and J. A. Nugent anointed the man with oil and prayed over him, and he was soon up and around, completely healed. This was when great healing revivals began in the 1920's, "the Church of God has not adopted anything new in the work of divine healing, but teachings long ago practiced, are simply coming to light in a general way." An article in the Advocate appeared in 1924, written by a Mrs. C. Nuzum, referring to I Peter 2:24. It appears from this that the Church of God understood that the bread taken at the annual Lord's Supper symbolized Christ's broken body, and that Christians were indeed "healed by His stripes."

Returning to his home in the east after a trip to Mexico, Grotz stopped at Stanberry in the spring of 1923, and held a general revival. People from miles around came, and there were a number of reported healings. Dugger reported, that "Stanberry has been stirred by the power of God during the past week as never before in her history... We are living in the days of the Latter Rain..... The church house, although large, will hardly accommodate the crowds. Brother Grotz is a minister of the Church of God.... We hope that God will pour out His Spirit on more of our ministers, and our people...."

Grotz reputedly preached and wrote against the eating of pork, use of tobacco, or the drinking of coffee, tea, and whiskey. He maintained that these were prime causes of sickness, and sickness was caused by sin. He further stated that too many ministers were feasting instead of fasting.


For a time, Grotz' ideas seemed to gain wide support in the Church of God, as he became an associate editor of the Bible Advocate. He traveled widely, and spoke before many churches of God, as well as before meetings open to the public.  At St. Louis, he encountered many pentecostals. He reported:  "I don't care to work in these wild Pentecostal Missions or churches. There is too much confusion and noise. It is grating on me and hinders the work.  Yet they must be preached to on many lines  (including the Sabbath), also many of the Church of God people need to be taught to seek and receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit."

Grotz may have been associated with the Church of the Firstborn. In 1923, A.N. Dugger took an eastern trip, visiting with Brother Grotz. At Jersey City, Dugger met with the headquarters church of the Church of the Firstborn, which was founded by a Sister A. Jackson. Nearly 80, Sister Jackson was still very sharp.   The Churches of the Firstborn had several churches in the east, including thousands of dollars worth of property in Jersey City. A common farm was owned by the group, which rigorously paid tithes. The churches were said to believe almost the same as the Church of God. Dugger also visited other independent Sabbath-keepers in the area, including Elder Sheafe in Washington, D.C.

At the same time, "Bishop" R. A. R. Johnson of Virginia wrote flowingly in the Messenger about a "Great Pentecostal Feast in Charlottsville, Virginia." A pentecostal minister from Pittsburg came there and the local churches were "greatly benefited." Johnson reports: "Sinners were converted; backsliders reclaimed.  The devils were made to tremble at the preaching of the gospel of the Son of God.  The whole community has taken on new life; and there is great rejoicing in this City." The pentecostal minister was said to have "the eloquence of a Paul, or a Barnabas. The people were heard saying never man spake like this


In August of 1923, Grotz held a large meeting in Washington, D. C., where again it was reported that many were healed.  A whole church, under the leadership of Elder Lewis C. Sherfe, came into the Church of God.

Sheafe  (1859-1938) was a Baptist minister from 1888-99, but was ordained by the Seventh Day Adventists in 1900. He apparently broke with them and worked with the Church of God for a time.  He was listed as a licensed minister and an associate editor of the Advocate in 1924, but apparently became independent thereafter.  In 1927 he became an accredited Seventh Day Baptist minister. He held evangelistic meetings at White Cloud in 1932 and continued to pastor the "People's Seventh Day Baptist Church" of Washington, D. C. until his death.

Previously, Elder H.M. Lawson, pastor of a Sunday Baptist church in the capital, went with the Church of God with most of his congregation.

On October 31, 1923 Grotz and A.N Dugger began evangelistic services in a hall at Baasett, Nebraska, the home town of Dugger. It was reported that even cripples were healed.  After Grotz left Bassett, Dugger stayed on, and organized a local church. When Dugger traveled on, Elder J. F. Jenson and others continued services, W. J. Miller reporting that there were more than eighty local church members. A lot was secured, and a church building was built.

Later in the year, Grotz assisted Elder BurtMarrs in a campaign at Council Bluffs, Iowa.

In early January of 1924, Grotz again teamed with Dugger, this time at a meeting at Los Angeles, where a California State Conference of the Church of God was formed.

Pentecostalism on the Downgrade

After the 1924 Los Angeles meeting of Grotz and Dugger, there appears to be no further mention of the evangelist Milton Grotz. Grotz had-been dropped as associate editor by March of 1924. Apparently his brand of pentecostalism became unpopular. In May of 1923, Dugger wrote that nowhere in the Bible were Christians termed pentecostal, but only "Church of God." Dugger asserted that Christians were not "saved" yet, for final salvation depends upon going God's way—until death or Christ's return, whichever comes first.  Hundreds who have said they received the so-called "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" were still keeping Sunday, willfully violating several of God's commandments, yet claiming they were already saved.

In July of 1924, Dugger wrote in the "Question Corner" section in answer to a question on the Holy Ghost Baptism mentioned in Matthew. Some people, Dugger wrote, didn't understand the purpose of the baptism of the Holy Spirit, believing that it made people jump up and down and make a lot of noise at the place of worship instead of applying this gift for God's Work. The real reason for the Holy Spirit, Dugger stated categorically, is to give one power to finish the work of carrying the gospel message to the world.

Although working with Grotz on at least two campaigns, Dugger definitely turned against the more extreme form of pentecostalism. And it wasn't long before reports of R. A. R. Johnson and the eastern group of pentecostals vanish from available reports of Church of God history.

Name Changed to Church of God  (Seventh Day)

At the 1923 Church of God General Conference, held at Stanberry, August 19, 1923, it was decided to drop all prefixes to the church name in distinguishing them from other churches of God. The new title of the group became "Church of God (Seventh Day)," whereas previously it had been known officially as "Church of God (Adventist)." The Bible Advocate had been published by the Church of God Publishing House; now the masthead stated that it was the official organ of the Church of God  (Seventh Day).

Plans for Seventh Day Baptist Union

Also at the 1923 conference on August 20, there were in attendence several delegates from the Seventh Day Baptist church, including Corliss Fitz Randolph.   Both groups had appointed committees for the purpose of working out plans or ways whereby the Church of God and the Seventh Day Baptists could co-operate and possibly even unite.

The Church of God committee consisted of A.N. Dugger, D. P. Moore, L. L. Presler, Carl Carver and G. T. Rbdgers. The Seventh Day Baptist committee was composed of W. D. Burdick, C. F. Randolph (Seventh Day Baptist historian), E. F. Randolph  (Conference President), R. B. St. Clair and W. L. Burdick.  Dugger was elected chairman of the combined committee, with W. D. Burdick vice-chairman. Delegates to the other group's conference were to be appointed by each body at the annual meeting. In localities where Seventh Day Baptists and Church of God congregations were in proximity, the ministers and members were encouraged to meet one another. Literature was exchanged, and pastors of each church were to speak at least once a year on unity.

Elder Lionel I. Rodgers, delegate from the Church of God, attended the Seventh Day Baptist General Conference at North Loup, Nebraska, shortly after the Stanberry meeting, and spoke on "The Second Coming of Christ."

Elder Burdette Coon of the Seventh Day Baptists delivered a series of sermons at Stanberry each evening for a week around December of 1922.

In July of 1923, C. A. Hansen of Chicago, a Seventh Day Baptist pastor wrote the Advocate noting that he had heard rumors of union between the groups. For 20 years a Seventh Day Adventist, he was now with the Seventh Day Baptists.   Hansen liked the idea of union, for it would "almost double" the membership, and he could overlook "little differences." The article noted that "the Seventh Day Baptists are a progressive people; they accepted the doctrine of the personal coming of Christ in 1886..."  And the aims of both were stated to be to bring the Sabbath truth to the world.

The 1923 union plan was not the first interaction between the two groups. In 1907, Seventh Day Baptist Elder H. D. Clark spoke at a Stanberry Sabbath meeting, and a later Advocate of that year noted that the new editor of the Seventh Day Baptist Sabbath Recorder, a Theodore L. Gardiner, was an able man.

Nothing further came of the unity idea, as it appears that doctrinal differences were actually too great.

The unity committees were disbanded in 1926, and according to Seventh Day Baptist historian Albert N. Rogers, "Later confusion  [conflict which prevented union] arose from the false claims of Dugger to much Seventh Day Baptist history as the origin, of the Church of God [the 1938 book, A History of the True Church]."

Eastern churches appeared to be more inclined to a union effort, for it was reported in 1923 that "union meetings" were held at Beacon, New York, sponsored by W. T. Jones.  Church of God people, independent Sabbath keepers, pentecostals, and Seventh Day Baptists were in attendance.

The 64th  (since 1861)  annual Church of God conference in Michigan, held at Jenison September 25-27, 1925 reports that talks were held with Elder R.B. St. Clair,  a Seventh Day Baptist minister of Detroit. He gave a report of Seventh Day Baptist work in Michigan. A resolution passed in that conference was "Resolved, that we members of the Church of God (Seventh Day) do resolve that all members who may come to us from other organizations must conform to the fundamental doctrines held by us as a group."

Other Efforts During 1923

Leaders of the work in 1923 besides Dugger, who was editor, business manager and President, were I. N. Kramer of Marion, S. S. Davison of Fairview and A. F. Dugger, Jr. of Bassett, who served as contributing editors, G. T. Rodgers as Vice-President, P. C. Walker as Secretary, and Esther Smith as Treasurer. The Executive Committee consisted of S. A. Moore of Stanberry, L. L. Presler of Orafino, W. E. Carver of Marion, and S. S. Davison of Fairview.

In the east, Elder William Taylor Jones worked in New Jersey and New York.   Elder Russell F. Barton was a Church of God evangelist and pastor in Waterbury, Vermont.  Elder O. I. Gatchell was at Dixmont, Maine, and Elder Shorey worked in New Hampshire.

Another eastern leader was Elder W. A. Matthews, who received the truth in 1910-1918, and in 1923 supervised churches in New York City, Long Island, Jamaica, Asbury Park, New Jersey and St. Kitts,


In the South, W. W. McMicken, J. M. and A. B. Williams worked in Alabama.   McMicken organized a Sabbath school of over forty members. E. A. Williams pastored in Tennessee. E. F. Thorp was at Heber Springs, Arkansas, and R. C. Ward at Ft. Smith. R. A. R. Johnson headed a group of southern churches, mainly in Virginia. B. C. Manson was stationed at Richmond. The Arkansas state conference was organized in 1923, the first meeting held at Newport, May 15-21, with Dugger in attendance.

In the Old Northwest, the first general meeting for the state of Wisconsin was held at Waupaca. J. S. Beggs held a tent meeting at Milton, Wisconsin in the summer. A brother Kornbaecher reported that a whole church in Chicago had accepted the teachings of the Church of God through his efforts. Elder M. C. Pennell organized a church of ten members at Battle Creek, Michigan. Burt Marrs and Grotz held a meeting at Council Bluffs, Iowa. The team of Salkeld and Slankard held meetings in Des Moines.

In Missouri, Elder William Alexander held meetings in Eldorado Springs, while Elder Lloyd Shanklin garnered 35 converts at Nevada. Elder R.E. Hosteter organized churches in Buffalo and Nevada, ordaining elders and deacons.

Other workers were Elder Unzlcker, who held a tent effort in Texas; Elder Arthur Jordan in Pueblo, Colorado; Elder S.W. Skinner in California.

In Los Angeles, on January 16, 1923, a group of scattered and independent Sabbath keepers met. Fifty sighed a church covenant, and Elders Harry Horton and John Schaepe were chosen leaders. Otto Haeber, Dugger's cousin, was baptized.

At the August, 1923 General Conference and Campmeeting, there were 128, ministers listed, as credentialed, licensed, or missionary workers. From 1000 to 1500 attended evening services at the yearly meeting. One of the newer ministers was R. E. Winsett, a songbook publisher who was to carry on the work done by E. G. Blackmon in a Church of God hymnal.

Foreign Work Expands Also

In 1923, it was reported that converts, were made in Spain, Norway, Australia, Canada, India, and Syria. There were two missionaries stationed in India, A. Jacobs and D. Israel.  Elder J. A. Murray of the British West Indies  (Jamaica), began to work with the Church of God. He was a former Seventh Day Adventist that came into the Church of God through reading their literature.


Passover Reports — 1923

On Thursday evening, March 30, 1923  (the beginning of Nisan 14), many of the churches in the Church of God Conference reported that they observed the Passover.  Although probably not all the churches sent in Passover Reports, those that did give a picture of the extent of the Church of God at this time.   Places where the Passover was held include the following:

Missouri:  Stanberry, Maryville, Green Castle, Milan, Unionville, South Gifford, Buffalo, Nevada, Eldorado Springs, Appleton City, Anderson, Pleasant Hill.

Kansas:  Sabetha, Kansas City.

Nebraska: Orafino, Omaha.

Michigan:  West Olive, Howard City, Battle Creek, Freeland.

Oklahoma:   Pierce, Canadian, Hoffman, Atoka, Stidham, Crowder, Ulan.

Arkansas:  Point Diuce, De Witt, Ft. Smith, Mena, Lonoke, Heber Springs, Little Rock, Grubbs, Herren Chapel, Vallier.

Eastern Division

New York:  Beacon, New York City, Long Island. 

New Jersey: Asbury Park  (two churches) 

Pennsylvania:  Sharon, 

Philadelphia (three churches)

Maryland:   Baltimore   (two churches), St. Marys

Virginia: Surrey, Hampton, Scottsville, Trevillingian, Thelma, Charlottsville, Harden.

Georgia:  Athens, Savannah.

Florida:  Key West

1924:  Germans Contacted    California Conference Organized

As reported previously, 1924 was the year when Dugger contacted the German speaking independent churches of God in Mildred, Montant, and Eureka, South Dakota, as well as others in the Dakotas, Canada and California. The Germans had basically the same beliefs as the Church of God, but had until 1924 known nothing of the General Conference from Stanberry.

When Dugger went to Eureka in 1924, the line of contact was established between the German churches and the General Conference.  That same year, the Bible Advocate came to be published in the German language.

When Dugger and Grotz met in January 1924 at the organizing of the California state conference, the work there was given a definite boost. J. N. Bishop and others there had been keeping the Sabbath for some years, but had been against organization. Their reservations were apparently overcome, and the General Conference was accepted. State evangelist was Elder J. G. Smith. One of the California churches that went into the General Conference was the one at Modesto, headed by Elder A. L. Neal.  And Dugger reported that "A nice church house has been secured in Pasadena for regular Sabbath meetings, and a church will be set in order there very soon..." with elders soon to be ordained.

The California Conference began with the three churches at Modesto, Graham (Watts) and Pasadena. Later that year Elder J.G. Smith organized another church at Orange. In 1925, the Pasadena church organized a Missionary Society with L. D. Maple President, H. C. Severance Secretary, and Myrtle Davison Treasurer.   Nine members worked with them.

Accelerating Growth

In April of 1924, it was reported that sixteen new churches had been organized since the previous September. And by the time of the fall General Conference meeting, it was reported that thirty-seven churches had been raised up in the past year in the United States alone. Of these there were six new churches in Oklahoma (and four others ready to be organized), six in Arkansas (and two others in adjoining states), five new churches in Missouri, and three in.California. In finances, $14,894.50 was received in tithes and offerings, and $6,196.49 from Advocate subscriptions and sale of tracts. Some $13,333 was paid out for opening the work in new fields.

Among the new churches was the one at Wilbur, West Virginia, formally organized by Dugger on June 1, 1924. Its elders were Lloyd George and Lawrence Mercer.  Other churches organized were those at Knox, Indiana, by C. E. Groshans and G. W. Sarber; Emmett, Idaho, by A.H. Stith; Frisco, Missouri, by E. F. Thorp; North Uvalde, Texas, by Unzicker; Anderson, Missouri, by F. C. Robinson; and a re-organized Battle Creek, Michigan church, by Elders Hosteter and M. C. Pennell and Kusa, Oklahoma, by R. K. Walker. A church of 52 was organized by E. F. Thorp at Floral, Arkansas.

To Mexico, one million tracts were printed, and 800,000 distributed. Mexico now had twice as many churches as there were in the United States in 1917, while in 1917 there wasn't a single Church of God in Mexico at all. The Bible Advocate was now being printed in English, Spanish and German, and was regularly printed in Peking, China.

The reason for the growth, Dugger reported was "the faithfulness of our people in tithes and offerings."