History of the Church of God in Christ Florida Eastern Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction
The word of the Lord was being preached with great power in the early 1900’s. As a result of this move of the Spirit, a revival began in Larkins, Florida which is now South Miami in the year 1918 in a prayer meeting at the home of Elder and Mother Gamble, and his sister, Lottie James. The first persons to be saved were Mother Rebecca Wells and Elder A. Wells.
The Lord blessed and many souls were added to the flock of God. When the Saints saw the growth of the group, they realized that they needed a leader. It was at this time that Elder A.M. Cohen was called to come and watch over the group.
The first group was known then as the Church of God. Mother Annie Miles was numbered among the first missionaries to herald the glad tidings. The Lord continued to bless and Mother Nelly Joseph and Elder and Sister Lawrence were as father and mother to us.
Elder A.M. Cohen was closely associated with some of the elders of the Church of God in Christ, namely Bishop R.F. Williams, Dr. I.S. Stafford and Elder W.M. Curtis. A number of overseers from various holiness groups came to South Miami to persuade our little flock to join them, but as spiritual commanding officer, Elder A.M. Cohen stood out for the Church of God in Christ and we gladly followed. The Lord worked through his children and the grand old Church of God in Christ began to spread east, west, north and south in Florida.
The first overseer was Elder W.M. Curtis. Mother Rebecca Curtis was the state mother. After a number of years, under the leadership of Elder Curtis, Bishop Williams served for a short period. Bishop Charles H. Mason then became the overseer.
The late Mother Della Riley served after the sudden death of Mother Curtis. In the year of 1935, Elder W.R. Nesbitt was appointed state overseer of the entire state.
Florida was increasing and rapidly growing. Therefore, in 1941 the state was divided. Elder Nesbitt presided over the Western Division with Mother Lula Henderson who was the assistant to Mother Riley. Elder A.M. Cohen was appointed overseer of Eastern Florida and the late Mother D. Riley remained state supervisor of Eastern Florida.
The Church of God in Christ Eastern Florida Jurisdiction largely concentrated in the Miami area, began to spread throughout South Florida. Bishop A.M. Cohen was a man of wisdom and vision. Mother Della Riley served with him as Supervisor of Women. She served until her demise in 1951 at which time Mother Nelly Joseph served for a brief period. Mother Gussie Gamble was appointed as the third Supervisor of Women. The gospel was preached with the anointing and power and many souls were added to the church. Churches sprang out all over Florida. The church was organized in accordance with the National Church. The Jurisdiction increased to over 59 churches and several Districts.
Upon the demise of Bishop A.M. Cohen in 1959, the Late Bishop E.D. Johnson picked up the baton and continued to take the Jurisdiction to greater levels. The Jurisdiction grew and increased. Bishop Johnson served faithfully until his death in 1972.
In 1972, Bishop Jacob Cohen, the son of Bishop A.M. Cohen was appointed to serve as the Jurisdictional Prelate. Under his leadership, the Jurisdiction increased. Bishop Jacob Cohen is quite a visionary and has made many positive changes and taken the Jurisdiction to a greater dimension. His dedication and loyalty to the church elevated him allowing him to serve on the General Board of the Church of God in Christ for over 14 years. This rich experience certainly was a blessing to the Eastern Florida Jurisdiction. We proudly served with him and were the beneficiaries of his great and noble leadership on all levels of this great church.
In 1988, Mother Gussie Gamble went home to be with the Lord and Mother Mattie Moss was appointed to work as the fourth Supervisor of Women. In 1999, Mother JoAnn Hill became Jurisdictional Supervisor and is presently serving in this capacity.
Bishop Jacob Cohen grew the Eastern Florida Jurisdiction to a strong 17 Districts with over 114 churches. It is geographically extended as far north as St. Augustine and as far south as Key West. He served faithfully and capably until his retirement in 2013. And, his vision and revered legacy lives on with Eastern Florida as our Jurisdictional Prelate Emeritus.
Upon Bishop Jacob Cohen’s retirement, Bishop Charles E. Blake, International Presiding Bishop of the Church of God in Christ, and our church’s General Board, appointed General Board Member Bishop Brandon B. Porter as Interim Jurisdictional Prelate. Bishop Porter was charged with overseeing the jurisdiction until selection of a new Prelate could be made. By God’s grace, the pastors of our jurisdiction met in August 2014 following our state convocation and nominated Dr. Jimmie L. Williams as our next Prelate. Shortly there after, the decision was formally ratified by Bishop Blake and the General Board and Bishop Jimmie L. Williams was consecrated as Bishop and installed as Jurisdictional Prelate on Sunday, November 9, 2014.
We are appreciative to God for the leadership that He has blessed us with and the favor that he has shown toward us.