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Church of God (Full Gospel) in India is a part of The Church of God International with her international Head Quarters at Cleveland, Tennessee, USA. Church of God is a Holiness Pentecostal movement, which has its heritage from the Day of Pentecost narrated in the 2nd chapter of Book of Acts. Though she had her humble beginnings in 1886, now Church of God is the leading Pentecostal Holiness organization in 173 countries around the world.
The history of Church of God in India traces back to Rev: Robert Felix Cook and his independent Pentecostal organization. The foundation stone of Pentecostalism in India had been laid down by Rev. R F Cook, the renounced mission trailblazer from the United States. R F Cook, a man of great missionary zeal, and his wife Anna had the Pentecostal experience and the anointing of the Holy Spirit at the upper room missions at the Loss Angeles in 1908. In 1912 spring, first world Pentecostal camp meeting was held at Loss Angeles. Cook, along with his wife Anna, attended this camp meeting. On the last day of the camp Rev. George Berg, missionary from India delivered a vibrant challenging message about India and the vast virgin mission fields she has, yet to be reached. This kindled and fanned up the missionary fervor and zeal of the Cook family and they dedicated themselves for the ministry in India.
Since 1908 Berg was in India. He pass through all the way from Bangalore to Kottarakkara, Kerala; the then Travancore, South India. In 1909 he was the main guest preacher at the Kottarakkara Brethren Convention. But, he being a Pentecostal preacher his doctrinal stand point was questioned and he was forced to have some independent mission works at Thuvayoor. In 1910, he held his own conventions at Kottarakkara and Adoor which might be enlisted as the first Pentecostal outreach (convention) in Kerala. In1912, Berg had been on his furlough in US where he attended the camp meeting and met Cook family.
In 1913, Berg returned to India accompanied by Cook family. Meanwhile, the missions in Kerala started by Berg were run by Bro.Cummins, who was a native of Kunnur and a convert of Berg. Though Berg and Cummins were Brethren, they had been anointed at Kunnur camp meeting held by Rev. Thomas Barrett, who might be the first Pentecostal missionary to South India. Frequent visit of Berg and Cummins caused the Pentecostal indoctrination at Kottarakkara and Adoor. They could launch a reformed fellowship with Pentecostal experiences at Thuvayoor; which is reputed as the first Pentecostal church in the later on Indian church history.
In 1913, Cook and his family guided by Rev. Berg came to Doddabellapur (Dodbellapur). In 1913 December, they moved on to Kottarakkara. Due to some unavoidable circumstances, Berg was forced to hand over his missions and Cummins to Cook and left India to US. Thereafter, he is completely vanished away from the church history.
The first task of Cook was to organize the prayer groups. In January 1914, after a four days revival, Cook could baptize sixty three converts at Thuvayoor, resulting the establishment of the Pentecostal church in India. We are so proud to announce that this congregation is now the Church of God in India, Thuvayoor local church. Though they were yet to be baptized, they had been imbibed by the Pentecostal doctrine of Berg and Cummins and were exhilarated under the leadership of Paruthippara Oommachen, who became the first native Pentecostal minister in India. Having an Apostolic ministry, cook established various churches in Kerala. As the church began to grow in number, Cook established Malankara Full Gospel Church. It is believed that this had happened either in 1917 or in 1918 at Thirkkannamangal, Kottarakkara. On August 31st, 1917 Anna Cook was promoted to glory, leaving back her husband and two daughters Blossom and Dorothy, in the Indian mission fields.
In1918 Cook married Bertha Fox. God blessed their family life with three kids George, Paul and Alex.
The organization is badly in need of trained ministers. So in 1922 Cook began a home Bible School at his residence at Villakonam Bungalow, Thrikkannamangal. This institution is considered as the first Pentecostal Bible Study centre in South India. Meanwhile, the residence of cook was shifted from Kottarakkara to Kallissery (1924) and subsequently to Mulakuzha (1927), Chenganoor. As a home Bible School the study centre had been shifted to Kallissery and consecutively to Mulakuzha. Bertha Cook was the first principal of the school. Now Mt. Zion Bible College, with all its reputation, is having the 3rd grade level international accreditation of the Education Department of Church of God.
In December 1923, first general convention was held on the banks of river Pumba at Arattupuzha. This convention is considered as the first General Convention of all Pentecostal Churches in India, because at that time all the Pentecostal missionaries and native leaders were united together under the banner of Cook’s independent Pentecostal Organization.
In 1926, Cook published the first Pentecostal monthly named, THE FULL GOSPEL PREACHER, to which Cook served as editor and Rev. K. E Abraham as the sub-editor.
In 1930 Cook and his organization faced wreckage causing two more Pentecostal organizations in India.
Soon after the separation, Cook was totally deserted and he was so depressed in his ministry. Leading native ministers like A K Varghese and T M Varghese backed up Cook and his organization. Yet they were in severe financial crisis. So, all the leaders understood the need to have an affiliation with some well organized Pentecostal Church.
Meanwhile, 1936 was the Golden Jubilee year for Church of God International. As a part of celebration, the World Missions Department arranged a Golden Jubilee Tour programme around the world. Rev. J. H. Ingram had been appointed for this venture. Travelling far and wide; Ingram come to Ooty, South India. In the mean time, Church of God Missions Department directed a native Evangelist John Manoha to meet Ingram at Ooty, because Manoha was an affiliated missionary of Church of God.
When Ingram and Manoha reached Ooty, Cook, too, was there at Ooty to spend his summer days. Manoha introduced Cook to Ingram and their friendly talk and fellowship resulted in the merging of Cook’s independent organization with the Church of God. Ingram came to Mulakuzha. While merging with Church of God, Malankara Church had 63 churches and 43 ministers with $13,133/- worth properties. Cook was appointed as the first missionary overseer of Church of God in India. Rev. T.M.Varghese became the first field secretary. (Till 1966 he served Church of God in this portfolio. Rev. P A V Sam succeeded him till 1972. Thereafter this portfolio has been abolished due to administrative decentralization).
Whenever we use the term “Full Gospel” in the name “Church of God (Full Gospel) in India” we do remember our beloved Cook Sahib with love and respect. It is a part of our emotional heritage.
Soon after the merger, Church of God sent missionaries to India. In 1938, Rev. Hoyle Case and his wife Mildred Case came to India as the first missionaries. Then Rev Edward Crick and Blossom Crick were appointed as missionaries (1943-1948). Blossom was the daughter of cook. Rev C E French and Ellen followed them (1947-1952). Rev Paul Cook and Emily Cook were also with them (1947-1948).
From 1950 to 1965 Ms. Dora P Myers served as the missionary. Then came Rev. William Pospisil (1952-1972) Rev H L Turner (1954) Rev Darrell Lindsey (1967-1969) and Rev Robert Reacer (1965-1970).
Though in 1962, the work of Church of God in India is divided into states, general administration is done by the Field Secretary/ Representative from Mulakuzha. And in 1972, decentralization policy was implemented and each state received autonomous administrative authority. Thereafter, Church of God in India has no more administrative missionaries from World Missions Board.
The tenure of R F Cook as Missionary Overseer was supposed to expire in 1948, as per the policy of the World Missions. The term of a Missionary Overseer is stipulated as twelve years. But this clause was not intimated to Cook during the unification treaty. C E French came to India as the treasurer of the society. He had to serve under Cook for the next one year and thereafter he shall be the Missionary Overseer. For that Cook would have to step down. Cook could not agree with this policy. His desire was to die in Indian Soil. This made a hue and cry in the church and in a sense the church faced severe turmoil. At last Cook inclined to the decision of the World Missions.
In 1949, India’s beloved “Cook sahib” went back to America and on 12th January 1958 at Cleveland, Tennessee: he went to be with the Lord, whom he served his life time faithfully. And on 20th June 1970 Bertha Cook, too, promoted to glory.
Kerala State had our first State Representative in 1964. There after we have nine State Overseers. Rev. U. Thomas (1964-1966), Rev. P. C. Chacko (1966-1970), Rev. A. V. Abraham (1971-1978), Rev. M. V. Chacko (1978-1988), Rev. P. A.V. Sam (1988-2000), Rev. V. C. Itty (2000-2002), Rev. K. C. John (2002-2008), and Rev. M. Kunjappy (2008-2012) served as State Representatives/Overseers. After the decentralization the State Representative is renamed as State Overseer. The position of State Representative was under the Missionary Overseer. But after decentralization Missionary Overseer position, too, is abolished and State Overseer became the first administrative Officer of each state. Rev A V Abraham is the last State Representative and the first State Overseer. Rev. P. J. James is the present State Overseer. Now we have more than 1000 churches and 1500 ministers.
Mount Zion Bible Seminary, India Church of God Theological Seminary (ICTS) Thiruvalla are our major Educational Institutions. For the ladies, we have Bethel Ladies Bible College (Kumbanad) . Education director is the administrative head of all the educational institutions. Now Pastor John Daniel is the Education Director.
To promote evangelistic activity and to accelerate the general growth of the church, we have various departments such as Sunday School, YPE, Church Growth, Crusade and Evangelism departments Ladies Ministry, Literature, respectively. Each department has its own departmental heads. But overall, the State Overseer organizes and coordinates the general administration. The State Council and advisory board assist Overseer in general administration of the church.
Till the time of Rev M V Chacko Church of God Kerala State had steady growth. But during the Administration of Rev P A V Sam onwards the church go through rapid growth in every area. Our convention stadium is the administrative contribution of Rev P A V Sam. It is he who constructed new block for the Bible College at Mulakuzha. ICTS, too, is his contribution. It was the ardent desire of Rev V C Itty to have a new administrative building at Mulakuzha. He had done all the blueprint works of the proposed new administrative block. But he was promoted to glory before fulfilling his vision. Rev M Kunjappy took on the challenge and he constructed the office complex at Mulakuzha spending _________. During the time of Rev K C John we received many new Bible colleges and an orphanage. All these Overseers constructed hundreds of new church buildings and parsonages for the church. So many independent churches joined together with Church of God.
When Rev P J James became the Education Director he purchased four acres of land beside Mt. Zion and constructed a beautiful five story building, having a giant auditorium on the top which can accommodate more than 2000 seats. Rev P J James spent ___________ for this project. Under the YWCA project another new building has been constructed spending _______________
2013 is the year of centenary for all the Pentecostal Churches in India. 100 years back our Beloved Cook Sahib came to India. To remember his life, legacy and love for India we launch a yearlong commemoration programme which is named as R F COOK CENTENARY CELEBRATION. We have already published Cook’s autobiography Half a Century Apostolic Achievements in South India translated into Malayalam by Bro. Roy Mepral.
Though Kerala State is having a small land area the Lord used the people of this land to Evangelize our nation. If we have any Pentecostal movement in India, India is indebted to Malayalee for their Evangelistic enthusiasm and mission zeal. Before India’s independence Malayalee evangelists were to Lahore, Pakistan bearing the tourch of Pentecostalism and the anointing of Holy Spirit. It is an amazing fact to know that Church of God have fast growing churches and mission fields in Pakistan, the Islamic nation. Recently some of the Malayalee missionaries from the US could visit Pakistan on missionary visa and conduct huge crusades. So to say, R F Cook is the God-father of Malayalee people in the field of missionary zeal and church planting enthusiasm.
Our mission is not complete until the last one is rescued. Untold millions are still untold. We have mile to go ahead. Still the question is sounds high: Whom shall I send, who shall go forth. We confess: Build your church Lord, make it strong Lord against the strongholds.