In February 1927, in Saint Louis, Missouri, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason appointed Bishop Lucius C. Page as leader of the “Group of Evangelists” within the Church of God in Christ. By his own admission, Elder Page did not know the first thing to do; so he just preached the Gospel. Bishop Mason later gave Elder Page a second charge in the Fall of 1933. He instructed him to organize and supervise the National Evangelist Board. Not long after these instructions, Elder Page began having Evangelist Board meetings in different parts of the country.
The first meeting was held in Memphis, Tennessee around 1937. The early conventions of the Evangelist Board were basically crusades led by Evangelist Page and a few other Evangelists from across the country. Those in attendance were few and the delegates stayed in private homes. The first year the convention was headquartered in a hotel was in 1969 in Dallas, Texas. This was the first convention following Elder D.L. Austin’s appointment as the first Convention Chairman in the Board’s history. Bishop Page was a noted soul-winner and these conventions reaped large numbers of converts who received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost.
Bishop Page is noted for the following accomplishments. He established: The Evangelist Speaks Newspaper in 1950; the first “regional” system in the department; the Evangelist Identification card; the National Evangelist License and many other great programs. Bishop Page served from 1927 until his demise in 1980. Having served in his post for 53 years; he is noted as the longest serving department leader in the Church Of God In Christ.
For many years there was an Evangelist Department for men (led by Bishop Page) and an Evangelist Department for women (led by Dr. Reatha Herndon). In 1974, Presiding Bishop J. O. Patterson, Sr., united the two; making Bishop Page the “President” over the Department of Evangelism, with Dr. Herndon taking the title “Elect Lady.”
In 1981, Bishop J.O. Patterson, Sr., appointed Dr. Edward Lee Battles President of the Department of Evangelism. During his administration, Dr. Battles reorganized the Regions to oversee evangelistic ministry in various areas across the country. He also instituted the Annual White and Gold Prayer Breakfast, conducted Evangelistic Crusades across the country and developed the Church of God in Christ National Evangelist Registry. Dr. Battles served as president for 15 years; until his death in December of 1996.
In 1997, Presiding Bishop Chandler D. Owens appointed Evangelist Richard “Mr. Clean” White as President of the Department of Evangelism. Evangelist White continued to seek the Lord in prayer for direction, in leading the department to a “Higher Level of Excellence”. He continued to build on the department through expansion of the Regional Administration into 10 geographical locations across the country. He appointed Regional Presidents to serve as liaisons to the Jurisdictional Presidents. Through his leadership and vision he emphasized the importance of “Deliverance, Development, and Demonstration”, which resulted in the new department theme… “It’s All About Souls!” Evangelist White stood on the premise that after a soul has received deliverance through salvation, he or she must be taught and trained for spiritual development to become a strong and mature believer.
In 1951, Dr. Reatha Herndon was appointed as President of the Women Evangelists of the Church Of God In Christ by Bishop C. H. Mason and General Supervisor Lillian Brooks Coffey. Mother Herndon’s ministry was characterized by signs and wonders. She and her sister were responsible for founding over 70 churches. Even though they started these churches; Mother never sought to serve in the role of “pastor.” She was secure in her calling as an evangelist. In 1974 Dr. Herndon took on the title “Elect Lady,” once the two departments were combined. In this role, her job was to serve as coordinator over the women evangelists; all under the auspices of Bishop Page.
Dr. Herndon was faithful to her task for 50 years: working with the administrations of Bishop Page, Dr. Battles and Bishop White. She was emeritized in 2001. After which Presiding Bishop Gilbert Earl Patterson appointed Evangelist Maria Gardner as the new International Elect Lady.
Evangelist Gardner, born in St. Louis, Missouri, was saved at the age of 10 and began ministering shortly afterwards. The crowds were enormous; which came to hear this dynamic chosen vessel of God. She has ministered not only in the United States, but also in several foreign countries such as: Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, England, Germany and the British Honduras. Several times throughout the year, she served in the orphanages of the nation of Haiti. Not only did she minister on radio and television; but Evangelist Gardner recorded many popular sermon-albums: I’d Rather Fight than Switch, Come Out of the Hog Pen, I’m Hooked, Mr. Chairman: I Nominate the Man Jesus, I’ve Gone Through the Wilderness, Now I’m Going to Take My Possessions and, He Won’t Leave You Until He’s Done What He Said.
Once Bishop G. E. Patterson ascended to the office of Presiding Bishop; he re-appointed Evangelist Richard White as International President. Evangelist White served until his elevation to the Office of Jurisdictional Bishop in 2004. Elder Dennis L. Martin, Sr. was appointed as International President of the Department of Evangelism in 2005.
During his tenure as President, Administrative Assistant Martin started the President’s class: teaching and training evangelists during AIM. President Martin also introduced the second training manual for the department in 2008. The first manual was produced in 1983 by the late President Battles. He also became known as “the media President,” always sharing the vision of the department through and with technology. President Martin brought a very spiritual approach to the department. He had the privilege of hosting the Miracle Breakthrough Services at Mason Temple in the 100th Holy Convocation-Centennial Celebration. President Martin introduced a quarterly online magazine called “The Voice of Evangelism” highlighting the ministry of the department.
In 2009, Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. appointed Pastor Willie James Campbell to the office of President of the International Department of Evangelism and Evangelist Rita Womack as International Elect Lady. Furthermore, Dr. Dorinda Clark-Cole was appointed Assistant International Elect Lady.
Under Pastor Campbell’s leadership the department grew exponentially. Revival Fire began to attract thousands. New staff was added and the departmental handbook was updated. Pastor Campbell also instituted the Evangelism Summit; to train and inspire the leadership of the department. Pastor Campbell served for four years; until he was elevated to the Office of Bishop in the Church Of God In Christ in 2013.
Dr. Womack heeded the call to ministry at an early age, under the leadership of Bishop Sherman Howard. Dr. Womack received her Doctorate from Rhema Theological Seminary and College. Her passion for the ministry and sensitivity to the voice of God allowed her to become a highly prolific evangelist; sharing extensively in many revivals and conferences throughout the United States, Canada, Korea, and many other countries, as well as national television. Aside from her own personal ministry, she founded Latter Rain Miracle Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia. Furthermore she formed “Mentoring in Ministry with Dr. Rita Womack,” which trained and equipped men and women in the areas of ministry gifts and callings.
Dr. Dorinda Clark-Cole, the second from the youngest of The Clark Sisters, was trained by her mother, Dr. Mattie Moss-Clark, who saw the gift of singing and preaching in her at an early age. She has ministered nationally as well as internationally in countries such as England, Japan, Germany, France, Korea and South Africa. She made history in South Africa, having been the first woman to minister in the pulpit to over 4,000 people. Dr. Cole has followed in her mother’s footstep by having several leadership roles in the International Church of God in Christ. She currently serves as Assistant to the Elect Lady of the Evangelism Department of the Church. She is affectionately known in the Gospel Music industry as “the Rose of Gospel.”
In January 2013, Presiding Bishop Blake appointed Dr. Elijah H. Hankerson III to the office of President, with Dr. Rita Womack continuing as the Elect Lady and Dr. Dorinda Clark-Cole continuing as Assistant Elect Lady. Under Bishop Hankerson’s leadership the administration and reach of the department has expanded exponentially; leading to the establishment of the following new auxiliaries: Restoration of the “Evangelist Speaks” publication; NexGen; ReGen; Project Emerge; International Evangelism; Convention Coordinators for every major Convention; Local Church Evangelism; Hispanic Ministry; Statistics of souls saved and filled throughout the Church Of God In Christ; Connection of “National Departments” (those outside of the United States) through technology and social media; the educational wing was renamed “Bishop L. C. Page School of Evangelism,” and more. This grown has been attributed both to the Presiding Bishop emphasizing evangelism/soul winning and a tremendous team that works diligently to fulfil the vision.
Through his personal evangelistic ministry, Dr. Hankerson brought over 50 “non-COGIC” churches into the Church Of God In Christ. Thus, in 2015 at the Holy Convocation in Saint Louis, Missouri, he was consecrated to the sacred Office of Bishop. Bishop Hankerson continues to serve as both a Jurisdictional Bishop and the International President of the Department of Evangelism.