Leading the Church of God in Christ by the Horn

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by Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr.

When Samuel went to Jesse’s house to anoint the next king of Israel, the one whom God had chosen to lead His people, seven sons were presented before they finally remembered David. Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; we will not sit down until he arrives” (1 Samuel 16:11 NIV). When David arrived, the oil finally poured and he was anointed. One of my favorite verses comes right after this in 1 Samuel 16:13: “So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power…” This verse is the epitome of the life and work of the Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), the Most Reverend Charles Edward Blake, Sr. The power and presence of God is evident in Bishop Blake’s life, through the tremendous leadership that he has provided to COGIC, to Christendom and beyond.

Bishop Blake was licensed to the gospel ministry in 1959 and ordained as an elder in the Church of God In Christ in 1962. He graduated from California Western University with his bachelor’s degree, and continued his education at the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta in 1965. He is married to the lovely Mrs. Mae Lawrence Blake, affectionately known as Lady Mae. Together they have three children, along with their spouses and eight grandchildren.

To demonstrate how the Spirit of the Lord has come upon Bishop Blake in power, let’s take a brief look at some of his life’s journey:

•Graduated from ITC in Atlanta, Georgia with a master’s degree; returned to San Diego, California to assist his father in ministry, the late Bishop J.A. Blake.

•Appointed pastor of West Angeles Church in 1969 with 50 active members experiencing tremendous growth during the 70s, 80s and into the 90s, moving to the beautiful $60 million, 5,000 seat West Angeles Cathedral on April 28, 2001. Today, there are more than 24,000 members and more than 80 ministries for psychological, social and economic enhancement of the Los Angeles community.

•Led California Southern First Jurisdiction, COGIC’s largest jurisdiction, for 25 years, which grew to more than 250 churches under his leadership. Annually, this jurisdiction led the way in financial support of the national work of the church.

•Founded Save Africa’s Children (SAC) in 2001. During its existence, SAC was the largest African-American founded organization providing direct support to AIDS orphans, helped nearly a quarter million children in over 400 orphan care programs in 23 nations on the continent of Africa, and was supported by a network of more than 61,000 church groups and faith-based organizations.

•Served faithfully as the First Assistant Presiding Bishop of COGIC from 2000 until the passing of former Presiding Bishop G.E. Patterson in 2007. Blake was appointed to fill the remaining term through 2008 and was subsequently elected (with more than 80% of the votes) to complete two full terms.

The biographical sketch on the COGIC website states that Bishop Blake is a humble humanitarian and communitarian. This is evident from the moment that you begin a conversation with him.

DAVID: What has brought you the greatest joy in your time as Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle of the Church of God in Christ?

BISHOP BLAKE: First, it is an absolute honor and privilege to serve this great church as the seventh leader in succession. To follow in the footsteps of Bishops Mason, Jones, J.O. Patterson, Ford, Owens, and G.E. Patterson is something that I thank God for each and every day. There have been many joys that I have felt since becoming presiding bishop, witnessing our Church grow, develop and thrive over these years. The efforts of many individual leaders have made a tremendous impact. I am most pleased with the level of unity and love, the working together and creativity of so many since the beginning of my administration.

One of the accomplishments I would like to highlight is that [prior to my inception] we had annually ended our year in a deficit, and would have to borrow money to complete our financial obligations. When I came into office, there was a $1.3 million dollar deficit. In the first year, not only did we pay off the debt, but we ended the year in the black. We have operated in the black every year since and have not had to borrow to meet current year obligations, which is indicative of the cooperation and teamwork that has characterized the life of our work together.

The Success of the Church is winning souls for Jesus Christ.

DAVID: How do you plan to build upon those accomplishments as you continue to lead?

BISHOP BLAKE: We must not let all of the accomplishments of the past 8 years be lost or forgotten; we must build on them. The success of the Church is winning souls for Jesus Christ. We must work in partnership in the U.S. and across the globe. I recently shared at a Church Growth conference about the principles of church growth and management. We have plans to go across the nation in the next four years, sharing with our churches.

We must also strengthen our global ministries. I have been blessed to minister in Japan, Africa, Brazil and Haiti in recent years. It is a privilege to see the work in the foreign field. Also,our work in Haiti with our medical center, orphanageand schools brings me great joy. There have been 50,000 people in Haiti who have participated in the services of our medical clinic. I am pleased to report that we have had a presence in every area that has suffered from a natural disaster in recent years. Finally, I would like to see every jurisdiction involved in the programs of the Urban Initiatives.

DAVID: You have to be one of the busiest men in Christendom. How do you manage all of your tremendous responsibilities with such ease and vigor?

BISHOP BLAKE: First and foremost, Lady Mae is a tremendous help. She is so supporting and understanding of my travel schedule. I believe it’s because she’s a PK (preacher’s kid); her involvement is key in my success. Without her support and encouragement, I could not do all of the things that I do. She makes it peaceful and easy when I am at home.

God has blessed me with an incredible staff of employees and volunteers who are dedicated and loyal, with special recognition to the 1st and 2nd Assistant Presiding Bishops and General Board who accept assignments and assist with this important work.

DAVID: You are described as a generous and humble humanitarian. What inspires you to give so freely of your blessings?

BISHOP BLAKE: God has always led me to be a leader in every aspect. If you come to West Angeles, you’ll see me in worship from the beginning of the service because God told me that if I wanted a worshiping church, I needed to be a worshiping pastor. As it relates to giving, if I want to be blessed, I must be a blessing.

Through C.E. Blake Ministries, I presented a $100,000 donation for the renovation of the Leila Mason Building on our World Headquarters campus, and a $100,000 donation for the renovation of the Lee Building. The saints have been so generous to me and have been very supportive of my ministry. I was also blessed to defer accepting and receiving the Presiding Bishop’s Honorarium during our difficult years. I have tried to set an example of generosity for the Church. I do not consider this a responsibility, but a joy and privilege to continue to support the positive work that we have begun.

DAVID: What other plans do you have for the church, in general, as you move forward?

BISHOP BLAKE: We must continue to be great stewards of the resources with which God blesses the Church of God In Christ daily. We will continue to have our books and financial statements audited annually. Furthermore, every department will be implementing safeguards and procedures to ensure that we are operating at the highest level of efficiency.

Finally, we will once again emphasize the importance of prayer and fasting in the believer’s life. There is no situation that we can face in this life that cannot be combated positively by earnest, effectual and fervent prayer.

DAVID: It is apparent to all who observe your life that the oil of anointing to serve as a great leader has certainly run from the horn, and continues to flow. We diligently pray for your continued strength and health.

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David-George Newsome is a resident of San Diego, California and a member of St. Stephen’s Cathedral (Bishop George Dallas McKinney).