Louisiana’s history of Holiness reflects devotion and fortitude exemplified by the founding fathers and mothers. The movement begin in the early nineteenth century when two men named Elder E.D. Smith and Elder C. Coleman traveled to southeast Mississippi preaching the doctrine of holiness. These men did not emphasize a church; they simply spread the doctrine of holiness and fostered the Holiness Movement. Among their converts were brothers Henry Feltus and James Feltus, Sr. from Centerville, Mississippi. The brothers initially opposed the movement but after continuing to hear the Word of God, they were converted and soon became staunch supporters. The acceptance of holiness in the Mississippi area occurred in 1907.
In 1910, Henry Feltus begin pastoring the new converts of holiness at the church in Baton Rouge. The gathering was called Railroad Avenue Church. Later that same year, the founder and General Overseer of the Church of God in Christ, Bishop Charles Harrison Mason, journeyed to Baton Rouge and also preached the doctrine of holiness. After hearing the powerful and anointed teaching of Bishop Mason, Henry and James Feltus received the Baptism of the Holy Ghost. However, the two men were yet serving under overseer Elder E. D. Smith. The duo soon moved their service to Bishop Mason because of a discrepancy with Elder Smith’s belief that saints would never die the natural death, unless the hand sinned against God in some way. The Feltus brothers disagreed with the erroneous teaching and invited Bishop Mason to enlighten Elder Smith concerning the “never die doctrine.” When Bishop Mason came to New Orleans in 1913 to recant the doctrine, Elder Smith did not receive the exhortation and subsequently, the Feltus brothers decided to follow Bishop Mason. The uniting of the Feltus brothers and Bishop Mason marked the beginning of the Church of God in Christ in Louisiana.
From there, the Church of God in Christ operated as one jurisdiction under the leadership of Elder Henry Feltus. Bishop Mason appointed Elder Feltus as State Overseer and Mother Eliza Hollins was appointed State Mother. Mother Hollins was noted for strict discipline in teaching and her black attire, which was the Church of God in Christ’s habit for women of her rank. As the membership grew, Overseer Feltus saw the need for assistance in leadership matters. He appointed Elders S. Lazard and C. Ealy to serve as district superintendents in 1914. The two elders were ministers who had joined the Church of God in Christ fellowship. Overseer Henry Feltus passed away in 1920. Bishop Mason then appointed his brother, James Feltus, Sr. as State Overseer.
Like his brother, Overseer James Feltus, Sr. was instrumental in founding and development of several churches across the state. Under his leadership, many pastors were appointed to lead assemblies of men and women who had embraced the Holiness Movement and were in need of Godly leadership. In 1938, Overseer James Feltus, Sr. created more districts and appointed Elders John W. White, C.B. Norris, and James Edwards superintendents of the new districts.
With rapidly increasing membership, came administrative and organizational problems. However, in respect and deference to Overseer Feltus’ service, Bishop Mason vowed to leave the state as one jurisdiction. Upon the death of Overseer Feltus in 1946, Bishop Mason agreed to divide the state into two (2) jurisdictions. He appointed Elder Seaners Lazard to lead the churches and districts east of the Mississippi River and Elder John Walter White to lead the churches and districts west of the Mississippi River.
At this time, Bishop Mason began conferring the title of “bishop” on those leading states or jurisdictions. Bishop Senears Lazard led the Eastern Louisiana Jurisdiction for 21 years. At his demise in 1967, the brethren of the jurisdiction united overwhelmingly behind Superintendent Willie K. Gordon, Sr., who had tirelessly assisted Bishop Lazard in his latter years. Bishop W.K. Gordon, Sr. was a man of the people. His was highly regarded for his generosity and “fathering” many preachers of the Gospel. During his tenure, the jurisdiction continued to grow in the number of churches and districts. Having celebrated 20 years in the bishopric, Bishop W.K. Gordon retired his post, thus paving the way for new leadership. From that point, Bishop W.K. Gordon, Sr. continued to mentor younger preachers and serve locally as a pastor. Though he carried the title Bishop Emeritus, he was regarded by all as the “Father of Eastern Louisiana” until his demise in 2007.
In 1987, Eastern Louisiana was divided into three jurisdictions:
- Louisiana East First – Bishop James E. Gordon
- Louisiana East Second – Bishop Joseph A. Thompson
- Louisiana East Third – Bishop Howard E. Quillen, Jr.
In June 2001, a fourth jurisdiction—the Greater New Orleans Jurisdiction—was established in Eastern Louisiana under the leadership of Bishop Lindell Benford Brown.
Bishop James Earl Gordon served the Louisiana East First Jurisdiction with incredible dignity. He was well-respected for his liberality in giving and unwavering support of the national church. At the pinnacle of his administration, God afforded him the opportunity to purchase a new, multi-million dollar jurisdictional headquarters—a 30+ acre campus owned by the saints of God. Undoubtedly, Bishop J.E. Gordon considered this as his capstone achievement. After 27 years of service, Bishop J. E. Gordon entered the Church Triumphant.
In 2014, Bishop Alphonso Denson, Sr. was consecrated as the next Bishop for the Louisiana East First Jurisdiction by Presiding Bishop and Chief Apostle, Charles E. Blake of the Church of God in Christ, Incorporated. Bishop Denson’s tenure ushers in a new generation of leadership and vision for the 21st century church. With the help of the Lord, we have made it this far. By God’s grace, we will continue for years to come.