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Charles E. Blake (1940–)

Charles Edward Blake Sr. is the presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ (COGIC). He is also pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which has a membership of more than 25,000. In addition, Blake founded Save Africa’s Children, which provides orphan care programs across the continent of Africa. He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2009.

Charles E. Blake was born on August 5, 1940, in North Little Rock (Pulaski County) to Junious Augustus Blake and Lula Champion Blake. His father was a native of Camden (Ouachita County) who pastored various churches throughout Arkansas before moving to California. Charles Blake was ordained a minister himself in 1962. He received a BA from California Western University (now Alliant International University), and then a Master of Divinity degree from International Theological Center in 1965. He received his Doctorate of Divinity degree from the California Graduate School of Theology in 1982. He is married to Mae Lawrence Blake, and the couple has three children.

In 1969, Blake was appointed pastor of West Angeles Church of God in Christ, which then had about fifty members, and under his leadership, the church became one of the fastest-growing COGIC congregations in the world and the largest African American church in the western United States, as well as a significant economic force in the community. In 1982, Ebony magazine recognized Blake as one of the greatest preachers in the United States and has frequently labeled him as one of the nation’s most influential African-Americans.

In 1985, Blake was named the Jurisdictional Prelate of the First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Southern California, which oversees more than 250 churches; he served in this role until 2009. In 1988, he was named to the General Board of the Church of God in Christ. After serving as first assistant presiding bishop of COGIC, Blake became presiding bishop following the March 20, 2007, death of Gilbert E. Patterson. Later that year, he was elected to complete Patterson’s term, and in November 2008, he was elected to his first full term. He was reelected in 2012 and 2016.

In 2014, Blake criticized a sermon delivered by St. Louis, Missouri, minister Earl Carter that was seen by many as especially derogatory to LGBT individuals. Carter proceeded to lodge a number of accusations against Blake, and despite eventually leaving COGIC altogether, he continued to produce defamatory videos about Blake. In 2016, Blake won a defamation suit against Carter, who was ordered to take down all relevant material online.

Bishop Blake has served on the boards of Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary, International Theological Seminary, Oral Roberts University, and International Charismatic Bible Ministries, as well as being on the advisory committee of the Pentecostal World Conference and the leadership council of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America. He founded the Los Angeles Ecumenical Congress and, in 2009, was appointed by President Barack Obama to the inaugural President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Blake has received numerous awards, including the Salvation Army’s William Booth Award, the Greenlining Institute’s Big Heart Award, and the Los Angeles Urban League’s Whitney M. Young Award. In 2003, Blake was awarded the Harvard Foundation Humanitarian Medal for his work with Save Africa’s Children. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors designated February 5, 2004, as “Bishop Charles E. Blake Day.” Blake has also received honorary doctorates from several institutions, including Biola University and Oral Roberts University.

For additional information:
“The Presiding Bishop.” Church of God in Christ. http://www.cogic.org/about-company/the-executive-branch/the-presiding-bishop/ (accessed November 21, 2017).

Guy Lancaster
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Last Updated 11/21/2017

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