The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) is an expression of Pentecostalism in the evangelical Protestant tradition. Its headquarters is in Cleveland, Tennessee, which the denomination uses in its title to distinguish it from other bodies called the Church of God.
The Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) was the first Pentecostal denomination and is currently the second largest in the world behind the Assemblies of God.
The church dates back to the 1880s when father and son, Richard and Richard Green Spurling Jr., left their Baptist congregation over doctrinal issues. The Spurlings organized informal services and reports of believers at their meetings being baptized in the Holy Spirit occur as early as 1896.
The Spurlings established congregations under the name "Christian Union" until Ambrose Jessup ("A.J.") Tomlinson, a former Quaker, brought more organization to the group in 1903 when he became their pastor.
The first General Assembly, which occurred under Tomlinson, was held in 1906, eight years before the Assemblies of God’s first official meeting in 1914. Although there was hesitancy in starting another Christian denomination, the name "Church of God" was adopted in 1907.
The church body soon moved to Cleveland, Tennessee, where they hosted a guest speaker who had recently visited the Azusa St. Revival in Los Angeles, California.
As a result of that gathering, many people, including Tomlinson, reported being baptized in the Holy Spirit. At that point, the church emphasized spiritual experiences that came to be associated with Pentecostal Christianity.
Tomlinson was impeached in 1923 on the basis of incompetent, though not immoral, financial management, and created a body that was eventually called "Church of God of Prophecy." Although the schism was initially deep, it has been bridged in recent years by the denominations' joint ministerial efforts.