MOTHER MARY MAGDELENA L. TATE (1871-1930)
Saint Mary Magdalena
L. Tate is recognized as the founder of the First Holiness Movement in
the United States. The Church of God, a member of the Holiness - Pentecostal
denomination, is located in dozens of states and Jamaica, with headquarters
in Nashville (since 1924).
Saint Mary Magdalena L. Tate was born January 3, 1871. During her youth, because of her character and demeanor, she was called "Miss Do Right." Mary Tate's followers were known as "The Do Rights."
Mary Magdalena L. Tate became known by many of her faithful followers as Mother Tate. This unique black woman, along with her two sons, Walter Curtis Lewis and Feliz Early Lewis, in 1903 founded and established the House of God, which is "the Church of the Living God, the Pillar and the Ground of the Truth Without Controversy" (1 Timothy 3:15-16). (Cited hereafter as House of God).
After she was ordained by God, Mother Tate boldly preached "the Gospel in cleanliness of the word of God and of things pertaining to the Kingdom of God." Many persons were amazed and wondered at the demonstration of the Gospel, which was preached by this blessed servant of God. She preached her first sermon at Brooklyn, Illinois. In 1907, Mother Mary Magdalena climaxed a career as a world evangelist of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In Alabama, over 900 persons were converted to Christianity through her preaching. She boldly went into the water and baptized many of the converts through the physical strength given her by the Lord's power.
Mother Tate was baptized in 1908 and was approved and accepted as Chief Apostle Elder, president, and first chief overseer of the formally organized church in Greenville, Alabama. Additionally, she was ordained to the Bishopric by the Board of Trustees and Bishops of the Church of God. Mother Tate organized and presided over the First General Assembly of the Church of God from June 25 to July 5, 1908, in Greenville. A number of ministers were ordained, and several pastors were appointed at this meeting.
In 1910, the first Church of God was established in Waycross, Georgia. During the following year, the first Georgia State Assembly of the Church of God was held in Waycross, where the first presiding elders were appointed and pastors received financial support from the general church.
One of the most significant developments in the Church of You was the creation of the Decree (Covenant) Book during the 1914 General Assembly at Quitman, Georgia. Also at this meeting, four state bishops were appointed to serve in Georgia. Also in 1914, Mother Tate organized the first Church of God in Florida in the city of Ocala. The first Florida State General Assembly followed at Ocala.
By 1916, under the leadership of Mother Tate, charters were issued to Church of God members in more than twenty states and the District of Columbia. Between 1930 and 1962, fourteen state charters were granted to establish the Church of God. Four more states were added to the Church of God roster by 1981. By 1992, some forty-three states and Jamaica were chartered by the Church of God.
In 1924, the Church of God's headquarters was established on Heiman Street in Nashville, Tennessee. The original building, although no longer used for services, still stands on Heiman Street. The present headquarters sanctuary was dedicated in 1981. The Church of God, a member of the Holiness-Pentecostal denomination, has experienced the greatest growth in membership of any Christian organization in the United States of America.
Mother Mary Magdalena L. Tate died on December 28, 1930, and was buried in the family plot in Dickson, Tennessee. Her remains were relocated in Nashville's historic Greenwood Cemetery in 1963. A marker to memorialize Mother Tate was erected near the entrance to the cemetery.
F. Dovie Shuford