A bishop, theologian, hymnist, poet, and newspaper editor, Charles Price Jones was born in Texas Valley, near Rome, Georgia, on 9 December 1865. He grew up in the Methodist home of his mother and stepfather, Berry Latimer, in Kingston, Georgia. After his mother’s death in 1882, Jones bounced around before settling in Arkansas in 1884 and converting at Locust Grove Baptist Church in Cat Island, Crittenden County. Jones became a lay Baptist preacher in 1885, was licensed to preach in 1887, enrolled in Arkansas Baptist College that same year, and in 1888 became a schoolteacher as well as the pastor of Pope Creek Baptist Church in Grant County. Jones held various pastorates in Arkansas before moving to Mount Helm Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, in 1895.
A major turning point in Jones’s life occurred when he received the sanctified experience in 1894. In 1895, while pastoring in Mississippi, he met Walter S. Pleasant, Charles Harrison Mason, and other Baptist holiness advocates, and together they initiated a Baptist holiness movement. In 1896 Jones began publishing a Baptist holiness newspaper, Truth. In 1897 he held a regional holiness convention in Jackson. Later in the year the Baptist holiness movement in the Mid-South embraced a nondenominational stance, advocating the substitution of biblically based names for congregations instead of the term Baptist. The nondenominational stance galvanized an antiholiness opposition led by Patrick Henry Thompson and others.
During the battles over nondenominationalism, various congregations associated with the Baptist holiness movement split, other congregations withdrew from Baptist conventions, and new holiness fellowships were formed. From 1897 through the early twentieth century, Jones was a leading pastor in the nondenominational holiness movement. From 1895 to 1917 he pastored in Jackson and in other congregations in Hinds County. His Christ Temple developed a major congregation and campus by 1906, with an eight-hundred-member congregation, a sanctuary that seated one thousand, a printing shop, a school building, and girls’ dormitory.
In 1906 Jones was elected general overseer of the Church of God in Christ, a nondenominational holiness fellowship of more than 110 congregations in the Mid-South, most of them in Mississippi. In 1907 ten congregations, including one in Lexington, Mississippi, led by Mason, were dismissed from Jones’s fellowship because of their embrace of Pentecostalism. Jones continued to lead his faction of the Church of God in Christ until it changed its name to the Church of Christ (Holiness) in 1915. In 1917 he moved to Los Angeles.
Jones remained president of the Church of Christ (Holiness) until 1926 and then served as bishop from 1927 to 1944. During part of 1926 and 1927 Jones resigned from the presidency and denomination to work with a predominantly white holiness organization. Under Jones’s leadership, the Church of Christ (Holiness) entered discussions with the predominantly white Church of the Narazene about a merger in 1923–24 and with the Pilgrim Holiness Church about joint mission projects in 1944. While these discussions failed, various predominantly black holiness fellowships such as the Virginia and North Carolina Convocation merged with the Church of Christ (Holiness).
Jones’s church supported a mission in Liberia beginning in 1902 and Christ’s Missionary and Industrial School in Jackson, organized in 1897. It also ran Virginia’s Boydton Institute during the 1920s.
Jones was the author of various poems, most famously “An Appeal to the Sons of Africa,” and numerous hymns, including the popular holiness hymn “Deeper, Deeper.” His published theological works included treatises, memoirs, and a collection of sermons.
He married Fannie Brown of Little Rock, Arkansas, in 1891. In 1918, two years after her death, he married Pearl E. Reed. He died on 19 January 1949.
- David Douglas Daniels, “The Cultural Renewal of Slave Religion: Charles Price Jones and the Emergence of the Holiness Movement in Mississippi” (PhD dissertation, Union Theological Seminary, 1992)
- Dale Irwin, in Portraits of a Generation: Early Pentecostal Leaders, ed. James R. Goff and Grant Wacker (2002)
- Randall J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South (2010)