A Detroit pastor, J. Drew Sheard, has been elected to lead Church of God in Christ (COGIC), a growing denomination with millions of members, the latest example of clergy from Michigan becoming national leaders of faith groups.
Sheard, 62, who leads Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church in Detroit, was elected Saturday by delegates with COGIC at their national assembly, which was held online, to be COGIC's presiding bishop, its highest ranking leader.
“To be elected to serve as the Presiding Bishop for the Church in which I was born, raised, and have learned and served all my life, is a dream and desire that can only be fulfilled by God’s loving grace and guidance," Sheard said in a news release. "The opportunity to serve such an extraordinary organization at our highest recognized level of priesthood is beyond humbling."
Another local pastor, Bishop Michael Hill of Kingdom International in Dearborn, was elected to be one of 12 members of COGIC's board, which includes Sheard. COGIC is reportedly the 5th largest Christian denomination in the U.S. as of 2012, according to the National Council of Churches.
Sheard's election was celebrated by faith and political leaders in Michigan, where COGIC, a predominantly Black and Pentecostal denomination, has a strong presence. Bishop P.A. Brooks, an influential faith leader in Detroit who died last year at 88, was a member of COGIC's national board.
"I am absolutely ecstatic," Bishop Edgar Vann of Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit, who has been a friend of Sheard for decades since they were teenage preachers, told the Free Press on Monday. "He represents in his denomination a whole new refreshing generation of leadership. ... It's a very crucial post in Christiandom right now. It is one of the highest denominational posts in the African American community. And he will lead that denomination with distinction ... with innovation and creativity."
Sheard becoming leader of COGIC is "a great distinction for Detroit and it makes Detroit really the epicenter for this particular denomination," Vann said.
COGIC's national leaders are generally older, and so having Sheard become presiding bishop at a younger age means "he's going to, by the grace of God, be there a long time to give a whole new, fresh look at that denomination, to enhance the faith community internationally."
Sheard's father is also a COGIC pastor, Bishop John Sheard, who leads Greater Mitchell Temple Church of God in Christ in Detroit. His mother, Willie Mae Sheard, died last year of COVID-19 at 84. Sheard's wife, Karen Clark-Sheard, is known nationally for her gospel music along with her sisters.
BET (Black Entertainment Television) once had a reality TV show, The Sheards, about their family.
Detroit City Council President Brenda Jones also praised Sheard becoming presiding bishop, writing on Twitter: "You have worked hard, helped many & deserve this honor." The Rev. Charles Williams, pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church of Detroit and Chair of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network, the civil rights group led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, said on Twitter: "Congrats to Bishop J. Drew Sheard! Keep standing with the people! Looking forward to seeing the future of COGIC."
Sheard is the latest Detroit pastor to become a national faith leader. In 2010, Bishop Charles Ellis III of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit became the national head of Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, a position he served in for several years.
Sheard has previously served on the general board and led its Michigan branch.
The Church of God in Christ is a Pentecostal denomination that its leaders say has 6.5 million members. Although headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee, its reach is global.
The position of the presiding bishop became open after the previous presiding bishop, Charles Blake Sr., announced he would not seek reelection and requested emeritus status.
Here are the other 11 members elected to COGIC's general board, its highest executive board:
• Bishop Prince Bryant Sr., pastor of The Island of Hope Church of God in Christ and Buck Street Memorial Church of God in Christ in Houston. He is the jurisdictional prelate of The Texas South Central Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction.
• Bishop Malcolm Coby, pastor of Victory Temple Church of God in Christ, World Ministry Center, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and jurisdictional bishop for the Oklahoma Southeast Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction
• Bishop Sedgwick Daniels, pastor of Holy Redeemer Church Of God In Christ in Milwaukee, and jurisdictional bishop of the Wisconsin First Jurisdiction. He previously served on the general board.
• Bishop David Hall Sr., pastor of historic Temple Church Of God In Christ in Memphis, and prelate of Tennessee Headquarters Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction.
Bishop Michael Hill Sr., senior pastor of Kingdom International in Dearborn, Michigan, and jurisdictional bishop of Great Lakes First Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction.
• Bishop Darrell Hines Sr., pastor of Christian Faith Fellowship Church of God in Christ in Wisconsin and jurisdictional bishop of the Illinois Midwest Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction. He previously served on the general board.
• Bishop Jerry Macklin, founder of Glad Tidings International Church of God in Christ and founder of the NorCal Metropolitan Jurisdiction. Macklin was elected to the general board in 2004 and became the second assistant presiding bishop in 2008.
• Bishop Loran Mann, founder of Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in Pittsburgh and bishop of the state of Vermont.
• Bishop C. H. McClelland, pastor of Holy Cathedral Church of God In Christ in Milwaukee, and bishop of the Wisconsin Northwest Jurisdiction. He was born in Covington, Tennessee.
• Bishop Brandon Porter, pastor of Greater Community Temple COGIC in North Memphis and jurisdictional prelate of the Tennessee Central Jurisdiction. Greater Community Temple has a membership of more than 5,000 and includes a campus in East Memphis. He was first elected to the general board in 2012.
• Bishop Lawrence Wooten Sr., pastor of Williams Temple Church of God In Christ and bishop of the Ecclesiastical Jurisdiction of Eastern Missouri Western Illinois. He previously served on the general board.