By Rachel Cole
An article entitled "After Twenty Years" written by Arthur L. Clanton and published by the Pentecostal Historical Society in the July-September issue of Historical News began with the following statement, "One of the most significant steps ever taken by Oneness Pentecostal people was that of the merger of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ and the Pentecostal Church Incorporated. This merger was consummated during the General Conference of these two bodies held in St. Louis, Missouri, September 20-26, 1945." He continued to describe the unity and harmony that came from those sessions together as unreal and blessed of God. As a 17 1/2 year old Bible School student, it was my privilege to attend their 1st General Conference the next year after the merger and sing with the school quartet. The electrifying power of God among that unified body of believers was beyond description, and helped me to persuade my father to leave the independents and join the UPCI.
It was at those 1945 organizational meetings that the Planning Committee took the Minister & Church Rosters of both groups to determine the boundaries for the proposed districts of the new organization. The By Laws called for a certain minimum number of qualified ministers within each district to hold offices and to function properly.
There were several Truth proclaiming churches in the State of Georgia at this time, but as a whole they were not well acquainted with the merging bodies; so with only a couple of churches that were affiliated, Georgia was included in the Southeastern District with three other states: Florida (the stronger of the four), North Carolina and South Carolina. North Carolina soon requested to be a part of the closer Eastern District due to the travel distance to Florida. God graciously blessed the three remaining states with growth. Several independent and localized churches begin to feel God's favor toward the UPCI and joined them in the effort to "Take the Whole Gospel to the Whole World".
In 1958, Georgia and South Carolina felt they had sufficient growth and ministers to maintain a district together. They requested the privilege to form another district. The General Board reviewed their request, and the new district was approved. On April 9, 1959, at Ocala, Florida, the new District became known as the "Georgia-South Carolina District". They left the close fellowship they had enjoyed, and the campground they had helped to build and finance for thirteen years, to start afresh without funds or finances, and only a few churches. Brother C.C. Wheatly described their first few district board meetings as being held under shade trees, or stars at night, with the hoods of cars to hold their agendas and notes.
The first District Conference of the Georgia-South Carolina District was held in the spring of 1960, at one of Georgia's original UPC churches in Brunswick. Brother C.C. Wheatly founded this church in 1945, the year of the Merger. Officers were elected as follows:
District Superintendent, T.C. Montgomery
District Secretary, H.Q. Griffis
Section I, C.C. Wheatly
Section II, R.B. Montgomery
Section III, J.W. Shaffer
Conquerors President, Bennie Cole
Conquerors Secretary, Carl Wheatly
Sunday School Director, W.J. Daigle
Ladies Auxiliary President, Melinda Montgomery
Ladies Auxiliary Secretary, Lorene Reynolds
Home Missions: Director H.P. Brock.
Representatives from North Carolina came to this conference with a recommendation from the General Board and the request to be included with the new Georgia-South Carolina District. This was done with a new name chosen, The Atlantic District, and Section No. IV was added. D.L. Pridgen was chosen as Presbyter for that section. Four months later, the first Youth Camp was held at the Brunswick Church with over 100 young people enrolled. Nineteen were baptized and sixteen received the Holy Ghost. The first Sheaves for Christ offering that year, of over $2,000, received a National award for the "Most District Offering per Conqueror."
Bennie and Rachel Cole were asked by the conference to look into the possibilities of editing and publishing a monthly periodical. The first issue, dated December 1960, went out without a name. It listed 26 ministers and churches cooperating with the District Tithing Plan (18 from Georgia, 6 from South Carolina, and 2 from North Carolina). The Churches were given the opportunity to suggest names for the district paper. The District Board reviewed them, and the name chosen was "Atlantic Messenger".
Camp meeting 1961 was held under the tent on the property donated to the district on Nowhere Road in Athens, Georgia (the road definitely led nowhere). Brother W.L. Gamblin was the evening speaker. In 1962, the district purchased property just north of Macon, and built a dining hall and two dormitories with services to be held in the tent until a tabernacle could be constructed. This property proved to be a great investment since it set on a very valuable rock vein. It was sold approximately four years later for a good profit, and the campground's present 50 acres site was purchased on State Highway 36.
In 1964, the two states of North and South Carolina felt confident and strong enough to form their own district. God had greatly blessed the district during those four years together, and the new Georgia District Board felt it was good to divide some of its assets with the new Carolina District. Once again, the state of Georgia was faced with choosing a new name. This one was easy - finally, "The Georgia District".
Bro. T.C. Montgomery asked that his name not be considered for re-election as Superintendent at the District Conference in the fall of 1966, due to his wife's health problem resulting from an accident when their car was struck from the rear while turning into a drive way at the Macon camp site. She never really recovered from this accident. So after a long and fruitful ministry, and six years of service as District Superintendent, he retired to care for her until her death in October of 1968.
Pastor C.C. Wheatly was elected the new Superintendent by the conference, and the district continued to grow under his capable leadership. The old campground was sold at this time, and the new one purchased. The dorms and dinning hall were torn down and transported to the Highway 36 location west of Jackson GA. The tent was again put up for the camps. At the very first camp, the rain was so heavy the men stood on the stakes to hold the tent down while Brother T.F. Tenney preached "The Back of the Book". One of the great improvements after the Tabernacle was erected, was the paving of the muddy roads. One day the District Secretary received a call from the Fire Department. The old dining hall had caught on fire. A new kitchen/dining hall was built with air-conditioning with the insurance money. Some jokingly accused the Ladies Auxiliary of setting it on fire. Bishop C.C. Wheatly served the district for 20 years as its second Superintendent and stunned the 1987 District Conference with his decision to withhold his name for consideration in re-election. He was an Honorary Board Georgia District Board member as well as an Honorary General Board Member of the UPCI until the time of his death.
Pastor B.S. Cole, who had served as District Secretary for 10 years, was asked by the brethren to assume the responsibilities of District Superintendent. They elected another Secretary to fill his unexpired term. The Tabernacle was renovated, the old "chicken wire removed", and air conditioning was installed in all the buildings. He served in this capacity for 18 years. In January of 2005, he sent a letter to the ministerial body that he felt the time had come for new leadership for the Georgia District, and he had chosen not to allow his name to be considered for re-election at the February conference. Upon his resignation the district conference chose to ask Pastor B.S. Cole to serve as an Honorary Board member for the Georgia District Board and later that year the General Conference requested him to serve on the General Board of the UPCI as an Honorary Board member. Pastor H.E. Wheatly was elected by the conference to serve as the 4th District Superintendent of the State of Georgia. Plans were to completely pay off the loan borrowed for the renovation of the Tabernacle during the year of 2006. In 2013 Bro. Wheatly retired from serving as District Superintendent. At the District Conference of that year, Bro. Darrell Johns was elected to serve as the new Georgia District Superintendent. Georgia continues to grow under his competent leadership. Today, the ministerial body has grown from some 30 in three states to almost 200 with over 100 cooperating churches. God has truly blessed the Georgia District.
By Rachel Cole