Making Good the Claim: Holiness and Visible Unity in the Church of God Reformation Movement

After the publication of Massey’s book in 2005, Rufus Burrow began re-examining the primary documents created by the founding Church of God members and pioneers. He wanted to gain a better understanding of the Movement’s idea of holiness and visible unity, and how it pertained to interracial unity in particular. Growing up in the Church of God, Burrow often heard sermons preached on visible unity; however, in the introduction to his work Making Good the Claim: Holiness and Visible Unity in the Church of God Reformation Movement, Burrow explains that the idea of racial visible unity was never explicitly stated.

Burrow explains that many of the written and oral histories about the Church of God movement gladly stake the claim that the Church of God had always called for racial unity in its ideology, but there is little extant evidence to prove that the idea of visible unity meant visible racial unity.

Burrow’s book is not another history of the Church of God Movement as it relates to the Black community like Massey’s work. Burrow, instead, must look through the history of the Movement to ensure context for his argument. Making Good the Claim is, in Burrow’s description, a socio-ethical examination of the Church of God. The intent is to look at the idea of visible unity, and what it means in the African American context vs in a Caucasian American context. The book also greatly emphasizes understanding the sociological stages that a church movement undergoes when it moves from a sect to a denomination. Throughout those stages, the founding principles of a movement change—often becoming more worldly or socially acceptable. Burrow argues that these changes have been at the expense of the African American congregants.

In order to make things right, Burrow argues that the Church of God must look at its founding belief of visible unity through an interracial lense. This is what sets Making Good the Claim apart from its predecessor: African Americans in the Church of God. Massey’s work was the first of its kind by telling the history of African Americans within the Movement in an exhaustive scope. Burrow is not writing a history; he is writing an analysis and a critique. Both are intended to explain the plight of African Americans, but the methods of doing so are different. 

Those methods are different enough that when looking at the same events, the two authors come to different conclusions based on their interpretations of the primary sources. On the next page, there is more information on the Beech Springs Incident, and how each author interpreted it.


Burrow, Rufus. Making Good the Claim: Holiness and Visible Unity in the Church of God Reformation Movement. Eugene: Pickwick Publications, 2016.