Christ Compelled Him: Foggs on Life and Leadership

 In All Church of God, CHOG

By Carl Stagner

Their pictures line the wall, equidistant from each other, chronological from left to right, five or six feet above the hallway floor. Unquestionably taller in strength, grace, and poise, each one seems to keep watch over the present-day activities at 2902 Enterprise Drive. A common thread connects Hatch, Weber, Reed, Tanner, Foggs, Pearson, and Duncan, though the fabric of their stories varies in style, substance, and setting. While the third from the right exhibits one characteristic clearly different than the others, a closer look at the man behind the portrait at Church of God Ministries reveals a standout in distinguishing features below the surface.

“Charles Weber through Ron and, of course, Jim—I’ve known all of them!” Rev. Dr. Edward L. Foggs beams as he considers his breadth of friendship and depth of experience spanning nearly nine decades. “Even Clarence Hatch I’d seen, you know, from a distance, and I knew about him.” Foggs feels a measure of gratitude for each one, as each face on the wall, to one degree or another, represents a leader whose influence shaped his own life and leadership for the better. But to really understand this general director emeritus of Church of God Ministries who wore a wide assortment of sophisticated hats, you simply must go back to the beginning.

Edward L. Foggs

“As I reflect upon my life, I have to speak about the influence of my local church in Kansas,” Foggs explains. “Gabriel Dixon was pastor of the Kansas City congregation, and I was the first baby dedicated under his leadership. It’s interesting to note that, many years later, I had the privilege of eulogizing him after he lived to be ninety-six.”

The valedictorian of his graduating class, Foggs was encouraged early to attend a prestigious Ivy League school. But as the Lord would have it, the then-pastor of Anderson, Indiana’s Sherman Street Church of God was passing through the area and paid a visit to the Kansas City church. Was it really any surprise that Pastor John Clark persuaded the young man from the Great Plains to set his sights on Christian higher education in a city where Foggs would ultimately wield tremendous influence and effect remarkable change? Of course, young Foggs had no inkling of the itinerary charted by the Divine but, looking back on the journey, he sees the evidence of God’s providential hand every mile of the way.

A foundation of faith was laid for Foggs from childhood that could not be shaken. His parents instilled in him both a love for the Lord and a love for the Church of God. “I’m grateful that I came to Anderson because the impact on my life has been far-reaching,” he observes. “Besides knowing the pastor of Sherman Street, I came here as a total stranger. But as school started, I met friends who would become dear friends for a lifetime. I think, also, of those adults at Sherman Street who believed in me. I had so many who believed in me. Back in Kansas, Mother Adcock, as we called her, ensured that five dollars was put in my mailbox every week without fail; then, as you know, that was a lot more than it may seem today. I think of all who opened doors for me and saw the potential. Pastor Clark allowed me to work with him and be involved in church life until he became ill and eventually passed. Then the church asked me to be their pastor.”

Over the course of ten years, Foggs led the Anderson congregation through a season of growth and expansion, including the building of a new sanctuary. Meanwhile, fingerprints traced back to Foggs started surfacing in numerous other settings, as major developments in town, across the country, and throughout the Church of God movement unfolded.

Ed Foggs & his beloved late wife Joyce

When the Anderson YMCA wouldn’t admit Blacks, Rev. Dr. Edward L. Foggs was on the front lines for reform. In the Church of God movement, he served a term as president of the National Inspirational Youth Convention. He also accepted invitations to serve in leadership or member roles for the Indiana Ministerial Assembly, Urban League of Madison County, and the National Conference of Black Churchmen. Fast forward a few decades, Foggs would become the first Black chair of the board of the National Association of Evangelicals, the ministry headed by Convention 2023 speaker Walter Kim today. Many other prominent positions dot the timeline of the life and leadership of Rev. Dr. Edward L. Foggs.

Back on the Church of God scene, when there were once no persons of color in any of the national offices, Foggs was on the scene to direct Urban Ministries; he also participated in what was known as the Black Caucus, helping to bring “The Church of God in Black Perspective” to light (also the title of a published and widely circulated booklet) and bring necessary changes to pass. As Foggs recalls, “the purpose was to identify concerns and issues about race relations in the Church of God. After that,” he continues, “the first persons of color were hired as staff in a number of areas. All because key leaders came together to say this was not acceptable or representative of what the church ought to be.”

Ed Foggs at the pulpit during Anderson Camp Meeting 1994.

Ed Foggs knows what it’s like to be refused service because of the color of his skin. He knows what it’s like to be the father in a family at a restaurant where everyone stares at you. He’s been on the receiving end of criticisms from brothers in the Church of God; during the days of James Earl Massey behind the CBH microphone and Foggs as general secretary of the Leadership Council, some seemed to suggest that widespread fear could result from two Black men at the helm of the Movement. But it was Christ, a host of strong friendships built on a firm foundation from childhood, and moments like this that encouraged Foggs to press the battle on:

“Robert Nicholson was one of my dear friends,” Foggs recounts. “He was a mentor to me. My [late] wife Joyce was the first African American female in the Anderson College choir and he, as the director, did something she never forgot. There were forty-some students on tour, somewhere in the South, and they’d gone out to eat. ‘We can serve everybody except her,’ the owner of the restaurant said. Dr. Nicholson replied, ‘Well, then, none of us will eat here.’ They all got up and left, went to a grocery store for some food, and had a picnic, and it was a great time for everyone.”

Joyce Foggs and Robert Nicholson at a heritage hymn sing during Anderson Camp Meeting several years ago.

From 1975 until 1988, Foggs served as associate executive secretary for the Executive Council of the Church of God. From 1988 into 1999, he served as general secretary of the Leadership Council of the Church of God—the predecessor organization to Church of God Ministries. Reminiscing on those challenging and hopeful days, Foggs says the work wasn’t easy, but many good things happened. While leaders often imagine ushering in new seasons of growth, rallying everybody together in perfect unity, and mobilizing the masses to measurable health, sometimes biblical leadership is simply staying put, being a calm presence, listening for the Spirit’s voice, and putting out fires. It’s not pretty, it’s not glamorous, but it’s vital.

“I’ve always felt during my time that so much of it had to be given to resolving conflict,” Foggs recalls. “I remember there was a lot of ‘turf protection.’ There were agencies that seemed to be protecting ‘their territory.’ Even the colleges were very competitive,” he says, implying they were such in a generally unhealthy way. “It’s one of the things that led me to want to bring about a restructure of the national ministries,” Foggs concludes.

When the General Assembly ultimately voted on the restructure that brought together the various agencies of the Church of God under one roof in the late 1990s, 92 percent voted in favor. Foggs views the restructure as one of the pinnacle, though contentious, accomplishments by which God blessed his leadership.

“It’s like building a highway,” Foggs says. “It’s messy in the process, but the result is a smoother way forward.”

Rev. Dr. Edward L. Foggs

Christ Compels Us. That’s the title of a book Foggs wrote many years ago, and it surely can be applied to his own life. Inquisitive people have often asked Foggs, ‘Who’s your agent?’ in light of his vast experiences and leadership roles down through the years. The man who has been blessed to travel to fifty countries on six continents because of his leadership roles always responds, “I’ve never pursued or clamored for even one of those positions.” Indeed, in every role of leadership Foggs ever took, he’s blessed to recognize that someone always approached him. Someone always believed in him. From the beginning, at the foundation, Christ compelled and directed his steps.

“Jesus came that we should have life and life more abundantly,” Foggs reflects. “And all of the good things that have happened in my life have been impacted by that experience.”

Foggs loves the Church of God to this day. He sees so much good taking place in the Movement, including, but not limited to the launching of younger leaders and the strengthening of intergenerational relationships, from the local church level on up. Surveying opportunities ever before the Church of God for improvement, Foggs recognizes that sexism, racism, and ageism do still exist in places and at times. Acknowledging the Church of God movement has come a long way in these areas, he notes a lack of interest to get too comfortable.

“If I’m leaving Anderson and headed for San Francisco, and we make it to Denver, I’m grateful we’re in Denver,” Foggs says. “I want to acknowledge the distance we’ve traveled. But I don’t want to park there. I don’t want to make a monument there. It’s not a denial of progress, but I, for one, want to keep going.”

Wall of leaders at the Anderson offices of Church of God Ministries.

Learn more about the Church of God movement at

Feature (top) photo: Ed Foggs (far left) stands among many of the past NIYC presidents in 2019 (photo courtesy Kevin Earley).

Start typing and press Enter to search