-The Church of God in Christ, the country's biggest African American Pentecostal denomination, has taken a deep and painful leadership hit with reports of at least a dozen to up to 30 bishops and prominent clergy dying of covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.

Officials from the denomination did not return requests for comment, but media reports and interviews with experts who study the denomination show the deaths of leaders in states including Michigan, New York and Mississippi. Those are regions where the Church of God in Christ is prominent and the coronavirus has hit hard.

Among those who died after reportedly contracting the virus were: First Assistant Presiding Bishop Phillip A. Brooks, a legendary preacher and leader from Detroit who was No. 2 in the denomination and whose death was reported by the Detroit News; Bishop Timothy Scott, a leader for nearly 50 years of the denomination in Mississippi whose death was reported by WREG-Memphis; and two Michigan bishops, Robert E. Smith Sr. and Robert L. Harris, whose deaths were reported by the Los Angeles Sentinel.

News reports across the country cite local health officials saying specific outbreaks that led to the deaths appeared to stem from conferences and funerals held within the denomination, which is also known by its acronym, COGIC. The denomination, which was founded in the late 1800s and has more than 6 million members, holds large meetings with representatives from its 200 jurisdictions — or regions — each year around February or March. The gatherings of clergy, lay leaders and church staff are called Worker's Meetings...