United Pentecostal Church International

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United Pentecostal Church International
Upcilogo.png
UPCI logo
Orientation Holiness/Oneness Pentecostal
Region Worldwide
Origin 1945
Merge of Pentecostal Church, Incorporated and Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ
Members 2,000,000[citation needed]

The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) is a Pentecostal Christian denomination, headquartered in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood, Missouri.[1] It is a part of the Oneness or "Apostolic" portion of the Pentecostal Movement, and was formed in 1945 by a merger of the former Pentecostal Church, Incorporated and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. The denomination also puts an emphasis upon Holiness living in all aspects of one's life.

History[edit]

The UPCI emerged from the Pentecostal Movement, which traces its origins to the teachings of Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas, and the Azuza Street Revival led by William J. Seymour in 1906. Pentecostals began to form organizations of their own; one of these being the Assemblies of God, which formed in 1914.

Some Pentecostal preachers and evangelists began to embrace and preach the doctrines of Oneness and Jesus' Name baptism during this time, which led to friction within the new movement. When the Assemblies of God formally affirmed the traditional doctrine of the Trinity at its Fourth General Council in October 1916, Oneness Pentecostals decided to withdraw. Two months later, several Oneness ministers met in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and on January 2, 1917, formed a Oneness Pentecostal organization called the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies.

The General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies merged with another church, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (PAW) and accepted the leadership of G. T. Haywood, an African-American. This group held the first meeting in Eureka Springs in 1918. This interracial organization adopted the PAW name and remained the only Oneness Pentecostal body until late 1924. Southern Jim Crow laws, together with racial hatred, and spiritual blindess, resulted in many white leaders withdrawing from the PAW rather than remaining under African-American leadership. Many local congregations in the South, however, remained integrated while attempting to comply with local segregation laws.

In 1925, three new Oneness churches were formed: the Apostolic Churches of Jesus Christ, the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance, and Emmanuel's Church in Jesus Christ. In 1927, steps were taken toward reunifying these organizations. Meeting in a joint convention in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Emmanuel's Church in Jesus Christ and the Apostolic Churches of Jesus Christ merged, taking the name the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. This merger united about 400 Oneness Pentecostal ministers. In 1931, a unity conference with representatives from four Oneness organizations met in Columbus, Ohio attempting to bring all Oneness Pentecostals together. The Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance voted to merge with the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, but the terms of the proposed merger were rejected by that body. Nevertheless, a union between the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and the PAW was consummated in November 1931. The new body retained the name of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World.

In 1932, the Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance changed its name to the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated to reflect its organizational structure. In 1936, Pentecostal Church, Incorporated ministers voted to work toward an amalgamation with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. Final union, however, proved elusive until 1945 when these two Oneness Pentecostal organizations combined to form the United Pentecostal Church International. The merger of these two Oneness Pentecostal bodies brought together 1,838 ministers and approximately 900 churches.[2]

In recent years, the UPCI has become more ethnically diverse. A number of African-American pastors, presbyters and district superintendents hold leadership positions in the UPCI today. The Hispanic/Latino community has its own UPC body called the Iglesia Pentecostal Unida Hispana Inc., with congregations located across the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America.[3] Moreover, Colombia has the biggest United Pentecostal Church (Iglesia Pentecostal Unida de Colombia IPUC)[4] in Latin America.

Beliefs[edit]

Godhead[edit]

The UPCI adheres to a "Oneness" concept of the Godhead, in contrast to traditional Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox and Protestant understandings, which incorporate Trinitarian dogma. Hence, an understanding of Oneness is critical in any analysis of UPCI doctrine.

While Trinitarians say that there is one God in whom exist eternally three "persons" who each share co-equally one and the same divine essence or nature, Oneness teaching asserts that God is a singular spirit who is one, not three persons. "Father", "Son" and "Holy Ghost" are merely titles reflecting the different manifestations of the One True God in the universe. The Father and the Holy Ghost are one and the same,[5] says this doctrine; "Father" refers to God in parental relationship, while "Holy Ghost" refers to God in activity.[6] According to the UPCI's understanding of the Godhead, these two titles do not reflect separate persons in the Godhead, but rather two different ways in which the one God reveals Himself to humanity.

According to the Oneness understanding, the "Son" did not exist in any form prior to the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth, other than in the foreknowledge of God.[7] In Jesus, God took on human flesh at a precise moment in time, while remaining fully and eternally God: "for in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (John 1:1–14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Colossians 2:9). Thus the Father is not the Son (this distinction is crucial), but is in the Son as the fullness of His divine nature (Colossians 2:9).[citation needed] For the UPCI, Jesus is the one true God manifested in flesh as evidenced by St. John Chapter 1:1–14. This refers to the Word being God (verse 1) and "the Word was made flesh" (verse 14). For this reason, it prefers "Son of God" to "God the Son".

Although the UPCI belief in the union of the divine and human into one person in Christ is similar to the Chalcedonian formula, Chalcedonians disagree sharply with them over their opposition to Trinitarian dogma. Chalcedonians see Jesus Christ as one single person uniting "God the Son" (a being whose existence is denied in Oneness theology), the eternal second person of the traditional Trinity, with human nature. UPCI believers, on the other hand see Jesus as one single person uniting the Father Himself—the one and only true God—with human nature to form "the Son of God".

The UPCI believes their conception of the Godhead is true to early Christianity's strict monotheism. It is the most serious difference between it and other Pentecostals and Evangelicals such as the Assemblies of God.

Soteriology[edit]

The UPCI derives its soteriology from Acts 2:38 and John 3:3–5. It believes that in order to receive biblical salvation, a person must be spiritually born again. This is accomplished by dying to sin through repentance, being buried with Jesus Christ in water baptism, and being resurrected through receiving the baptism of the Holy Ghost, evidenced by speaking in tongues.

The UPCI does not recognize the soteriology advanced by most Evangelical Protestants, namely that belief or faith in Christ alone is the sole requirement for salvation. One receives Christ when, after following his commandment to repent and be baptized in water in his name (using the Jesus-Name formula), they receive the Holy Ghost. Only those who "endure unto the end" (Matthew 24:13) in this relationship with Christ will be saved. Although many Evangelicals would characterize this as "works salvation" and thus heretical,[8] the UPCI insists that one is saved, not by works, but solely by the grace of God which is received through faith in Jesus Christ and obedience to his commandment to be born again.

Repentance[edit]

The UPCI believes that repentance is essential to salvation, as indicated in Luke 13:5 and Acts 2:38. Repentance is defined as a complete turning away from sin and toward God. According to the UPCI, repentance requires the repentant sinner to take the next biblical steps toward forgiveness and reconciliation to God: water baptism and the baptism of the Holy Ghost (John 3:5} See under headings "Repentance and Emotion" and "Relationship to Water and Spirit Baptism" in Bernard, David K. Furthermore, repentance must be accompanied by "Godly sorrow". This is not merely regret, but a genuine inward taste of God's displeasure over one's sinful lifestyle, which in turn breaks his or her heart and leads to a determination to utterly forsake sin with no regrets or second thoughts (Acts 3:12-19, Acts 8:9-24, 2 Choronicles 7:14) See under heading "Contrition for Sin" in Bernard, David K.[citation needed]

Repentance is also a prerequisite for receiving the Holy Ghost. UPCI sources emphasize that no one can repent on his or her own power; it requires a supernatural gift of God's grace (2 Corintheans 7:10, Matthew 11:20-24). See under heading "The Source of Repentance" in Bernard, David K.[citation needed] It does not bring by itself the full power of salvation, and unless it is followed up with baptism in water in the name of Jesus Christ and baptism of the Holy Ghost, it may be lost.[citation needed]See under heading "Relationship to Water and Spirit Baptism" in Bernard, David K.[citation needed] Furthermore, the ability to repent is temporary and may only be accomplished while one is alive.[9]

Baptism in Jesus' Name[edit]

Baptism is a second essential component of UPCI doctrine. Members of the UPCI affirm an indispensable need for baptism, citing John 3:5, Acts 2:38 and Matthew 28:19. They point to Matthew 3:13–16 as evidence that even Jesus himself was baptized. The UPCI mode of baptism is complete immersion in water, completed in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.

This Jesus' Name doctrine is a point of contention between the UPCI and Trinitarian Christians. Like other Oneness believers, the UPCI baptizes "in the Name of Jesus Christ", while Trinitarians use "in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". Both sides utilize Matthew 28:19 to support their claims, with the UPCI holding that the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit is Jesus. They insist that the word name in the scripture is singular, and that implies all three titles refer to Jesus. Other Oneness believers assert that Matthew 28:19 was changed to the traditional Triune formula by the Catholic Church. The Jesus' Name belief originates from Acts 2:38, and members also stress Acts 8:16, Acts 10:48, Acts 19:5, and Acts 22:16, claiming that these are the only scriptures showing how the early Church performed baptisms, and that the Bible authorizes no departure from that formula. Never was anyone baptized in any other name and saved (Acts 19:1-7). See Chapter 7, "Baptismal Formula: In the Name of Jesus", in Bernard, David K.[citation needed]

Speaking in tongues[edit]

The UPCI embraces the view that speaking in tongues is the immediate, outward, observable, and audible evidence of the initial infilling of the Holy Ghost, and is the fulfillment of Jesus' commandment to be "born of the Spirit" in John 3:5. As defined by the church, speaking in tongues constitutes speaking in a language that one has never learned before, as found in Acts 2:1-11. Also see under heading "Speaking in Tongues Defined" in Bernard, David K.[citation needed] The Holy Ghost can be given to all regardless of race, culture, or language. UPCI beliefs on this subject are derived from Acts 2:4, 17, 38–39; 10:46; 19:6; and I Corinthians 12:13.

In UPCI theology, the tongue becomes the vehicle of expression for the Holy Ghost (James 3), and symbolizes God's complete control over the believer. UPCI doctrine distinguishes between the initial act of speaking in tongues that accompanies one's baptism in the Spirit, and the gift of "divers kinds of tongues" spoken of by Paul in I Corinthians 12:10, 28–30. While the former is considered indispensable evidence of one's baptism by the Holy Ghost (as spoken of in Isaiah 28:11, John 3:5; also Matthew 3:11, Acts 1:5, 2:4, 10:45–46 and 19:6, according to UPCI doctrine), the latter gift is not necessarily held by all believers once they have initially spoken in tongues.[citation needed]See under heading "After the Baptism of the Spirit" in Bernard, David K.[citation needed] The incidents of tongues speaking described in Acts, while the same in essence, are different in operation and purpose than the tongues spoken of in I Corinthians 12–14. The latter are given to selected believers as the Spirit decides.

UPCI doctrine also distinguishes between the fruit of the Spirit, as mentioned in Galatians 5:22–23, and the initial act of speaking in tongues. The fruit of the Spirit takes time to develop or cultivate and therefore does not qualify as an immediate, outward and identifiable sign of receiving the Holy Ghost. Speaking in other tongues, on the other hand, does serve as that sign and is therefore considered an indispensable part of any person's salvation process.

Holiness living[edit]

The UPCI emphasizes that salvation is accomplished by grace through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9). This faith is coupled with obedience to his command to be "born of water and of the Spirit" (John 3:5). Even though no amount of obedience to laws saves anyone (Ephesians 2:8–9, Titus 3:5), the Scriptures also state that those who are saved have been created in order to do good works (Ephesians 2:10).[10]

Given this Scriptural principle, the UPCI teaches that one should live a life that demonstrates Christ's attributes.[11] Inward holiness, such as demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit in the Christian's life, is to be accompanied by outward signs of holiness, according to the UPCI. These include a belief that women should not cut their hair (1 Corinthians 11:3-15). In addition, they should wear dresses or skirts rather than pants, in accordance with the Scriptural principle that men and women are both created in the image of God, yet reflect this image by appearing differently (Genesis 1:26-27, Genesis 2:18-24, I Corinthians 11:3-15, Ephesians 5, I Peter 3). Skirt lengths are generally expected to reach below the knee as a principle of modesty. Inward and outward modesty applies to women and men alike. (I Corinthians 12:23-24, I Timothy 2:8–10). Members are discouraged from adorning themselves outwardly with cosmetics or jewelry, biblically defined as "gold, or pearls, or costly array," and should instead show their beauty by their actions (I Timothy 2:8-10).

Organization[edit]

The basic governmental structure of the UPCI is congregational. Local churches are autonomous, electing their own pastors and other leaders, owning their own property, deciding their own budgets, establishing their membership, and conducting all necessary local business.[12] The central organization embraces a modified presbyterian system: ministers meet in sectional, district, and general conferences to elect officers and to conduct the church's affairs. The annual General Conference is the highest authority in the UPCI, with power to determine articles of faith, elect officers and determine policy. A General Superintendent is elected to preside over the church as a whole. On October 1, 2009, Dr. David K. Bernard was announced as the new General Superintendent.[13]

Ministers at all levels are allowed to marry and have children. Homosexuality is strictly forbidden.[14]

While the UPCI does allow women to be ministers, the role of women in the organization is limited. There is not a strong presence of Christian feminists within the UPCI. General Superintendent Dr. David K. Bernard suggests in an Urshan Graduate School of Theology symposium that a woman may play a role in church leadership, but must not usurp the authority of men and remain accountable to male authority, specifically her pastor and husband.[15]

According to the UPCI, in the United States and Canada it has grown from 521 member churches in 1946 to 4,305 churches in 2011, with 9,193 ministers.[16] The UPCI has a presence in 193 other nations with 34,133 licensed ministers, 19,686 churches and meeting places, 748 missionaries, and a foreign membership of about 2.2 million. Total worldwide membership, including North America, is estimated at 3,000,000.[17]

Educational institutions[edit]

The UPCI operates one of the two fully accredited Oneness Pentecostal seminaries in the world:[18]

The UPCI is launching a Christian liberal arts college in Fall of 2012:

In addition, the UPCI endorses several unaccredited bible college type institutions:[19]

Notable churches[edit]

Name City State/Province
Antioch the Apostolic Church Arnold Maryland
Apostolic Church Auburn Hills Michigan
Apostolic Pentecostal Church Pickering Ontario
Apostolic Tabernacle of Merced Merced California
Atlanta West Pentecostal Church Atlanta Georgia
Calvary Gospel Church Madison Wisconsin
Calvary Tabernacle Indianapolis Indiana
Capital Community Church Ashburn Virginia
Capital Community Church Fredericton New Brunswick
Christian Life Center Stockton California
Christian Life Center West Palm Beach Florida
Christian Life Center East Gaithersburg Maryland
Dallas First Church Dallas Texas
East Valley Pentecostal Church San Jose California
Eastwood Pentecostal Church Lake Charles Louisiana
Faith Sanctuary Toronto Ontario
Firstborn Ministries Loves Park Illinois
The Pentecostals of Katy Katy Texas
First Church of Pearland Pearland Texas
First Church San Jose San Jose California
First United Pentecostal Church Nashville Tennessee
First United Pentecostal Church Union City Tennessee
Landmark Tabernacle Denver Colorado
Life Church UPC Kansas City Missouri
New Life Tabernacle Brooklyn New York
New Life Tabernacle Dallas Texas
New Life United Pentecostal Church Austin Texas
Parkway Apostolic Church Oak Creek Wisconsin
Pentecostal Church Memphis Tennessee
Pentecostals of Alexandria Alexandria Louisiana
Pentecostals of Apopka Apopka Florida
Pentecostals of Quinte Belleville Ontario
Pentecostals of Cooper City Cooper City Florida
Pentecostals of Gainesville Gainesville Florida
Pentecostals of Titusville Titusville Florida
Revival Center Modesto California
The Journey Church Henderson Nevada
Tyler Tabernacle Tyler Texas
Woodlawn Church Columbia Mississippi

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "United Pentecostal Church, Inc.". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Retrieved on 17 July 2008.
  3. ^ http://www.ipuh.us/
  4. ^ http://www.ipuc.org.co/Portal/
  5. ^ See under heading "The Father is the Holy Ghost" in Bernard, David K., The True God.
  6. ^ David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988.
  7. ^ Hebrews 1:5; see also under the headings "Begotten Son or Eternal Son?" and "The Son and Creation," in Bernard, The True God.
  8. ^ See, for instance, Thomas A. Fudge: Christianity Without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecotalism. Universal Publishers, 2003.
  9. ^ "Except Ye Repent". United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 2006-06-21. 
  10. ^ See Essential Doctrines of the Bible, "New Testament Salvation", subheading "Salvation by grace through faith", Word Aflame Press, 1979.
  11. ^ See An Overview of Basic Doctrines, Section IV "Holiness and Christian Living," Word Aflame Press, 1979. Contains numerous scriptural references for specific UPCI standards.
  12. ^ Retrieved on 17 July 2008.
  13. ^ http://www.unitedpentecostal.net/gc2009/news.asp
  14. ^ "Homosexuality". United Pentecostal Church. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  15. ^ Bernard, David K. "Holiness and Culture". United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  16. ^ "About Us". United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 2006-06-21. 
  17. ^ http://christianity.about.com/od/United-Pentecostal-Church/a/United-Pentecostal-Church.htm
  18. ^ http://www.ats.edu/MemberSchools/Pages/SchoolDetail.aspx?ID=238
  19. ^ http://doe.upci.org/higherEducation/default.asp

Further reading[edit]

  • Bernard, David. The New Birth.
  • Bernard, David. The Oneness of God.
  • French, Talmadge. Our God is One.
  • Norris, David S. I AM: A Oneness Pentecostal Theology.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]