United Pentecostal Church International

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United Pentecostal Church International
Logo of the United Pentecostal Church International.png
AbbreviationUPCI
ClassificationWestern Christian
OrientationPentecostal
TheologyOneness Pentecostalism
PolityCongregational
Presbyterian
General SuperintendentDavid K. Bernard
Origin1945
Merger ofPentecostal Church, Inc. and Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ
SeparationsWorldwide Pentecostal Fellowship
Kingdom of Jesus Christ
Congregations42,000
Members5,300,000
Official websiteupci.org

The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) is a Oneness Pentecostal denomination headquartered in Weldon Spring, Missouri, United States.[1] The United Pentecostal Church International was formed in 1945 by a merger of the former Pentecostal Church, Inc. and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ.[2] The United Pentecostal Church International began with 521 churches and has grown, according to their own figures, to more than 42,000 churches (including daughter works and preaching points), 41,000 credentialed ministers, and a total worldwide constituency of around 5.2 million.[3] The international fellowship of United Pentecostals consists of national organizations that are united as the Global Council of the UPCI,[4] which is chaired by the general superintendent of the UPCI, currently David K. Bernard.

History[edit]

The United Pentecostal Church International emerged from the Pentecostal movement, which traces its origins to the teachings of Charles Parham in Topeka, Kansas, and the Azusa Street Revival led by William J. Seymour in 1906.[5] The UPCI traces its organizational roots to 1916, when a large group of Pentecostal ministers within the Assemblies of God USA began to unite around the teaching of the oneness of God and water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.[3][6] 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.[7]

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 and racial hatred resulted in many white leaders withdrawing from the PAW rather than remaining under African American leadership.[8] Many local congregations in the Southern U.S., 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,[9] 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.[10] 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.[11] The merger of these two Oneness Pentecostal bodies brought together 521 churches.[12]

In the U.S. and Canada, the newly formed United Pentecostal Church International traditionally reflected the surrounding demographics, with the majority of its constituency being White and Anglo-American. In the last quarter of the twentieth century, however, the United Pentecostal Church International attempted to shift its doctrines toward the inclusion of every race and culture in North America. In 2008, the United Pentecostal Church International published a statement against racism.[13] Despite attempts to reconcile with minorities, several congregations have left the United Pentecostal Church International citing persistent racism.[14][15]

Beliefs[edit]

The UPCI's theology is consistent with that of Oneness Pentecostalism.[16][17] They reject the Trinity and instead believe that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are different manifestations of God, as opposed to separate persons.[18] The UPCI believes that one must repent, be baptized "in the name of Jesus" (as opposed to "in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit"), and receive the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues to be saved, as outlined in Acts 2:38.[19]

Ministers at all levels of the UPCI are allowed to marry and have children. The UPCI considers homosexuality to be contrary to biblical teaching and consequently opposes homosexual acts and homosexual marriage.[20] The UPCI has stated, however, that it affirms the worth and dignity of every human being and opposes bigotry and hatred.[21]

Organization[edit]

The basic governmental structure of the UPCI is congregational at the local church level and presbyterian at higher organizational levels. Local churches are self-governing, electing their own pastors and other leaders, owning their own property, deciding their own budgets, establishing their membership, and conducting all necessary local business.[22] 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, David K. Bernard was announced as the new General Superintendent.[23]

According to their own statistics, the UPCI grew from 521 member churches in 1945 to 4,819 churches (including daughter works and preaching points), 10,627 ministers, and 750,000 constituents in the United States and Canada in 2019. Outside the U.S. and Canada, the UPCI has 34,779 churches and preaching points, 25,292 licensed ministers, 970 missionaries, and a constituency of 3.25 million in 195 nations and 35 territories. The international fellowship consists of national organizations that are united as the Global Council of the UPCI, which is chaired by the general superintendent of the UPCI, David K. Bernard. Total worldwide membership, including North America, is at more than 5.3 million.[24]

General Conference[edit]

The General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church International is an annual conference occurring yearly since 1945.[25] It is the highest governing body of the UPCI.[3] Attendees of the conference conduct business, receive training, network with colleagues, participate in worship sessions, and raise funds for various ministries.[26]

Educational institutions[edit]

The UPCI operates one seminary accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, Urshan Graduate School of Theology, which was granted the status of Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission on June 25, 2020. [27]

The UPCI also operates one Christian liberal arts college accredited by the Association of Theological Schools, Urshan College, which was granted the status of Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission on June 25, 2020.[27] The college was established in October 2011, when the UPCI General Board approved a plan for Urshan Graduate School of Theology to acquire Gateway College (a college formerly run by the UPCI's Missouri District) to establish Urshan College as a new Christian liberal arts college. The transition was completed on July 1, 2012.[28]

  • Urshan College in Wentzville, Missouri (formerly Gateway College of Evangelism)

In addition, the UPCI endorses several unaccredited bible colleges:[29]

Currently, there are only two accredited colleges endorsed by the UPCI:

North American Youth Congress[edit]

North American Youth Congress (NAYC) is a church gathering primarily for the youth of the UPCI, held biennially since 1979 in various locations around North America. NAYC has been described as one of the largest, if not the largest, gathering of Christian Youth in the US.[31] In 2019, NAYC was held at The Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri from July 31 to August 2, 2019. The event was one of the largest to date with over 36,000 youths attending.[32] NAYC 2021 was scheduled to be held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana from July 28 to July 30, 2021, but was canceled as an in-person event on March 29, 2021, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[33]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "New World Headquarters for the United Pentecostal Church International - May 2016". Pentecostal Life. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  2. ^ "United Pentecostal Church International: Association of Religion Data Archives". www.thearda.com. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  3. ^ a b c "About the UPCI". UPCI. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 30 August 2019.
  4. ^ "UPCI Global Council". UPCI. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  5. ^ "BBC - Religions - Christianity: Pentecostalism". BBC. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  6. ^ "The Hidden Cult of Oneness Pentecostalism". Market Faith. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  7. ^ "The General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies (1917)". www.apostolicarchives.com. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  8. ^ "The United Pentecostal Church International (1945)". www.apostolicarchives.com. Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  9. ^ "The Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance (1925)". www.apostolicarchives.com. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  10. ^ "History of the Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ". ACJC International. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  11. ^ "The Merger: UPCI". Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  12. ^ Bernard, David (1999). A History of Christian Doctrine, Volume Three: The Twentieth Century A.D. 1900–2000. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press. p. 98.
  13. ^ "Racial and Ethnic Affirmation" (PDF). UPCI. 2008. Retrieved November 18, 2020.
  14. ^ "Missouri Congregation Quits United Pentecostal Church in Video Protesting Racism". www.christianpost.com. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  15. ^ "Maplewood flock quits fast-growing Pentecostal denomination in protest over racism". STLtoday.com. Archived from the original on November 18, 2020. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  16. ^ "About Oneness Pentecostalism". UPCI. Retrieved 10 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ Zavada, Jack (28 September 2017). "Beliefs and Practices of UPCI United Pentecostal Church International". Learning Religions. Retrieved 10 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Our Beliefs". UPCI. Retrieved 10 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "The Plan of Salvation". Abundant Life United Pentecostal Church. Retrieved 10 June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  20. ^ "Homosexuality". United Pentecostal Church. Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 3 February 2013.
  21. ^ "RESPONSE TO SUPREME COURT DECISION REDEFINING MARRIAGE". United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 24 July 2018.
  22. ^ "Church Government" (PDF). UPCI. 2019. Retrieved 29 June 2021.
  23. ^ "General Conference News". www.unitedpentecostal.net. Retrieved 30 September 2016.
  24. ^ Jack Zavada. "United Pentecostal Church International". About.com Religion & Spirituality. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
  25. ^ "Conference Dates". UPCI General Conference. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  26. ^ "Schedule". UPCI General Conference. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  27. ^ a b "Statement of Accreditation Status". Higher Learning Commission. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  28. ^ "The Urshan Story". Urshan College. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  29. ^ "Bible College". UPCI. Retrieved 31 March 2021.
  30. ^ "Accreditation and Endorsements". Christian Life College. 12 July 2019. Retrieved 11 May 2021.
  31. ^ "Here's How One of the Largest Christian Youth Events in the US is Celebrating 'Serve Day'". CBN News. 2 August 2019. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  32. ^ Parke, Caleb (16 August 2019). "Over 36,000 Christian students help serve disaster victims at youth conference". Fox News. Retrieved 26 August 2019.
  33. ^ "COVID-19", North American Youth Congress, retrieved 31 March 2021

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.

External links[edit]