United Pentecostal Church International

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United Pentecostal Church International
UPCI logo
Orientation Holiness/Oneness Pentecostal
Region Worldwide
Origin 1945
Merger of Pentecostal Church, Incorporated and Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ
Members 4,000,000[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 emphasizes holy living in all aspects of one's life.


The UPCI 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. Pentecostals began to form organizations of their own.

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 and racial hatred 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 521 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 and the "La Casa de Dios" church in Trujillo, Peru.



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

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. Although it is not specifically taught Trinitarians look to Matthew 3:16-17, Mark 1:9-11, Luke 3:21-22. Oneness teaching asserts that God is a singular Spirit (John4:24) 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. For the UPCI, Jesus is the one true God manifested in flesh(1 Tim. 3:16) 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)(John 8:24,27).

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) because God says he is alone and did it all by himself, not beside him (Isa. 45:6), 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" (Luke 1:35, 1 Tim. 3:16, 2 Cor.5:19, John 8:24,27).

The UPCI believes their conception of the Godhead is true to early Christianity's strict monotheism. It is the biggest difference between it and other Evangelicals. They say that there is one faith and one baptism (Eph. 4:5). The doctrine held of One God who manifested Himself in the flesh of Jesus Christ is the explanation of John 1:1-14 - The Word (Logos), the Creator was manifested in Flesh to save souls of all humanity. This is believed to be the fulfillment of the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures, while remaining true to the Book of Isaiah's deceleration that "no other God beside" the one true God (Isaiah 42).


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, and being buried with Jesus Christ in water baptism.

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,[7] 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.


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.[8][full citation needed] 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,we are all sinners and come short of the glory of God Romans 3:23, which in turn breaks his or her heart and leads to a determination to utterly forsake sin with no regrets or second thoughts.[9][full 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.[10][full 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 for the remission of sins and baptism of the Holy Ghost with the evidence of tongues, it may be lost. Also, a child may not be baptized until the child knows right from wrong, because the child can not repent of the sins they have as a baby. Being that all are born into sin, we all have sin when we are born.[11][full citation needed] Furthermore, the ability to repent is temporary and may only be accomplished while one is alive.[12] Luke 13:3

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, Mark 16:16, 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 in 325 AD in the counsel of Nicaea.The Roman Pagan church being supported by Constantine the Great, wanted popularity to be elected another term created what he called a one world religion. 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, and 1 John2:12, claiming that these are the only scriptures showing how the early Church performed baptisms,and that there is no scripture in the Word that shows anyone ever being baptized in the titles, and that the Bible authorizes no departure from that formula.[13][full citation needed]Even that the early priest state that the early church only baptized in Jesus name and the latter formula was applied after 325AD by the Catholic church.

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, 1 Cor. 14:22, Acts 2:33, 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 the spirit gives the utterance, Acts 2:4,[14][full citation needed] and 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, Mark 16:17, 1 Cor. 14:18, 1 Cor. 14:22.

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. Joel 2:28, Isa. 28:11. 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. 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, it is the interpretation of tongues.[15][full citation needed] The incidents of tongues speaking described in Acts,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. Acts 2:3, Acts 2:11, 1 Cor. 12:10, 12:28,1 Cor. 14:21, James 3:8.

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. Acts 2:33, they knew they had the Holy Ghost because they could hear them and could see them speak with tongues. 1 Cor. 14:22, tongues is for a sign, not to them that believe but to them that believe not.

Holiness living[edit]

Main article: Holiness Movement

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).[16]

Given this Scriptural principle, the UPCI teaches that one should live a life that demonstrates Christ's attributes.[17] 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. The UPCI also maintains the teaching of gender roles, including a belief that women should not cut their hair (1 Corinthians 11:3-15). In addition, the UPCI teaches that women should be submissive to their husbands and should only wear garments that display Western styles of femininity like dresses or skirts rather than pants, regardless of cultural identity of background. UPCI ministers also enforce a skirt length for female members of their church, whose skirts are generally expected to reach below the knee as a principle of modesty. Inward and outward modesty applies to women and men alike, though UPCI men have fewer dress codes than their female counterparts. 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).


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.[18] The central organization embraces a modified 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.[19]

Ministers at all levels are allowed to marry and have children. Homosexuality is considered perverse and abhored and members are strictly forbidden to engage in homosexual acts such as marrying homosexuals.[20]

While the UPCI does allow women to be ministers, the role of women in the organization is limited due to their belief in strict gender roles. For this reason, there is not a strong presence of Christian feminists or other female leaders within the UPCI. General Superintendent David K. Bernard suggests in an Urshan Graduate School of Theology symposium that Patriarchy is a key foundation of Pentecostal theology and that a woman must not usurp the authority of men and remain accountable to male authority, specifically her pastor and husband.[21]

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.[22] The UPCI has a presence in 197 other nations with 34,133 licensed ministers, 19,691 churches and meeting places, 750 missionaries, and a foreign membership of about 2.2 million. Total worldwide membership, including North America, is at 4,000,000 or more.[23]

General Conference[edit]

North American Youth Congress (NAYC)[edit]

NAYC is a church gathering primarily for the youth of the UPCI, held every other year since 1979, in various locations around North America.

The 2015 NAYC was held in the Chesapeake Energy Arena in Oklahoma City. The 18,000 seats in the main arena were sold out fourteen hours after registration opened. Overflow seating was made available at the Cox Convention Center, where the event was streamed live for young people who were too late to get seats in the arena. The owners of the Chesapeake Energy Arena say that it was the biggest event ever held, and the only event to ever have overflowing, and not seat all of the people in the arena. The last service of NAYC 2015 was Friday night, that night at alter call Rev. Lee Stoneking a minister of the UPCI asked everyone to shout to the Lord. The prayer roar that night was 134.2 dBA with 20,000 people, which is just 8 dBA less than the Guinness World Record for the loudest crowd roar with 142.2 dBA at a football game with more than 79,000 people.

The General Youth Division of the UPCI has announced that NAYC 2017 will be held at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Educational institutions[edit]

The UPCI operates one of the two fully accredited Oneness Pentecostal seminaries in the world:[24]

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

In addition, the UPCI endorses several unaccredited bible college type institutions:[25]

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "United Pentecostal Church, Inc.". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 11 December 2011. 
  2. ^ Bernard, David (1999). A History of Christian Doctrine, Volume Three: The Twentieth Century A.D. 1900–2000. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press. p. 98. 
  3. ^ "Iglesia Pentecostal Unida Hispana, Inc. - Sitio oficial de la organización.". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Web Master. "Principal - Iglesia Pentecostal Unida de Colombia". Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  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. ^ See, for instance, Thomas A. Fudge: Christianity Without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecotalism. Universal Publishers, 2003.
  8. ^ See under headings "Repentance and Emotion" and "Relationship to Water and Spirit Baptism" in Bernard, David K.
  9. ^ See under heading "Contrition for Sin" in Bernard, David K.
  10. ^ See under heading "The Source of Repentance" in Bernard, David K.
  11. ^ See under heading "Relationship to Water and Spirit Baptism" in Bernard, David K.
  12. ^ "Except Ye Repent". United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 2006-06-21. 
  13. ^ See Chapter 7, "Baptismal Formula: In the Name of Jesus", in Bernard, David K.
  14. ^ See under heading "Speaking in Tongues Defined" in Bernard, David K.
  15. ^ See under heading "After the Baptism of the Spirit" in Bernard, David K.
  16. ^ See Essential Doctrines of the Bible, "New Testament Salvation", subheading "Salvation by grace through faith", Word Aflame Press, 1979.
  17. ^ See An Overview of Basic Doctrines, Section IV "Holiness and Christian Living," Word Aflame Press, 1979. Contains numerous scriptural references for specific UPCI standards.
  18. ^ Retrieved on 17 July 2008.
  19. ^ http://www.unitedpentecostal.net/gc2009/news.asp
  20. ^ "Homosexuality". United Pentecostal Church. Retrieved 3 February 2013. 
  21. ^ Bernard, David K. "Holiness and Culture". United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 23 January 2013. 
  22. ^ "About Us". United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 2006-06-21. 
  23. ^ Jack Zavada. "United Pentecostal Church International". About.com Religion & Spirituality. Retrieved 5 March 2015. 
  24. ^ http://www.ats.edu/MemberSchools/Pages/SchoolDetail.aspx?ID=238
  25. ^ 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]