United Pentecostal Church International – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

United Pentecostal Church International – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.The United Pentecostal Church International(UPCI) is a Pentecostal Christiandenomination, headquartered in the St. Louissuburb 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. This church is especially distinguished by its adherence to Oneness theology, its use of baptism in Jesus’ name (as opposed to the Trinitarian formula), and an emphasis upon Holiness living in all aspects of one’s life.




The UPCI emerged out of the Pentecostal Movement, which traces its origins to the teachings ofCharles Parham in Topeka, Kansas, and the Azuza Street Revival led by William J. Seymour in 1906. Rejected by the mainline churches, Pentecostals began to form organizations of their own. One of these new groups was 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 were forced to withdraw. Two months later, several Oneness ministers met in Eureka SpringsArkansas, 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 other racial and cultural norms, 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 GuthrieOklahoma, 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 United States.



The UPCI adheres to a “Oneness” concept of the Godhead, in contrast to traditional Roman CatholicEastern 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 merelytitles reflecting the different manifestations of the One True God in the universe. The Father and the Holy Ghost are one and the same,[3] says this doctrine; “Father” refers to God in parental relationship, while “Holy Ghost” refers to God in activity.[4] 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.[5] 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 strictmonotheism. The UPCI’s understanding of God is similar to Sabellian modalism, although it cannot be exactly characterized as such. It is thus the most serious difference between it and other Pentecostals and Evangelicals such as the Assemblies of God.


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,[6] 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.[citation needed]See under headings “Repentance and Emotion” and “Relationship to Water and Spirit Baptism” in Bernard, David K.[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, which in turn breaks his or her heart and leads to a determination to utterly forsake sin with no regrets or second thoughts.[citation needed]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.[citation needed]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.[7]

[edit]Baptism in Jesus’ Name

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.[citation needed]See Chapter 7, “Baptismal Formula: In the Name of Jesus”, in Bernard, David K.[citation needed]

[edit]Speaking in tongues

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,[citation needed]See under heading “Speaking in Tongues Defined” in Bernard, David K.[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.

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.

[edit]Holiness living

The UPCI emphasizes that salvation is accomplished by grace through faith in Christ, coupled with obedience to his command to be “born of water and of the Spirit” (John 3:5); no amount of good works or obedience to any laws or rules can save anyone (Titus 3:5).[8]

Nevertheless, the UPCI teaches a code of conduct which it believes to have been mandated in Scripture by the Apostles.[9] Inward holiness, such as demonstration of the fruits of the Spirit in the Christian’s life, is accompanied by outward signs of holiness, according to the UPCI. These include a belief that women should not cut their hair; in addition, they should wear dresses or skirts rather than pants, in accordance with the scriptural mandate to “not wear that which pertaineth to a man”.[10] Skirt lengths are generally expected to reach below the knee. Woman and men alike are encouraged to “adorn [themselves] in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety”,[11]and are discouraged from wearing cosmetics or jewelry, biblically defined as “gold, or pearls, or costly array”.[11] The precise strictness to which these standards are adhered to often varies, however.

One contested holiness viewpoint in the UPCI involves ownership of a television. However, in a move to expedite the cause of evangelism, the 2007 General Conference of the UPCI saw a majority of ministers vote for a resolution that allows for the use of television in advertising. This proposal was passed by merely 84 votes, and currently allows for advertising using this medium. The resolution was reviewed for a year by a special committee prior to the final vote and was only adopted after careful consideration. This Resolution #4 caused many ministers to threaten to leave the UPCI. At least one new organization, the Worldwide Pentecostal Fellowship, was formed in TulsaOklahoma.[12] Other controversial issues include: men wearing shorts, attendance at movie theatres, dancing, and mixed bathing.


Worship at the UPCI is often described as lively, with members jumping, dancing, singing, shouting, and clapping, as in all Pentecostal churches. Some people run through the church aisles, dance in the spirit, roll in the floor, which coined the term “holy rollers”. They have even been known, mostly in the earlier days of Pentecostalism, to walk across the top of pews or jump over pews in an act of fervent worship. Some Pentecostals disagree with such radical acts of worship. Another form of more organized worship is when one person begins to walk around the church as other worshippers follow in a systematic march while worshipping; this is known as “victory marching”. Services are ofttimes punctuated by acts of speaking in tongues (glossalalia), interpretations of tongues, prophetical messages, and laying on of hands for the purposes ofhealing. These events can happen spontaneously, often at massive altar calls where the entire congregation is encouraged to come and pray together at the front of the church. The pastor is always in charge of the worship activities, although he might relinquish control temporarily to “let the Spirit of God have its way.” Excessive control of worship activities is often referred to as “quenching the spirit”, a scriptural term taken from I Thessolonians 5:19, which states, “Quench not the Spirit.” There has often been controversy over how much worship should be controlled and how much a congregational leader should “let the Spirit move.”

[edit]Gospel Music

Gospel music has long played a central role in Pentecostal churches. In some cases, choirs from Pentecostal churches have competed in national contests. In 2010, churches participated in Verizon Wireless’s “How Sweet the Sound” contest, billed as the “Search for the Best Church Choir in America”. The UPCI’s Atlanta West Pentecostal Church won awards for the Best Large Choir, Regional Winner, V-CAST People’s Choice Awards, and the Over-all champion. The videos of these events can be found at the following links:



Other UPCI churches which participated in the competition included:



The Pentecostals of the Bay Area also participated in the choir competition.


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.[13] 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.[14]

Ministers at all levels are allowed to marry and have children, but homosexuality is forbidden.

According to the UPCI, it has grown from 617 member churches in 1946 to 4,358 churches in 2007 (which includes 4099 autonomous and 258 daughter works).[15] The UPCI in North America has 9,085 ministers and reports a Sunday school attendance of around 650,000. The UPCI has a presence in 175 other nations with 22,881 licensed ministers, 28,351 churches and meeting places, 652 missionaries, and a foreign membership of over 3 million. Total worldwide membership, including North America, is listed at 4,036,945.

[edit]Educational institutions

At the national level, the UPCI supports seven unaccredited educational institutions:

Many districts and churches also support educational institutions in their cities and states. These efforts are often administered by local churches.

[edit]Notable churches

Listed in alphabetical order:

[edit]Notes and references

  1. ^ http://www.britannica.com/eb/article-9074316/United-Pentecostal-Church-Inc Protestant denomination organized in St. Louis, Mo., U.S., in 1945 by merger of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ and the Pentecostal Church, Inc. It is the largest of the Jesus Only groups (a movement for which the sacrament of baptism is given in the name of Jesus only, rather than in the name of the Trinity), and it emphasizes justification and baptism of the Holy Spirit (demonstrated by speaking in tongues). The church government is congregational with a General Conference, made up of all ministers and one layman from each congregation, which meets annually. Headquarters are located in St. Louis, Mo
  2. ^ http://members.tripod.com/nbctupc/oldest.htm. Retrieved on 17 July 2008.
  3. ^ See under heading “The Father is the Holy Ghost” in Bernard, David K., The True God.
  4. ^ David Bernard, A Handbook of Basic Doctrines, Word Aflame Press, 1988.
  5. ^ Hebrews 1:5; see also under the headings “Begotten Son or Eternal Son?” and “The Son and Creation,” in Bernard, The True God.
  6. ^ See, for instance, Thomas A. Fudge: Chrisitianity Without the Cross: A History of Salvation in Oneness Pentecotalism. Universal Publishers, 2003.
  7. ^ “Except Ye Repent”. United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 2006-06-21.
  8. ^ See Essential Doctrines of the Bible, “New Testament Salvation”, subheading “Salvation by grace through faith”, Word Aflame Press, 1979.
  9. ^ See An Overview of Basic Doctrines, Section IV “Holiness and Christian Living,” Word Aflame Press, 1979. Contains numerous scriptural references for specific UPCI standards.
  10. ^ Deuteronomy 22:5.
  11. a b I Timothy 2:8–10.
  12. ^ Worldwide Pentecostal Fellowship
  13. ^ http://www.upci.org/printVersions/about_printVersion.asp. Retrieved on 17 July 2008.
  14. ^ http://www.unitedpentecostal.net/gc2009/news.asp
  15. ^ “About Us”. United Pentecostal Church International. Retrieved 2006-06-21.

Iglesia Roca Solida Pentecostal en Atlanta,Georgia

[edit]Further reading

  • Bernard, David. The New Birth.
  • Bernard, David. The Oneness of God.
  • French, Talmadge. Our God is One.

[edit]External links


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