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United Pentecostal Church International


    I. Group Profile

    1. Name: United Pentecostal Church International

    2. Founder: This denomination came about as a result of a merger between the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated (PCI) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) in 1945. The idea of a merger was suggested by Harry Branding of the PCI to Oliver F. Fauss of the PAJC. (Clanton, p.141) Numerous church officials from both groups were involved in the development of the merger, but no single individual is generally credited as the founder.

    3. Date of Birth: Does not apply.

    4. Birth Place: Does not apply.

    5. Year Founded: The UPCI was founded in September, 1945 in St. Louis, Missouri. Today the world headquarters is still in the St. Louis suburb of Hazelwood.

    6. History: The United Pentecostal Church International broke from other Pentecostal churches because of its beliefs in Oneness. The UPCI was formed from a merger of two Oneness Pentecostal Churches. This Oneness belief originated from a sermon given by R. E. McAlister in 1913 on Acts 2:38. Men such as Frank J. Ewart and Glenn A. Cook took the Oneness sermon a step further by re-baptizing themselves in the name of Jesus. (Burgess, p.644) As the Oneness doctrine spread throughout the Pentecostal groups, the need for a split between Oneness believers and Trinity believers became evident.

      Between 1916 and 1945 Oneness Churches went through a transitional period where many mergers and splits took place within many different churches. It was not until 1945 when the two largest predominantly white Oneness Churches, the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated (PCI) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC), merged to form the United Pentecostal Church. (the word, International, did not appear in the title until later in their career). The two churches had been preaching the same doctrines; however, some of the steps to salvation were different. This problem was alleviated when W. T. Witherspoon added a statement to the church's Fundamental Doctrine stating the importance of unity. The first general superintendent of the UPCI was Howard A. Goss, who had been an earlier member of the PCI, and the first assistant general superintendent was W.T. Witherspoon, who had been a former member of the PAJC. When looking back on how smoothly the formation of the UPCI went, its leaders use the phrase, "What hath God Wrought!" (Clanton, p.150)

    7. Sacred or Revered Texts: The Holy Bible is seen as the only God-given authority that man has to follow. (esp., Acts 2:38)

    8. Cult or Sect: Negative sentiments are typically implied when the concepts "cult" and "sect" are employed in popular discourse. Since the Religious Movements Homepage seeks to promote religious tolerance and appreciation of the positive benefits of pluralism and religious diversity in human cultures, we encourage the use of alternative concepts that do not carry implicit negative stereotypes. For a more detailed discussion of both scholarly and popular usage of the concepts "cult" and "sect," please visit our Conceptualizing "Cult" and "Sect" page, where you will find additional links to related issues.

    9. Size of Group: UPCI has been one of the fastest growing denominations in North America since it was founded. In North America alone the UPCI claims that they have 3,764 different churches. Their estimated total attendance for the Easter Services in North America in 1996 was 407, 657 people. (These numbers were cited by Doug Joseph, Administrative Assistant for Home Missions at the UPCI during a phone conversation.)


    II. Beliefs of the Group

      The most unique belief of the United Pentecostal Church International is their doctrine of Oneness. The Oneness of God is opposite to the belief of the Trinity, which is God acting separately as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The UPCI believes that there is only one person that acts as the Godhead, and that is Jesus Christ. In addition, the UPCI believes that in order for someone to gain salvation they must repent for their sins, have a water baptism in the name of Lord Jesus Christ so that their sins are forgiven, receive the baptism of the Holy Ghost, and live their lives in a godly manner. All of this is possible because the Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins. (John 3:16)

      The Oneness doctrine states that the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are all present in the manifestation of each other because of this oneness nature of God. (Burgess, p.649) When performing religious prayers and ceremonies they do so in the name of Jesus Christ, not in the name of the Trinity. The UPCI believes that "the one true God, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, took upon Himself the form of man, and, as the Son of Man, was born of the virgin Mary. As the apostle Paul says, 'God was manifest in the flesh.'" Clanton, p.186) They also believe that "the Holy Spirit is God with us and in us." (Burgess, p.864) This idea of oneness can be described in the analogy of a man being a son, a husband, and a father all at the same time. (Burgess, p.649) Oneness Churches believe that Jesus states that His identity and God's identity are one in John 14:7-11: "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father."

      The Oneness of God is the key element to the UPCI's beliefs on baptism. They believe that a person should be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, not in the name of the Trinity. This is read in Matthew 28:19 when Jesus commands his disciples to "go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." Jesus uses the word name in the singular tense to portray the use of one name for all three titles, and this name is Jesus. The UPCI also believes that water baptism needs to be done only by immersion. (Acts 8:38-39, Mark 1:10) A child that is only sprinkled with holy water has not been truly baptized; therefore, they have not truly entered the world of Christ, yet. The UPCI sees these traditions as being human oriented, and as being against the Word of God.

      The Pentecostal belief of baptism by the Holy Ghost is also seen as very important. When you are baptized by the Holy Ghost it means that the spirit of Christ is born within you. The indication of when someone is baptized with the Holy Ghost is when they begin to speak in tongues. This phenomenon is described to have happened to the Jews on the Day of the Pentecost, in Acts 2: 1-4. Speaking in tongues is defined by Webster's New International Dictionary as "a phenomenon experienced by some of the Christians of New Testament times, the nature of which seems to have been a kind of ecstatic utterance usually unintelligible to the hearers and even to the speakers." This ability to speak in unlearned languages shows the complete control of God over the speakers body. It symbolizes God entering one's body, and it signifies that one can now enter the kingdom of God.

      The UPCI has a certain manner that they worship in. They pray aloud together and lift their hands in praise. They like to sing, play musical instruments, clap, shout, and dance for the Lord. They also testify publicly in front of the congregation. They believe in anointing people with oil so that they may be healed. Divine healing and the operation of spiritual gifts are practices that are not frequently seen in most churches, but are common to Pentecostal churches. The UPCI also observes the Lord's Supper and foot washing.

      The UPCI also adheres to standards of conduct that are similar to the standards held by the earlier Pentecostal Churches at the start of this century. The members are asked to refrain from participating in or watching movies, worldly sports and amusements. Dancing and public swimming are seen to be unholy, and so is the wearing of immodest dress, make-up, jewelry, short hair on women, and long hair on men. (Burgess, p.864)


    III. Contemporary Issues

      The United Pentecostal Church International is actively involved in foreign missions. The UPCI Foreign Missions Division's purpose is to "proclaim the whole gospel to the whole world." (UPCI Home Page-Foreign Missions) They believe that the people of the world need not only to find Jesus, but also to repent, be baptized in full water immersion in the name of Jesus, and to receive the Holy Spirit through the speaking of tongues.

      There are mission groups in seven regions around the world: Africa, Asia, Central America and the Caribbean, Europe and the Middle East, Pacific, and South America. According to the UPCI's home page, there are currently 500 appointed missionaries who are working in 131 different countries. The UPCI Publishing House prints their literature in five different languages.

      There are several different programs within the UPCI that sponsor the foreign missions work. The Partners in Missions group has families within the UPCI church sponsor a particular missionary. It is the missionary's responsibility to visit churches and find host families. The family offers prayer and money to the missionary monthly. There is a similar program called the Faith Promise Ministries where a specific amount of money is given monthly to the foreign missions department of the church, according to the income of the member. The promise that the member makes to give money is not to the church, but rather to God. It is the belief of the church that God will provide the member with the adequate amount of money each month. Finally, there was a program called Harvest '96 which purpose was world evangelism. This program spread the gospel around the world through such ways as prayer revivals, training sessions for evangelists, special times for fasting and prayer, and developing sister churches between North American and overseas churches. One of Harvest '96's main goals was to see as many new people baptized in the name of Jesus as possible.


    IV. Links to United Pentecostal Church International Web Sites

      United Pentecostal Church International Home Page
      This is the official web site for the UPCI and it is full of useful links to other divisions of the organization, such as the Publishing House and the Sunday School Department. The page itself looks into the history, structure, administration, doctrines, and current events of the organization.
      http://www.upci.org

      The United Pentecostal Church International
      This is an unofficial web site that contains sections on the organization, founding, doctrines, and worship of the UPCI. The Founding section does not have a complete history, but the Doctrine section does have many insightful Bible verses.
      http://www.prairienet.org/community/religion/fire/meet.html

      Pentecostalism-in the Light of the World
      This pamphlet was written by Prof. Robert Decker, and it focuses on the three elements of Pentecostalism. It has an in-depth look at the scriptural basis for Pentecostalism. Please note...this page does not support the Oneness Doctrine.
      http://www.iserv.net/~prc/pamphlets/pamphlet_58.html

      Foreign Missions Division-UPCI
      This is the official page for the Foreign Missions headquarters. It has explanations of the purpose, history, growth, goals, structure, and ministries of the missions division. It also includes a detailed outline on how the UPCI funds their missions.
      http://www.upci.org/GenFM

      Home Missions Division-UPCI.
      This page includes a list of all of the affiliated churches and their department heads in the United States, as well information concerning how to start a new UPCI church.
      http://www.upci.org/GHM


    IV. Bibliography

      Bernard, David K., ed. 1997.
      The Oneness of God. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

      Burgess, Stanley M. and McGee, Gary M., eds. 1988.
      "Oneness Pentecostalism" and "United Pentecostal Church International," Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 644-651 & 860-865.

      Clanton, Arthur L. and Clanton, Charles E. 1995.
      United We Stand, Jubilee Edition. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

      Dearman, Marion. 1974.
      "Christ and Conformity: a Study of Pentecostal Values." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion V13, 437-453.

      Foster, Ford. 1986.
      Their Story: 20th Century Pentecostals. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

      Jones, Charles Edwin. 1995.
      The Charismatic Movement: A Guide to the Study of Neo-Pentecostalism with Emphasis on Anglo-American Sources.Philadelphia: Scarecrow Press, 709.

      Melton, J. Gordon. 1996.
      "United Pentecostal Church International", Encyclopedia of American Religions 5th ed., 592.

      Queen, L. Edward, 1996.
      The Encyclopedia of American Religious History, vol. I & II. New York. Facts On File, Inc., 43,504.

      United Pentecostal Church International. 1986.
      "Symposium on Oneness Pentecostalism" sponsored by the UPCI, Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.


    Reference Notes

      ONENESS "doctrine that God is absolutely one in numerical value, that Jesus is the One God, and that God is not of plurality of persons," meaning God is not the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost in three separate forms. (Clanton, p.321)

      ACTS 2:38 "Then Peter said to them, 'Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit'."

      FUNDAMENTAL DOCTRINE "The basic and fundamental doctrine of this organization shall be the Bible standard of full salvation, which is repentance, baptism in water by immersion in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost with the initial sign of speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance. We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith, at the same time admonishing all brethren that they should not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body." (Fundamental Doctrine, United We Stand, p.144)

      ACTS 2:1-4 "When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came form heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them."