The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) has been among the fastest growing denominations in North America since it was formed in 1945 by the merger of the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. From 617 churches listed in 1946, the UPCI in North America (United States and Canada) today lists 4,142 churches, 8,801 ministers, and reports a Sunday School attendance of 498,903. Moreover, it is also located in 170 other nations with 571 missionaries and many thousands of licensed ministers, churches, and meeting places.
History of the UPCI
The UPCI emerged out of the Pentecostal movement that began in Topeka, Kansas in 1901. It traces its organizational roots to October 1916, when a large group of ministers withdrew from the Assemblies of God over the doctrinal issues of the oneness of God and water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
The basic governmental structure of the UPCI is congregational with local churches being autonomous: the congregation elects its pastor and its leaders, owns its property, decides its budget, establishes its membership, and conducts all necessary business.
The central organization embraces a modified presbyterian system in that ministers meet in sectional, district, and general conferences to elect officials and to conduct business of the organization.
The UPCI headquarters building, located in Hazelwood, Missouri, houses offices for its general officials, division officials, and several of its publications ministries. Among its endorsed institutions are Bible colleges, youth homes, an adoption agency, ministries to those addicted to alcohol and other drugs, prison chaplaincy ministry, and it endorses chaplains to the military.
The doctrinal views of the UPCI reflect most of the beliefs of the Holiness-Pentecostal movement, with the exception of the “second work of grace,” the historic doctrine of the Trinity, and the traditional Trinitarian formula in water baptism. It embraces the Pentecostal view that speaking in tongues is the initial sign of receiving the Holy Spirit.
The UPCI holds a fundamental view of the Bible: “The Bible is the only God-given authority which man possesses; therefore all doctrine, faith, hope, and all instructions for the church must be based upon and harmonize with the Bible” (Manual of the United Pentecostal Church, 19). The Bible is the Word of God, and therefore inerrant and infallible. The UPCI rejects all extrabiblical revelations and writings, and views church creeds and articles of faith only as the thinking of men.
The UPCI holds that salvation is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, not by works. Faith in Jesus is the means by which a person is justified. At the same time, a sinner must believe the gospel; he is commanded to repent of his sinful life, to be baptized in water in the name of Jesus Christ, and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 4:12; 8:12-17; 10:43-48; 19:1-6). Thus the various aspects of faith and obedience work together in God’s grace to reconcile us to God.
Oneness of God
In distinction to the doctrine of the Trinity, the UPCI holds to a oneness view of God. It views the Trinitarian concept of God, that of God eternally existing as three distinctive persons, as inadequate and a departure from the consistent and emphatic biblical revelation of God being one.
The UPCI teaches that the one God who revealed Himself in the Old Testament as Jehovah revealed himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. Thus Jesus Christ was and is God. In other words, Jesus is the one true God manifested in flesh, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (John 1:1-14; I Timothy 3:16; Colossians 2:9).
While fully God, Jesus was also fully man, possessing a full and true humanity. He was both God and man. Moreover, the Holy Spirit is God with us and in us. Thus God is manifested as Father in creation and as the Father of the Son, in the Son for our redemption, and as the Holy Spirit in our regeneration.
Importance of the Family Unit
The UPCI stresses and supports the family unit as God’s primary institution and teaches that the church is God’s redemptive fellowship for all believers.