Probably one of the most asked questions that I get is about my views and how friendly I am with the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) and the larger Oneness movement? I believe in the trinity but see value in people who I do not share all the same theology with.
History has not been kind to the split between the United Pentecostal Church and the Assemblies of God which I relate. It is really not over the view of the Godhead, either. It really was over baptism. Both sides have historically told the other they are not really saved. This grieves my heart.
It all started in 1913 at a Maria Woodworth-Etter meeting when someone suggested that baptism in the book of Acts was in Jesus name. They believed they had a revelation from the Spirit about the power of the name of Jesus.
Within 30 months, one group was throwing the other group out of a movement because of how divisive it had become. It was called “the new issue.”
Ever since then, there has been some harsh feeling between what became the United Pentecostal Church and the Assemblies over some doctrinal issues. Judgement was made solely on theology, not love for Jesus.
To start with, people go on and on about the issue of Godhead. Some people, wrongly, claim that the United Pentecostal Church believes in modalism. The claim of Sabellianism is not right for several reasons. One of them is that we are not even sure what it is. None of his writing exist today. Modalism is really hard to use as well because the UPCI does not believe in modes of God. They value the “Only true God” passages too much in my view. They do not hold the Trinity view of the Assemblies of God though.
They also hold that baptism is required and needed. It is also to be done in the name of Jesus. This is how they became known as “Jesus Only.” This was the issue that caused all the problem. I see the point of the United Pentecostal Church in Acts but still believed in using the Matthew 28:19 model.
The next issue is one that I have to say is a serious issue and one that I stand without charity. It is the doctrine that one must pray in tongues to be biblically saved. I strongly disagree. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit is for every believer and I believe any believer than doesn’t seek it, need to question their soul. However, I do not find any evidence that it is required for salvation. None at all.
A lesser difference is their standards on holiness. The Assemblies of God used to be much more conservative than they are today. Women with long hair, in dresses without makeup or jewelry was common and still is among the United Pentecostal Church. I grieve over how liberal some within the Assemblies of God have gotten over this.
Years ago, I was on the bandwagon of judgement with the rest of the Assemblies of God about them. Then, the Holy Spirit spoke to me that revival was coming to them and it would offend many within the Assemblies of God. Around the same time, I realized that God had poured out in groups that had even more crazy doctrine in history. (i.e. mormons) The Spirit doesn’t to check theology statement before pouring out in revival!
As I began to befriend people in the United Pentecostal Church and hear their stories, I found they loved Jesus just I did. They wanted to be holy just like I did. They wanted revival just like I did. Theological issues aside, they were not that different that I was. Stereotypes began to shatter.
As we continued to build relationships of respect and in honor, we understood the other’s theological perspective and we pray together without trying to “convert” the other. We have shared concerns over the lack of holiness in our movements and have wept over lack of mission.
One of the honors of my ministry has been to preach in the pulpit of a man that I have some pretty serious disagreements. The messages I have preached there would have no different than I would have preached in the Assembly of God. The Holy Spirit showed and people were touched powerfully like they would have any of “our” churches.
Revival is coming and one thing it will is make brothers in Pentecost dwell in unity.
The greatest need to heal the division of what happened in 1916 in St. Louis is to humble ourselves, come to the table to listen and to disagree in love. the theological issues are what they are, both sides have their verses for them; but our love for Jesus should over ride those and find ways to receive each other as brothers.
We seem to do this with other groups that we have just as serious of doctrinal discord with (Presbyterian for example), but we can’t find it within ourselves to do it in this case because they hit too close to home. We fear guilt by association. That’s a root of pride, not humility.
The good news is that God is destroying the dividing wall between the United Pentecostal Church and the Assemblies of God finally. It is slowly happening that we can embrace each other without see the other group as “heretics.”
I never thought I would see the day that a UPCI worship, Charity Gayle, would lead at an Assembly of God church and that Assemblies of God ministers would preach at the largest United Pentecostal Church in the United States but here we are!
Good things are coming for both movements that they learn to love the other, even in theological differences. Revival is our missiology and it will come to us no matter the name on the sign in front of the building.
Peter Vandever is a Pentecostal Evangelist to the nations and a prophetic voice to the American Pentecostal movement. He is currently based in Kansas City, Missouri.