The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) has been among the fastest growing church organizations in North America since it was formed in 1945 by the merger of the PentecostalChurch, 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 4,358 churches (which includes 4099 autonomous and 258 daughter works), 9,085 ministers, and reports a Sunday School attendance of 646,304. Moreover, it is also located in 175 other nations with 22,881 licensed ministers, 28,351 churches and meeting places, 652 missionaries, and a foreign constituency of over 3 million, making a total worldwide constituency of more than 4,036,945.
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 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.
Fruit of the Spirit - Visible Growth in Jesus Christ "Fruit of the Spirit" is a biblical term that sums up the nine visible attributes of a true Christian life. Using the King James Version of Galatians 5:22-23, these attributes are: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. We learn from scripture that these are not individual "fruits" from which we pick and choose. Rather, the fruit of the Spirit is one ninefold "fruit" that characterizes all who truly walk in the Holy Spirit. Collectively, these are the fruits that all Christians should be producing in their new lives with Jesus Christ.
Fruit of the Spirit - The Nine Biblical Attributes The fruit of the Spirit is a physical manifestation of a Christian's transformed life. In order to mature as believers, we should study and understand the attributes of the ninefold fruit: Love - "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16). Through Jesus Christ, our greatest goal is to do all things in love. "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Joy - "The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2). Peace - "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1). "May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13). Longsuffering (patience) -- We are "strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11). "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). Gentleness (kindness) -- We should live "in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left" (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). Goodness - "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power" (2 Thessalonians 1:11). "For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Ephesians 5:9). Faith (faithfulness) - "O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth" (Isaiah 25:1). "I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith" (Ephesians 3:16-17). Meekness - "Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" (Galatians 6:1). "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). Temperance (self-control) - "But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love" (2 Peter 1:5-7).
How should Christians respond to Gay Marriage?
Continue to uphold God's Word. In God's plan marriage is the union of one man and one woman who make a lifelong commitment. This definition of marriage is foundational in God's creative purpose and moral code for the human race (Genesis 1:27; 2:24). Jesus Himself taught this truth (Matthew 19:3-9). Moreover, God designed the sexual relationship only for such a marriage. Thus, the Bible teaches that adultery, fornication, and homosexual conduct are wrong. (See Mark 7:21-23; Roman 1:21-27; I Corinthians 6:9-11.)
Proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ did not come into the world to condemn the world but in order that the world might be saved through Him (John 3:17). God came in Christ to reconcile the world to Himself. Likewise, our mission is not condemnation but reconciliation; we implore everyone to be reconciled to God (II Corinthians 5:18-20). We proclaim the good news that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and rose again to bring us salvation (I Corinthians 15:1-4). When people believe and obey this message, they repent of sin, are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38-39). This new birth brings deliverance and transformation so that, regardless of our past, all of us can grow in grace, walk in holiness, and fulfill God's plan for our lives (I Corinthians 6:11).
Continue to affirm the worth and dignity of every human being. God has created all of us in His image, and Jesus Christ died for all. We should treat people with respect and kindness even when we disagree with their behavior or lifestyle. We should recognize everyone's civil rights while realizing that, as the Declaration of Independence states, true human rights come from our Creator and not from government. Our refusal to redefine marriage has nothing to do with bigotry or hatred. We recognize that God has given people freedom of choice and that some activities are legal but not permissible for Christians. In these cases, we disagree with those who do not share our faith. As Paul instructed, we should speak the truth in love, and we should use wisdom and gracious speech in discussing matters such as these with unbelievers (Ephesians 4:15; Colossians 4:5-6).
Defend the freedoms of speech, press, association, and religion. These freedoms will likely come under attack by those who wish to silence all opposition, and thus we need to participate in the political and legal process to uphold them. It is not "hate speech" for Christians to preach and teach about sin and righteousness. We must vigorously oppose all attempts to compel Christian institutions such as churches, schools, adoption agencies, and counseling services to endorse same-sex marriage. Likewise, we must oppose any attempt to take away their tax-exempt status because of their religious beliefs in this matter.
Pray for our nation and our world. God is still in control, and our hope is in Him. Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound (Romans 5:20). When Paul encountered opposition, he asked the church to pray for an open door for him to speak the word clearly (Colossians 4:3-4). When the apostolic church experienced persecution, they prayed for boldness to speak the word and for signs and wonders in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:29-30). In these last days, God has promised to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Acts 2:17-18). Let's pray for apostolic, end-time revival!