The Pentecostal group of denominations
"Pentecost is an experience not a denomination." Heading of a
United Pentecostal Church International web site. 9
The Pentecostal family of denominations form one branch of conservative
Protestantism within Christianity. A major defining feature of Pentecostalism is their belief in Glossolalia -- the ability to speak "in tongues". Another is the
unusual freedom and spontaneity exhibited during their religious services. Otherwise,
their beliefs and practices are similar to those of other conservative
Christians. They strongly oppose abortion access,
equality for sexual minorities, and
Pentecostalism is a highly fragmented family within Christianity; one source lists 177
separate denominations. 3
History of Pentecostalism:
Pentecostalism is a relatively modern branch of Christianity. It grew out of the
Holiness movement, which in turn had roots in Methodism.
Robert Longman Jr. 1 has listed a number of mid to late 19th century writings from
within the Holiness movement which laid the foundations for Pentecostalism:
1845 : Article by John Morgan in the Oberlin Quarterly (issue 1, p.115)
1856 : Book by William Arthur: "The Tongue Of Fire"
1859 : Guide by Phoebe Palmer, "Guide to Holiness"
1870 : Book by Asa Mahan "Baptism Of the Holy Ghost"
During the last two decades of the 19th century, there were reports of xenoglossia
breaking out at revival meetings, particularly in North and South Carolina. Xenoglossia is
the speaking of a foreign language by a person who normally has no familiarity with it. For
example, an American with no ability to speak any language other than English suddenly
became capable of speaking fluent German. There may also have been some instances of
glossolalia (ecstatic speech that is meaningless to the typical listener).
The year 1899 saw a great rise in religious fervor as people speculated about the
second coming of Jesus and the end of history as they knew it during the year 1900. Many
books were written about the power of the Holy Spirit. Charles F. Parham, a Holiness
preacher and head of the Bethel Bible College in Topeka, Kansas conducted a revival
meeting in that city. Agnes Ozman, a Methodist, shocked the meeting by
reportedly speaking fluently
in a number of foreign languages that she had never previously learned. This happened on 1900-JAN-1.
This event is often regarded as the founding of the Pentecostal movement. Some days later,
many other individuals also spoke in tongues. Then Parham did as well.
One of Parham's students, an African-American named William Seymour started a home church
in Los Angeles CA which was attended by members of the two Baptist churches and one
Holiness church in that city. On 1906-APR-9, Seymour's landlord, Edward Lee, and closest
co-worker, Jennie E. Moore broke out in tongues. Attendance increased precipitously. This
made it necessary to find new quarters in which to hold their meetings. They rented an
empty warehouse on Azusa Street in Los Angeles and founded the Apostolic Faith
The movement spread to other cities in California, and into the Northwestern and
Southeastern sections of the US. Many churches were organized - particularly among
immigrants. Some Holiness churches switched to Pentecostalism. The movement subsequently
spread across North America, and has now blanketed much of the world.
Until 1914, the movement worked primarily within the Holiness churches. But increasing
friction motivated the Pentecostals to form their first denomination, the
Church of God in Christ. Although the movement was racially integrated in its early years,
racial divisions soon developed. Many white clergy could not handle the presence
of both blacks and whites in the congregation; the clergy subsequently left to form the Assemblies of God
where blacks could be excluded.
evolved three main Pentecostal divisions, and a number of similar splinter groups:
||Some Pentecostals, particularly those with a Holiness background, believe in the
"Pentecostal experience" as the third of three experiences:|
- justification (faith and trust by the believer in Jesus as Lord and Savior)
- sanctification (the "second blessing" - imparting of a new life to the
believer by the Holy Spirit)
- baptism of the Holy Spirit (as evidenced by speaking in tongues)
Their main denominations include: Church of God (Cleveland TN), Church of God in
Other Pentecostals, particularly those with a Baptist background, believe that the
baptism of the Holy Spirit can happen to any believer in Jesus, whether or not they have
first been sanctified. The main denomination is the General Council of Assemblies of
Oneness Pentecostals (a.k.a. "Jesus Only" or "Apostolic
Pentecostals") believe that in the early Christian church, baptism was done in the
name of Jesus Christ only (as in Acts 2:38) , not in the name of the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit (as in Matthew 28:19). In time, this group
abandoned the traditional expression of belief in the Trinity, and accept the oneness of God. A crisis developed
within the Assemblies of God (AOG) in 1916 over these new beliefs. The AOG decided to
remain Trinitarian, both in its baptismal formula and its concept of deity. Almost 200
pastors left the Assemblies of God as a result. The United Pentecostal Church and
the Pentecostal Assemblies of The World are the main Oneness Pentecostal
Some denominations are congregational in structure; the individual congregations are
self governing. Others have a connectional structure, in which regional and national
organizations decide matters of doctrine and organization.
The United Pentecostal Church International:
Within the Pentecostal movement, the United Pentecostal Church International
is quite unusual. It holds many non-traditional beliefs, that conflict with other denominations within Pentecostalism, including:
They believe that the ability to speak in tongues is a necessary indication of a valid
religious conversion.. They deny the legitimacy of the conversion of hundreds of
millions of "born
again" Christians from other denominations where tongues are rarely, if ever, spoken.
"No tongues - no salvation." So, for example, they would regard
most Southern Baptists as unsaved, even though most had gone through the
same process of sincerely repenting of their sins
and trusting Jesus as their Lord and Savior, just as most UPCI members have.
They share with other "Oneness Pentecostals" the practice of baptizing in the name of Jesus Christ only.
(See Acts 2:38) Almost all Christian denominations follow the alternate baptismal formula at Matthew 28:19 and baptize in the name
of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
They believe that anyone who is not baptized in the name of Jesus only will not be accepted into
heaven when they die. That would
include almost the entire human race. The alternative, of course, is an eternity
being punished in Hell.
They reject the traditional concept of the Trinity. They do not believe that the Godhead is composed of a single deity composed of
three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They believe that God is a unity, a Spirit, who has manifested himself in three roles or
"offices, roles, or relationship to humanity." 8 An analogy would be a single man who plays three
different roles: that of father, son, and husband -- either sequentially or at the same time. This concept is frequently misunderstood
by individuals and groups outside of the UPCI; the denomination are often condemned as a cult because of the
confusion over the UPCI's precise understanding of the nature of God.
||In common with many other Pentecostal denominations, their religious service includes footwashing in emulation of Jesus and his
Members are forbidden to join the Masonic Order and other "secret societies."
||Strict dress and hair codes were once followed, particularly for women.
However, these restrictions have now been largely abandoned
||Similarly, attendance at movies or watching television was once
prohibited. This has also been relaxed.
The church has about 2.3 million members world-wide, including about 600,000 members in
their 3,764 North American churches. Their main periodical is The Pentecostal
Herald. It is available online. 7 The UPCI's radio
program is called Harvestime. It is available throughout the U.S., Canada, and the rest of the world.
Robert Longman Jr., "Pentecostalist History," at:
Vinson Synan, "The Origins of the Pentecostal Movement," at:
J. Gordon Melton, Ed, "The Encyclopedia of American Religions: A Comprehensive
Study of the Major Religious Groups in the United States and Canada," 3 volume
set, Triumph Books, New York, NY, (1989)
J.W. Wright, Editor, "The Universal Almanac, 1996", Andrews &
McMeel, Kansas City., P. 517
Greg H. Parsons, Executive Director, "U.S. Center for World Mission,"
Pasadena, CA; quoted in Zondervan News Service, 1997-FEB-21.
Charles E Jones, "Symbol and Sign in Methodist Holiness and Pentecostal
Spirituality," an essay in Timothy Miller, Ed., "America's Alternative
Religions," SUNY Press, Albany NY (1995)
The United Pentecostal Church International has a home page is at: http://www.upci.org/
The UPCI has "60 Questions on the Godhead with Bible answers,"
The heading came from a UPCI web site advertising Pentecost Sunday at:
Copyright © 1997 to 2009 by Ontario
Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Originally published: 1997-DEC-20
Latest update and review: 2000-APR-11
Author: B.A. Robinson