Second Generation Leadership

Second Generation Leadership
By Fred J. Foster

The 1967 United Pentecostal Church General Conference, in Tulsa, Oklahoma, became a moment of great change. Arthur T. Morgan, the General Superintendent for the last sixteen years, suddenly died while conducting a meeting of the general board. With this death began the second generation rise to take the leadership role of 20th century Pentecostalism. It is unique at this writing, that the church of this century, has in each area of the general leadership, a person who is a second generation Pentecostal, or of contemporary age.

Later in the conference Stanley W. Chambers was elected to succeed Morgan as General Superintendent, and became the first second generation General Superintendent. As a very young man, Chambers was elected to the office of General Secretary at the merger conference in 1945, and then served as a second generation Pentecostal through 22 years. He would now lead the way in the top leadership position of the U.P.C.

Chambers’ father, George C. Chambers, has been a long time preacher and pastor. Young Chambers grew up in a preacher’s home, when his father was an assistant pastor to the first assistant General Superintendent W. C. Witherspoon. His father later became pastor of the Columbus, Ohio church when Witherspoon passed away.

At the time of Morgan’s death the two assistant general superintendents were also pioneer preachers of the 20th century Pentecostals. They were Oliver F. Fauss and Ralph G. Cook. In 1973 Fauss retired at the age of 73 and James L. Kilgore was elected in that position. In 1971 Cook retired at the age of 72. Nathaniel A. Urshan was elected to fill the position. Both of these newly elected officials are second generation Pentecostals.

Kilgore’s father was a pioneer preacher who founded a number of churches in the southwest. Kilgore learned the sacrifice of the pioneer preacher’s family during the depression years of the thirties, as his preacher father moved the family from one home mission work to another.

Urshan grew up in a Pentecostal preacher’s home. His father A. D. Urshan, immigrated to the United States from Persia as a young man. He became a missionary, evangelist, and pastor, and young Urshan was given much valuable experience.

Cleveland M. Becton became the second of the second generation to assume leadership. When Chambers was elevated to the general superintendency in 1967 Becton was elected in his place as General Secretary. Becton did not grow up in a preacher’s home, but he had a preacher uncle he was close to. His uncle was G. H. Brown, longtime Little Rock, Arkansas pastor, in whose church he received the Holy Ghost.

From Brown’s pastoral leadership, as well as his own godly home, he learned the principles of the pioneers. He served as General Secretary until 1976, when he resigned to pastor in Nashville, Tennessee.

At this time Robert Lester McFarland, the District Superintendent of Indiana was elected in Becton’s place. McFarland also, is a second generation Pentecostal. McFarland’s father was for many years a pastor in Indiana, so McFarland had much opportunity to garner great insight into what 20th century pentecostalism was all about. McFarland served as General Secretary until 1981 when he resigned to accept appointment as Regional Field Supervisor of Europe/Middle East, Foreign Missions Division.

In 1977, Chambers retired from the office of General Superintendent, and Urshan was elected to take his place. In this conference Becton was elected to serve in Urshan’s place as Assistant General Superintendent. He served until 1981 when he was again elected as General Secretary-Treasurer. At this time Jesse F. Williams, District Superintendent of North Carolina, was elected as Assistant General Superintendent.

Since 1973 the United Pentecostal Church has had second generation leadership in each of the four top positions. This is an important observation, as history has pungently said that weakening change can come with succeeding generations. We trust this historical observation will not be the plight of the United Pentecostal Church, and have high hopes that this church will continue its strong evangelistic thrust into the latter part of the 20th century.