The Meaning of Affiliation of Churches



The fellowship of the United Pentecostal Church International includes both affiliated and nonaffiliated churches pastored by ministers licensed or ordained by the organization. This arrangement was allowed
at the time of the merger in 1945, but the meaning of affiliation has been defined since by various resolutions passed at General Conferences.

The Manual states that affiliation of the local church “is not compulsory for fellowship, but rather it shall entirely optional” with the exception concerning receiving funds from Home Missions.

The percentage of churches affiliated has risen through the years. The first year churches were listed in the United Pentecostal Church, in 1947, only 28.5% or 178 churches were affiliated out of 617 churches. The 1993 church directory shows 56.8% or 2,119 churches affiliated out of 3,730 churches listed.

Many local church members assume that their church is affiliated with the United Pentecostal Church International since their pastor is licensed with the organization and they fellowship with churches and
people from all the churches in the section, district, and national organization. It is also possible that many pastors may not know if their church is affiliated or not. Whether affiliated or not, all the churches listed in the directory are part of the United Pentecostal Church International. Since many or most church members and pastors do not understand the meaning of affiliation, the following points are taken from information in the Manual of the UPCL


What Affiliation Does Not Mean

Affiliation does not mean organizational ownership of local church property; on the contrary, the local church has “the right to acquire and hold title to its property either through the trustees or in its corporate as a self-governing unit.”

Affiliation does not obligate the local church for any legal action against any other UPC church or churches, any district, or the national or international organization. Each affiliated church conducts its own business, purchases its own property, selects its own pastor and other officials, controls it own officers, leaders, and operations, has its own government, and disciplines it own members. As a self-governing entity, it is legally liable only for its own actions.

It does not limit local autonomy; the local church is required only to follow its own bylaws.

It does not mean that the local church is under the control of the national or district organization; on the contrary, the local church has “the right of self-government under Jesus Christ.”

It does not mean that a local church cannot have its own set of bylaws; it may adopt the local church government in the UPCI Manual or any other form of government as long as its provisions do not conflict with the constitution of the general body and are approved by the district board. Moreover, it may adopt new bylaws or amend its present bylaws so long as the new bylaws and amendments are “in harmony with the Constitution of the General Body.”

Affiliation does not limit fellowship within the UPCI or among other churches.

Affiliation does not mean that the organization sets the standard for membership for the local church; it only requires that a standard for membership be established that does not conflict with the Articles of
Faith of the UPCL

It does not mean that the national or district organization has the right to appoint or select a pastor for the local church; on the contrary, the local church body has the sole right “to select its pastor according to the form or local church government it has adopted and which was approved by the district board at the time of its affiliation.”

Affiliation does not mean that the national or district organization has the right to transact the business of the local church; on the contrary, in addition to selecting its pastor, the local church “shall transact all other business pertaining to its life as a local unit.”

Affiliation does not mean that the national or district organization can discipline members of the local church; on the contrary, the local church has “the right to administer discipline to its members according
to the Scriptures.”

Affiliation does not prevent a church from disaffiliating or withdrawing from fellowship with the UPCI.


What Affiliation Does for a Church

Affiliation establishes the local church’s positive identification by the federal government as a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit, tax-exempt institution, under the national organizational charter.

Affiliation makes the local church an official part of the UPCI, thus assuring it of identification, fellowship, cooperation, and protection of the United Pentecostal Church International. A church not affiliated may enjoy some of these benefits but it has no constitutional provision for any of them except fellowship.

Affiliation provides constitutional protection for the local church body in the event its pastor falls into sin, or embraces doctrines contrary to the Articles of Faith or other doctrinal positions of the UPCI; it also provides constitutional protection if local church leaders desire to withdraw from the UPCI.

Affiliation provides for order, oversight, and continuity of the local church in the interim between pastors. It allows the district superintendent to protect the rights and position of a departing pastor and of an incoming pastor.

Affiliation constitutionally obligates the UPCI to assist the pastor and the local church body during conflicts that may arise between the pastor and the church membership.

Affiliation provides a constitutional right for the local church to request assistance from the organization to resolve questions of misuse of its bylaws by members in the local assembly.

Affiliation makes it possible for a home missions church to receive funds from the Home Missions Division.

Affiliation means that the members of the local church are members of the UPCI.