The Merger- United Pentecostal Church International
STANLEY W. CHAMBERS
The initial step toward a merger came during the conference of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ in 1944 when a resolution was presented to approach the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated about a
merger, inasmuch as the two organizations were essentially alike in doctrine, standards, principles, and fellowship. After much discussion the resolution was adopted. Present for this session were Brothers B. H. Hite and Harry Branding, members of the P.C.I. but who were so interested in the proceedings that they requested permission to vote for the resolution.
Each organization appointed members to serve on a committee in early 1945 to work out the many details and to present its recommendations to the conferences of the two organizations in the fall of 1945. Essential points to be considered were:
1. Name of the proposed merged organization
2. Location of headquarters
3. Articles of Faith
5. Departmental policies
The members of the committee met at the P.C.I. headquarters at 3449 South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis. One of the greatest problems for them to consider was the Fundamental Doctrine. After much discussion on this subject, Brother W. T. Witherspoon, chairman of the P.A. of J.C., excused himself from the committee meeting and went privately to an office where he wrote his proposal for the Fundamental Doctrine. He returned to the meeting and read to the committee what he had written.
When Brother Witherspoon finished reading his proposal, Brother Howard A. Goss, chairman of the P.C.I., held out his hand to Brother Witherspoon, saying that he agreed with the proposal, and they shook hands to seal their agreement and acceptance. That proposal became the Fundamental Doctrine statement which the committees presented and which was adopted at the merger conference.
Only one change has been made in the Fundamental Doctrine since the merger. In 1973 at the General Conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, it was brought to the attention of the General Board that the words “for the remission of sins” were not in the Fundamental Doctrine statement. This was discussed, and it was agreed by the General Board that this scriptural phrase should not be omitted. Therefore they agreed to present the matter to the General Conference. The resolution to add the words “for the remission of sins” to the Fundamental Doctrine was adopted without any discussion on the floor.
Two names were suggested for the merged body should there be a merger. The two names presented were United Apostolic Church and United Pentecostal Church.
The P.C.I. had its headquarters at 3449 South Grand Boulevard in St. Louis and this location was proposed to be the offices for the merged body.
In April a joint conference of the Presbyter Board of the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ and the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated met in St. Louis to work out resolutions to be presented at the fall conferences of the two organizations.
Both organizations held their 1945 General Conferences in St. Louis: The P.A. of J.C. met in White Way Tabernacle and the P.C.I. met in the Kiel Auditorium. They held sessions during the day at their respective conferences but came together at night at Kiel Auditorium for worship. Two speakers were chosen for each night service, one from each organization.
The debate on the subject of merging by the P.A. of J.C. during the day was intense and interesting. It was not a united feeling by any means; there were some opponents to the merger.
The name of the new organization sparked great controversy. Some said Apostolic was not well thought of in their area and others said Pentecostal had a bad reputation in their area. There was even a bit of humor in the debate over the name when one brother said to another, “The reason you want Pentecostal is because it means feast day and you are always thinking about eating.”
On Friday, September 21, the conference of the P.A. of J.C. passed unanimously the resolution to merge. On Monday, September 24, the P.C.l. conference voted by a big majority to merge with the P.A. of J.C. The P.C.I. subsequently notified the P.A. of J.C. of its decision. On Tuesday morning the P.A. of J.C. moved its conference to the Kiel Auditorium where the two bodies met to consummate the merger. On September 25, 1945, the two groups cast their vote as to whether or not to merge. The vote was in the affirmative, and that brought great rejoicing among the brethren.
The next order of business was the election of officers for the merged body. Brother Oscar Vouga presided over the elections. It was generally agreed that if the general superintendent was elected from one organization, the general secretary-treasurer should come from the other organization. Elected were Brother Howard A. Goss as general superintendent, and Brother Stanley W. Chambers as general secretary-treasurer, Brother W.T. Witherspoon as assistant general superintendent (there was only one at that time), and Brother Wynn T. Stairs as director of Foreign Missions.
Following the elections the Articles of Faith and General Constitution were presented for consideration, and they were adopted as presented by the merger committee.
The conference closed on a note of harmony and with great hopes for the future of the merged body. There was a great effort made to unite all of our hearts together for the spreading of the gospel throughout the world.
In organizing the various districts, Brother Goss in his wisdom insisted that the new district boards be made up of brethren from both previous organizations, and this principle was followed throughout the districts. In the beginning there were about fifteen districts, and some districts consisted of more than one state. In comparison, we now have fifty districts in the United States and Canada.
Perhaps the most gratifying of all achievements has been the way the foreign missionary effort of the organization has flourished and become a tremendous force in the world. At the time of the merger we had very little organized missionary effort, but at this time we have 281 foreign missionaries under full appointment and approximately 200 AIM workers under appointment. Also there are six Regional Field Supervisors helping in the work all over the world. Thank God for His blessing upon the work in other parts of the world!
It would be right to mention that there was a second merger which took place during the first merger of the two organizations. Brother W.T. Witherspoon, whose wife had passed away a couple of years before the merger conference, and Sister Jet Stallones, who was a widow, were united in marriage during the merger conference. The ceremony was performed at the Kiel Auditorium by Brother Howard A. Goss.
Only two departments were organized at the merger: Foreign Missions and Youth. The Pentecostal Herald became the official organ of the United Pentecostal Church, replacing the Pentecostal Outlook of the P.A. of J.C. and the Apostolic Herald of the P.C.I. The Publishing House of the P.C.I. became the publishing arm of the United Pentecostal Church.
In the years that have followed the merger, other divisions of the work have been organized, such as Home Missions, Sunday School, Ladies Auxiliary, and Harvestime. The Pentecostal Publishing House has been a great success, and we are very thankful for its contribution to the work of the Lord.
In the past fifty years it has been proven that the merging of the two organizations in 1945 was the perfect will of God. We have grown numerically as multiplied thousands have been born into the kingdom of
God. While experiencing this tremendous growth the United Pentecostal Church International has succeeded in maintaining its strong doctrinal position and holiness standard, becoming one of the few remaining frontiers for apostolic Bible doctrine and holiness. We expect the United Pentecostal Church to continue in this position until the coming of the Lord for His church.
Brother Chambers was the first general secretary-treasurer (if the United Pentecostal Church, serving from the merger conference in 1945 to the end of 1967. He served as general superintendent for ten years, 968 through 1977. He also served as superintendent of the Missouri District from 198.3 to 1993. He is the only living member of the first General Board of the United Pentecostal Church.
THE ROAD TO THE MERGER
When The Assemblies of God adopted the doctrine of the trinity at its Fourth General Council in October 1916, the Oneness Pentecostals were forced to withdraw from the organization. Two months later, in late
December and early January, Oneness ministers met in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and on January 2, 1917, they formed a Oneness Pentecostal organization, called The General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies.
In late 1917 or early 1918 The General Assemblies of the Apostolic Assemblies merged with The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World and then held its first meeting in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, later in the same year. This interracial organization, which adopted the name of The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, was the only Oneness Pentecostal organization until late 1924, when a separation occurred mainly along racial lines. During 1925 three new organizations were formed: The Apostolic Churches of Jesus Christ, The Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance, and Emmanuel’s Church in Jesus Christ.
This organizational division among Oneness people was not desired, however, and in 1927 the first step was taken toward bringing them back together. Meeting in a joint convention in Guthrie, Oklahoma, Emmanuel’s Church in Jesus Christ and The Apostolic Churches of Jesus Christ merged under the name The Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. This merger, which united about 400 ministers, was consummated at the next General Convention held in Port Arthur, Texas, in October 1928.
In 1931, a unity conference with representatives from four Oneness organizations met in Columbus, Ohio, in an attempt to bring all Oneness people together. Unfortunately, this attempt was only partially successful. The Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance ministers voted to merge with The Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ, but the terms of the propose merger was not accepted by the ministers in The Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ. However, a merger between The Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ and The Pentecostal Assemblies of the World was consummated in November 193 1. The merger adopted the name of The Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ.
In 1932, The Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance changed its name to The Pentecostal Church, Incorporated, reflecting its organizational structure. But no further attempt was made for a merger with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ until 1936, when The Pentecostal Church, Incorporated ministers voted to work toward an amalgamation of the two bodies. Once again no agreement could be found.
The desire to be united remained alive and growing, and eight years later, in 1944, the first step was taken that led to the successful merger in 1945 of these two Oneness Pentecostal organizations to form the United Pentecostal Church International.
The merger of these two Oneness Pentecostal bodies brought together 1,838 ministers and about 900 churches. These numbers have risen year by year until today in 1995, there are more than 7,600 ministers and more than 3,700 churches in North America.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED IN THE SEPTEMBER 1995 ISSUE OF THE
PENTECOSTAL HERALD, AND WAS WRITTEN BY STANLEY W. CHAMBERS AND J.L.
HALL. THIS MATERIAL HAS BEEN COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR RESEARCH
AND STUDY PURPOSES ONLY.