The United Pentecostal Church on the Move
By Fred J. Foster
With the union of the Pentecostal Church Incorporated and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ, a united effort in various fields of labor was immediately inaugurated. Gradually momentum was accelerated to propel the cherished message as it never had been done since the first century. The United Pentecostal Church suddenly became a strong striking force to present the true Bible doctrinal position to the world.
There is nothing so forceful as combined effort toward an intended goal. Senancour said, “Union does everything when it is perfect. It satisfies desires, simplifies needs, foresees the wishes, and becomes a constant fortune.”/ The Bible says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unify.” (2)
A General organization has developed over the years which has brought tremendous gains to the overall work of the United Pentecostal Church.
THE GENERAL HEADQUARTERS
The General Headquarters of the United Pentecostal Church was located from the beginning in St. Louis, Missouri. The first Headquarters building was located at 3449 S. Grand Blvd. It was moved in 1952 to 3645 S. Grand Blvd. where it remained until 1970 when a completely new building was erected at 8855 Dunn Rd. in Hazelwood, Missouri.
The staff in St. Louis is headed by the General Superintendent. Howard A. Goss was elected General Superintendent at the 1945 merger and held that office until the General Conference of 1951, when Arthur T. Morgan, who for several years pastored Faith Tabernacle in Port Arthur, Texas and was the Secretary–Treasurer of the Texas District, was elected to the General Superintendency.
All General Officers of the United Pentecostal Church are elected every two years, and Morgan had subsequently been elected since that time. Morgan served until his death in 1967. Stanley W. Chambers was elected in his place and served until 1977. At his retirement, Nathaniel A. Urshan was chosen to serve.
Chambers was first elected as General Secretary-Treasurer in 1945, and served until his elevation to the General Superintendent’s office in 1967. Cleveland M. Becton was chosen in his place. Robert Lester McFarland was elected after Becton’s resignation in 1976 and served until 1981 when he resigned. Cleveland M. Becton was again elected as General Secretary-Treasurer.
The United Pentecostal Church is governed between General Conferences by the General Board or Board of General Presbyters consisting of the General Superintendent, the Assistant General Superintendents, the General Secretary-Treasurer, the Director of Foreign Missions, the Director of Home Missions, the Editor of the Pentecostal Herald, and one General Presbyter from each organized district (the District Superintendent), the Director of Sunday School, and six Regional Executive Presbyters.
Between session of the Board of General Presbyters, the Executive Board takes the oversight of all business matters. This board consists of the General Superintendent; the two Assistant General Superintendents; the General Secretary, the Director of Home Missions; the Director of Foreign Missions, and the six Regional Executive Presbyters, plus one Canadian representative and an Eastern Zone District Superintendent and a Western Zone District Superintendent.
THE PENTECOSTAL PUBLISHING HOUSE
The United Pentecostal Church maintains a publishing plant in the St. Louis Headquarters, know as the Pentecostal Publishing House. It has proved to be an immense asset through the publishing of Sunday School literature, books and tracts, beside being a well-run bookstore. It has made an invaluable contribution to the propagation of the gospel, as Sunday Schools around the world are supplied with Oneness Sunday School material.
The first manager was T. R. Dungan, who was followed by J. O. Wallace in 1951. Wallace, in turn, was succeeded by Ray Agnew in 1953. David Schroeder followed Agnew in 1972 with Wallace again becoming General Manager in 1980. Through the years much expansion has been made to keep up with the demands of the fast-growing Oneness movement.
Besides Sunday School literature, tracts and books, the United Pentecostal Church Divisions each publish periodicals concerning their varied areas of labor.
Oneness circles have been blessed through the years with fine publications.
The Pentecostal Herald has proven a binding force through the years by keeping the United Pentecostal constituency informed of the many related happenings around the world. It has carried news of church activity and also vital articles concerned with both the doctrine and Christian living aspects of Oneness interest. The first editor was M. J. Wolff, who was appointed in 1945, and served until 1946, when he was succeeded by Paul H. Box. Upon his resignation in 1951, Lester R. Thompson became editor. When he resigned in 1955, Arthur L. Clanton was appointed editor. When Clanton died in 1976, Calvin L. Rigdon became editor. When he resigned in 1981, J. L. Hall was appointed editor.
THE GENERAL CONFERENCE
Each year in the early fall, there is a much-looked-for convention for the United Pentecostal Church. It is called The General Conference. From around the world people come to this annual church meeting, expecting to receive an inspiration that will send them back to their various places of labor with new hope and vision. Many feel a year would not be complete without attending this convention.
The General Conference deals with almost every facet of Pentecostal life, and for that reason it reaches almost everyone, whatever their particular interest in Secretary-Treasurer who are elected for two year terms by the District Conference. The district is sometimes divided into sections, with each Sectional Conference electing a Sectional Presbyter and Sectional Secretary-Treasurer for one-year terms.
Each of the General Departments is organized accordingly throughout the districts. This is where the real strength of the United Pentecostal Church lies–the organizational structure from the Headquarters office down through the districts right into sections and on into the local church groups. Each district, each section and local church, though, is sovereign, so long as it works within the framework of the by-laws of the general organization. This lends impetus to the work, because when people are free to become “captains of their own ships,” without anyone being able to interfere, they will usually feel led to accomplish more. They can make of it what they will, and this adds challenge.
In the Gospel of Mark, chapter 16, Jesus said, “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel….” In Acts, chapter 1, He said again, “But ye shall receive power, after the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”
This has been the heartbeat of the gospel since Christ first commissioned the church. The first-century church was replete with it. It was the very core which their lives revolved around. Uppermost in their thinking was that watchword of their Lord, “This gospel. . shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations….” (3) And into their world they went, preaching everywhere, “…the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following.” (4) It was not too many years until all over the civilized world there was talk of the Christian church.
This, too, must be the motivating force of the church of this century. It is heart warming to know that one of the main reasons for organizing the church in the earlier part of the twentieth century was for missionary purposes. (5) That has also been one of the fundamental ideas through the years.
The Foreign Missionary Department is one of the most important bodies within the United Pentecostal Church. Much thinking revolves around missionary work, and many members of local churches devote much time to prayer and raising money for foreign missionaries.
The Director of Foreign Missions was known as the Foreign Missionary Secretary at the merger in 1945. Wynn T. Stairs, with his great burden and insight, was elected to this position. He served until 1962, when Oscar Vouga assumed the responsibility. Vouga, who for a number of years was an Assistant General Superintendent, was a former missionary to Hawaii, and brought wide experience and vision to this important place. Paul H. Box served from January, 1956 to December 31, 1975 as Foreign Missionary Secretary. In 1969 Tom Fred Tenny was elected and served until 1976. At this time Harry Scism became the director.
The department has grown through the years, with missionaries today in many countries in the world. There is a definite move throughout the church to see this number multiplied, and, with time, if the Lord tarries, this should be realized.
The department is under the direction of the Foreign Missionary Board, comprised of the Director, the Secretary, the Director of Promotion and seven members from across the United States and Canada.
What was said in the beginning of the Foreign Missions section could also be said at the beginning of this one. “Into all the world” was the command. This means the next town or city, the next county, the next state also. The stronger the home front, the stronger the foreign–this is the thinking of the Home Missionary Department.
Many parts of America yet lie as a vast mission field to the Oneness message, and gradually penetrations are being made into several of these areas. Men and women with a pioneering spirit are shouldering this responsibility. The Home Missionary Department is doing much to inspire this giant effort, through its support of home missionaries, and with grants to purchase property and-build new buildings.
There has also been concentrated efforts in some localities with the establishment of several churches where the Oneness Message had never been preached before.
The Home Missionary Department was inaugurated in 1952, with Stanley R. Hanby becoming its first Director. George L. Glass Sr. followed Hanby in 1957, and he was, in turn, followed by C. Haskel Yadon in 1958. In 1967 J. T. Pugh became Director, and he was followed by V. Arlen Guidroz in 1973. He was succeeded by J. E. Yonts in 1976.
THE PENTECOSTAL CONQUERORS
The United Pentecostal Church is not failing to use the vigorous energy of its youth. Recognizing the vast accomplishment of youthful endeavor, much has been done in this quarter to convince Pentecostal Young People that they have their place in the church.
One of the best known projects in the United Pentecostal Church is a youth endeavor–“Sheaves for Christ.” This is the international youth mission program with the purpose of allowing youth to share in the great commission, “Go ye into all the world.” It is a project of raising funds to help in carrying the gospel to the world. It is not only a fund-raising project, but a program designed to unite youth in a great world-wide effort, focusing their attention on the evangelization of the world. (6)
The Conquerors ages are 12 through 35. Most United Pentecostal Churches have a service each week for this group.
David F. Gray was the first President, being elected in 1946. Upon his resignation, Richard S. Davis was appointed to the office in 1948. He was followed by J. O. Moore in 1949, who continued until 1951. Calvin L. Rigdon was elected that year. It was under his leadership in 1952 that “Sheaves for Christ” came into being. He served until 1960, when the President Tom Fred Tenney was elected. Kenneth Haney followed him in 1969. He served until 1971, when Donald Deck was appointed. Dan L. Rigdon became President in 1977. C. Patton Williams followed him in 1979. When Williams resigned in 1982, Rex D. Johnson was elected.
THE MISSIONS-YOUTH CONVENTION
Under the guidance of the Foreign Missionary Department, Home Missionary Department, and the Pentecostal Conquerors Department, a significant convention was started in 1961. It has developed into one of the outstanding gatherings in the United Pentecostal Church. The three departments have various times for their services, with the afternoons devoted to 3 workshops involving the 3 groups. It offers a tremendous opportunity for youth to become acquainted with the mission program.
THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
Pentecostalism, in some respects, has gone through a great change in the last few years. It has been realized that most converts are coming into the church initially through the Sunday School effort. Attracted through a visitation program, becoming interested through sound teaching, during the revival or in a regular Sunday service they pray through to the Pentecostal experience.
This has brought a new enthusiasm to Sunday School work. A new meaning has evolved from this knowledge. Not only can Sunday School be considered a teaching area of the church but it is a gigantic arm of evangelism.
Through the concerted efforts of churches across America in Sunday School efforts, the United Pentecostal Church is recognized as one of the fastest growing churches in the nation.
The first General Sunday School Director, E. E. McNatt, was elected in 1949. He was succeeded by J. O. Wallace in 1958 who served until 1974. Calvin A. Rigdon served from 1974 to 1976. James Boatman followed him in 1976. When Boatman resigned in 1982, E. J. McClintock was elected as Sunday School Director.
THE LADIES AUXILIARY
In this history of the Oneness movement, special recognition must be given the gallant women who have so nobly labored, no matter the consequences. Thriving churches of this hour would not exist if loyal, God-fearing women had not kept the doors open in years gone by. Courageous women have stood stalwartly by the side of their preacher husbands, bringing in new works or trying to carry on the old church. These women have taken our message to the mission fields, some being buried there. What can you say when a history is so replete with instances such as these?
The Ladies Auxiliary of the United Pentecostal Church is one of its unsung heroes. How many churches have had the church note paid by this group? The piano, organ, the carpet on the floor, pews, and various other things have been purchased by the sacrificial work of these soldiers of the cross.
The Ladies Auxiliary was actually in existence for years but became an official department of the United Pentecostal Church in 1953, with Mary Cole becoming the first President. Under her leadership, the Mother’s Memorial project came into being. This is a fund raising project for Home and Foreign Missions, besides helping greatly the Tupelo Children’s Mansion, the United Pentecostal Church home for homeless children. She was succeeded in office by the late Ila Ashcraft in 1960. After her death in 1963, Vera Kinzie became President.
It was Saturday night at the 1960 General Conference in Dallas. For many, a dream was coming true, as the first thirty-minute radio broadcast was taped before the assembled conference. Shouts were heard from the thousands in the congregation as the Harvestime choir sang the opening chorus and then as the booming voice of the announcer, J. Hugh Rose, said, “This is Harvestime, the radio voice of the United Pentecostal Church.” Then came the stirring message of the speaker, Nathaniel A. Urshan, and more shouts were heard.
For years a national broadcast had been the desire of many of the ministers, and in 1959 a committee of exploration had been appointed to go ahead with the project. The broadcast in the Dallas conference was the fruit of this exhaustive study, and plans were made to begin the actual broadcast to the nation on the first Sunday of March, 1961.
It was learned soon that more than a shout was needed to keep a broadcast of this stature on the air. It took money and lots of it, but steadily the program has taken hold and the number of stations has increased. Harvestime is a well-planned and operated program, and can be heard each Sunday across the nation. The faithful personnel directly involved deserves commendation for their unceasing work in this median of gospel propagation.
The broadcast is under the guidance of the Harvestime Radio Commission.
1 The New Dictionary of Thoughts, p. 696.
2 Psalm 133:1
3 Matthew 24:1
4 Mark 16:20
5. S. C. McClain, “Notes,” The Move of God, p. 5, 6.
6 Manual, United Pentecostal Church, 1964, p. 70, 71.
THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS TAKEN FROM 20th CENTURY PENTECOSTALS AND PUBLISHED BY WORD AFLAME PRESS, 1980, PAGES 154-166. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.The