The younger generations in Pentecostalism are making progress in mending an 80-year split between “oneness” Pentecostals and the majority of trinitarian believers, although they are receiving little encouragement from denominational officials, reports Charisma magazine (June).
Oneness or “Jesus only” Pentecostals, representing approximately 17 million believers in the world, broke off from other Pentecostals in their refusal to use and baptize members with trinitarian language (although they acknowledge that God is manifested as Father, Son and Holy Spirit) From such a doctrinal difference, the oneness Pentecostals have created their own subculture, particularly in the 700,000-member United Pentecostal Church. But now the church is experiencing increasing strife over its prohibitions of fellowship with trinitarian Pentecostals (such as the Assemblies of God) and its strict membership rules outlawing television and jewelry.
While the UPC is growing (with a record number of ministers ordained in 1996), a “steady stream of pastors are leaving through the back door” over such issues, writes J. Lee Grady. A network of about 430 dissident UPC pastors (who still use oneness language, although they don’t require new members to be rebaptized in Jesus’ name alone) has emerged. Independent oneness churches have also split off from the UPC, and many popular preachers in the black community, such as T.D. Jakes, have roots in the movement.
There is also more interchange between the two Pentecostal movements, particularly in the distinctive emotional “praise music” the UPC has produced. But most denominational officials from both camps still resist making any overtures. Many UPC leaders expect a “gradual changing of the guard as older, more hard-line leaders relinquish control,” writes Grady.
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