A controversial debate about racism in the United Pentecostal Church International is now raging in the denomination after an interracial couple who led one of the denomination’s churches in Missouri for 15 years announced their exit from the group on Sunday.
With some 42,000 congregations globally serving nearly 5 million members, the UPCI is the world’s largest Oneness Pentecostal denomination. It emerged in 1945 after racism and Jim Crow laws caused white Pentecostals to split from the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World — an interracial organization at the time.
While the UPCI has since opposed “racism, prejudice, and segregation” and proudly states that it is an organization that is predominantly non-white globally, Pastor Adam Medina of New Destiny Apostolic Church in Maplewood and his wife Dawn say the church body isn’t doing nearly enough stateside. And that’s why they are now part of a group called Apostolic International Ministries and have renamed their church the New Destiny Worship Center.
“We are leaving as a protest against racism,” Pastor Medina said in the video announcement that has been viewed more than 80,000 times and triggered more than 2,000 comments since it was published Sunday.
“Many black Apostolics are having to readjust their thinking just to maintain their positions in the church. Many that we have talked to are having to continually bite their tongues and talk amongst each other to vent but not see change happen,” he said.
Medina and his wife said in the video that they had been praying about the decision for five years and tried unsuccessfully to get leaders of the church to properly address the concerns and pain of people of color who have either left the denomination in frustration or were simply suffering in silence.
“We feel that it is important that the church be the center of the community. Standing for the Word of God with love and compassion. However, here in the St. Louis area we have not experienced the church standing against what is literally pulling our city apart — racism,” explained Medina.
“This goes further than having the right to choose a side. However, the UPCI decided to stand on one side of the issue and not address the hurt or racial profiling and injustices. And as a family that has been victim to racial profiling, it would have been such a healing balm for the St. Louis community if the church would have had at least expressed empathy for those apostolic black men and women who have experienced racial profiling in complete innocence. What should have been addressed is, if it’s affecting my brother or sister of any race that share the same savior, Jesus Christ, it affects me,” he said.
In her assessment of the way the UPCI seeks to engage the African-American community, Dawn criticized the organization’s stereotypical approach of focusing on negative issues like poverty as if it is an issue endemic to the black community.
The UPCI’s I AM Urban Campaign, which is a part of its Building the Bridge Ministries, is the denomination’s African-American outreach arm.
On the campaign’s website, it is listed as an “aid in reaching the African-American community and increasing urban evangelism while facilitating successful cross-cultural assimilation into the church.”
“This ministry is uniquely equipped and positioned to play this role for the UPCI as it has been predominately focused for the past 30 years on the African-American community which has long been dealing with the effects of those negative urban influences. We recognize that this influence now transcends some of the traditional cultural and socio-economic barriers, and all of our churches must be equipped to deal with it,” the campaign explains.
Dawn argued in the video, “I have a family member who was exposed to the I Am Urban campaign. He is a professor at a local college here in St. Louis. He surmised that he could not be a part of an organization that believes there is destruction in the African-American people to the point of needing ministry that focuses only on their hardships.”
“The African-American community is full of educated, accomplished people from all social and economic backgrounds. Statistically, per capita, 22 percent of African Americans are in poverty and statistically 8 percent of white Americans are in poverty. However, if you strip the numbers down based on population that means 17 million white Americans are in poverty and only 9 million African Americans are in poverty. At that raw number level, there are more white Americans that need welfare, that need financial assistance, that struggle with hardships et cetera. What is the campaign for that?” she said.
Click here to read more.
Source: Christian Post