The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) has been among the fastest growing denominations in North America since it was formed in 1945 by the merger of the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated, and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ. From 617 churches listed in 1946, the UPCI in North America (United States and Canada) today lists 4,358 churches (which includes 4099 autonomous and 258 daughter works), 9,085 ministers, and reports a Sunday School attendance of 646,304. Moreover, it is also located in 175 other nations with 22,881 licensed ministers, 28,351 churches and meeting places, 652 missionaries, and a foreign constituency of over 3 million, making a total worldwide constituency of more than 4,036,945.
The UPCI emerged out of the Pentecostal movement that began in Topeka, Kansas in 1901. It traces its organizational roots to October 1916, when a large group of ministers withdrew from the Assemblies of God over the doctrinal issues of the oneness of God and water baptism in the name of Jesus Christ.
The basic governmental structure of the UPCI is congregational with local churches being autonomous: the congregation elects its pastor and its leaders, owns its property, decides its budget, establishes its membership, and conducts all necessary business. The central organization embraces a modified presbyterian system in that ministers meet in sectional, district, and general conferences to elect officials and to conduct business of the organization.
Headquartered in Missouri
The UPCI headquarters building, located in Weldon Spring, Missouri, houses offices for its general officials, the Pentecostal Publishing House, and a Christian bookstore. Among its endorsed institutions are eight Bible colleges, a children’s home, a residency for troubled young men, ministries to those addicted to alcohol and other drugs, a chaplaincy for prisoners, and it endorses chaplains to the military. By virtue of how geographically close the Missouri District is to the UPCI headquarters, the District has been an instrumental player in the advancing of pentecostal evangelism domestically and around the world.
Urshan College, A Missouri District Institution
On May 5, 1966, Harry W. Branding, Superintendent of the Missouri District of the United Pentecostal Church International, appointed a committee to explore the possibility of a Bible school. This committee consisted of Guy E. Roam, W.C. Parkey, W.I. Black, Roy E. Gerald and Oliver Spencer. On July 13, 1966, this committee recommended to the Missouri District that a college be started and the Missouri District passed a resolution creating the college.
The General Conference of the United Pentecostal Church International endorsed the college on October 24, 1966, in New Orleans, Louisiana. In January of 1967, bylaws and guidelines for the school were chosen and the name “Gateway College of Evangelism” was accepted by the Missouri District. W.C. Parkey was chosen as the first president and a site for the school was purchased at 3155 Charbonnier Road near Florissant, Missouri. Gateway College of Evangelism was formally opened on September 13, 1968.
On September 8, 1969, after having raised money for the college and having made final provision for the housing of the students, Harry Branding suffered a fatal heart attack while driving home from the college. His place as chairman of the board of directors was taken by Guy E. Roam. In 1971, a new campus was purchased at 700 Howdershell Road in Florissant. These facilities had formerly been the St. Stanislaus Seminary, the oldest college campus west of the Mississippi River.
True to its purpose of being a college of evangelism, Urshan College continues to reach out to the apostolic fellowship with expanded programs of service and to the lost with trained workers who carry the whole gospel to the whole world.