During Black History Month, the Two Organizations Announce their Cooperative Affiliation
At the iconic Azusa Street revival, a focal point of the emerging Pentecostal movement, believers regardless of race worshipped and ministered together. This was significant in an era marred by racial division.
In spite of this unified beginning, a single decision in 1917 resulted in two separate Pentecostal organizations. However recent efforts, nearly 100 years later, have begun to mend the relationship and have resulted in a new partnership linking the two for the cause of Christ.
“We have now been on a four-year journey with the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, which was birthed in 1919 because of racism in the Assemblies of God Fellowship,” says Dr. George O. Wood, the General Superintendent of the TheGeneral Council of the Assemblies of God. “Now, the Lord has brought us together again in a more formal partnership, to hold high the name of Jesus and advance His mission in the power of the Spirit.”
The General Council of the Assemblies of God (GCAG) organized in 1914, and three years later, Alexander Howard, an African-American Pentecostal believer from Chicago, approached the GCAG and asked to be sent as a missionary to Liberia. GCAG leaders of the time refused to appoint Howard—on account of his race.
Ultimately Howard connected with a group of African-American churches in New England. This group organized in 1919, and in 1920 became the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God (UPCAG) partly to fulfill Howard’s purpose of going to Liberia as a missionary.
The GCAG and UPCAG remained separate organizations for nearly a century. Four years ago, Rev. Thomas Barclay, the International Presiding Elder for the UPCAG, was stirred to connect the two fellowships and mend the divide.
Under the banner of 1 Cor. 1:10, which says, “I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought,” Barclay reached out to Wood and they soon began an eager discussion on how to repair the relationship.
Barclay’s declaration began an important process of reconciliation. In recent decades the Assemblies of God Fellowship has sought to build bridges across ethnic, linguistic, and cultural divides. More than 40 percent of the current GCAG membership in the United States is made up of ethnic minorities. To connect now with the UPCAG is both a natural and redemptive shift, one Wood calls “a vital forward step.”
Last year, UPCAG delegates and the GCAG Executive Presbytery approved plans for the cooperative affiliation. Under this agreement, any UPCAG church that so desires will be welcomed into local AG districts, as well as all national AG programs and missions while maintaining their own credentialing practices and autonomy.
It seems fitting that this historic reconciliation would culminate during Black History Month, when the UPCAG leadership joined the GCAG national team for a celebratory chapel service on Feb. 11.
“God has put us together, and there is something about to happen,” Barclay shared in his chapel sermon at the GCAG National Leadership and Resource Center in Springfield, Mo. “No longer will we be separated from you. We came to lock arms with you.”