Normally this site does not publish all the latest news reports concerning the United Pentecostal Church, its ministers or members. I am making an exception this time as it hit the papers that New Life Tabernacle Church in Siloam Springs, Arkansas has made the decision to no longer promote the dress and hair codes of the UPCI. This is not a small issue within the organization. {Note: this church and pastor did later leave the UPCI. Estes was no longer listed in the 2006 edition of the United Pentecostal Church Directory. Since that time, the church has changed beliefs in other areas that differ significantly from the UPCI.}

On Saturday, June 18, 2005, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette published an article titled, "Pentecostal Pastor Places Dress Code in Closet". It was also available via the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.

The pastor is Tim Estes, a UPCI licensed minister, who states the church is still with the UPC but will leave if their remaining with them causes problems for the organization. He's already had negative reactions from some pastors he knows. The article notes that so far they have only lost about three members from the change and the number of visitors has increased.

According to the report, the pastor started looking into the teachings over three years ago and even wrote a book entitled, "The Premise of Change" (it wasn't made clear if this is available to the public but was read to the church board). He is quoted as stating that the "pat answers" he learned about the codes during five years in Bible college "did not align themselves with the Word of God in context."

A blog post by Time Estes on legalism may be read here. The church website is here and as of 2015, Tim Estes is still the pastor.

Below is the text of the article.

Times are changing at New Life Tabernacle in Siloam Springs. For years, women in the church have followed long-held Pentecostal traditions that governed their dress and appearance.

In Pentecostal and "holiness" churches, women are encouraged to dress modestly, to avoid adornments such as jewelry or makeup and to refrain from cutting their hair.

But these days, women at New Life Tabernacle can be found sporting shorter hair, dressing in pants and even wearing jewelry. The church still encourages modesty in dress but no longer has specific guidelines.

The decision to change such long-held beliefs wasn't easy.

The journey began with the church's pastor, the Rev. Tim Estes, who has served the congregation for 16 years. More than three years ago Estes began investigating the church's teachings regarding dress. "It's been a very difficult thing for me personally," says Estes, who was reared in a strict "holiness" environment. His father was a minister and led the New Life congregation for 28 years before Estes began serving the church. His father also remains a member of the church and is an honorary board member, making Estes' decision to challenge the long-held beliefs that much more difficult.

Estes says first and foremost, honesty with the Bible has been his guide as he leads his church through the transition. "I believe in the infallibility of the Word of God. I am a strict evangelical. I believe everything we need to know about God and to live a righteous life is found in the Bible," he says.

As the journey began, Estes searched for a Scriptural basis for the church's teaching on dress. "I knew all the Scriptures and the cliches we used. I'm well versed in that," he says. "After five years in Bible college, I knew the pat answers, but they did not align themselves with the Word of God in context."

Estes says he was also concerned with how the church could influence society. "We're known for how we look and what we don't do, rather than by what we do. We are trying to break that stereotype. We're saying it's about your relationship with God, and modesty will show up on the outside," Estes says. "I don't want to just baby-sit a small congregation and pacify them. I believe the objective is to evangelize our society, to make Christians out of non-Christians," he says. "I wanted to be aggressive, and not having scriptural answers was a barrier, especially in light of cultural barriers."

When people would ask him why the women of the church couldn't wear slacks, Estes says he was automatically trained to quote Deuteronomy 22:5: "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God." "By that verse of Scripture alone, our denomination has prohibited ladies from wearing slacks," he says, adding that on further study he could not find another such reference anywhere in the Bible. "We lift this verse of Scripture out from a whole list of other laws we don't pay attention to." Estes says he believes the verse is referring to the role of a woman - that she should not lose her identity as a female - and not necessarily to how one should dress, especially not as a prohibition to wear slacks, since robes were the dress of the time for men and women. "We've been very selective and have taken stuff out of context," he says, noting that when Jesus died on the cross he "blotted out the old ordinances" - or the laws - of the Old Testament. "I'm afraid we are guilty of scaling back up the cross and pulling those blotted-out ordinances off that nail and trying to reinstitute them back into the church," Estes says.

PUTTING IT ON THE LINE

The denomination's views on modesty in dress can be found in an article on the Web site www. upci. org. According to the information, "dress is a significant measurement of Christian conduct and practice. Christians can often be identified as such by their outward appearance." The article goes on to list the scriptural references regarding modesty in dress and states that the Apostle Paul admonished women to "dress according to certain standards and listed them in this order: modesty, inexpensive and nonornamental attire and clothing that becomes godliness." The site also states that the Bible teaches that women should let their hair grow uncut.

Estes explores the scriptural references used in church doctrine regarding modesty of dress in his book, The Premise of Change. He examines 1 Corinthians 11, which he says has been used to prohibit women from trimming their hair. Once again, he says the verse has been taken out of context.

In February, Estes nervously - yet resolutely - presented his book to his board of directors, knowing that if they did not approve he had no need to bring it before the entire church. "I was putting it all on the line," he says. He read the book to the board. It took 2 1/2 hours. When he was finished, six out of seven board members voted to support him. The seventh abstained, but remains with the church. Estes says the transition has been tough. "Some of the senior [ members] in our church that have lived with this mind-set for 40 years don't change overnight," he says. "But they are being tolerant and asking questions and praying."

FOCUSING ON THE POSITIVE

Grace Maxwell has been a member of the church for 10 years. She says the changes weren't really unexpected. "It wasn't like a bomb dropped. We were aware these things were being discussed, but I'm 57, and any kind of change is hard," she says. "I was raised in this particular type of church, so I come from a long line of this belief."

Maxwell says the transition has been difficult, but she admits that she had questions about the scriptural validity of some issues, as well. "But it wasn't a problem for me to be different," she says, adding that she will probably continue to dress the same as always. "It's not a question of whether the way I dress is inappropriate. I have a personal preference for feminine clothes. Pants don't appeal to me. In the culture that we are in, women have traditionally worn dresses and that's a sign of femininity, and I still prefer that."

Although Maxwell plans to continue dressing traditionally, she says she is much more tolerant of women who don't. "I am very passionate about my church and my God because I feel that the church is the vehicle which will take me where I want to go ultimately, which is to heaven," she says. "I have the utmost respect for my pastor because he's not only a pastor that tells you what to do, he shows you what to do. He works alongside you."

Estes says the younger generation has been more receptive to the changes and the number of visitors has increased - which he says is in direct response to the changes. He has also received positive responses from other ministers, especially younger ministers.

Estes says today's generation doesn't accept the pastor's word as law as previous generations have. "They will question you, but when you show them why, they will embrace it. They don't have trouble embracing what they see clearly spelled out in Scripture," he says.

Throughout the transition the church has lost about three members - far fewer than what Estes expected.

The journey hasn't been without pitfalls, however. Estes says he has lost friends because of his views on the subject. "I have friends - pastor friends - who have turned their backs on me. They are upset with me in a big way, but I'm not trying to change their congregations. I honor them and their calling. It's hurtful, but I am staying with it because I know the Lord is with me."

Estes says he doesn't have an ax to grind and doesn't begrudge those who continue to follow the traditional teachings of the church.

For now, Estes says the church remains a part of the United Pentecostal Church. He says whatever happens, he doesn't want to bring harm to the denomination. "If my being in it brings confusion or angst of any kind, I'm more than willing to forego that [membership]," he says.

As for the church, Estes says he's excited about the future. The congregation recently voted to buy an additional five acres of adjoining property. "We are focusing on the positive," he says. "I think this church will make a tremendous difference in years to come. But to reach our full potential we need to take down the barriers keeping people out."


Page added June 20, 2005 & updated July 2, 2015


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