Robin Wentworth's United Pentecostal Church Experience

The follow has been taken from "The Journey Out of the United Pentecostal Church" by Daniel J. Lewis, copyright 1994. See below for further details. Note that the Jackson College of Ministries closed years ago.

ROBIN WENTWORTH, Birmingham, Alabama

[Robin Wentworth was a member of the UPC for four years in the Mississippi District. He attended Jackson College of Ministries during the tumultuous years described earlier in this work, and when he left, he went on to complete his education elsewhere. He earned both a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology at John Brown University (1984). He was granted the Master of Arts degree in Psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi (1989), and he went on to complete his Ph.D. in Psychology at the same institution (1990). Presently, he works in Birmingham as a Management Consultant.]

Joining the UPC was no small task. My religious experience was Southern Baptist, and my religious heritage was primarily the same. The summer before my junior year in high school, I embraced Pentecostalism in search for a more focused personal experience and Christian fellowship. This was a radical departure from my upbringing, family wishes and social milieu, and it resulted in some ostracism and isolation from my prior "world." On the other hand, it brought adventure and discovery in a world to which I had been oblivious.

I struggled with certain aspects of Pentecostalism from the beginning. "Tongues" and related personal manifestations of worship in the Spirit never flowed easily from me as they did for long-time Pentecostals. I could not comprehend apparent discrepancies in personal morality and "shouting," e.g., how a singer and worship leader in the church could shout on Sunday while engaging in adultery on Monday. It seemed suspect that an evangelist's wife would speak in tongues and he would interpret a message that so conveniently confirmed his sermon or plea to the congregation. The Almighty's interest in the length of my hair and shirt sleeves struck me as a preoccupation with triviality compared to the prevalent issues of rape, war and hunger. Lastly, the preeminence of ministers struck me as uncomfortably similar to the imposition of a priest between Christ and the people.

Thus, I left the UPC over time with pain and trauma surpassing that of my entry into it. I often wondered if I was becoming what I had preached against for four years. Was I drawing nigh to God or sliding back into my pre-Pentecostal "heathenism?" Fortunately for me, reentry into mainstream Christendom was made easier by friends concurrently leaving the UPC and by family and childhood friends affirming my departure.

Pentecostals taught me much. I now more greatly appreciate a personal experience of God, the importance of personal standards of holiness, and common values that define the human race. Perhaps most importantly, I experienced the presence of God through many children of God. It continues to be a great honor and pleasure to be called "friend" by some true saints of God.

I weep with those whose departure from Oneness Pentecostalism is so costly. It was difficult to isolate myself from friends and family to join the UPC. It must be much worse to be labeled "sinner" and "backslider" by those whom one has cherished since birth as friend and family.


"The Journey Out of the United Pentecostal Church" by Daniel J. Lewis may be accessed for free in PDF format here. Much thanks to Dan Lewis for permission to distribute his book.


Posted June 20, 2014

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