The Hoover Family and the Meeks Family
United Pentecostal Church Family Meets Punk Rock Family

The United Pentecostal Church, an organization that is very vocal against television and claims to not allow its licensed ministers to own one (which is laughable as people have known ministers who did), once more finds the television issue on its doorstep.

One of the latest is the appearance of the Hoover family of Versaille, Missouri on ABC TV's "Wife Swap" series that aired February 12, 2007 and July 23, 2007. They swap with the Meeks family of Brenham, Texas.

Tish and Tony Meeks have their own punk rock band called 3 Kisses. The Hoover family is a conservative family that attends a United Pentecostal Church. While their lifestyles are very different, they did find some things they had in common and the families have maintained a close friendship since filming ended. In fact, they each paid tribute to one another in photos that appear on their websites. Each family received an honorarium of $20,000 for their appearances.

Many found it interesting that not once during the show was it mentioned that the Hoover family attended a United Pentecostal Church. This information was edited out of the broadcast for reasons unknown. It was seen in a clip where Kristin's house rules were shown that 'Pentecostal' was written.

For those unaware, Kristin Hoover's UPC background has far reaching roots in the organization. Her parents, Robert and Judith Bentley, were missionaries to Russia. Robert is yet an ordained minister in the UPCI and pastors an affiliated church in Dexter, MO. S.W. and Catherine Chambers are her grandparents as Judy Bentley is their daughter. For those unaware, Stanley Chambers was one of the General Superintendents of the UPCI, the highest office in the organization. He passed away in 2004 at the age of 88.

Stephen Hoover came from an Old Order Mennonite Church. Mennonite was mentioned more than once in the show, which caused some viewers to wrongfully assume the Hoover family was Mennonite. Why Mennonite could be mentioned and not the UPC, the Disciples of Christ Church or the Church of Christ is puzzling.

So what does all this mean and why is this article posted? And by this article, is the spiritual abuse web site trying to condemn the Hoover family for their appearance?

Absolutely not. I have had personal contact with Stephen and he appears to be a very nice and pleasant person who has sincerely held beliefs. He is what I would call a compassionate apostolic, meaning he doesn't view everyone else as hell-bound. It is evident the Hoovers felt to appear on this show, believing it to be God's will. Feeling this way, what other course should they have pursued other than to obey what they felt was the Lord's will? Should they have ignored this because of the dictates of a Manual and Articles of Faith that some feel is in need of change? Is it better to obey God or man?

Herein lies a difficulty for the UPCI. There is a great divide over this issue and it will once again be tackled at the 2007 General Conference in the fall. People on both sides feel God has spoken to them. Different members of local churches as well as licensed ministers have felt to make use of television in some manner. Yet there are very specific rules against such for ministers in the Manual as well as rules against owning or watching television in the Articles of Faith. Should these people abide by these rules or should they follow where they feel God is leading them? (We won't tackle here whether anyone is mistaken in their beliefs that God is leading them to do something.)

Let's get back to a few comments on this television appearance and then come back to the main issue.

An interesting aspect of the show came when Tony Meeks mentioned he was a former pastor. Though the show does not reveal what type of church, Tish Meeks has shared with me that it was a Disciples of Christ Church. Tony was an ordained minister with the Church of Christ.

Church of Christ and UPC ministers have sometimes debated the differences between their teachings. There are some books and tapes available that contain these debates. While Tony was attending seminary, he studied the UPC and authored a paper on their disbelief in the Trinity.

As a side note, Cecil Hook, a Church of Christ minister, wrote a book called, "Free in Christ." In it he shares some problems with the group. While reading it after having left the United Pentecostal Church, it was interesting how many similarities the two religious groups had in common. The book is available to read for free online.

What some may not realize is that the teachings of the UPC do not consider the vast majority of Christians as saved. For instance, had Tony Meeks decided to leave his band after speaking to Kristin and return to the ministry, he would yet be considered lost by the organization.

While Kristin's attempts to help Tony are admirable and I do not at all doubt her sincerity, people who watched the show who are unfamiliar with the teachings of the organization need to realize just what is taught and believed. There was a definite push, according to what was stated in the interviews, to try and get Tony to see he needed the Holy Spirit.

What that means is that he'd have to speak in tongues (languages) as the UPC believes that is the evidence of having received God's Spirit. In addition, he'd have to be re-baptized by full water immersion with the name of Jesus spoken over him. If all of these didn't happen, he would be considered lost according to UPC doctrine.

Because of this, I found it quite interesting that Kristin Hoover was placed with a man where he was familiar already with what the UPC teaches. This would help to keep him from being pulled into teachings specific to the UPCI.

Since the show, the Meeks family has gotten involved with a group of people who are spiritual and musical and on the same plane as them. Tish believes this would have happened anyway since they have always been sensitive to spiritual things. In a tribute to the Hoovers, the Meeks stated, "The Hoover family has made a big impact on our family. We believe that God sent them into our lives... Would the Hoover family be our friends if not for Wife Swap? Probably not, because people tend to stay close to those just like themselves. That is why this experience was so powerful. So many people judge on outward appearances and miss meeting some of the greatest people in the world. The Hoovers are great people. They are an excellent representation of what it means to be Christians and if more Christians were like them, God would be seen by non-believers in a positive light. Although 3 Kisses is doing great and music will always be a big part of the Meeks family, there have definitely been some positive changes in our home. Since the swap we are attending a Bible study and Tish has been making homemade pies."

The Hoover family has been invited to share at various churches, even those outside the UPC. They state on their web site, "God has used this show to minister to people. We have multiple reports of lives being rededicated to the Lord... In our local community the Hoover House has become a place for bible study and prayer meetings with contacts established through ABC’s Wife Swap."

In addition, a potential lifelong friendship has developed that would not have occurred otherwise. Considering these things, should the Hoovers have turned down the invitation because the UPC teaches against television?

Now, as some have asked, will this appearance by the Hoover family open the door for other UPC church members to appear on additional reality television shows or other programs? They could use the same reasoning as the Hoover family did, and feel this would be a great opportunity to witness to others.

Therefore the situation poses some problems and unanswered questions. Should UPC members or ministers, knowing the UPC's stance against owning or watching television, agree to be on a television program, or air their services or advertise on TV? Will such prompt members of United Pentecostal Churches to tune into the broadcasts? (It is quite interesting that this episode of Wife Swap brought in the highest number of viewers to date. Many UPC and other Apostolic Church members watched the show.) If members are allowed to ignore this rule, what other rules might they ignore? Where does it end? And, should there be all these rules in the first place? These are all questions that the organization faces today.

The rules are not simply for licensed ministers. They are also for any member of a church that is affiliated with the UPC. They very clearly, and I believe since their inception, has considered as its members more than the ministers they license to preach. Ask to see your pastor's Manual and you will see it plain as day at the very beginning of the General Constitution. In addition, every two years each minister signs an affirmation that they believe, practice and teach the holiness standards found within the Articles of Faith. So even if one attends a church not affiliated with the organization, because ministers should be teaching against it, church members are expected to follow what the pastor teaches. And according to the affirmation statement, the ministers should be teaching against television. (It should be noted that the Hoovers do not attend an affiliated UPC church.)

What effect will this have upon the United Pentecostal Church as a whole and on the individual members of their churches? Will others go against the teachings and let down on additional outward standards? Will it enable members to apply to appear on other reality programming? Does the United Pentecostal Church wants its membership to go against clearly defined teachings of the church, even if it brings them opportunities to spread their doctrines?

Which should take precedence: What one feels to be the leading of God or what is written in a man-made manual or Articles of Faith? How large of a split will occur in the organization after General Conference? No matter which direction the vote goes, ministers will be leaving.

The United Pentecostal Church truly needs to revise their policy on television. It should match their position on Internet use. Movies and TV programs are readily viewed on the Internet and even on cell phones. Technology is making great advances and the harsh rhetoric for television and movies, while allowing Internet and cell phones, is quite puzzling. Unwise use of the Internet can and does cause far more damage and harm, sometimes irreparably, than watching television or attending a movie theater.

There have been several media reports revolving around the show. I have included links to some.

2010 Interview With Tish Meeks - Tish and Tony are now divorced.

ABC's News Release of Hoover-Meeks Wife Swap Episode

Rock mom, church mom-- Brenham woman takes part in popular 'Wife Swap' program

Brenham musicians participate in 'Wife Swap'

Tish & Tony Meeks Of 3 Kisses On ABC's Wife Swap

Wife Swap’s Steve and Kristin Hoover—The ninetyandnine.com Interview - This was the pre-broadcast interview.

Wife Swap’s Steve and Kristin Hoover—The ninetyandnine.com Interview - This was the post-broadcast interview.

Atlantic Monthly May 2007 Article

Tish Meeks' Manual

Kristin Hoover's Manual

Readers may want to familiarize themselves with the UPC positions in regard to the following issues:
Video Restrictions
Computers & the Internet
Technology
Holiness
Media Technology
Articles of Faith

For those who may be reading this and are unfamiliar with why the Hoover family was upset when Tish told the girls they were going to wear pants, we have a page that explains UPC beliefs and a section on standards.

There have been other instances where UPC members have appeared on television. Below is a clip from the David Letterman show where a UPC minister from Anchorage, Alaska and his wife appear in the audience. This is Jim and Heather Blackshear. The wife plays one of the games with Letterman. I believe this was in early 2007. If watching a show on TV is wrong, wouldn't it also be considered wrong to view it live in person? Where are all the lines to be drawn?

I'd like to thank Stephen Hoover and Tish Meeks for sharing information that has been used in this article. Dialoging with both individuals has been a pleasant experience and I wish their families the best.

NOTE: Since the initial posting of this article, changes have been made in the United Pentecostal Church with regard to television. See here.


Page Added February 15, 2007 & links updated May 23, 2015


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