A Missouri pastoral couple announced their withdrawal from United Pentecostal Church International to protest the racism they see in the denomination.
"We feel that it is important that the church be the center of the community. Standing for the Word of God with love and compassion. However, here in the St. Louis area, we have not experienced the church standing against what is literally pulling our city apart—racism," Pastor Adam Medina says in a video posted Sunday.
Medina and his wife Dawn lead the renamed New Destiny Apostolic Church.
"This goes further than having the right to choose a side. However, the UPCI decided to stand on one side of the issue and not address the hurt or racial profiling and injustices. And as a family that has been victim to racial profiling, it would have been such a healing balm for the St. Louis community if the church would have had at least expressed empathy for those apostolic black men and women who have experienced racial profiling in complete innocence. What should have been addressed is, if it's affecting my brother or sister of any race that share the same Savior, Jesus Christ, it affects me," he says in the video.
The video has more than 93,000 views, thousands of shares and hundreds of comments.
David Bernard, the superintendent of UPCI released a lengthy statement regarding the video and his subsequent meeting with the Medinas.
"Recently, there has been a discussion on social media about racism and the United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI). Many people have described personal experiences both positive and negative. On the day after the original post, I met with the couple who initiated the post. We had a cordial and productive conversation. They expressed appreciation for the overall direction of the UPCI but shared their concerns and personal experiences," Bernard says.
"The UPCI teaches that racism is a sin," Bernard continues. "We believe it is important to preach and teach against racism in all its forms; to eliminate all discrimination and prejudice; and to promote intentional diversity at all levels of participation and leadership. We strive for our leadership to reflect our existing diversity and for our churches to reflect the increasing diversity of our society. Much has been accomplished in recent years, but much more needs to be accomplished. It is a work in progress.
To this end, we seek to increase awareness and sensitivity regarding matters of race and culture and to create a welcoming environment for people of all social backgrounds and political persuasions. We desire to speak with moral clarity on important social issues while maintaining Christian ethics, humility and kindness. In all our statements and discussions, we do not take political sides, but we try to speak as the church, even though this has led to criticism from people on both (or sometimes several) sides."
Click here to read Bernard's full statement.
James Woods, the assistant to the pastor at Abundant Life United Pentecostal Fellowship, also disagreed with the Medinas' assessment. He posted the following comment on Facebook:
"As a Black UPCI Pastor, I don't feel that the UPCI or any other Apostolic organization is perfect. I sat under a white Pastor, who made me his assistant and passed down his ministry to me. I think both sides could do better to understand each other's cultural differences," Woods commented. "I don't think the problem will be solved blaming an organization. The church I pastor is very diverse. I don't think anyone who attends a church of a single race can avoid having some type of prejudice, or misconception toward other races. That is even Biblical looking at the Jerusalem church, and Peter when he came to Antioch. The UPCI having all white churches is no better than other organizations having all churches of 1 race either. The Answer to the problem is not making videos tearing down an organization in ALL CAPS. Love will always be the answer. I think David Bernard is doing a great job, and he has spoken against racism. I'm staying UPCI by the way. There are some great people who are a part of this fellowship. I almost feel as if some of these comments are "they're wrong, I'm right", without actually offering a solution. We need to be a part of the solution, and not magnify the problem. Even if someone was racist to me tomorrow, I would love them in hopes that God would change their heart. Not because I'm Compromising, or have been brain-washed. I feel that'll be the will of God."
Rico Smith Ministries is set to host a seminar titled "No More Taboo: Tackling Racism in the Church" with Bernard as the keynote speaker.
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