Oneness Pentecostalism (also known as Apostolic or Jesus' Name Pentecostalism and often pejoratively referred to as the "Jesus Only" movement in its early days) is a category of denominations and believers within Pentecostalism which adhere to the nontrinitarian theological doctrine of Oneness. The movement first emerged in America around 1914 as the result of doctrinal disputes within the nascent Pentecostal movement and claims an estimated 24 million adherents today. For a list of denominations in this movement, see List of Christian denominations.
Oneness Pentecostalism derives its distinctive name from its teaching on the Godhead, which is popularly referred to as the Oneness doctrine. This doctrine states that there is one God, a singular divine Spirit, who manifests himself in many ways, including as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. This stands in sharp contrast to the doctrine of three distinct and eternal persons posited by Trinitarian theology. Oneness believers baptize in the name of Jesus Christ, commonly referred to as Jesus' name baptism, rather than using the Trinitarian formula. It is somewhat similar to Sabellianism.
Besides their beliefs about the Godhead, Oneness Pentecostals differ significantly from most other Pentecostal and Evangelical Christians in matters of soteriology. Whereas most Pentecostals and evangelicals believe that only faith in Jesus Christ is the essential element for salvation, Oneness Pentecostalism defines salvation as repentance, water baptism (in the name of Jesus Christ) and baptism in the Holy Spirit, with the evidence of speaking in other tongues. They also tend to emphasize strict "holiness standards" in dress, grooming and other areas of personal conduct that are not necessarily shared by other Pentecostal groups, at least not to the degree that is generally found in Oneness churches.
Advocating a non-traditional view of God, Oneness Pentecostals find in modalistic monarchianism of the fourth century a historical predecessor that affirmed the two central aspects of their own convictions:
The Oneness doctrine differs from Sabellianism in that Oneness Pentecostals conceive of the “trimanifestation” of God as simultaneous instead of successive, as is the case with classical Modalism. They contend that, based on Colossians 2:9, the concept of God’s personhood is reserved for the immanent and incarnate presence of Jesus only. Hence, Oneness Pentecostals generally argue that the Godhead is in Jesus, yet Jesus is not in the Godhead.
Oneness theology specifically maintains that God is absolutely and indivisibly one. It equally proclaims that God is not made of a physical body, but is an invisible spirit that can only be seen in theophanies (such as the burning bush) that he creates or manifests, or in the person of the incarnate Jesus Christ. In the person of Jesus, one sees the last, best, and complete theophany of God (Colossians 2:9 KJV: "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily").
Oneness Pentecostalism rejects all concepts of a subordination, duality, trinity, pantheon, co-equality, co-eternity, or other versions of the Godhead that assert plural gods, plural beings, divine "persons", individuals, or multiple centers of consciousness within that Godhead. It equally denies all concepts of Jesus as anything other than fully God and fully man, together with all teachings that assert that he was merely a "good man," or only a sinless man, high priest or prophet, rather than God himself. Oneness doctrine declares that Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God, but that this happened only when he was born from Mary on Earth. It rejects the view that any person can "obtain" the status of God whether by works or by grace, maintaining that Jesus Christ did not "obtain" his status, but rather that he is the one, eternal God himself manifested in the flesh according to the Oneness Pentecostal interpretation of 1 Timothy 3:16, as is rendered in the King James Version.
Unlike Arians, who present the Son as a subordinate being to the Father, both Oneness and Trinitarians seek to establish an ontological oneness (union) between the Father and Son. Trinitarians do this by recognizing distinct consciousnesses (persons) within the Divine Nature. Oneness seeks to accomplish this by attributing the distinct consciousnesses to that of the true humanity of Christ – that is to say, in a union between a truly infinite person, and a truly finite person, there will of necessity be a distinction of consciousness – yet in this distinction of consciousness there is a shared Identity (Person).
So from the Oneness viewpoint the Son is both distinct from the Father while being essentially one with the Father by virtue of his ontological oneness with the Father. It should be noted that both views, Oneness and Trinitarianism, resolve the issues of distinction of consciousnesses to the principle of monotheism by attributing ontological oneness of being to the Father and the Son – the difference is in what way they are distinct and in what way they are one. The difference being that Oneness Pentecostals still maintain that the Father and Son are not actually distinct persons, but rather are distinct modes or manifestations.
Oneness Pentecostals reject the Trinity doctrine of distinct "co-equal and co-eternal persons in one triune Godhead" as a non-biblical distortion or an extra-Biblical invention, which dilutes true Biblical Monotheism, and also, in a sense, limits God. Oneness believers say that God can operate using an unlimited number of manifestations, not just three. However, they recognize that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the great and major roles that God has carried out in man's redemption.
Oneness Pentecostals believe that Trinitarian doctrine is a "tradition of men" and neither scriptural nor a teaching of God, and cite the absence of the word "Trinity" from the Bible as one evidence of this. They generally believe the doctrine is an invention of the fourth-century Council of Nicea, and later councils, which made it orthodox. The Oneness position on the Trinity places them at odds with the members of most other Christian churches, some of whom have accused Oneness Pentecostals of being Modalists and derided them as "cultists".
Oneness teaching asserts that God is a singular spirit who is one, not three persons, individuals or minds. "Father", "Son" and "Holy Ghost" (also known as the Holy Spirit) are merely titles reflecting the different personal manifestations of the One True God in the universe. When Oneness believers speak of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, they see these as three personal manifestations of one being, one personal God:
Father: The title of God in parental relationship
Holy Spirit: The title of God in activity as Spirit
Oneness teachers often quote a phrase used by early pioneers of the movement – "God was manifested as the Father in creation, the Son in redemption, and the Holy Ghost in emanation."
Oneness theology sees that when the one and omnipresent God manifests or reveals himself, it is in a personal way. Oneness theology sees the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as one transcendent, personal, omnipresent God manifesting himself in three personal and distinct manifestations or forms to redeem and sanctify sinful and lost humanity, and also that all the fullness of the deity resides fully in the person of Christ (I Timothy 3:16).
The Father and the Holy Spirit are one and the same personal God, according to Oneness theology. They teach that the "Holy Spirit" is a descriptive title for God manifesting Himself through His church and in the world. These two titles (as well as others) do not reflect separate "persons" within the Godhead, but rather two different ways in which the one God reveals himself to his creatures. Thus, the Old Testament speaks of "The Lord God and his Spirit" in Isaiah 48:16, but this does not indicate two "persons" according to Oneness theology. Rather, "The Lord" indicates God in all of his glory and transcendence, while "his Spirit" refers to his own Spirit that moved upon and spoke to the prophet. This does not imply two "persons" any more than the numerous scriptural references to a man and his spirit or soul (such as in Luke 12:19) imply two "persons" existing within one body.
The ambiguity of the term "person" has been noted by both Oneness and Trinitarian proponents as a source of conflict. This issue is addressed by Trinitarian scholar and Christian apologist Alister McGrath:
"The word ‘person’ has changed its meaning since the third century when it began to be used in connection with the ‘threefoldness of God’. When we talk about God as a person, we naturally think of God as being one person. But theologians such as Tertullian, writing in the third century, used the word ‘person’ with a different meaning. The word ‘person’ originally derives from the Latin word persona, meaning an actor’s face-mask—and, by extension, the role which he takes in a play. By stating that there were three persons but only one God, Tertullian was asserting that all three major roles in the great drama of human redemption are played by the one and the same God. The three great roles in this drama are all played by the same actor: God. Each of these roles may reveal God in a somewhat different way, but it is the same God in every case. So when we talk about God as one person, we mean one person in the modern sense of the word, and when we talk about God as three persons, we mean three persons in the ancient sense of the word. ... Confusing these two senses of the word ‘person’ inevitably leads to the idea that God is actually a committee."
In contrast, according to Oneness Theology, the Son of God did not exist (in any substantial sense) prior to the incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth except as the Logos of God the Father. The humanity of Jesus did not exist before the incarnation, although Jesus (i.e. the Spirit of Jesus) preexisted in his deity as eternal God.
Oneness Pentecostals believe that the title "Son" only applied to Christ when he became flesh on earth, but that Christ was the Logos or Mind of the Father prior to his being made human, and not a separate person. In this theology, the Father embodies the divine attributes of the godhead and the Son embodies the human aspects. They believe that Jesus and the Father are one essential person, though operating as different modes.
Oneness author W. L. Vincent writes "The argument against the "Son being his own Father" is a red herring. It should be evident that Oneness theology acknowledges a clear distinction between the Father and Son – in fact this has never been disputed by any Christological view that I am aware of."
Oneness Pentecostalism subscribes to the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. They view the Bible as the inspired Word of God, and as absolutely inerrant in its contents (though not necessarily in every translation). They specifically reject the conclusions of church councils such as the Council of Nicea and the Nicene Creed. They believe that mainstream Trinitarian Christians have been misled by long-held and unchallenged "traditions of men".
Oneness Theology holds that "the Word" in John 1:1 was the invisible God, or the Mind of God, being expressed to his creatures: first the angels, then man. Before the creation of the universe (seen and unseen), God alone existed in eternity; he had no need to manifest or express himself, as there was no one else to manifest or express himself to. However, once the angels and later man had been created, the immaterial and uncircumscribable God manifested himself in an angelic form that his creatures could relate to. This form – "the Word", in Oneness teaching – later took on human flesh as Jesus of Nazareth. Thus, the Word was never a second person in the Godhead, but rather the one singular personal God Himself manifesting Himself in a form that His creation could comprehend. However, with his Incarnation, God took on "the seed of Abraham" (Hebrews 2:6); this was something unique, as he had never taken on "the nature of angels" while previously manifesting himself as "the Word". Hence, Jesus' Incarnation from Mary is a singular event, unlike anything God has ever done prior to it or ever will do again.
Although the Oneness belief in the union of the divine and human into one person in Christ is similar to the Chalcedonian formula, Chalcedonians disagree sharply with them over their opposition to Trinitarian dogma. Chalcedonians see Jesus Christ as a single person uniting "God the Son", the eternal second person of the traditional Trinity, with human nature. Oneness believers, on the other hand, see Jesus as one single person uniting the one God himself with human nature as "the Son of God". They insist that their conception of the Godhead is true to early Christianity's strict monotheism, contrasting their views not only with Trinitarianism, but equally with the forms of Arianism espoused by the Latter-day Saints (who believe that Christ was a separate "god" from the Father and the Spirit) and Jehovah's Witnesses (who see him as the first-begotten Son of God, and as a subordinate deity to the Father). Oneness theology is similar to historical Modalism or Sabellianism, although it cannot be exactly characterized as such.
The overwhelming emphasis on the person of Jesus shapes the content of a theology based on experience among both Oneness and Trinitarian Pentecostals. In principle, the doctrinal emphasis on Jesus attributes all divine qualities and functions to Christ. What might therefore be called a 'Christological maximalism' in the Pentecostal doctrine of God leads among Oneness Pentecostals to a factual substitution of the three divine persons with the single person of Jesus, while trinitarian Pentecostals typically elevate Christ from the 'second' person of the Trinity to the central figure of Christian faith and worship.
Critics of Oneness theology commonly refer to its adherents as "Jesus Only", implying that they deny the existence of the Father and Holy Spirit. Most Oneness Pentecostals consider that term to be pejorative, and a misrepresentation of their true beliefs on the issue. Oneness believers insist that while they do indeed believe in baptism only in the name of Jesus Christ (in accordance with how all water baptisms in the Book of Acts were performed – Acts 2:38; 8:12; 8:16; 10:48; 19:5) – as opposed to the traditional Trinitarian baptism – to describe them as "Jesus-Only Pentecostals" implies a denial of the Father and Holy Spirit.
Oneness believers are often accused of being Monistic or Modalistic. They have also occasionally been accused of Arianism or Semi-Arianism, usually by isolated individuals rather than church organizations. While Oneness theologian Dr. David Bernard indicates that Modalistic Monarchianism and Oneness are essentially the same, and that Sabellius was basically correct, (so long as one does not understand Modalism to be the same as patripassianism), and while Arius also believed that God is a singular Person, Bernard vehemently denies any connection to Arianism or Subordinationism in Oneness teaching.
Oneness Theology does not represent a monolithic soteriological view; however, there are general characteristics that tend to be held in common by those who hold to a Oneness-view of God. In common with most Protestant denominations, Oneness Pentecostal soteriology maintains that all people are born with a sinful nature, and sin at a young age, and remain "lost" without hope of salvation, unless they embrace the Gospel; that Jesus Christ made a complete atonement for the sins of all people, which is the sole means of man's redemption; and that salvation comes solely by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Oneness doctrine also teaches that true faith has the fruit of obedience, and that true salvation is not only to profess faith, but to demonstrate it as well in action. Oneness churches, while exhibiting variations, generally teach the following as the foundation of Christian conversion:
Oneness Pentecostals generally accept that these are minimal requirements of conversion.
Oneness Pentecostals maintain that no good works or obedience to law can save anyone, apart from God's grace. Furthermore, salvation comes solely through faith in Jesus Christ; there is no salvation through any name or work other than his (Acts 4:12). Oneness teaching rejects interpretations that hold that salvation is given automatically to the "elect"; all men are called to salvation, and "whosoever will, may come" (Revelation 22:17).
While salvation is indeed a gift in Oneness belief, it must be received. This reception of salvation is generally what is considered conversion, and is accepted in the majority of evangelical Churches. The first mandate is true faith in Jesus Christ, demonstrated by obedience to God's commands, and a determination to submit to his will in every aspect of one's life. Oneness adherents reject the notion that one may be saved through what they call "mental faith": mere belief in Christ, without life-changing repentance or obedience. Thus, they emphatically reject the idea that one is saved through praying a Sinner's Prayer, but rather the true saving faith and change of life declared in scripture. Oneness Pentecostals have no issue with the Sinner's Prayer itself, but deny that it alone represents "saving faith"; the Bible, accordingly mandated repentance, baptism by water and spirit with receipt of the Holy Spirit as the manifestation of the spirit part of the rebirth experience, this represents the manifestations of true, godly faith that was obeyed and done by the early Church believers not only in Jerusalem but also those who are in Samaria, in Europe, even in Asia and at one point to an Ethiopian Eunuch. Thus, one who has truly been saved will gladly submit to the biblical conditions for conversion. According to these believers, Jesus and the Apostles taught that the New Birth experience includes repentance (the true Sinner's Prayer), and baptism in both water and God's Spirit.
Oneness Pentecostals maintain that salvation is not possible without repentance. While repentance is in part "godly sorrow" for sin, it is as much as complete change of heart and mind toward God and his word. This is why Oneness Churches expect a complete reformation of life in those who have become Christians.
Most Oneness Pentecostals believe that water baptism is essential to salvation, and not merely symbolic in nature, and because they believe that one must have faith and repent before being baptized, baptisms of infants or by compulsion are deemed unacceptable.
Oneness Pentecostal theology maintains the literal definition of baptism as being completely immersed in water. They believe that other modes either have no biblical basis or are based upon inexact Old Testament rituals, and that their mode is the only one described in the New Testament. The Articles of Faith of the largest Oneness Pentecostal religious organization states, "The scriptural mode of baptism is immersion… in obedience to the Word of God, and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, according to the Acts of the Apostles 2:38, 8:16, 10:48, 19:5; thus obeying Matthew 28:19.
Oneness believers believe that for water baptism to be valid, one must be baptized "in the name of Jesus Christ", rather than the mainstream baptismal formula "in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit". This follows the examples found in the Book of Acts. "Jesus' Name" is a description used to refer to Oneness Pentecostals and their baptismal beliefs.
This conviction is mainly centered around the baptismal formula mandated in Acts 2:38: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost". Oneness Pentecostals insist that there are no New Testament references to baptism by any other formula – save in Matthew 28:19 which most hold to be simply another reference to Jesus-name baptism. Although Matthew 28:19 seems to mandate a Trinitarian formula for baptism, Oneness theology avows that the "name" in that verse is actually singular and refers to Jesus, whose name they believe to be that of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Oneness believers insist that all Bible's texts on the subject must be in full agreement with each other; thus, they say that either the Apostles disobeyed the command they had been given in Matthew 28:19 or they correctly fulfilled it by using the name of Jesus Christ.
Some Oneness believers consider that the text of Matthew 28:19 is not original, quoting the early Church historian Eusebius, who referred to this passage at least eighteen times in his works. Eusebius' text reads: "go and make disciples of all nations in my name, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you." However, most Oneness believers do believe that Matthew 28:19 is authentic and original due to divine providence and preservation of the Scriptures. Other Church Fathers are alleged to have not known of any triune formula in that text. The latter believe that Jesus is the name correctly applied to God as a whole: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that to baptize in the name of Jesus therefore fulfills the requirement of Matthew 28:19.
Oneness Pentecostals assert that of the five mentions of baptism in the Book of Acts, all were performed in the name of Jesus Christ (Acts 2:38; 8:16; 10:48; 19:3-5; and 22:16), and that no Trinitarian formula is ever referred to therein. In addition, 1 Corinthians 1:13 is taken by Oneness Pentecostals to indicate baptism in Jesus' name, as well. Hence, Oneness believers claim that this constitutes proof that the "Jesus-name" formula was the original one, and that the Trinitarian invocation was erroneously substituted for it later.
Oneness Pentecostals believe that the Baptism of the Holy Spirit is a free gift, commanded for all. The Holy Spirit is defined in Pentecostal doctrine as the Spirit of God (also known as the Spirit of Christ, Rom 8:9) dwelling within a person. It is further explained as the power of God to edify (build up) them, help them abstain from sin, and anoint them with power to exercise the Gifts of the Spirit for edification of the church by the Will of God. This differs substantially from the incarnation of God as Jesus Christ, for the Incarnation involved "the fullness of the Godhead" Col 2:9 uniting with human flesh, inseparably linking the deity and man to create the man, Christ Jesus. Believers, on the other hand, can only receive a portion of the Spirit and are not permanently bonded with God as Jesus is. Nor, for that matter, can any believer ever become as Jesus is by nature: God and man.
The Pentecostal doctrine of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is most simply explained as God:
Oneness doctrine maintains the Holy Spirit is the title of the one God in action, hence they maintain that the Holy Spirit within any individual is nothing more or less than God himself acting through that individual.
Pentecostals, both Oneness and Trinitarian, maintain that the Holy Spirit experience denotes the genuine Christian Church, and that he carries with him power for the believer to accomplish God's will. As do most Pentecostals, Oneness believers maintain that the initial sign of the infilling Holy Spirit is speaking in tongues, and that the New Testament mandates this as a minimal requirement. They equally recognize that speaking in tongues is a sign to unbelievers of the Holy Spirit's power, and is to be actively sought after and utilized, most especially in prayer. However, this initial manifestation of the Holy Spirit 1 Corinthians 12:7 is seen as distinct from the "gift of tongues" mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12:10, which is given to selected spirit-filled believers as the Holy Spirit desires. Oneness adherents assert that receipt of the Holy Spirit, manifested by speaking in tongues, is necessary for salvation.
In common with other Pentecostals, Oneness believers are known for their charismatic style of worship. They believe that the spiritual gifts found in the New Testament are still active in the church; hence, services are often spontaneous, being punctuated at times with acts of speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, prophetic messages, and the laying on of hands for the purposes of healing. Oneness believers, like all Pentecostals, are characterized by their practice of speaking in other tongues. In such ecstatic experiences a Oneness believer may vocalize fluent unintelligible utterances (glossolalia), or articulate a natural language previously unknown to them (xenoglossy).
Oneness Pentecostals believe that a Christian's lifestyle should be characterized by holiness. This holiness begins at baptism, when the blood of Christ washes away all sin and a person stands before God truly holy for the first time in his or her life. After this, a separation from the world in both practical and moral areas is essential to spiritual life. Moral or inward holiness consists of righteous living, guided and powered by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Practical or outward holiness for Oneness believers involves certain "holiness standards" that dictate, among other things, modest apparel and gender distinction. Oneness Pentecostals believe wholeheartedly in dressing modestly (with restraints and limits). They believe that there is a distinct deference in Modesty (being aware of one's limitations, or shunning indecency, ) and Moderation (avoiding excesses or extremes while suggesting more than usual). Modesty carries the connotation of something being off-limits. They justify this belief by using the Biblical scripture in 1 Timothy 2:9 "In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel…" Some Oneness organizations, considering current social trends in fashion and dress to be immoral, have established "dress codes" for their members. These guidelines are similar to those used by all Pentecostal denominations for much of the first half of the 20th century. According to standards written in the late-1990s, generally, women are expected not to wear pants, make-up, jewelry, or to cut their hair short; men are expected to be clean-shaven, short-haired, and are expected to wear long sleeve shirts, long-legged pants, as opposed to shorts. Additionally, many Oneness organizations strongly admonish their members not to watch secular movies or television. Many of these views on "standards" have roots in the larger Holiness movement. However, the precise degree to which these standards are enforced varies from church to church and even from individual to individual within the movement. However, in the early days of the oneness movement standards, or "holiness", was not a held belief nor required bylaw for congregants. In fact, holiness or sanctification was actually shared with that of the Wesleyan viewpoint.
Due to the comparative strictness of their standards, Oneness Pentecostals are often accused of legalism by other Christians. Oneness believers respond by saying that holiness is commanded by God in Hebrews 12:14–17 and that it follows salvation, rather than causes it. "Holiness living", for Oneness Pentecostals, proceeds from love rather than duty, and is motivated by the holy nature imparted by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. While the Christian life is indeed one of liberty from rules and laws, that liberty does not negate one's responsibility to follow scriptural teachings on moral issues, many of which were established by the Apostles themselves.
The Oneness Pentecostal movement is considered to have begun in 1914, as the result of severe doctrinal disputes within the nascent Pentecostal movement. During these formative years, doctrinal division developed and widened over traditional Trinitarian theology and the formula used at baptism, with some Pentecostal leaders claiming revelation or other insights pointing them toward the Oneness concept. Pentecostals quickly split along these doctrinal lines. Those who held to belief in the Trinity and the Trinitarian baptismal formula condemned the Oneness teaching as heresy. On the other hand, those who rejected the Trinity as being contrary to the Bible and a form of polytheism (by dividing God into three separate beings, according to their interpretation), formed their own denominations and institutions, which ultimately developed into the Oneness churches of today.
Scholars within the movement differ in their views on church history. Some church historians, such as Dr. Curtis Ward, Marvin Arnold, and William Chalfant, hold to a Successionist view, arguing that their movement has existed in every generation from the original day of Pentecost to the present day. Ward has proposed a theory of an unbroken Pentecostal Church lineage, claiming to have chronologically traced its perpetuity throughout the church's history.
Others hold to a Restorationist view, believing that while the Apostles and their church clearly taught Oneness doctrine and the Pentecostal experience, the Apostolic church went into apostasy and ultimately evolved into the Catholic Church. For them, the contemporary Oneness Pentecostal movement came into existence in the early 20th century, during the latter days of the Azusa Street Revival. Restorationists such as David K. Bernard deny any direct link from the Apostolic church to the current Oneness movement, believing that modern Pentecostalism is a total restoration originating from a step-by-step separation within Protestantism, culminating in the final restoration of the early Apostolic Church.
Both Successionists and Restorationists among Oneness Pentecostals assert that the Apostolic Church believed in the Oneness and Jesus-Name baptism doctrines. Oneness theologian David K. Bernard claims to trace Oneness adherents back to the first converted Jews of the Apostolic Age. He asserts that there is no evidence of these converts having any difficulty comprehending the Church's teachings, and integrating them with their existing strict Judaistic monotheistic beliefs. In the Post-apostolic Age, he claims that Hermas, Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Polycrates and Ignatius, who lived between 90 and 140 A.D., and Irenaeus, who died about 200 A.D., were either Oneness, modalist, or at most a follower of an "economic Trinity", that is, a temporary Trinity and not an eternal one.
Bernard theorizes that the majority of all believers were Oneness adherents until the time of Tertullian, who died circa 225, and was the first notable Church figure to use the term Trinity to describe God. In support of his allegation, Bernard quotes Tertullian as writing against Praxeas: "The simple, indeed (I will not call them unwise or unlearned), who always constitute the majority of believers, are startled at the dispensation (of the Three in One), on the very ground that their very Rule of Faith withdraws them from the world's plurality of gods to the one only true God; not understanding that, although He is the one only God, He must yet be believed in with His own economy. The numerical order and distribution of the Trinity, they assume to be a division of the Unity."
In April 1913, at the “Apostolic Faith World-Wide Camp-Meeting” held in Arroyo Seco, California and conducted by Maria Woodworth-Etter, organizers promised that God would "deal with them, giving them a unity and power that we have not yet known." Canadian R. E. McAlister preached a message about water baptism just prior to a baptismal service that was about to be conducted. His message defended the "single immersion" method and preached "that apostolic baptism was administered as a single immersion in a single name, Jesus Christ, " saying: "The words Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were never used in Christian baptism". This immediately caused controversy when Frank Denny, a Pentecostal missionary to China, jumped on the platform and tried to censor McAlister. Oneness Pentecostals mark this occasion as the initial "spark" in the Oneness revival movement.
John G. Schaepe, a young minister, was so moved by McAlister's revelation that, after praying and reading the Bible all night, he ran through the camp the following morning shouting that he'd received a "revelation" on baptism, that the "name" of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit was "Lord Jesus Christ". Schaepe (whose name is often misspelled Scheppe in a number of sources) claimed during this camp-meeting that the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost was the name "Lord Jesus Christ" which name was later part of the baptismal command posited by Peter in Acts 2:38 – i.e., baptism "in the name of Jesus Christ" – was the fulfillment and counterpart of the Great Commission in Matthew 28:19 constituting baptism "in the name (singular) of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (which "name" Oneness believers hold to be that of Jesus)." This conclusion was accepted by several others in the camp and given further theological development by a minister named Frank Ewart.
On April 15, 1914, Ewart and Glenn Cook publicly baptized each other in "the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, but as the one name of Jesus, not as a Trinitarian formula." This is considered to be the historical point when Oneness Pentecostalism emerged as a distinct movement. A number of ministers claimed they were baptized "in the Name of Jesus Christ" before 1914, including Frank Small and Andrew D. Urshan. Urshan claims to have baptized others in Jesus Christ's name as early as 1910. Even Charles Parham himself, founder of the modern Pentecostal movement, baptized using a Christological formula prior to Azusa Street.
However, it was not the Oneness baptismal formula which proved the divisive issue between Oneness advocates and other Pentecostals, but rather their rejection of the Trinity. In the Assemblies of God, the re-baptisms in Jesus' name caused a backlash from many Trinitarians in that organization, who feared the direction that their church might be heading toward. J. Roswell Flowers initiated a resolution on the subject, which caused many Oneness baptizers to withdraw from the organization. In October 1916 at the Fourth General Council of the Assemblies of God, the issue finally came to a head. The mostly-Trinitarian leadership, fearing that the new issue of Oneness might overtake their organization, drew up a doctrinal statement affirming the truth of Trinitarian dogma, among other issues. When this Statement of Fundamental Truths was adopted, a third of the fellowship's ministers left to form Oneness fellowships. After this separation, most Oneness believers became relatively isolated from other Pentecostals.
Having separated themselves from the Trinitarians within the new Pentecostal movement, Oneness Pentecostals felt a need to come together and form an association of churches of "like precious faith." This led in January 1917 to the formation of the General Assembly of the Apostolic Assemblies in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, which merged by 1918 with a second Oneness body, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (sometimes referred to simply as the "PAW").
Several small Oneness ministerial groups formed after 1914. Many of these were ultimately merged into the PAW, while others remained independent, like AFM Church of God. Divisions occurred within the PAW over the role of women in ministry, usage of wine or grape juice for communion, divorce and remarriage, and the proper mode of water baptism. There were also reports of racial tension in the organization. African Americans were joining the church in great numbers, and many held significant leadership positions. In particular, the African-American pastor G. T. Haywood served as the church's General Secretary, and signed all ministerial credentials. In 1925, three new organizations were formed: The Apostolic Churches of Jesus Christ, Emmanuel's Church in Jesus Christ and The Pentecostal Ministerial Alliance. The first two later merged to become The Apostolic Church of Jesus Christ.
In 1945 a merger of two predominantly-white Oneness groups, the Pentecostal Church Incorporated and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ, resulted in the formation of the United Pentecostal Church International, or UPCI. Beginning with 1, 800 ministers and 900 churches, it has become the largest and most influential Oneness organization today through its evangelism and publishing efforts. This church added "International" to its title in 1972.