Minority Participation in the UPCI

In recent decades the UPCI has sought to recapture the biblical unity of the apostolic church and the early Oneness movement. In Christ, there are no divisions based on race, culture, socioeconomic status, or sex. (See Galatians 3:28.) In 2012 we conducted a survey, not to establish quotas or make judgments, but to see where we were as a movement in fulfilling the spirit and intent of our 2008 Position Paper entitled “Racial and Ethnic Affirmation.” The paper declares our opposition to racism, prejudice, and segregation, and states that the UPCI “must continue to take deliberate, intentional steps toward inclusion in all areas of the fellowship and at all levels of the organization. . . . [It] is dedicated to overcoming any appearance of racism within the church by making a deliberate effort toward inclusion and a firm, open stand against racial bigotry and segregation.”

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Multicultural Ministries Directors Council at UPCI World Headquarters in March 2018

In June 2018 we completed a follow-up survey examining the composition of our leadership in relationship to the past, to our constituency, and to the general population. We are happy to share the updated statistics with you to communicate what is happening, celebrate what has been accomplished, and consider how to be effective in affirming diversity and participation moving forward.

Of the surveyed districts in the US and Canada, forty-four (80 percent) have at least one leader who identifies as African American or Black, Asian or Native American, or Hispanic, while eleven districts (20 percent) have leaders in all three of those categories.[1] This is a significant increase from 2012 when thirty-nine districts (71 percent) reported at least one minority leader.[2] These leaders include twenty-five African-American or Black, ten Asian or Native American, and twenty-two Hispanic District Board members. (See Table 1.)

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The increase in the total number of nonwhite and women leaders is encouraging. In the 2012 survey, the UPCI had 165 district leaders who identified as African American or Black, Asian or Native American, or Hispanic. In 2018 that number has increased to 261, a 58 percent increase. Women in district leadership numbered eighty-eight in 2012, compared with 148 in 2018.

The UPCI’s Board of General Presbyters (General Board), which is the governing body under the General Conference, has African-American or Black, Asian or Native American, and Hispanic members. The work of the organization is conducted by seven major ministries,[3] and each of them has minority representation on its general committee or board. (See Table 2.) Urshan College and Urshan Graduate School of Theology, the UPCI-owned Christian college and seminary, also have significant minority representation among administration, faculty, and staff.[4]  (See Tables 3 and 4.) These leaders were not chosen on the basis of ethnicity, but they have risen through the ranks and have been elected by their peers based on involvement, qualifications, and abilities.

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In addition to the leaders just mentioned, the UPCI of the US and Canada operates twenty important ministries that focus on the evangelism of minority groups. As of 2018 these ministries have made significant progress and are led by representatives of the various ethnicities. Spanish Evangelism Ministry reports 1,250 Spanish-speaking ministers and 900 Spanish-language congregations. Building the Bridge Ministry develops strategies for cross-cultural ministry, urban ministry, and particularly evangelism in the African-American community. Its leaders estimate that the UPCI has 450 Black ministers and 220 Black pastors. Multicultural Ministries coordinates outreach to seventeen language and ethnic groups, encompassing 290 ministers and at least 174 works.

Based on these statistics, in 2018 about 2,000 ministers were from minority groups, or 19 percent of the total, and about 1,300 churches were ministering primarily to ethnic minorities, or 27 percent of the total. Most UPCI churches continue to have significant involvement by ethnic minorities, especially larger churches, growing churches, and churches in urban areas. This involvement is estimated at 10 to 15 percent. In sum, as of 2018 an estimated 34 percent of UPCI constituents and 19 percent of UPCI credentialed ministers in the US and Canada were nonwhite, while 27 percent of churches and daughter works have nonwhite pastors.[5]

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Check out the archive of our live broadcast of June 27, 2018, Multicultural Ministry in the Twenty-first Century – Methods, Opportunities, Vision, with General Superintendent David K. Bernard & Multicultural Ministries Director Brocc Chavis:

You may also wish to view the archive of a live discussion forum at our recent Multicultural Summit in Dallas.


[1] Fifty-five of the UPCI’s fifty-seven districts submitted a report.

[2] Fifty-five districts were surveyed in 2012.

[3] The seven major ministries are Children’s Ministries, Global Missions, Ladies Ministries, Men’s Ministries, North American Missions, Division of Publication, and Youth Ministries.

[4] Urshan has twenty-nine board members (including honorary members).

[5] This report only considers the US and Canada, but the UPCI has affiliated works in 190 nations and 35 territories. The vast majority of our more than 4 million worldwide constituents are nonwhite, and we have self-governing organizations which elect their own leadership in fifty-six nations outside North America. Delegates from all nations that have organized churches comprise the UPCI Global Council, which establishes international policy and coordinates international efforts.

Minority Participation in the UPCI