Assemblies of God groups agree to bridge a century-old racial divide

Rev Thomas Barclay

Rev Thomas Barclay

When he was a boy, the Rev Thomas Barclay noticed a difference between the worshippers of his small Pentecostal denomination and churches he visited of the larger Assemblies of God.

“Why are they all white and we’re all black?” he asked his father.

After a racial divide that lasted for nearly a century, the two denominations, the Assemblies of God and the United Pentecostal Council of the Assemblies of God, have agreed to a new partnership.

Four years ago, after Barclay was elected as head of the UPCAG, he wrote a letter to George O. Wood, the general superintendent of the 65 million-member Assemblies of God. “I felt the Lord saying to me, ‘I’ve put you in this office to do a job,’” Barclay recalled. “I asked him what it was, and he told me to write this letter to the Assemblies of God.”

At a Feb. 11 service at the Assemblies of God headquarters in Springfield, Mo., Barclay and Wood signed a 12-point agreement to build cooperation that includes introducing their churches to each other and sharing resources, including the Assemblies of God Credit Union.

Wood said he didn’t even know the group existed until he received Barclay’s letter. That’s when he learned that in 1917, a missionary couple who had sought support to travel to Liberia were refused by the Assemblies of God — which had started three years earlier — because they were “colored.”

In 1919, a group of black New England churches started the UPCAG and sent that missionary couple to Africa. Learning that history “pained me a great deal,” said Wood, who said he “apologized several times” to the UPCAG leaders.

• Full story at the Religion News Service.