History is the story of ideas. Just as democracy developed from the ancient Greeks to its present incarnation in America, so ideas are refined and grow with the passage of time. But history is more than the story of ideas; it is a portrait of the people who made it, stories of individuals who crossed the landscape of time leaving indelible impressions on the canvas of life.
Many church historians now reflecting on the twentieth century are calling it the century of Pentecostalism. From its humble beginnings in Topeka, Kansas, and Azusa Street in Los Angeles, California, the Pentecostal movement has grown to hundreds of millions of adherents. This century brought revival and a restoration of the apostolic roots of the church. Oneness Pentecostalism is the result of this hunger for apostolic Christianity. Though many life stories could be told of the individuals who embody this restoration, Urshan Graduate School of Theology is named to capture the development of Oneness Pentecostalism through the twentieth century by following the footsteps of Andrew D. Urshan and his son Nathaniel A. Urshan.
The Urshan Legacy
A. D. Urshan was the prototypical Oneness pioneer. His hunger for more of God led him from mainstream Christianity through the Holiness Movement, on to Pentecostalism and finally to his home in Oneness Pentecostalism. A. D. Urshan was not content to experience the blessings of God just for himself. He carried the message of Bible salvation across North America and around the world. His missionary zeal reflected the passionate concern for early Pentecostals to carry the whole gospel to the whole world.
N. A. Urshan took the legacy of his father, A. D. Urshan, and built upon it. In the middle part of this century he crisscrossed America preaching in camp meetings that were critical in the expansion of Oneness Pentecostalism. In addition to pastoring one of the most influential churches in the movement, Nathaniel Urshan was the pioneer speaker for Harvestime, the radio voice of the largest Oneness organization, the United Pentecostal Church International. N. A. Urshan was the general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International for more than two decades.
Graduate School Development
As with any significant endeavor, men and women of vision are required to bring ideas to fruitful conclusion. The story of the Urshan Graduate School of Theology includes the leadership of Timothy Dugas, then pastor of Florissant Valley Apostolic Church (now The Sanctuary) in Missouri, Arless Glass, then superintendent of the UPCI Division of Education, and Jesse Williams, then UPCI assistant general superintendent. These men played significant roles as the graduate school moved towards becoming a reality. Timothy Dugas formed an ad hoc committee to study the feasibility of the graduate school. Between April 1998 and the October 1988 meeting of the General Board, the ad hoc committee developed a proposal for the General Board of the United Pentecostal Church International.
The General Board in session at the General Conference received Timothy Dugas’s report and formed a steering committee to further develop materials. The ad hoc committee was augmented by more members as it moved toward the steering committee phase. At that time Arless Glass took leadership of the project and continued the efforts of Timothy Dugas. In January of 1999, the second proposal was made to the General Board to determine if the project should go forward. In the summer of 1999, the steering committee chose its chairperson to be Jesse Williams, who served as chairperson from that time to January 2007.
Under Jesse Williams’s direction a resolution was presented to the October 1999 General Conference in session at Nashville, Tennessee. After relevant debate the gathered ministers of the United Pentecostal Church International voted to found the Urshan Graduate School of Theology.
The next major date in the development of the seminary took place at a January 2000 meeting in St. Louis. Chairperson Williams continued to lead the Board of Trustees, which was formed at that time. Some significant events took place at the January meeting. Nathaniel Urshan was chosen as Chancellor. The board also selected David Bernard, pastor of New Life Pentecostal Church, Austin, Texas, associate editor of the United Pentecostal Church International, and author, as the founding president of the Urshan Graduate School of Theology. Dr. James Littles, Jr. was hired as vice president; he did considerable organizational work to ready the graduate school to open its doors. Committees began to work on developing curriculum, searching for faculty, beginning institutional development, developing a budget, and the other many tasks of founding the Urshan Graduate School of Theology. This work had to be completed between the summer of 2000 and the opening of UGST in September 2001. In all of these things God continued to keep his hand on the project, and it received much support throughout the fellowship of the United Pentecostal Church International. Urshan Graduate School of Theology decided to seek accreditation with the Association of Theological Schools to help them realize and fulfill the school mission. In 2004, the first step to accreditation was realized as UGST received Associate Status with ATS. In 2008, candidate status with ATS was granted by the ATS accrediting commission. And in 2010 Urshan Graduate School of Theology became fully accredited with ATS. Furthermore, UGST is eligible by INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) to offer student visas to students from foreign countries as well as provide Federal loans and financial aid to qualified students from North America.
Gateway College of Evangelism began offering classes in 1968 in Florissant, Missouri, as a ministry of Missouri District of the UPCI. In 2011 Gateway President Darrell Johns led the college through a transition to UPCI ownership. On October 11, 2011, the UPCI General Board approved a plan for Urshan Graduate School of Theology to acquire Gateway College and transition it into a new undergraduate Christian college offering a variety of majors with the goal of achieving regional accreditation. After many months of collaboration between the boards, administration, faculty, and staff of both institutions, the transition from Gateway College to Urshan College was completed on July 1, 2012. Urshan College operates under the governance of the UGST Board of Trustees and President David K. Bernard.