Oneness-Trinitarian Pentecostal Dialogue:

from Dr. Daniel Segraves: http://danielsegraves.blogspot.com/

During the years 2002-2007, leading Oneness Pentecostal and Trinitarian Pentecostal theologians engaged in a Oneness-Trinitarian Pentecostal dialogue sponsored by the Society for Pentecostal Studies. The final report that emerged from this dialogue was published in Pneuma: The Journal of the Society for Pentecostal Studies, volume 30, number 2 (2008). Copies of the journal can be obtained from www.sps-usa.org.

This edition of Pneuma contains not only the final report; it also includes the following responses: James A. Johnson, the presiding bishop emeritus of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, "A Brief Oneness Pentecostal Response"; Kenneth F. Haney, the general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International, "A Brief Oneness Pentecostal Response"; George Wood, the general superintendent of the Assemblies of God, "A Brief Trinitarian Pentecostal Response"; William W. Menzies, "A Trinitarian Pentecostal Response"; Daniel L. Segraves, "A Oneness Pentecostal Response"; Richard Shaka, "A Trinitarian Pentecostal Response"; Daniel Ramirez, "A Historian's Response"; Ralph Del Colle, "A Catholic Response"; and David Reed, "An Anglican Response."

Since I am one of the contributers, I am able to post my response here. I encourage all who are interested to read all of the articles, including Frank D. Macchia's editorial, in Pneuma.

A Oneness Pentecostal Response Daniel L. Segraves


Our Lord must be pleased that Oneness and Trinitarian Pentecostals are talking after nearly a century of virtual separation. Surely the silence of those with a common heritage, a common experience in Holy Spirit baptism, and a common sense of the eschatological significance of that experience has not pleased Him. Our differences are significant and enduring, but, as indicated in several sections of the Final Report, there is much that we share. This is cause for celebration. In 1916, we focused on those things that separated us. In 2008, we still acknowledge our distinctives, but we are seeking to understand each other even in our disagreements. Willingness to discuss Scripture in a thoughtful and respectful way is a sign of spiritual health. Nothing is to be gained by heated rhetoric. As Paul pointed out, we should be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave us (Eph 4:32).

Are risks involved in this conversation? No doubt. But some risks are worth taking. Whatever these risks may be, however, they were recognized and minimized by the goal of the dialogue, which was to gain “a clearer understanding of their positions and not the winning over of one side to the other or the adoption of a compromise position.” If we cannot talk, we cannot communicate. If we don’t communicate, there is little opportunity for old wounds to heal and healthy relationships to develop. Although no compromise is reflected in the Final Report, signs of mutual respect are evident. One such sign is seen in the joint conclusion on the baptismal formula: “Neither side compromised the respective teaching of their churches on baptism but agreed to the importance of continued discussion of the significance, mode, and formula of water baptism.” Another is seen in the joint conclusion to the discussion of Christology and the Godhead: “. . . both sides agreed that God’s nature requires additional discussion between Oneness and Trinitarian Pentecostals.” We are separated by many years and substantial emotional distance, to say nothing of our understanding of key biblical texts. But we have started something good that must continue until we both know we have completed our task.

Comments and Recommendations

The chief purpose of the dialogue was “to allow for a clearer understanding of Oneness and Trinitarian Pentecostal perspectives, including the variations possible within them, as well as both the commonalities and differences between them.” As this purpose statement indicates, it is important to note that there are variations among both Oneness and Trinitarian perspectives. The United Pentecostal Church International (UPCI) cannot and does not claim to speak for all Oneness Pentecostals, and it is recognized that there are various perspectives within the UPCI. This is acknowledged in the second paragraph of the Fundamental Doctrine of the UPCI: “We shall endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit until we all come into the unity of the faith, at the same time admonishing all brethren that they shall not contend for their different views to the disunity of the body.” The merging conference of the Pentecostal Church, Incorporated (PCI) and the Pentecostal Assemblies of Jesus Christ (PAJC) in 1945 placed supreme value on the unity of the Spirit, abstaining from contention over divergent understanding. Oneness theology is not monolithic; neither is Trinitarian theology. As discussion continues, it will be important to maintain the attitude of mutual respect demonstrated in the opening dialogue while broadening the scope to include representation of various streams of thought. It is anticipated in the Final Report that it “would function as a launching pad for further discussion by a number of persons, from various contexts.” As this project proceeds and enlarges, we must maintain the purpose and goal of the original dialogue.

From the Oneness perspective, a significant achievement of the dialogue was the dispelling of “the idea that the Oneness/Trinitarian division had to do with a ‘new revelation’ by the Oneness intentionally proposed as an insight beyond the teaching of Scripture.” The misguided claim that Oneness Pentecostals embrace extra-biblical revelation has long served to caricature the Oneness perspective and to hinder communication with Trinitarians. As indicated in the Preamble to the Articles of Faith of the UPCI, “The Bible is the only God-given authority which man possesses; therefore, all doctrine, faith, hope, and all instruction for the church must be based upon, and harmonize with, the Bible.”

Since the purpose of baptism has been a point of disagreement, it is encouraging from the Oneness view to see that the Trinitarian team affirmed that the relationship between baptism and salvation “requires further study and discussion among Trinitarian Pentecostals” especially “in light of specific passages which appear to make a direct link between baptism and salvation . . . .” As it relates to the meaning of baptism, the Oneness team affirmed that the “complete experience of forgiveness/remission of sins comes through repentance and water baptism together. Repentance deals with a person’s sinful lifestyle, opening the door to a personal relationship with God, while baptism deals with the record and consequences of sin.” The UPCI understands Acts 2:38 to indicate that water baptism is an essential part of the experience of full salvation.

One point of tension between Trinitarian and Oneness Pentecostals has been the claim by some on the Oneness side that Trinitarians believe in three gods. On the other hand, some on the Trinitarian side have asserted that the Oneness view is the ancient heresy of Sabellianism reborn. The Trinitarian team affirms, “We as Trinitarian Pentecostals wish to stress that we believe in One God and not in three gods. According to Trinitarian dogma, ‘Father, Son, and Holy Spirit’ are not three ‘separate’ or in any way ‘divisible’ persons but rather three distinct but inseparable persons of one divine nature.” Dialogue will be enhanced and the Golden Rule will be obeyed if both Oneness and Trinitarian Pentecostals refrain from claiming that others believe something they deny. It is doubtful if any Trinitarian Pentecostals have ever professed to believe in three gods, and Oneness Pentecostals should not claim that they do. On the other hand, Oneness Pentecostals do not embrace the sequential modalism of Sabellianism, and Trinitarian Pentecostals should acknowledge this.

The Trinitarian team affirms that the words “nature” and “person,” while helpful, are fallible attempts to understand the unity and relational life of the Godhead. Indeed, it is acknowledged that there are “Trinitarian theologians who would question the use of this language to describe the life of the one God who is eternally distinct as ‘Father, Son, and Spirit,’ especially in the light of the fact that ‘persons’ in ancient Trinitarian writings did not carry the same meaning that it does today (as referring to separate and individual consciousnesses).” This affirmation is a hopeful sign for further dialogue; a great deal of the debate centers around the use of the word “person.” In their criticism of Trinitarian theology, many Oneness Pentecostals have understood the word “person” in the modern sense. They suspect that some Trinitarians who – like many Oneness Pentecostals – are not schooled in the intricate and subtle nuances of ancient Greek and Latin theologians, also understand the word in the modern sense. When the word “person” is read this way, it is difficult to see how the idea of three “persons” in the Godhead avoids tritheism. Alister E. McGrath’s simplified answer to the question, “How can God be three persons and one person at the same time?” may be helpful.

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 . . . .

The Final Report points out that “the language of ‘persons’ is not sacred in Trinitarian theology.” Although there are no doubt many Trinitarian theologians who would disagree with this statement, it may provide a way forward in ongoing discussions. The question asked by the Trinitarian team concerning A. D. Urshan’s 1919 acknowledgement that there is “a mysterious, inexplicable, incomprehensible three-ness” in the “plurality of God’s mysterious Being” must be explored more fully.

In a joint affirmation, both teams “recognized that ‘Spirit baptism’ is essential to the Christian life broadly conceived, involving the entire span of one’s conformity to Christ . . . .” The issue that is still of concern as it relates to salvation “has to do with the role of speaking in tongues in conversion/initiation.” The Oneness team affirmed “that repentance, water baptism, and the baptism in the Holy Spirit are integral aspects of conversion/initiation; and that speaking in tongues is the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.” As David Bernard points out, “The early Pentecostals typically used ‘conversion’ to describe the time they turned from sin and joined a Christian church, which often occurred long before they received the Holy Spirit.” In practice, some pastors in the UPCI continue to refer to repentance as conversion, although they refer to repentance, water baptism, and the baptism of the Holy Spirit as full salvation, regeneration, or the new birth.

The joint conclusion on salvation includes a discussion of the significance of the term “full salvation” as found in the Fundamental Doctrine of the UPCI. It was affirmed by the Oneness team “that salvation is a process which begins with a profession of faith and repentance and that the fullness of salvation includes both water baptism in Jesus’ name and the baptism of the Holy Spirit with tongues. Thus, they acknowledged that many people have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ based on faith and repentance but should continue their experience to receive everything that God has commanded and provided. . . . They held that most Oneness Pentecostals do not make a strong separation between ‘salvation’ and the ‘full salvation’ but affirm the apostolic proclamation in Acts 2:38 as the New Testament message of salvation.”

A Look to the Future

Those who participated in the five-year study leading up to this Final Report are to be commended for their willingness to invest themselves in this effort. For much of the twentieth century, it seemed impossible that such an event could ever take place. This is of historic significance, it provides the possibility of the healing of wounded relationships—both personally and organizationally, and there is the potential for increased understanding not only of opposing points of view but also of Scripture. The road ahead is long, possibly filled with unforeseen obstacles, and no one knows where it will end. But it is a road worth taking, for it is always right for good and sincere people to sit together before their open Bibles, searching them as did the Bereans, asking God to guide them in their study by his Holy Spirit. I think it would be appropriate to conclude this response with words I have written elsewhere.

On a practical level, the adherents of Oneness theology face the challenge of thoroughly investigating the historic doctrine of the Trinity so as to accurately understand and represent its views rather than succumbing to popular misconceptions and misrepresentations. Only by making the effort to understand a perspective with which they do not agree can they have meaningful interaction with those who hold an opposing view.

On the other hand, it is to be hoped that those who embrace Trinitarian theology will reciprocate by carefully examining the claims of mainstream Oneness theology, even as it continues to develop, rather than focusing on abandoned extremes to justify a quick dismissal of legitimacy.

If Trinitarian and Oneness theologians can refrain from drawing caricatures of opposing viewpoints, seeking understanding and doing theology in a spirit of godly reverence and mutual respect, they may discover diminishing differences and increasing agreement on essential points. Although the two views will doubtless never coalesce, God would be honored by a decrease in heated rhetoric and an increase in prayerful and thoughtful interaction.


For some reason, I could not transfer the article's footnotes to this post. Most of the direct quotes are from the Final Report referenced above. The quote from Alister E. McGrath can be found in his Understanding the Trinity (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1988), 130-131. The quote from my work is located in Stanley M. Burgess, ed., Encyclopedia of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity (New York and London: Routledge, 2006), 344-345.


Foot-washing and Contemporary Practice: Should I Wash Your Feet?

You know Lord how I serve You,
with great emotional fervor,
in the limelight.
You know how eagerly I speak for You,
at a women’s club.
You know how I effervesce when I promote
a fellowship group.
You know my genuine enthusiasm
at a Bible study.
But how would I react, I wonder,
if You pointed to a basin of water,
and asked me to wash the calloused feet
of a bent and wrinkled old woman,
day after day, month after month,
in a room where nobody saw,
and nobody knew?

Ruth Harms Calkin


As the poem by Calkin demonstrates, foot-washing is a humbling act. This act is not frequent in the repertoire of the lords, or even fishermen apparently like the disciples themselves. The Gospel books of Luke and John are the only Gospel books which record Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The last foot-washing is found in 1 Timothy 5:10 by the Apostle Paul.

Montague S. Mills suggests this Gospel story may be best read in the following order: Luke 22:24, John 13:2–17, Luke 22:25–30, John 13:18–20. Mills suggests that when read in this order "they complement and supplement each other very well indeed. (1)

In John 13:6 Peter is surprised that the Lord Jesus would attempt to wash his feet. Such feelings are also why many people will end up avoiding the practice altogether. For some, the idea of touching another persons bare foot is too much. This is indeed the point, since from Bible times it was an expression of hospitality extended to guests done by servants and occasionally the wife of the house. In ancient times people traveling dusty roads frequently needed to wash their feet for comfort and cleanliness. It was a job typically done by servants.

Foot-washing was generally performed by the lowliest servant in the household (c.f. Luke 7:44). At the Lord’s Supper, Jesus arose during the supper and washed His disciples’ feet. He explained that this act was an example of the humble ministry that they must always be ready to perform for one another. For example, John 13:5-17 states:

Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; (4) He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself. (5) After that he poureth water into a basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel wherewith he was girded. (6) Then cometh he to Simon Peter: and Peter saith unto him, Lord, dost thou wash my feet? (7) Jesus answered and said unto him, What I do thou knowest not now; but thou shalt know hereafter. (8) Peter saith unto him, Thou shalt never wash my feet. Jesus answered him, If I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me. (9) Simon Peter saith unto him, Lord, not my feet only, but also my hands and my head. (10) Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all. (11) For he knew who should betray him; therefore said he, Ye are not all clean. (12) So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? (13) Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. (14) If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. (15) For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. (16) Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. (17) If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. KJV

Why should I wash your feet today though?

Foot-washing? To some the very image might invoke a shudder. Isn't helping one another or occasionally doing good deeds appropriate? To some degree, these deeds are exactly what Christ would have us do. In fact, to Christ the greatest must be a servant. It is our devotion and commitment to Christ-like humility however that should sustain us in all that we do.

Washing the feet of another is not limited to simply hospitality. Tertuallian, Chrysostom, Augustine, and even Origen advocate foot-washing as part of Christian tradition. For many years Catholics have held this act as a sacrament. St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) is such a one. In fact, Herbert Thurston states, "In 694 the Seventeenth Synod of Toledo commanded all bishops and priests in a position of superiority under pain of excommunication to wash the feet of those subject to them." (2)

Later groups like the 11th and 12th century Albigenses and Waldenses observed foot washing as a religious rite. Martin Luther would later oppose footiwashing. Anabaptists and some Pietists groups held to the ritual as well. Mennonite groups, differing baptist groups, Seventh-Day Adventists, and Brethren in Christ all practice foot-washing as well. (3)

The Apostle John records that after the Lord’s Supper had been partaken and Jesus Himself had washed the feet of the disciples,

(12) So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you? (13) Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am. (14) If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another's feet. (15) For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you. (16) Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. (17) If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them. John 13:12-17 KJV
Jesus says that what has been done, the Lord’s Supper/Communion and now the Foot-washing, was given BY HIM as an “example” that we should follow. Was the only meaning here for us to ritualistically wash each others feet? The foot-washing was a vehicle by which Christ portrayed the Christian virtue of humility and servitude to each other and their neighbor.

Christ tells us that if we know these things, happy are you if you do them. In fact, in 1 Timothy 5:10, prior to the writing of the Gospels, the Apostle Paul is writing before the 1st Century and suggests that the early church followed Christ’s example in observing the ritual of foot-washing. Paul states:

Do not let a widow under sixty years old be taken into the number, and not unless she has been the wife of one man, (10) well reported for good works: if she has brought up children, if she has lodged strangers, if she has washed the saints feet, if she has relieved the afflicted, if she has diligently followed every good work. 1 Timothy 5:9-10 NKJV

To Paul it seems, the idea of foot-washing is a "good work" done by believers. Ultimately, each Christian should strive to be Christ like in honoring Him and remembering His saving work for all humanity. Foot-washing is honoring Jesus and His sacrifice. As humans we owe a debt that we can never pay, but a thank you is appropriate. Foot-washing is not a primary issue or, in other words it does not effect salvation of the believer directly. A proud spirit should be cautioned against here. We should be willing to serve and promote the Christian virtue of humility. Proverbs confirms this:

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall. Proverbs 16:18 NIV

Five Conclusions for Contemporary Christians:

First, foot-washing is an ancient and Biblical tradition of servitude in love (See Genesis 18:4, 19:2). Christ used this tradition to point out that the greatest among us must also be willing to serve.

Second, Christ washed all the Disciples feet. Here it seems He indicates His and subsequently our individual obligation to serve the whole. Jesus washed all the feet of the disciple and we can presume that includes Judas Iscariot. Jesus did so knowing the betrayal of Judas in advance.

Third, It is directly related to battling pride and conforming human nature to the will of God. If pride and conformation of human nature to divine principles is not being implicated in the texts of Scripture then very little can be said about the text all. Note 13:16

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.
In Luke 22:24-30 the disciples had been bickering over who would be the first in the Kingdom of Christ. This precedes Luke's account of the foot-washing incident.

Fourth, foot-washing is a continual act that we do literally and in practical living amongst others. It should be natural for believers today to gather and wash each others feet today in order to express their devotion and commitment to humility and servitude to the local Body of Christ. Some do this once or twice a year. It is truly a personal experience in humility.

In practical living though, the principle Christ is portraying should not be reserved for ritual foot-washing. An everyday attitude of humility and serving should be the permanent posture of the Christian believer.

Fifth, in the book--Alone with God--by John MacArthur proposes that the act of foot-washing was more than an example of humility. When this act was done by Christ it also represented "a picture of the forgiveness God gives in His repeated cleansing of those who are already saved." Although we must not wash our feet each time we sin, MacArthur also suggests that "purification is necessary every day because daily we fall short of God’s perfect holiness." (4)

This point overlaps with the third point since it is to remove pride and cause us to humble ourselves. At regeneration God changes our spiritual man but our human nature still exists and still must be sanctified.

Pentecostal Foot-Washing:

Vinson Synan, from Regent University, has noted that the teachings of early Pentecostal believers were defined early on. Groups like the Church of God in Christ (COGIC), The Churches of God (COG), or the Pentecostal Holiness Church are early 19th Century Pentecostal groups. The practice and teachings of these early Pentecostals typically consisted of a strong preaching diet about a life of holiness and the baptism of the Holy Ghost.

Shortly after what Synan terms the "'oneness' controversy" (1913), groups like COGIC added foot-washing as a sacrament. COG founder A.J. Tomlinson forbid tobacco and alcohol amongst the beleivers and also required foot-washing as an ordinance.
(5) Jack W. Hayford, pastor of the Foursquare Church in Los Angelas, states that "A number of Evangelicals and Pentecostals practiuce footwashing, following the example and instruction of Jesus."(6)

David K. Bernard in, History of Christian Doctrine, notes that most Oneness Pentecostal organizations worldwide practice foot-washing as an "ordinance"(7). The United Pentecostal Church International is one of the world's largest Oneness groups. Foot-washing is encouraged in their Articles of Faith and they urge all its members to practice this "in imitation of Christ and as a manifestaion of humility."(8)


The practice of foot-washing revives an ancient principle within each of us. A principle of servanthood, humility, and forgiveness. Foot-washing is symbolic and reminds us that we are called to serve, for the glory of God.


Mills, S. Montague. (1999). The Life of Christ : A Study Guide to the Gospel Record. Three volumes: 1. The Advent of Jesus 2. The Beginning of the Gospel 3. Jesus presents Himself ot Israel. Dallas: 3E Ministries.

Thurston, Herbert. "Washing of Feet and Hands." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 15. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1912. 3 Jan. 2009 .

Fahlbusch, E., & Bromiley, G. W. (1999-<2003).>The encyclopedia of Christianity (2:322). Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill "The Encyclopedia of Christianity is the first of a five-volume English translation of the third revised edition of Evangelisches Kirchenlexikon.

(4) MacArthur, John (1995). Alone with God. Includes indexes. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

Synan, Vinson (2001). The century of the Holy Spirit : 100 years of Pentecostal and charismatic renewal, 1901-2001 (104). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Hayford, Jack W., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Hayford's Bible handbook. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

(7) Bernard, David K. A History of Christian Doctrine, © 1999 David K. Bernard Word Aflame Press

(8) Bernard, David K. Understanding the Articles of Faith ©1998, Word Aflame Press

Time Needs No Permission

Quickly is how time seems to pass
Especially when happy and glad
In sure and steady steps time marches from the past.
Time in the present is really not so bad
Since time is not past or future, can it last?

Time is like a ball of yarn, which rolled from a shelf.
It falls and bounces yet with each motion it moves toward its end
In spite of watcher or location, time marches despite vanity or even self
Within its bounds are we tightly held, as God does intend.
When the yarn seems fully undone, an endless yarn has really been spun.

Adversus Trinitas

"...unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins." (John 8:24 ESV)