Once Apostolic, Still Black
This thesis highlights four dualities of the black Apostolic (Oneness) Pentecostal tradition that psychologically and theologically complicate the process millennials must navigate when they leave the denomination for non-Apostolic, multicultural or majority-white churches. A product of the United States Pentecostal movement that was sparked by the influential 1906 Azuza Street Revival in Los Angeles, the Oneness Pentecostal movement is distinguished by doctrinal tenets such as its non-Trinitarian view of the Godhead, emphasis on the importance of water baptism in Jesus’ name, and belief in Spirit baptism with the evidence of speaking in tongues as prerequisite to salvation for all believers. For millennials who were raised in the black Apostolic church but have left the denomination and gravitate to multicultural and/or white-majority, non-Apostolic churches, four key dualities render the process complex: 1. While the black Apostolic church’s distinct, restorationist view of Christian history imbues its adherents with a sense of dignity due to its exclusivist doctrine, black Apostolic history in the United States is also steeped in racial division. 2. The denomination’s emphasis on physical manifestations of the Spirit, especially speaking in tongues, may feel imbalanced, but it also provides adherents with a tangible understanding of the Spirit often lacking in white or multiracial non-Apostolic spaces. 3. While the black Apostolic tradition is not heavily interested in contributions from systematic theological history, the tradition enables a useful, critical perspective on theological orthodoxy as understood in the white, Western tradition. And 4. Despite aspects of the black church that millennials raised in it may find to be “toxic,” the black church holds distinctive, culturally and existentially-affirming value for once-Apostolic black millennials who are drawn to multicultural or majority-white church spaces. Through a mixed methods approach of autoethnography, history, and textual analysis, this project highlights the ways in which ties between Pentecostal spirituality and blackness imbue once-Apostolic black millennials with a rich cultural-spirituality that continues to inform their experience even as they move into white-dominant Christian spaces.