IFCA-SUM Bible College & Theological Seminary

A Vision to Reach All Nations


IFCA History

The IFCA (formally known as Christian Church of North America - CCNA) first convened as the General Council of the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies in 1927 in Niagara Falls, New York as cooperative fellowship among Italian-speaking Pentecostal people.

Chicago awakening: Almost 20 years earlier, however, the Bible truths which distinguish Pentecostal people from other denominations were first brought to a group of Italian Christians of various denominations in the city of Chicago, Illinois. Stanley Frodsham points out in his book, “With Signs Following” that the Rev. William H. Durham, a Pentecostal minister, was instrumental during those early days in acquainting these Italian people with the Full Gospel. Revival fires burned among the Italian people of Chicago, catching up in its flames such men as Baretta, Francescon, Gazzarri, Lombardo, Menconi, Ottolini, Palma, Tosetto and other persons whose names are household terms in the Italian Pentecostal movement. These men later spread the message throughout the nation and to foreign countries, principally Italy and Brazil.

Vast Fruitage: Today, there are untold thousands of Pentecostal believers the world over as a result of their Chicago Awakening. The complete picture embraces not only the ministry and churches in our own fellowship. It includes the numerous untabulated churches and thousands of uncatalogued believers among the many other independent groups traceable to the Chicago Awakening itself, the Petrellians of the Atlantic States, the Ottolinies of St. Louis, Missouri and possible the better known Italian District of the Assemblies of God.

Moreover in cities across our nation, scores of people with a background in the Italian Pentecostal Churches have been assimilated into other Full Gospel communions, at times forming the core of responsible constituents as well as occupying positions of leadership. On foreign soil, notably in Italy and Brazil, there continue evidences of God’s blessing. Italy’s strongest Protestant church is the Italian Assemblies of God, our affiliate movement there. Brazil's most flourishing churches today are the fruit of the Rev. L. Francescon’s ministry of a generation ago. The missionary enterprise of the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies currently reaches the people of India, Africa, South America, Canada, the European continent, the Orient, Australia and Mexico.

Denominationally: The IFCA is usually regarded as Pentecostal. However, she frankly abhors the excesses tolerated or practiced among the churches using the same name. Since its inception, the Movement has coveted the Lordship as well as the liberty of the Holy Spirit and has sought orderliness among its ranks. The mural inscription above the pulpit in the church where the General Council first convened in Niagara Falls, NY read, “Let all things be done decently and in order,” a Bible quotation from I Corinthians 14:40.

Full Gospel: Notwithstanding, the imperfection of all movements, her own included, the IFCA nevertheless, “earnestly contends for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” and humbly declares her allegiance to the whole counsel of God as given in the scripture. For this reason she is frequently and appropriately called a Full Gospel Church. By definition, Full Gospel is regarded as a term embracing every doctrine of the New Testament. It includes passages such as Mark 16:15-20 as well as the doctrine of justification by faith. Omission of any part of the scriptures either by outright rejection or by ignoring it is regarded sub-standard for a Believing Church.

In the American tradition: A keen observer will notice that in some of our churches a number of the constituents are of Italian descent. Our origin among Italian people accounts for this. In most places, however, requirements for the language are so meager that ministry in the Italian language is departmentalized in much the same way as German, French, Hungarian, Polish or any other language might be treated. And without someone telling him, one might, in fact, miss our ethnic roots. This transition can be attributed to the age of the movement, now in its third generation, intermarriage among the nationalities and the lack of immigration. Today people of all nationalities merge in the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies. Without sacrificing her responsibility for the worldwide evangelization of Italian people, the IFCA heartily welcomes her new role of being a Church of many people. In the tradition of historic Americanism, she has become a “melting pot of the nations” to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Roman Catholic Extraction: Although the initial impact of the Pentecostal message came to Italians among the Protestant denominations, the growth of the IFCA is principally due to the conversion of both nominal and devoted Roman Catholic people. The majority of IFCA churches consist, in fact, of people from Roman Catholic extraction; this is especially true of the first generation of IFCA Christians.

National Association of Evangelicals: Indicative of her desire for unity with those of “like precious faith,” the IFCA is an affiliate member of the National Association of Evangelicals, an alliance of 70 evangelical church bodies representing more than 15 million members. The denomination's ministers are often found serving and heartily promoting efforts for the betterment of the community.

IFCA has also known the privilege and honor to work with Berean School of the Bible for many years. Berean School of the Bible (BSB), also known as Global University, is an adult continuing education program. As such, BSB courses do not earn college credit but do earn continuing education units. BSB offers ministry training designed to prepare the student to fill a church leadership role and to help fulfill the call of God on one’s life. 

The birth if the IFCA Bible College

In 2015, Pastor Alan Schrader approached the IFCA executive board with a vision to start a local bible college at Richmond Heights Christian Assembly. As he presented his vision, the executive board asked if he would be willing to move forward but with a broader vision. After a time of prayer and reflection Pastor Alan took up the challenge of building a bible college for the entire IFCA.

In its early days, the IFCA Bible College utilized pre-recorded video of professors in conjunction with pre-printed course guides. These materials were mailed to students who signed up for courses. Students had the option of pursuing coursework toward a degree, or taking courses required for the various levels of IFCA credentialing. Student progress was tracked by hand and monitored using hard-copy records.

In 2017, the college upgraded its record-keeping and course delivery mechanism to an online student information system (SIS). With this move the college also shifted away from pre-recorded video to audio recordings delivered online. The move to a SIS helped the college track the progress of a growing student population as well as become more efficient in its operations.

In late 2018, a series of events, based on a relationship established over 30 years ago, have led the IFCA Bible College to enter into a partnership with SUM Bible College and Theological Seminary located in El Dorado, California. SUM offers fully accredited degrees from the Associates up through the Masters degree level. The degrees are accredited by the Association for Biblical Higher Education and Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) regional accreditation.

This development marks a significant shift in the college’s potential for growth. We gain the validity that accreditation brings to our degree programs. Accreditation addresses the concern of students who questioned the wisdom of investing in an IFCA-SUM Bible College degree due to its limited utility beyond the IFCA. Younger students especially place a higher value on the validity of the credential and the breath of its utility. With our new partnership, students who graduate will possess a credential that is as “valid” as a degree from any other accredited institution. Accreditation also broadens our appeal to potential students outside the IFCA, increasing the pool of potential students who would consider attending. Finally, the prestige that comes from being able to offer a fully accredited degree makes it easier to promote the college and the fellowship in general. Having our own fully accredited institution that grants degrees up through the graduate level is quite a feather in our cap.