The Wesleyan-Methodist, Wesleyan-Holiness and Holiness-Pentecostal traditions are rooted in the insights of John Wesley (1703-91). These blogs will focus on understanding this tradition. Part 1 will concentrate on the historical background. Part 2 will introduce theological works. Part 3 will focus on John Wesley’s distinctive doctrine of sanctification or “Christian Perfection.”
The Wesleyan tradition heavily involved the Irish and their descendants worldwide. This not only includes Irish Protestants, but also Irish Catholics. Many Irish Catholic immigrants either converted to some form of Wesleyanism or were at least married by its ministers (think the Methodist Church in New York City). Wesleyanism in its Methodist form provided neutral ground for a wide variety of people. In many towns it became the “community church.” For this reason alone, if I don’t find a Catholic family listed in local parish records; always search the Methodist registers next.
Wesleyanism arrived in North America in 1760, by way of Irish Methodists. Built within it was a respect for higher education, especially for women, and a social consciousness, even if members didn’t always live up to those values. An example would be when the Methodist Episcopal Church in the United States would split into three denominations (1843-1845) over slavery.
By the 1840s, many members sought a return to more holiness and activism by emphasizing the Wesleyan doctrine of “Christian Perfection.” This would emerge as a trans-denominational and inter-racial Wesleyan-Holiness movement. It grew rapidly in the United States, spreading to Ontario in the 1840s, England by the 1860s and firmly established in Ireland by the 1880s. Methodists were hostile towards the Holiness movement.
Holiness denominations include the Church of the Nazarene, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), Salvation Army, Christian Missionary and Alliance, Free Methodist Church, Wesleyan Church, Church of God (Holiness).
Wesleyan-Holiness theology was taken further with speaking in tongues, prophecy and faith healing. This became known as the Holiness-Pentecostal movement. It originally arose in several places among Holiness people as an inter-racial revivalist and
enthusiastic outpouring of the spiritual gifts. The recognized, but not only, beginnings of modern-day Pentecostalism was the Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California (1906). This revival began spreading the beliefs worldwide separating it from a hostile Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.
If Pentecostalism is combined with its sister Charismatic movement, it constitutes the second largest branch of Christianity with over 500 million believers. Older Pentecostal churches include; Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee), Assemblies of God, Church of God in Christ, Foursquare Church, Pentecostal Holiness Church. However, not all denominations, such as the Assemblies of God, are rooted in the Wesleyan-Holiness movement.
For historical reading, I would recommend the following reference works.
Wesleyan-Methodist: William J. Abraham, The Oxford Handbook of Methodist Studies (2011); Dudley Levistone Cooney, The Methodist in Ireland: A Short History (2001); Richard P. Heitzenrater, Wesley and the People Called Methodists (1993); David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit (2006); Charles Yrigoven, Jr., and Susan E. Warrick, eds. Historical Dictionary of Methodism (2005).
Wesleyan-Holiness: Floyd Cunningham, ed., Our Watchword and Song: The Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene (2009); William Kostlevy, ed. Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement (2009); Major John G. Merritt, Historical Dictionary of the Salvation Army (2006).
Holiness-Pentecostal: Allan Anderson, An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity (2004); Stanley M. Burgess and Eduard M. Van Der Maas, eds. The New International Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements (2002); Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven (1995); James Robinson, Pentecostal Origins: Early Pentecostalism in Ireland in the Context of the British Isles (2007); Randall J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in the American South (2010); Vinson Synan, Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic Renewal, 1901-2001 (2001); Vinson Synan, The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition (1971); Grant Wacker, Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture (2003).
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