- Holiness movement
- The Holiness movement, an offshoot of American Methodist revivalism, aimed to achieve a life of perfect love for each Christian through the gift of sanctification.Methodist founder John Wesley (1703-91) had taught a doctrine of Christian perfection, in which believers could aim to become perfect in love in this life. In Wesley's view, the sinner begins in repentance and salvation, then embarks on a life of striving to integrate Christian virtues into one's behavior, a process Wesley called growing in grace. This can culminate in sanctification, the attainment of perfection or holiness. Sanctification was an encounter with God, not unlike conversion. It depended on God's grace, not on the Christian's striving.In America, given the primary task of evangelizing a largely unchurched nation, the doctrine of perfection was neglected in the decades immediately after the American Revolution. By the 1830s, it had been rediscovered by a new generation, including some non-Methodists. It was a key to the conversion and call to the ministry of evangelist Charles G. Finney (1792-1875), whose revivals and writings contributed greatly to the new movement.Some Methodists in America, reasoning that sanctification was an act of God and not an accomplishment of the believer, concluded that it was a second work of grace immediately available to the serious Christian, and a goal that they should seek as soon as they were converted. These Holiness teachers tended to deemphasize the life of growth in grace, and focused instead on the believer's immediate attainment of perfection by God's action. The result was a fellowship in which the sanctified life became the norm in the church.Holiness attracted a growing following in the 1840s and 1850s. Timothy Merritt, editor of the Guide to Christian Perfection, led the way. He found support from future bishops Randolph S. Foster (1820-1903) and Jesse T. Peck (1811-83), and most notably from female lay evangelist Phoebe Palmer (1807-84) and her husband, Walter (1804-83). The Holiness revival that broke out in New York City just prior to the Civil War picked up as soon as hostilities ceased and permeated the various branches of Methodism. In 1866, Walter Palmer purchased Merritt's periodical (now the Guide to Holiness), which he used to spearhead a national revival that reached many non-Methodists, too. Holiness poured new life into the camp meeting culture already favored by Methodists; the meetings were a way for the movement to spread despite church leaders who might oppose it.in the years immediately after the war, both the Methodist Episcopal Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, elected Holiness advocates as bishops. However, by the 1880s, many bishops and superintendents found themselves unable to handle the excesses that were ever more frequently reported from the camp meetings; their attempts to moderate the movement caused resentment among Holiness supporters from Quaker and Baptist backgrounds.As conflicts emerged, beginning in the 1880s, many Holiness advocates left the Methodists and formed the first independent Holiness churches, Bible colleges, and associations. in the early 20th century, these churches began to coalesce into the major Holiness denominations such as the Church of the Nazarene, the Pilgrim Holiness Church (now a constituent part of the Wesleyan Church) and the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). These churches picked up support from several older Methodist bodies, especially the Wesleyan Methodists (now a constituent part of the Wesleyan Church) and the Free Methodists. At the same time, those larger Methodist churches that later made up the United Methodist Church backed away from Holiness emphases.Through the 20th century, Holiness churches have given birth to affiliate congregations in the majority of the world's countries. in North America, they banded together in a fellowship now known as the Christian Holiness Partnership.Some Holiness writers identified sanctification as the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That particular presentation provided the foundation for Pentecostalism.Further reading:■ Melvin Easterday Dieter, The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth Century, Studies in Evangelicalism, no. 1 (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1980)■ J. Kenneth Grider, A Wesleyan-Holiness Theology (Kansas City, Kans.: Beacon Hill, 1994)■ Charles E. Jones, A Guide to the Study of the Holiness Movement, ATLA Bibliography series no. 1 (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press/American Theological Library, 1974)■ William C. Kostlevy, ed., Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement (Lanham, Md.: scarecrow Press, 2001)■ Charles Edward White, The Beauty of Holiness: Phoebe Palmer as Theologian, Revivalist, Feminist, and Humanitarian (Grand Rapids, Mich.: zondervan, 1986).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.