This Christian faith has been mediated to Nazarenes through the Wesleyan revival of the 18th century. In the 1730s the broader Evangelical Revival arose in Britain, directed chiefly by John Wesley, his brother Charles, and George Whitefield, clergymen in the Church of England. Through their instrumentality, many other men and women turned from sin and were empowered for the service of God. This movement was characterized by lay preaching, testimony, discipline, and circles of earnest disciples known as “societies,” “classes,” and “bands.”
The Wesleyan phase of the great revival was characterized by three theological landmarks: regeneration by grace through faith; Christian perfection, or sanctification, likewise by grace through faith; and the witness of the Spirit to the assurance of grace. Among John Wesley's distinctive contributions was an emphasis on entire sanctification in this life as God's gracious provision for the Christian. British Methodism's early missionary enterprises began disseminating these theological emphases worldwide. In North America, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1784. Its stated purpose was “to reform the Continent, and to spread scriptural Holiness over these Lands.”
In 1867 Methodist ministers John A. Wood, John Inskip, and others began at Vineland, New Jersey, the first of a long series of national camp meetings. They also organized at that time the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness, commonly known as the National (now the Christian) Holiness Association. Until the early years of the 20th century, this organization sponsored Holiness camp meetings throughout the United States. Local and regional Holiness associations also appeared, and a vital Holiness press published many periodicals and books.
The witness to Christian holiness played roles of varying significance in the founding of the Wesleyan Methodist Church (1843), the Free Methodist Church (1860), and, in England, the Salvation Army (1865). In the 1880s new distinctively Holiness churches sprang into existence, including the Church of God ( Anderson, Indiana ) and the Church of God (Holiness). Several older religious traditions were also influenced by the Holiness Movement, including certain groups of Mennonites, Brethren, and Friends that adopted the Wesleyan-Holiness view of entire sanctification. The Brethren in Christ Church and the Evangelical Friends Alliance are examples of this blending of spiritual traditions.
Uniting of Holiness Groups
In the 1890s a new wave of independent Holiness entities came into being. These included independent churches, urban missions, rescue homes, and missionary and evangelistic associations. Some of the people involved in these organizations yearned for union into a national Holiness church. Out of that impulse the present-day Church of the Nazarene was born.
Across the United States Holiness groups, churches, leaders, papers, books, and all else began hint at a notion that there was a need to organize this movement of God's people.
In 1907-1908, three of the largest organizations, the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, the Church of the Nazarene, and the Holiness Church of Christ were brought into association with one another by C. W. Ruth, assistant general superintendent of the Church of the Nazarene, who had extensive friendships throughout the Wesleyan-Holiness Movement. From it, they created the essential denominational documents of governance and order.
It would not be until the General Assembly of 1919, in response to memorials from 35 district assemblies, that the name be officially changed to Church of the Nazarene because of new meanings that had become associated with the term “Pentecostal.” And from thence the church has brown internationally in its mission and message.
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