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Chapter 7: The Holiness Movement Gives Birth to Holiness Denominations
The Impact of Holiness Preaching as Taught by John Wesley and the Outpouring of the Holy Ghost on Racism

by Dr. Reve' M. Pete

Opposition to the Holiness movement that occurred between 1878 and 1901 resulted in the formation of “over a score” of Holiness denominations. During this period, the Holiness movement had approximately one million supporters. The National Holiness Association could have adopted a resolution that would have created one large Holiness denomination. At the General Holiness Assemblies of 1880, 1886 and 1901, many delegates asked for such a resolution. However, leaders of the National Holiness Association “counseled against” it. As a result, the movement fragmented into many denominations.1

Holiness denominations were generally Arminian in theology and Wesleyan in their view of sanctification.” They “served as a counterweight among the lower classes to the liberal thinking of the upper and middle classes. Holiness writers called Darwinism, higher criticism, the Social Gospel and the Federal Council of Churches false doctrines. The most serious objection to the Social Gospel was the concern that its leaders would neglect individual salvation by substituting social works for saving grace.” The denominations that came into existence during this time did so primarily in three ways. “Two arose before the controversy over sanctification that troubled the National Holiness Movement. Some arose from the Methodist Church as a result of the controversy over sanctification. Others arose from portions of non-Methodist denominations affiliated with the National Holiness Movement.”

Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) was formed in 1880 in Anderson, Indiana. Its founder was Daniel S. Warner (1856-1895). It was the first post-Civil War Holiness church. The Church separated from Winebrenner Church of God, “a Methodist-like German body”.2 The Church is also known as Evening Light Saints.3

Church of God (Holiness) was organized in 1883. A. M. Kiergan organized it in protest against Methodist officials who “pressured” Holiness associations. These “pressured” associations were located in the South and Mid-West.4

United Holy Church of America was organized in 1886 in Method, North Carolina. It was organized under the name, United Holy Church after members of an African-American Baptist church were asked to leave that church. The request came on the heels of a revival in which Holiness doctrine was preached. Elder L. M. Mason, a Fire-Baptized minister, was elected its first president.5

Christian Missionary Alliance was formed in 1887 in New York. Its founder is A. B. Simpson. “He emphasized foreign missions, divine healing and sanctification.”6

Free-Will Baptist Church began in New England in the eighteenth century. It came to North Carolina in 1855 when the Stony Run Free-Will Baptist church was organized along with the Cape Fear Conference of the Free-Will Baptist denomination. In 1883, the church’s Discipline stated sanctification commences at regeneration and continues with one constantly growing in grace. The 1889 Discipline stated sanctification is ‘an instantaneous work of God’s grace in a believer’s heart whereby the heart is cleansed from all sin and made pure by the blood of Christ’”. This change of the Discipline reflected the influence of the National Holiness Association.7

Fire-Baptized Holiness Church was formed in 1895 in Iowa. Its founder was Benjamin Hardin Irwin. “Irwin had been saved in a Baptist church. Later, he left the Practice of Law to enter Baptist ministry. After his ordination, he came in contact with Holiness teaching through ministers of the Iowa Holiness Association. After his sanctification, he studied the scriptures, the teachings of John Wesley and John Fletcher.

Irwin became most influenced by the teachings of John Fletcher. Fletcher was a colleague of Wesley. Fletcher taught an experience following sanctification called a baptism of burning love. The term ‘baptism of burning love’ as Fletcher used it is the same as ‘baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire’. He stated that persons who were baptized with fire were endued with power from on high. Because of these statements, Irwin concluded there was an experience beyond sanctification called baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire or simply, ‘the fire’.

Irwin sought and received a baptism of fire. Afterward, he began to preach a third experience among holiness people of the Mid-West. The greater part of the Holiness movement rejected his message. Holiness people taught the second blessing of sanctification was the baptism of the Holy Ghost. They believed both were aspects of the same experience. The older wing of the Holiness movement rejected the third blessing doctrine as heresy. In spite of this rejection, the Fire-Baptized movement grew, especially in the rural Mid-West and the South.

The opposition of the Iowa Holiness Association caused Irwin to form the Fire-Baptized Holiness Association in 1895 in Olmity, Iowa. This association propagated the third blessing doctrine in holiness ranks. Fire-Baptized Holiness Associations were organized in Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. By mid-1898, associations had been formed in Iowa, Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Virginia, Ontario and Manitoba. Irwin appointed an overseer in each association to conduct the organization’s affairs. He adopted the title, General Overseer.

In 1898, a national convention was held at Anderson, South Carolina. It convened July 28 to August 28. At the convention, a Discipline was adopted with general rules for the organization, Irwin was named General Overseer for life, and various other offices were created and filled. Irwin could license and ordain ministers and appoint them to churches.”

“In 1900, Irwin confessed to ‘open and gross sin’which brought reproach on the church.” He resigned as overseer and was replaced by Joseph Hillery King (1869-1946). King had joined the church during the 1898 organizational convention in Anderson, South Carolina.

“King was formally elected General Overseer on June 5, 1900. He was also named editor of Live Coals of Fire, a periodical founded by Irwin in 1899. King moved to Iowa to conduct the affairs of the denomination.”8

Church of God, headquartered in Cleveland, Tennessee was founded in 1896 in Cherokee County, North Carolina. The “founding resulted from revival held at Scheaer Schoolhouse in Cherokee County. William Martin, Joe M. Tipton and Milton McNabb conducted the revival. These men were ‘self-proclaimed evangelists’ from local Methodist and Baptist churches.

During this revival, several persons who were sanctified spoke in tongues. Local Baptist and Methodist pastors denounced the experience as heresy. Before the revival ended, mobs led by leading Methodist and Baptist members ransacked and pillaged the homes of persons who worshipped in the revival. A justice of the peace and the local sheriff led the mob. After the burning of the meetinghouse into which they had moved, the worshippers moved to the home of W. F. Bryant. He became leader of the congregation.”

Bryant organized the first local church on May 15, 1902. The church was named The Holiness Church at Camp Creek. R. G. Spurling, Jr., a Baptist preacher from Tennessee was chosen as pastor. Bryant was ordained to the ministry.

In 1903, the members of the Camp Creek church asked Ambrose Jessup Tomlinson (1865-1943), an itinerant Quaker from Indiana, to join the church. “After joining the church, Tomlinson was elected pastor. Spurling and Bryant left Camp Creek to evangelize other communities. They established churches in Tennessee and Georgia.”

“Under the leadership of Tomlinson, the four churches made great organizational progress. A General Assembly was held January 26 and 27, 1906, to organize the denomination.” “The Second General Assembly convened at Union Grove church in Bradley County, Tennessee, 1907. During this convention, delegates voted to name the church “Church of God”. “The church believed in entire sanctification, divine healing, the ‘baptism of fire’ and the Second Advent of Christ.”9

Pilgrim Holiness Church was founded in 1897 in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its founder is Martin W. Knapp. “Knapp had been a Methodist minister. The church was originally called International Apostolic Holiness Union. It changed its name to Pilgrim Holiness Church after merging with Holiness Christian Church of Pennsylvania, Pentecostal Rescue Mission of New York and Pilgrim Church of California.”10

Church of God in Christ (COGIC) was formed in 1897 in Lexington, Mississippi, under the leadership of11 Charles Harrison Mason (1866-1961)12 and Charles Price Jones.13 “Mason and Jones were Missionary Baptist ministers. Mason had been licensed as a Baptist minister in 1893 and entered Arkansas Baptist College later the same year. He left the school after three months because he felt there was no salvation in schools or colleges.

After coming in contact with the doctrine of entire sanctification, Mason and Jones preached it in Baptist churches of the Lexington area. They also claimed to have received this experience.”14 “The [holiness] preaching of Mason and Jones caused major upheavals in [African-American] Baptist churches in Mississippi, Tennessee and Arkansas. Through their preaching, they introduced the Wesleyan perfectionist doctrine of sanctification into the Calvinist doctrinal framework of [African-American] Baptist churches. Lutherans and Calvinists taught the human condition apart from grace is hopeless. Wesley agreed, but disputed the assumption that a Christian’s life should continue to exhibit sinfulness. Wesley wrote,

“[There] is no excuse for those who continue in sin and lay the blame on their Maker by saying, ‘It is God only that must quicken us, for we cannot quicken our own souls.’ For allowing that all the souls of men are dead by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man unless he has quenched the Spirit that is wholly void of the grace of God… So that no man sins because he has no grace, but because he does not use the grace which he has.”

Between 1896 and 1899, Holiness conventions, revivals and periodicals of Mason and Jones split the Baptists. The National Baptist Convention vehemently opposed them. Eventually, it expelled them.”15

“Following their expulsion, Mason and Jones held a revival in a cotton gin house in Lexington, February 1897. This became the organizational meeting for Church of God in Christ. Mason settled on the name while walking the street in Little Rock, Arkansas.” “Church of God in Christ was the first southern Holiness denomination to become chartered. As a result, ordained COGIC ministers could claim clergy rates on railroads and legally perform marriages.” “Eventually, this church became the largest [African-American] Pentecostal denomination and the second largest of all Pentecostal denominations in the United States.”16

Brewerton Presbyterian Church was founded in 1899 in Greenville, South Carolina by holiness-minded Presbyterians. It was organized as a result of the preaching of17 Nickels John Holmes (1847-1919).18 “Holmes pastored Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville. He had been a prominent lawyer in South Carolina, educated at the University of Edinburgh, in Scotland. Holmes became interested in holiness doctrine as a result of Dwight L. Moody’s emphasis on it.”

The Presbytery tried Holmes for emphasizing entire sanctification. “Afterward, he withdrew from the Presbyterian Church and joined Brewerton Presbyterian Church. The church amended the longer and shorter Presbyterian catechisms to include the doctrine of sanctification as a second blessing.”19

Pentecostal Holiness Church was formed in 1900 in Fayetteville, North Carolina. Ambrose Blackman Crumpler and other Methodist ministers founded it. “Crumpler had been sanctified in 1890 under the ministry of Beverly Carradine, a leading preacher of the National Holiness Movement. In October 1899, the North Carolina Annual Conference of the Methodist Church tried Crumpler. He had been accused of refusing to stop preaching the doctrine of sanctification. After separating from the Methodist Church, he continued preaching in North Carolina. As a result, Methodists who were sanctified in his meetings were no longer welcome in their churches. Crumpler and other former Methodist ministers formed the Pentecostal Holiness Church in the spring of 1900. This was to accommodate those persons who had been turned out of their churches.”20

Mountain Assembly Church of God was formed in 1906 at Whitley County, Kentucky. This assembly was composed of five churches. These churches had left the as a result of a trial of Baptist ministers who had been accused of teaching that men could be lost after regeneration. These ministers, Steve Bryant, Tom Moses and William Douglas, had preached the doctrine of holiness from 1895 to 1903 in the churches of the South Union Baptist Association.” After hearing J. H. Parks, a United Baptist Church pastor, preach, they began preaching Holiness doctrine. “As a result of the trial, Parks and his followers were excluded from the Baptist denomination. Their credentials were revoked. Mountain Assembly was formed in a General Assembly of the five churches held at Jellico Creek Church, Whitley County. The new church was formed under the name Church of God. Because of other Holiness denominations using the same name, “Mountain Assembly” was added to the name in 1911.”21

Church of the Nazarene is the result of the merger of several Holiness denominations. They merged in 1914 at Pilot Point, Texas under the name Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. The denominations that merged, their location and the year they were established are People’s Evangelical Church, New England, 1887; Pentecostal Churches of America, Brooklyn, New York, 1894; New Testament Church of Christ, Milan, Tennessee, 1894; Church of the Nazarene, Los Angeles, 1895; Pentecostal Mission, Nashville, Tennessee, 1898; Independent Holiness Church, Texas, 1900.”22

Historians have categorized the Holiness denominations that came into existence during this time period as radical and conservative. The radical churches emphasized divine healing, the pre-millennial Second Coming of Jesus Christ, a third blessing of “the fire” and puritanical modes of dress. Conservative churches were non-radical ones. The conservative Holiness denominations were Wesleyan Methodist Church, Free Methodist Church, Christian Missionary Alliance, Pilgrim Holiness Church and Church of the Nazarene.23

Most of the radical Holiness denominations were formed in the rural South and Mid-West and were organized between 1895 and 1900. Their formation paralleled the populist movements of this same period. According to Vinson Synan, the Holiness movement and populist movements were “protests against the Eastern ‘establishment’”. Populists such as Tom Watson and William Jennings Bryan spoke against “the banking interests of Wall Street and the monopoly power of big business”. Holiness preachers preached against “the autocracy and ecclesiastical power of the Methodist hierarchy”. Synan further states, “…the rise of the [Holiness] denominations after 1894 was a religious revolt which paralleled the political and economic revolt of populism”.24

Between 1890 and 1920, during the days of “Jim Crowism and general white supremacy” most Holiness denominations were interracial. African-Americans served as preachers, officials and members of these groups. African-Americans and Caucasian-Americans “worshipped together in virtual equality”. Racial lines were “often very indistinct”. However, after these denominations coalesced into “formal denominations”, divisions occurred “along racial lines”. The reason for this was social pressure to conform to the segregation that then “dominated…American life”.25



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Further Studies in Pentecostalism

The resources listed below offer opportunities for further study about the Holiness-Pentecostal Movement. For more information about a resource, click on the title.

Unless otherwise noted, all scriptures are taken from the New King James Verion of the Holy Bible
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