Church of the Nazarene

views updated Jun 08 2018


One of the largest of the holiness churches formed (1908) as a separate church by the union of several small pentecostal groups. Although most of these were originally methodist congregations or missions founded under Methodist auspices, holiness evangelists of the Ohio Yearly Meeting of Friends were influential also in originating the Church of the Nazarene.

The principal bodies involved in the 1908 merger were the Church of the Nazarene, with headquarters at Los Angeles, Calif.; the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America, centered at Brooklyn, N.Y.; and the Pentecostal Mission of Nashville, Tenn. Missions to the unchurched in the slums of newly urbanized America were one of the first fruits of the holiness movement in this country. The Peoples' Evangelical Church at Providence, R.I., founded in 1887, became the nucleus for the Central Evangelical Holiness Association formed in 1890 of holiness missions in industrial towns in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. About the same time William Hoople and Charles BeVier established the Utica Avenue Tabernacle in Brooklyn, uniting first with other New York congregations and then with the New England group to form (1896) the Association of Pentecostal Churches. The years 1888 to 1894 saw the holiness advocates steadily losing ground in Methodism. Phineas Bresee, removed as presiding elder by Bp. John H. Vincent in 1892, established a mission at Peniel Hall, Los Angeles, in 1894. Further difficulties led to its separation from Methodism and the founding (1895) of the Church of the Nazarene. The Pentecostal Mission at Nashville, led by B. F. Haynes and J. O. McClurkan, began negotiations for union with the Church of the Nazarene in 1901. Other independent congregations in the South, including the New Testament Church of Christ formed by Robert L. Harris, and the Holiness Association of Texas, both originally Methodist, merged in 1905 to form the Holiness Church of Christ. In 1907 the Church of the Nazarene and the Brooklyn Association churches united and in 1908 union was completed with several small southern bodies, including the Holiness Church of Christ. The Nashville group joined the others only in 1915 after protracted negotiations. The Middle West then became the scene of intense missionary work and rapid growth in membership. Differences over the meaning of baptism and other issues led to the secession of Seth C. Rees and a California congregation in 1917, and financial problems led to much greater centralization after 1923. The Church of the Nazarene established (1904) a Spanish-speaking mission in Los Angeles, the precursor of many home missions to minority groups. Its foreign mission work began in Africa (1907) and was extended to Mexico (1919) and Peru (1917) and later to most parts of the world.

The Church of the Nazarene claims to be the largest denomination in the Wesleyan-Arminian theological tradition. The original creedal statement drawn up at Los Angeles in 1895 stressed the Unity and Trinity of God, the inspiration and sufficiency of the Scriptures, man's fallen nature, Christ's atonement, the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion, and sanctification by faith. In the tradition of the holiness movement, Nazarene theologians have emphasized the crisis and process of sanctification, seeing it as an instantaneous experience, a second religious crisis after conversion, in which the Christian is cleansed from inner sin by the sanctifying baptism with the Holy Spirit. Nazarene services, whether "evangelistic" or "worship" services, are always open to demonstrations of praise or zeal; their ritual and sacramental observances are simple and allow for freedom of spirit.

In its tradition, the Church of the Nazarene is democratic. Congregations retain a large measure of independence, although its missionary, educational, and publishing activities have been centralized since 1911. In polity, as in worship, it is close to Methodism; its superintendents are similar to Methodist bishops. The Church of the Nazarene has always been opposed to use of liquor, tobacco, and dancing, as well as various other kinds of worldliness and adornment.

Bibliography: c. t. corbett, Our Pioneer Nazarenes (Kansas City, Mo. 1958). t. l. smith, Called unto Holiness (Kansas City, Mo. 1962). w. pursiker, Conflicting Concepts in Holiness (Kansas City, Mo. 1958); g. v. note, The People Called Nazarenes: Who We Are and What We Believe (Kansas City, Mo. 1983).

[r. k. macmaster/eds.]

Nazarene, Church of the

views updated May 11 2018


NAZARENE, CHURCH OF THE. The Church of the Nazarene was formed by the merger of three Pentecostal and Holiness churches in 1907–1908: the Association of Pentecostal Churches in America, the Church of the Nazarene, and the Holiness Church of Christ. The church has dissociated itself from the more extreme Pentecostal groups and generally adheres to the teachings of late-nineteenh-century Methodism. The Nazarenes believe that regeneration and sanctification are different experiences, and they practice faith healing and abstain from the use of tobacco and alcohol. The ecclesiastical structure of the church is similar to that of Methodism. At the turn of the twenty-first century, 1.2 million Nazarenes worshipped in 11,800 churches worldwide.


Jones, Charles Edwin. Perfectionist Persuasion: The Holiness Movement and American Methodism, 1867–1936. Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1974.

Smith, Timothy Lawrence. Called unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes: The Formative Years. Kansas City, Mo.: Nazarene Publishing House, 1983.

Glenn T.Miller/a. r.

See alsoFundamentalism ; Religion and Religious Affiliation .

Nazarene, Church of the

views updated May 18 2018

Nazarene, Church of the. An international holiness denomination which, in the early 20th cent., united various American groups which taught John Wesley's doctrine of ‘perfect love’. In the British Isles the churches formerly associated with the International Holiness Mission were united with the Church of the Nazarene in 1952, whilst in 1955 a further union took place with the Calvary Holiness Church.

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