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The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume IIIThe Nineteenth Century$
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Timothy Larsen and Michael Ledger-Lomas

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780199683710

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199683710.001.0001

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Methodists and Holiness in North America

Methodists and Holiness in North America

Chapter:
(p.211) 8 Methodists and Holiness in North America
Source:
The Oxford History of Protestant Dissenting Traditions, Volume III
Author(s):

Jay R. Case

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780199683710.003.0009

John Wesley founded Methodism as an evangelical renewal movement within the Church of England. That structure encouraged both establishment impulses and Dissenting movements within Methodism in the North American context. In Canada, British missionaries planted a moderate, respectable form of Methodism, comfortable with the establishment. In Ontario, however, Methodism drew from a more democratized, enthusiastic revivalism that set itself apart from the establishment. After a couple of generations, however, these poorer outsiders had moved into the middle class, and Canadian Methodism grew into the largest denomination, with a sense of duty to nurture the social order. Methodism in the United States, however, embodied a paradox representative of a nation founded in a self-conscious act of Dissent against an existing British system. Methodism came to embrace the American cultural centre while simultaneously generating Dissenting movements. After the American Revolution, ordinary Americans challenged deference, hierarchy, patronage, patriarchy, and religious establishments. Methodism adopted this stance in the religious sphere, growing as an enthusiastic, anti-elitist evangelistic campaign that validated the spiritual experiences of ordinary people. Eventually, Methodists began moving towards middle-class respectability and the cultural establishment, particularly in the largest Methodist denomination, the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC). However, democratized impulses of Dissent kept re-emerging to animate new movements and denominations. Republican Methodists and the Methodist Protestant Church formed in the early republic to protest the hierarchical structures of the MEC. African Americans created the African Methodist Episcopal Church and African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church in response to racism in the MEC. The Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Free Methodists emerged in protest against both slavery and hierarchy. The issue of slavery divided the MEC into northern and southern denominations. The split reflected a battle over which religious vision of slavery would be adopted by the cultural establishment. The denominations remained divided after the Civil War, but neither could gain support among newly freed blacks in the South. Freed from a racialized religious establishment embedded in slavery, former slaves flocked to independent black Methodist and Baptist churches. In the late nineteenth century, Methodism spawned another major evangelical Dissenting movement, the Holiness movement. Although they began with an effort to strengthen Wesleyan practices of sanctification within Methodism, Holiness advocates soon became convinced that most Methodists would not abandon what they viewed as complacency, ostentation, and worldliness. Eventually, Holiness critiques led to conflicts with Methodist officials, and ‘come-outer’ groups forged a score of new Holiness denominations, including the Church of God (Anderson), the Christian Missionary Alliance, and the Church of the Nazarene. Holiness zeal for evangelism and sanctification also spread through the missionary movement, forming networks that would give birth to another powerful, fragmented, democratized movement of world Christianity, Pentecostalism.

Keywords:   African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, African Methodist Episcopal Church, American South, American North, Canada, democratization, Holiness movement, Methodist Episcopal Church, slavery, John Wesley

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