Holiness Movement

The movement arose in mid-nineteenth century America and was a blend of historic Pietism, Americanrevivalism and Wesleyan perfectionism. It was widely disseminated by the growth and popularity of the Camp Meetings and characterised by revival preaching and encouragement to every Christian to seek the 'second blessing' and bear witness to it. All over America groups of Christians came together to further a Wesleyan understanding of the doctrine of Christian perfection. Eventually denominations emerged, the largest being the Church of the Nazarene. Leading figures in this Movement in America were Timothy Merritt, founder editor of the influential periodical, Guide to Christian Perfection,, Mrs Phoebe Palmer, who organised the Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness and Dr Asa Mahan of Oberlin College. This Movement was promoted in Britain in the 1860s and 70s through the preaching of Mrs Palmer, the Rev. William Boardman and Mr and Mrs Robert Pearsall and Hannah Whitall Smith. Conventions were held at Broadlands, Romsey (Hants), Brighton and Oxford and these prepared the way for the first Keswick Convention in 1875. In England the holiness theme was much less definitely Wesleyan and it took the generic title of the 'Higher Life Movement'. Thomas Cook and Samuel Chadwick were prominent figures in the movement.

The American-based Holiness Movement influenced PM in the second half of the 19th century, when it was seen as helping to revive the evangelical spirit of earlier days. The Rev. George Warner was set apart by the 1874 PM Conference to be its first Travelling Evangelist and Holiness Teacher and it was espoused by Joseph Wood, e.g. in his presidential address in 1882.

  • John Kent, Holding the Fort: Studies in Victorian Revivalism (1978)
  • M.E. Dieter, The Holiness Revival of the Nineteenth Century (1980)
  • David W. Bebbington, 'The Holiness Movement in British and Canadian Methodism in the Late Nineteenth Century', in WHS Proceedings, 50 pp.203-28
  • Randall J. Stephens, 'The holiness/pentecostal/charismatic extension of the Wesleyan tradition', in Randy L Maddox and Jason E. Vickers (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to John Wesley (2010) pp.262-81