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1824 – 1923

An Overview

The Holiness Movement, which began in the United States in the early part of the 19th century, sought to preserve the teachings of John Wesley on Christian Perfection and entire sanctification . Primarily comprised of Methodist ministers and lay persons, the proponents of the Holiness Movement held Wesley’s theology that the road to salvation is one from a willful rebellion against both divine and human law to the perfect love for God and humankind.

The preachers involved in the Holiness Movement followed Wesley’s teachings that salvation was a two part process. The first step involved conversion or justification in which one is freed from the sins he or she has committed in life. The second step was full salvation in which one was freed form the burden of sin and the flaws in his or her human character which causes he or she to sin.

The basic concept of the Holiness Movement was to love God with all one’s heart, mind and soul, to live a life free of committing conscious or deliberate acts of sin, to observe carefully the divine ordinances of God, and to exhibit a humble and steadfast reliance on God’s forgiveness and atonement. The proponents and followers of the Holiness Movement also looked for God’s glory in all things, and sought an increasing exercise of the love which fulfills the entire law of God.

Several factors led to the wide spread influence of the Holiness Movement. The issues of Abolition and Slavery, Social Reform, especially in the large cities, the Camp Meetings and Revivalist Movements, the Oberlin theology of Charles Finney and Asa Mahan which supported Christian perfectionism, the feeling among many Methodists that the church had stayed away from the original teachings of John Wesley on discipline within the church and Phoebe Palmer’s Tuesday Meetings in New York, which sought to bring the Word of God to the poverty stricken classes of lower Manhattan by establishing missions.

With the advent of the Civil War, the Holiness Movement increased in its fervor, winning many converts to Methodism on both the Federal and Confederate sides. After the Civil War a full fledged Holiness and Revival Movement broke out within the Methodist Church spawning the creation of the the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness in 1867. From 1893 until 1971 the organization was known as the National Holiness Association (NHA) and then in 1971 it was renamed the Christian Holiness Association.

The Holiness movement quickly spread beyond the confines of the Methodist Church and found a following world wide, spawning new denominations and off-shoot branches. These included the Pentecostal Holiness Church and the Pentecostal movement, the Church of the Nazarene, the Church of God , the Assemblies of God and the Salvation Army.

By 1900 the Methodist Church was no longer the predominate force behind the Holiness Movement although still well entrenched in it. The move had become more of an Evangelical or Pentecostal one, although it still encompassed main stream Christian denominations including the Presbyterian and Anglican churches. By the advent of the Second World War the Movement was firmly entrenched in Evangelical and Pentecostal circles with the Methodists settling into a more mainstream conservative faith, primarily comprised of middle and upper middle class White Anglo-Saxon Protestants.

Today, with the advent of television and the internet, the Holiness Movement has seen a revival in many of the world’s mainstream religions. Evangelists such as Billy Graham and Pat Robertson, through the use of world wide media, have helped to promote the movement to a new generation of audiences. Today large scale inter-denominational and nondenominational revival meetings take place across the globe. Contributed to by the uncertainty of the current age, the fast paced life style of the 21st Century and world unrest, these meetings have taken a stronghold, especially in American society. Held in major arena’s and auditoriums today’s Holiness Meetings have come a long way form the simple prayer meetings held in Phoebe Palmer’s front parlor or in the canvas tents of the 19th Century Camp Meetings.

1729 – 1735

Anglican minister John Wesley, along with his younger brother Charles, founded the “Holy Club” at Oxford University in England . The derogatory term “Methodist” was a college nickname bestowed upon the small group, who met on a weekly basis for the purpose of individual and mutual improvement. By the mid 1740’s Methodism was born. Although Wesley had no intentions of separating from the Church of England, the American Revolution caused the Church to cut off her American members and the Methodist Church was born.



A group of abolitionist students leave Lane Seminary of Cincinnati to join the newly formed Oberlin College, making that school a reform center.



Sarah Worrall Lankford (Phoebe Palmer’s sister) founds the Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness in New York City. Charles Finney lectures on holiness in New York City. John Humphrey Noyes founds a perfectionist intentional community at Putney, Vermont —precursor to his controversial Oneida (New York) community.



Sarah Worrall Lankford (Phoebe Palmer’s sister) founds the Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness in New York City. Charles Finney lectures on holiness in New York City. John Humphrey Noyes founds a perfectionist intentional community at Putney, Vermont —precursor to his controversial Oneida (New York) community.



Orange Scott organizes the Wesleyan Methodist Connection at Utica , New York. Phoebe Palmer publishes The Way of Holiness.



The Methodist Episcopal Church divides into Northern and Southern denominations, primarily over issues of abolition and slavery.



The Five Points Mission is founded in New York City by Phoebe Palmer and other Methodist women.



Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe was sympathetic to the holiness movement and wrote on sanctification.



Extensive revivals break out in Ontario , Canada as a result of Phoebe Palmer’s ministry.



The Presbyterian W. E. Boardman’s fast-selling Higher Christian Life popularizes holiness in non-Methodist terms.


1858 – 59

The Layman’s Revival in New York City and other Northeastern urban centers popularizes the “higher Christian life.”



Phoebe Palmer publishes The Promise of the Father, a closely argued biblical defense of women in ministry that would influence Catherine Booth, cofounder of the Salvation Army.



B.T. Roberts and John Wesley Redfield found the Free Methodist Church on ideals of abolition, egalitarianism, and holiness.



Frances Willard, who later became president of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, professes sanctification under the Palmers.



The first National Holiness Association (NHA) camp meeting is held at Vineland, New Jersey. Rev. William Osborne attends this meeting and is inspired to found a Camp Meeting.



The second NHA camp meeting attracts over 20,000 people to Manheim , Pennsylvania. Many experience it as a powerful “Pentecost.”



The Western Holiness Association—first of the regional associations that prefigured “come-outism”—is formed at Bloomington, Illinois. D. L. Moody experiences his “enduement of power.” Two years later, he begins his first great U.K. campaign.



Hannah Whitall Smith and Robert Pearsall Smith speak in England at the ecumenical Broadlands and Oxford meetings in England for the promotion of holiness.



The first Keswick Convention meets.



General holiness conventions meet in Cincinnati and New York City.



William and Catherine Booth organize the Salvation Army.



D. S. Warner starts the Church of God Reformation Movement , later the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana). See a timeline of D. S. Warner's life. Click on the D. S. Warner link on the About Us Page.



The first Salvation Army home for “fallen women” is founded in New York City.



Moody’s Chicago Bible Institute building dedicated.



First Church of the Nazarene is founded in Los Angeles, California .



Alma White founds the Pentecostal Union, later Pillar of Fire.



The Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles marks the beginning of Pentecostalism.



The Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene is organized in Chicago.



The Church of the Nazarene is founded.



The Brethren in Christ adopt a holiness statement on sanctification.



Methodist college president and holiness preacher Henry Clay Morrison founds Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky.



The Methodist Episcopal Church (North and South) re-unites and re-absorbs an earlier offshoot, the Methodist Protestant Church, to form The Methodist Church.