Monday, September 17, 2012

Roaring Holiness 20s: Black and Drury

Today chapters 10-11 are up in Bob Black and Keith Drury's, The Story of the Wesleyan Church. So far it's been:

Chaps 1-2  About Wesley and the origins of the Wesleyan Methodist Church in abolitionism
Chaps 3-4  About its activist early days that were low church, pro-women (and anti- some other things)
Chaps 5-6  The post-Civil War let down, when the best and brightest returned to the Methodists
Chaps 7-8  Birth of Pilgrim Holiness Church
Chapter 9   Multiple Ministries
Chapter 10: Firm Foundations
This chapter deals with the first two decades of the twentieth century.  For the Wesleyan Methodists, the most important events were the founding of three more colleges--what would become Southern Wesleyan University where I went in South Carolina (1906) and the school in Miltonvale that eventually merged with what is now Oklahoma Wesleyan University.  Finally, what is now Indiana Wesleyan University was founded in 1920.

The group that would become the Pilgrims was much more entrepreneurial, and thus a little chaotic.  God's Bible School continued to serve them but it was non-denominational. As chapter 11 will say, "Starting a Bible college was something lie starting a camp meeting" (147).  I counted 9 Bible schools that the "Pilgrims" started in the first 30 years of the decade, including Frankfort that my family was associated with (1927).

The International Apostolic Holiness Association (IAHC) that became the Pilgrim Holiness Church was an association of holiness churches until 1913, when they voted to become a denomination, an official church body.  Interestingly, one of the factors may have been the desire for clergy to be able to get discounts on trains--which they couldn't do if they were just ministers in a movement (119).

This group grew from about 2744 members to 22, 444 by 1930, remembering that members were only those who were willing to keep all the rules, not those who attended. The Pilgrims didn't keep good records, unfortunately and predictably. Missions was a huge thing.  They had two general leaders in the 1920s, both of whom had to raise their own salary of $2500.  I smell big conflict coming.  Finch, the missions general was raising lots of money for missions and his salary with ease.  The other guy, not so much.

Chapter 11: Holiness and Roaring 20s
Mark Noll considers holiness and Pentecostal groups to be quientessential fundamentalist groups, with one of their defining characteristics being a sectarianism that led them to sequester themselves.  I'm waiting for some church history PhD to give him a good academic slapping.  The Fundamentals were written by people like J. Gresham Machen who left Princeton and founded Westminster.  The origins of fundamentalism are in the Calvinist elite that trace their lineage in New England back through slavery sympathizers to Jonathan Edwards.

I reject this heritage, just as I only will wear the label "evangelical" uncomfortably as somewhat of a foreign term to my tradition.  I have a strong hunch that some of this history is an attempt for more educated, higher socio-economic "evangelicals" of the 1940s to distance themselves from my admittedly less educated holiness and Pentecostal type. But we didn't start fundamentalism and it influenced us from the outside.  By the way, Pentecostalism grew out of the holiness movement, initially adding tongues onto entire sanctification as a third work of grace.

It's not that the few Pilgrims and Wesleyans who were paying attention to the fundamentalist-modernist controversy didn't side with the fundamentalists.  Timothy Smith in fact speaks of "the great reversal" where my tradition ignorantly moved a little away from social justice because of its association with the "social gospel" of that time (134), moving away from its roots. But in general, groups like the Pilgrims and Wesleyans "weren't directly involved because those battles were not being fought within their own communions" (130).

One interesting development was the prohibition of tobacco in the WM Church in 1927 (the Pilgrims had always prohibited it).  Those who already smoked were given a grandfather clause allowing them to continue to smoke.  I remember a pastor friend of mine from North Carolina talking about a member of his church that liked to boast that he could smoke outside the church under the grandfather clause.  Another development was a strong ethos of "storehouse tithing."  To help solve financial problems, a strong emphasis was put not only on giving 10% of your income to God, but specifically to your local church.

I close with some of my own history.  Both sets of my grandparents were Pilgrim Holiness preachers.  My mother's father married my grandmother in 1923.  He had previously been a Quaker preacher but ended up with the Pilgrims.  She would have been part of the Holiness Christian Church that joined the Pilgrims in 1919.  I have a PDF of a handwritten history from her about the purchase of the Frankfort campground which became the location of Frankfort Pilgrim College. My grandfather, Harry Shepherd would teach there his whole life (more to come).

Similarly, my father's father and mother became converted at a tent meeting in Delphi, Indiana in 1921. He would plant and pastor Pilgrim churches his whole life, in fact not going with the merger in 1968.

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