Several writers are from the “dissenting” tradition within American Methodism: Dennis Dickerson is from the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Douglas M. Koskela is a Free Methodist, Andrew Wood and Stan Ingersol are from the Church of the Nazarene, and other contributors have connections to Wesleyan- Holiness institutions. However, the extent of holiness history and perspectives varies by chapter.
Vickers’ chapter on theology and the historical surveys by Russell Richey and Douglas Strong provide Nazarene pastors a basic understanding of the theology and issues that formed the identity of the Church of the Nazarene. Vickers explains that Methodist theology had “evangelical sensibilities.” Theology had been shaped by the task and goal of preaching to lead people to salvation. This sensibilityis reflected in the 1905 Nazarene Manual’s “Agreed Statement of Belief”: “Recognizing that the right and privilege of persons to church membership rests upon the fact of their being regenerate, we would require only such avowals of belief as are essential to Christian experience.” Vickers describes what this looked like in the ministry of early Methodist ministers and how and why this attitude changed in the century prior to the formation of the Church of the Nazarene.
A second sensibility relating to the Holiness Movement would be “radical sensibilities” or social compassion. While the text does not present history or commentary on the Nazarene experience, it explains why the 1898 Nazarene Manual claims, “God called them to go into the poorer parts of the cities, and into neglected places . . . securing the salvation of souls, and the relief of the needy and suffering.” Wendy Deichmann’s American Methodism in the Twentieth Century presents a developed treatment of selective issues of United Methodist history following 1925, but she provides little attention and no substantive commentary that would help one understand the issues confronted by any of the major denominations in the Holiness traditionduring the same time period.
A rich feature of the text for Nazarene ministers will be several chapters in part 2 on the religious culture of Methodism. “Revivalism and Preaching” notes how Methodists ceased to attend class and quarterly meetings because of changes in church and culture. Does the history of Methodism help Nazarenes evaluate the significance of similar behavioral changes in their own tradition? “Discipline and Polity” provides an excellent foundation for understanding Nazarene polity. I agree with Douglas Koskela’s explanation that discipline means more than a book of rules: It is the “means by which Methodists hold each other accountable in their response to God’s grace and their pursuit of holiness.” In Koskela’s chapter and Richey’s historical survey, one finds excellent treatment of the meaning of connection. In a nondenominational era, Nazarene leaders must be able to communicate the value of “connectionalism,” that is, “a commitment among members to sharespiritual, missional, organizational, and financial responsibility with each other.” E. Brooks Holifield’s “Clergy” might help Nazarene pastors think about the future shape of ministry. His topics include clerical authority and types of ministry, professional ministry and educational requirements, and the primary task of the minister. His discussion, along with Stan Ingersol’s chapter on education, describes educational models that could be the basis for shaping future models of theological education. “Laity” by Jennifer Woodruff Tait might help Nazarenes consider the role of clergy and laity in the future by seeing the roles Methodist laity played in the past. For example, what would Methodist history suggest about the possible role and authority of a minister, and how might laity function in a bi-vocational ministry setting?
Here are some changes that would have improved the text for Nazarene pastors. While “American Methodists and Popular Culture” might help Nazarene pastors think in general about the usage of media and technology of popular culture, Christopher Anderson would have made the chapter more relevant if he had reflected on how the Church of the Nazarene handled the issue during the same time period.Strong’s historical survey might have included a fuller delineation between holiness moderates and radicals. The distinction also could have been visible in “Healing” if Candy Gunther Brown had contrasted the position of radical holiness groups like the Metropolitan Church Association, who called for Christians to rely on divine healing and refuse medical care, with the viewpoints of moderates like the Church of the Nazarene, whose 1907 Manual statement on Divine Healing focused on the right of medical care: “While we recognize that God heals with and without means, we hold that no one has the right to take such an extreme position as may result in death of any person without medical attention.” Deichmann’s historical survey may also fail to reflect the diversity in the Holiness Movement when she states that Holiness partisans paired Holiness teaching of the second blessing alongside “literal Biblicist premillennial theology.” The phrase “literal Biblicist” requires clarification. Moreover, “literal Biblicist premillennial theology” does not seem an accurate depiction of normative holiness theology when holiness moderates and radicals had a variety of views on scripture and millennialism.
A strength of the text is its extensive treatment of gender and race. Nazarenes will learn about thegeneral cultural context of the era, but the stories of such ordained women ministers in the Nazarene tradition as Anna Hanscombe, Mary Lee Cagle, Lucy P. Knott or Elsie Wallace do not appear. Laceye Warner’s “American Methodist Women” does not include ordained women from the Church of the Nazarene even in her discussion of the time period when women had not as yet won this right in either of the Methodist Episcopal churches. Ingersol does comment on the contributions of Olive Winchester, Emily Ellyson, and Mildred Bangs Wynkoop. Nazarene pastors should also know that the first two Nazarene Assemblies (Chicago 1907 and Pilot Point 1908) ordained both men and women. Today, the question for Nazarene pastors would be why the situation has reversed itself with women now having more opportunities in United Methodist congregations. Regarding race, Nazarene pastors should be aware of our own failures and successes, but it is less known in general scholarship and would have been a surprise to see it included here in the discussion on race and civil rights.
This excellent text helps Nazarenes understand who we have been in the past and what we are becoming. Furthermore, it provides an opportunity to think about how we might shape the practice of ministry in the future. Including fuller description and commentary on Nazarenes would have increased its value for Nazarene pastors, and similar inclusions about other Holiness denominations would have increased the value for them as well.
ROBERT DOYLE SMITH serves as Professor of Theology at Olivet Nazarene University.