Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Today on the Almanac, we tell the story of the founding of the Church of the Nazarene.

*** This is a rough transcript of today’s show ***

It is the 13th of October 2021. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at, I’m Dan van Voorhis.

Let’s go back to the late 1800s to look at the landscape of American Protestantism. The Civil War is over, the American Frontier had been settled, and the 2nd Great Awakening shook the church leaving small, independent churches peppered across the country. And like any period in American church history we start to see independent churches settle into particular “branding” trends. To explain, let’s look at the modern independent Church scene and find the most popular names (that is, these aren’t the “First Baptist” St John’s Lutheran churches). What do we find?

Journey, Bridge, Life, New Life, Elevate, Summit, Crosspoint etc…. In the late 1800s the most popular independent churches had names like the “Holiness Church of Christ” or The New Testament Church of Christ, Independent Holiness Church and often the word “Pentecostal” would be thrown in to signify a more ecstatic worship experience. But independent frontier churches soon found that consolidation was the key to further growth. Holiness and Pentecostal churches began merging until the grandaddy merger of them all. It was on this, the 13th of October in 1908 (at 10:40am no less, we’re told) that the the Holiness Church of Christ in the south and the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene announced their merger “amid great shouts of joy and holy enthusiasm”. The new church body would take on the name “the Church of the Nazarene”. Today this church body is the largest denomination in the Wesleyan-Holiness Tradition.

Let’s look at the Church of the Nazarene.

They call themselves Nazarenes after Acts 24:5 “We have found this man to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect”

Being in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition means following the tradition of John Wesley- himself an Anglican until breaking off into what are usually called “Methodists”. The Wesleyan-Holiness tradition broke off from the Methodists over many things, some regional, some theological. At its core it holds to a cultural conservatism, Arminian theology and the doctrine of “Full Sanctification”. Let’s look at these 3 things.

Cultural Conservatism: interestingly, one of the first ministers and superintendents of this church was a woman- but this was 1908- and in the Wild West, nonetheless it is interesting to see labels change. They were strictly anti-Alcohol, smoking, dancing, and card playing. There was a schism in the 1950s when the main church body decided that watching TV wasn’t necessarily a sin.

Arminian theology was a reaction to a 17th century interpretation of John Calvin. The Arminians stressed humanity’s free will, the death of Christ for ALL people, and a more optimistic anthropology.

That optimistic anthropology is part of the distinctive doctrine of “Full Sanctification”- that is, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit a Christian may get to a point where they no longer willfully sin. This is seen as a rare blessing, but possible nonetheless.

The Nazarene’s are probably best known for their schools- 52 colleges in 35 countries on six continents. There are 5 Nazarene Seminaries and over 30 colleges including Olivet Nazarene in Illinois, Trevecca Nazarene in Nashville and Point Loma Nazarene in San Diego.

Famous Nazarene’s or those who grew up in the Nazarene tradition include Tom Hanks, John Mellencamp, Wyclef Jean of the Fugees, Presidential Candidate Gary Hart, singer Crystal Lewis and historian Randall Stephens. Today the church of the Nazarene counts over 2.6 million members worldwide. Today we remember the union that led to the creation of the Church of the Nazarene on this, the 13th of October in 1908.

The last word for today comes from the Gospel of John:

24 “I assure you that whoever hears my word and believes in the one who sent me has eternal life and won’t come under judgment but has passed from death into life.

25 “I assure you that the time is coming—and is here!—when the dead will hear the voice of God’s Son, and those who hear it will live

This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 13th of October 2021 brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by a man whose favorite John Cougar Mellencamp songs include Hurts So Good, Jack and Diane, and R.O.C.K in the USA Christoper Gillespie.

The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis who regrets to inform you that he officially dropped the “cougar” but that doesn’t mean I have to.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

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