It is the 19th of August 2020. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org, I'm Dan van Voorhis.
The year was 1886.
Post-war America was a crucible for the emerging empire. And across the Atlantic, the English were enjoying the spoils of the Victorian age, one not only known for its perceived prudishness but also its role as the mightiest empire in the world.
In England, in 1886, women were still corseted, gartered, and garishly modest, but the men started to relax their dress code. Activities out of doors were becoming popular as were parties with more relaxed dress codes. In 1886, men in England began to ditch their frock coats, top hats, and tails in favor of a shorter and more all-purpose smoking jacket. Even the king of England got in on the act, sometimes replacing his standard white bow tie with a black-tie. This semi-formal evening wear made it to the East Coast, where a group of high society folk began to imitate this look. The name of the village where these people held their parties was named after a Native American word meaning "crooked water." That word would become synonymous with the new black-tie fashion, that word and village's name: Tuxedo.
The year also saw another European import celebrated in America. It was in 1886 that Grover Cleveland dedicated a 151-foot statue on Bedloe's Island. The statue, a gift from the French, was initially called "Liberty Enlightening the World." The island was renamed "Liberty Island," and the statue's name shortened to "The Statue of Liberty." Upon the dedication by Cleveland, the nation's first spontaneous ticker-tape parade took place in New York City. The ticker tape was made from the paper strips that communicated electronically transmitted stock information for the financial district. Grover Cleveland would be known for a couple of firsts: the first to be married in office, and the first to leave the office and return after a four-year hiatus.
And it was on this, the 19th of August in 1886 in Cleveland Tennessee, a small meeting of concerned Baptists led to the formation of the Church of God, a Pentecostal church body that now numbers over 7 million. America was quickly changing, and the post-war industrial revolution led to some reactionaries attempt to go in the opposite direction. A movement called "Restorationism" was sweeping through the country, demanding a return to the early apostolic church. R.G. Spurling, an ordained minister in the Missionary Baptist Church, and his father, Richard, were looking for something that they believed was closer to the faith of the early church. Ironically, it was an ersatz Baptist position on the early church that led the men to leave. James Madison Pendleton was among the popularizers of theology called "landmark-ism." This movement, based on Proverbs 22, claims that there exists an unbroken apostolic and Baptist connection between the early church and the Baptist church. Thus, the Baptist church claimed to be the only true church.
The Spurling father and son duo advocated for a loose society of churches that had overseers and accountability, but no theological mandate to do so. The Spurlings eventually merged with Methodist and holiness movements to come to stress the doctrine of entire or complete sanctification and the separate baptism of the Holy Spirit, apart from the water of believer's baptism. Today, they officially go by the title Church of God (Cleveland Tennessee), as many other church bodies have taken the "Church of God" name as well. There is a Church of God College, seminary, and over 30,000 churches in 178 nations and territories. And it all began with a meeting along Barney Creek in Tennessee with about ten people on this day in 1886.
The reading for today is a brief excerpt from C.S. Lewis' "The Dawn Treader." In it, he discusses the "conversion experience" of young Eustace, a helpful reminder on the sometimes slow process of sanctification.
"It would be nice and fairly nearly true, to say that 'from that time forth, Eustace was a different boy.' To be strictly accurate, he began to be a different boy. He had relapses. There were still many days when he could be very tiresome. But most of those I shall not notice. The cure had begun."
This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 19th of August 2020 brought to you by 1517 at 1517.org. The show is produced by a man who will soon look up Proverbs 22 to see how on earth they got that from there, Christopher Gillespie. The show is written and read by Dan van Voorhis. 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.