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The digital collection Religions of America contains an extraordinary array of materials related to the Holiness and Pentecostal movements, two closely related religious families that have profoundly influenced the character and contours of Christianity in the United States and globally. In addition to the approximately 40,000 pages in almost 500 research folders, researchers will find substantial materials under the category of “secondary religious organizations,” as well as under several other overlapping categories. The extraordinary breadth of the collection can be attested by the fact that it holds materials touching on every movement, organization, and individual cited in the historical survey below, all marked in bold below with cross references (“cf.”) that scholars can also consult as part of their research.


The Holiness Family

The Holiness movement traces its origins to those perfectionist currents within Methodism* that emerged during the early nineteenth century, and in particular to a renewed emphasis on the doctrine of “entire sanctification” attributed to John Wesley (cf. Baptized with Fire; Dramatic Cures through Founder of Methodism; passim). By the 1830s, a growing number of Methodists had concluded that entire sanctification constituted a definite, instantaneous experience subsequent to conversion (a “second blessing”) that eradicated one’s sinful nature—or at least broke its hold on the sanctified believer.  Within the atmosphere of Evangelical ecumenism of the time, many outside of Methodism came to hold similar views, and a growing interest in the ideal of Christian holiness took hold among Evangelical Protestants.  These perfectionist impulses intersected with disputes over abolition and other moral issues to prompt the founding of two small holiness denominations prior to the Civil War: the Wesleyan Methodist Church (1843, Utica, NY) and the Free Methodist Church (1860, Pekin, NY).


Holiness teaching had its greatest impact, however, in the decades following the war. The key vehicle for spreading the movement was the camp meeting, a late nineteenth-century iteration of the engine that drove revivalism during the Second Great Awakening (cf. Cartwright Conversion Violent, Mystical). By the 1880s, a dense coalition of local, state, and regional camp meeting associations had sprung up to promote the message of Christian holiness, each with affiliated churches, missions, and evangelists. As the twentieth century approached, many of these associations grew increasingly “radical”—a term of self-ascription used by certain advocates of Holiness to identify the purity of their beliefs, the depth of their convictions, and the intensity of their worship practices. Dismissive of the religious status quo and impatient with denominational restraints, they charted an independent course, preaching where they wished and drawing adherents from the full panoply of American Protestantism.


Meanwhile, a set of defining emphases took shape that went well beyond the original theme of Christian Perfection. The first was “baptism with the Holy Ghost.” Wesleyan members of the movement equated this with entire sanctification, though some non-Wesleyans viewed it more in terms of a special empowerment for service that elevated believers to a higher Christian life. The prototype for this experience was found in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that fell on Jesus’s post-resurrection followers on the Day of Pentecost, as described in the New Testament in the second chapter of Acts. A second emphasis—the imminent Rapture of the saints and Second Coming of Christ—was derived from dispensational premillennialism, a scheme of prophetic history developed by the Plymouth Brethren under the leadership of John Nelson Darby (cf. The History of the Brethren). Holiness advocates were sure they lived at the brink of time. The third point of emphasis among Holiness adherents represented a break with most other dispensationalists, who generally taught that the age of miracles had ended with the apostles. By contrast, Holiness believers embraced a stark supernaturalism. They wished to restore the entire complement of apostolic signs and wonders, including, most especially, faith healing. Holiness leader Albert Benjamin Simpson (cf. The Life of A. B. Simpson), founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (1887, Old Orchard, ME), captured these emphases in the motto he selected for his organization: “Christ our Savior, Sanctifier, Healer, and Coming King.”  In addition to these doctrinal trademarks, the movement was known for its manifestations of religious ecstasy and its egalitarianism, which included allowing women to assume positions of leadership and conducting interracial worship services. Indeed, the Holiness movement had a profound impact on African American Christianity.


By the turn of the century, the Holiness movement had expanded into a diverse, rapidly growing network counting hundreds of evangelists and scores of associations, churches, and missions.  As noted below, many of these would form the core of the future Pentecostal movement, but others would persist as part of a distinctive Holiness tradition. Over the course of the twentieth century, the leading Holiness bodies professionalized and expanded, producing an expansive range of outreach programs, educational institutions, and missionary agencies and forming an important constituency within American Evangelicalism. The largest Holiness organizations today include the Church of the Nazarene (1908, Pilot Point, TX), the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) [1881], the Christian and Missionary Alliance, the Wesleyan Church (a 1968 merger of the Wesleyan Methodist Church and the Pilgrim Holiness Church [1897, Cincinnati, OH]), the Church of Christ (Holiness) [1894, Jackson, MS (cf. Truth Messenger)], and the Salvation Army (1865, London, England). The movement includes scores of smaller groups as well, such as the Church of God (Holiness) [1883, Centralia, MO], Christ’s Sanctified Holy Church (1892, Chincoteague Island, VA), the Churches of Christ in Christian Union (1909, Washington Court House, OH), the Bible Missionary Church (1955, Nampa, ID), the Metropolitan Church Association (1894, Chicago, IL), Triumph the Church and Kingdom of God in Christ (1902, New Orleans, LA), and the Pillar of Fire (1902, Denver, CO).


The Pentecostal Family

The Holiness movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries formed the matrix out of which Pentecostalism emerged. One development that aided that emergence was an innovation in the 1890s that posited yet a third blessing. According to the New Testament, John the Baptist had prophesied that the Coming One would baptize “with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” Some took this to imply two separate baptisms, one “with the Holy Ghost” and another “with fire,” and so a Fire-Baptized Holiness Association (1895, Lincoln, NE [cf. Baptized with Fire]) formed to promote this further experience. In these and other Holiness quarters, instances of glossolalia—or “speaking in tongues”—were also reported, as one might expect within a movement that sought to replicate the wonders of the Apostolic Age.


The expectation of yet deeper baptisms and the practice of glossolalia merged into a distinctive teaching under the direction of Holiness evangelist Charles Parham [cf. A Voice Crying in the Wilderness]. In the fall of 1900, Parham established a Bible school in Topeka, Kansas, where he and his students analyzed the nature of Holy Ghost baptism as found in the New Testament. Observing that glossolalia seems to accompany every instance of that baptism as described therein, they concluded that such was the necessary and certain sign of baptism with the Holy Ghost. On New Year’s Day, 1901, one of the students, Agnes Ozman (cf. Laberge, Agnes N. O.), spoke in tongues.  Shortly thereafter, Parham and many others followed suit. Based on their findings, Parham revised Holiness doctrine by separating sanctification from baptism with the Holy Spirit, thus creating a three-fold sequence of sacred experience: salvation, sanctification, and Spirit baptism.


Parham adopted the term “Apostolic Faith” and spread his message through an expanding network of Apostolic Faith Missions (cf. Apostolic Faith Movement). In 1905, he opened an extended campaign in the vicinity of Houston, Texas, where he built ties with the African American community and, in early 1906, opened a short-term Bible school.  One of his students was an African American minister by the name of William Seymour (cf. Black Pentecostals). Within weeks, Seymour left for Los Angeles, California, where he founded the Azusa Street Apostolic Faith Mission and sparked the renowned Azusa Street Revival (cf. Pentecostal, General, History).


After Azusa Street, Pentecostal teaching spread rapidly through existing Holiness channels, drawing thousands of individuals and scores of churches and organizations into its ranks. These were independent-minded circles with no centralizing authority, however, and early Pentecostalism quickly fractured into competing branches. The most lasting divides centered around two controversies. The first concerned the doctrine of entire sanctification. By 1910, a “Finished Work” or “Reformed” wing had emerged that rejected the Wesleyan understanding of sanctification as a definite, instantaneous experience separate from conversion. Instead, Reformed Pentecostals adopted a more traditional view, regarding sanctification as an aspect of full salvation progressively realized throughout one’s life. In 1913 and 1914, yet another controversy erupted. At first, it merely concerned the formula Pentecostals should use for water baptism: Should it be “in the name of Jesus Christ,” as in Acts 2:38, or “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost,” as in Matthew 28:19? But when a flash of insight led some to conclude that the two were, in fact, identical—that “Jesus” was the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost—it mushroomed into a dispute about the fundamental nature of God and led many to reject the historic doctrine of the Trinity. Since that time, Pentecostalism has been divided into three main theological tributaries: Holiness, Reformed, and Oneness or Jesus Name Pentecostalism.


A number of today’s preeminent denominations emerged during this initial period of Pentecostal expansion and division. In the American South, several existing Holiness bodies converted en masse, yielding—often after a period of merger and consolidation—denominations such as the Church of God in Christ (1894, Jackson, MS), the Church of God (Cleveland, TN) [1902, Camp Creek, NC], the Pentecostal Holiness Church (1911, Falcon, NC), the Pentecostal Free Will Baptist Church (1907, 1959, Dunn, NC), and the United Holy Church of America (1886, Method, NC). Also in the Holiness camp, the original Apostolic Faith movement engendered two separate organizations: The Apostolic Faith Church, headquartered in Portland, Oregon (1908), and a smaller Apostolic Faith group located in Baxter Springs, Kansas (cf.  Apostolic Faith Bible College). Meanwhile, Reformed Pentecostals organized the Assemblies of God (1914, Hot Springs, AR), which is now the world’s largest Pentecostal body. The first major Oneness Pentecostal organization, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World (1906, Los Angeles, CA), formed in this period as well, along with smaller groups like the Apostolic Overcoming Holy Church of God (1917, Mobile, AL).


The movement grew rapidly during the interwar years and continued the process of institutionalization and division, with many new bodies being formed, often after personality conflicts or disputes over ecclesiology, ethics, or doctrine. In the Holiness camp, newcomers included the Church of God of Prophecy (1903, Camp Creek, NC), the Congregational Holiness Church (1921, High Shoals, GA), the Mt. Calvary Holy Church of America (1929, Summit, New Jersey), and the Pentecostal Fire-Baptized Holiness Church (1918, Nicholson, GA). Leading additions to Reformed Pentecostalism included the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel (1923, Los Angeles, CA), the Pentecostal Church of God of America (1919, Chicago, IL), Elim Fellowship (1933, Endicott, New York), and the Open Bible Standard Church (1935, Des Moines, Iowa). The largest Oneness body, the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, reorganized along racial lines, with most of its white members settling in the United Pentecostal Church, International (1945, St. Louis, MO). Other new Oneness denominations included the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ of the Apostolic Faith (1933, Philadelphia, PA) and the Apostolic Church, Inc., of Ottumwa, Iowa (n.d.).


The mid-twentieth century saw Pentecostalism enter a “brick and mortar” phase, with the major denominations expanding their institutional footprints, growing their bureaucracies and professionalizing their leadership. These trends mirrored the upward social mobility of many in the once-stigmatized movement and opened the door to rapprochement with mainstream Evangelicalism.  Indeed, Pentecostal denominations were among the founding members of the National Association of Evangelicals. These routinizing trends, however, were not welcomed by all, and the post-WWII years witnessed the rise of revitalization movements that overflowed institutional boundaries and produced new expressions of Pentecostal spirituality. These currents were not entirely oppositional, however. Rather, they interacted with institutional Pentecostalism in paradoxical, and often mutually beneficial, ways.


One such movement was the New Order of the Latter Rain (cf. Latter Rain), which sought to recover the spirit and manifestations of early Pentecostalism and of the Azusa Street Revival in particular. Latter Rain proponents emphasized spiritual warfare, exorcism, and faith healing and advocated a rather authoritarian chain of command mediated through what they called the “five-fold ministry” of apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.  Finally, they rejected denominationalism in favor of congregational autonomy.  Although its key early leaders were drawn from the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada (1919, Montreal, Quebec, Canada) and the Foursquare Gospel, its influence was felt throughout Pentecostalism.  Important centers of Latter Rain teaching included the Elim Fellowship, Bethesda Missionary Temple in Detroit, the Wings of Healing (1942, Portland, OR) organization, and the Independent Assemblies of God (1935, Minneapolis, MN).


A closely allied source of revitalization came from the great mid-century healing campaigns, which featured charismatic figures like William Branham (cf. Branham Tabernacle), Asa Alonso Allen (cf. Miracle of Life Fellowship International), Franklin Hall (cf. Hall Deliverance Foundation), and Kathryn Kuhlman, who carried Pentecostal assumptions and practices to mass audiences well beyond the reach of denominational Pentecostalism. Although its main organizational expressions were limited to the individual ministries of these celebrity evangelists, the healing movement fostered broader institutions as well, such as Gordon Lindsay’s Christ for the Nations, Inc. (1970, Dallas, TX), and the Full Gospel Fellowship of Churches and Ministers International (1962, Dallas, TX).


By the 1970s, tent-meeting maestros were giving way to the evangelistic campaigns and multimedia empires of a new wave of televangelists, such as Morris Cerullo (see also World Evangelism), Jimmy Swaggart, Pat Robertson—founder of the 700 Club—and the PTL Club’s Jim Bakker (cf. Praise the Lord [PTL]). Meanwhile, a new “Positive Confession” or “Word of Faith” movement arose. Assurance of healing had long been interwoven with the promise of prosperity in Holiness and Pentecostal teaching, often in ways that—as in the case of evangelist E. W. Kenyon (cf. Kenyon's Gospel Publishing Society)—seemed to echo the motifs of New Thought. These strands now combined in the ministries of savants like Kenneth Hagin and Kenneth Copeland, generating loose coalitions like the Association of Faith Churches and Ministries (1978, Tulsa, OK) and the International Convention of Faith Ministries (1979, Tulsa, OK).


As Pentecostals made their way into the Evangelical and American mainstream, moreover, they began to engage in the political process as never before. This transition was facilitated by many of the leading evangelists cited above, along with influential pastors and key denominational officials. Also important were lay organizations like the Full Gospel Business Men’s Fellowship International (1953, Los Angeles, CA). A leading venue for the introduction of Pentecostal spirituality to mainline Protestant and Catholic Christians since the 1950s, it now helped steer Pentecostals into the Christian Right, where they took a major role in events like the Washington for Jesus rally in 1980.


The Charismatic Movement

By the 1940s and 1950s, increasing numbers of Christians outside the Pentecostal movement proper had come to accept and practice elements of Pentecostal spirituality. In the decades that followed, these beginnings coalesced into a full-blown movement that swept through every major Protestant denomination and the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches as well. What came to be called “Neo-Pentecostalism” (cf. Neo-Pentecostals) or the “Charismatic Movement” first met the public eye when glossolalia and other Pentecostal-style phenomena erupted at an Episcopal church in Van Nuys, California, in 1960. One of the participants, Jean Stone, formed the Blessed Trinity Society to promote the renewal. By the end of the decade, most major Protestant denominations had Charismatic contingents supported by organizations such as the Episcopal Charismatic Fellowship, the Presbyterian Charismatic Communion, and Lutheran Charisciples. By the late 1960s, similar phenomena had surfaced within the Roman Catholic Church. Several communities, lay groups, and organizations formed to advance renewal among American Catholics, with Charismatic Renewal Services being the most prominent resource for Catholic Pentecostals (cf. also Charismatic Catholics).


The Charismatic renewal merged into and overlapped with a contemporaneous development in American youth culture known as the “Jesus People” revival, which grew out of evangelistic work among youth in the Counterculture conducted by such groups as Teen Challenge, the Christian World Liberation Front, Calvary Chapel, and Duane Pederson Ministries. Although not all Jesus People were Pentecostal or Charismatic, many were, and the movement contributed greatly to the revitalization of renewalist currents across the spectrum.


The last quarter of the twentieth century saw all of the streams described above cross-pollinating in complex ways, producing unique hybrids that bridged and blended elements of classical Pentecostalism and the Charismatic movement. Convergence of this kind appeared in organizations like Christian Growth Ministries (cf. Derek Prince Publications, Lifechangers, Kansas City Fellowship, and Sheparding (sic) Controversy), Integrity Communications, and the Gospel Harvesters Evangelistic Association, as well as in individual congregations like Melodyland Christian Center of Anaheim, California. Perhaps the best example of this phenomenon, though, is found in the Association of Vineyard Churches (1974, Los Angeles, CA)—now Vineyard, USA—a former affiliate of Calvary Chapel that has grown into an international network of over 2,400 churches.



In the twenty-first century, American Pentecostalism has continued to flourish, but within the context of changing realities that have decentered it vis-à-vis the global movement it helped to create. Over the past half century, the movement has grown much more rapidly elsewhere—particularly in Latin America, Africa, and parts of Asia—than in the United States, so that the great majority of Pentecostals are now found overseas. Today, foreign-based Pentecostal groups often target North America for reverse missions or sponsor churches among emigrant nationals. Furthermore, many U.S.-based Pentecostal denominations have seen the balance of power shift between themselves and more successful international affiliates, as with the Association of Seventh Day Pentecostal Assemblies (1931), a denomination founded in the U.S. but now, for all intents and purposes, headquartered in Ghana. American Pentecostals today, then, are repositioning themselves as minority participants in a thriving global movement.


A Final Note on Religions of America

The Religions of America collection is a resource of exceptional value for students of the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions, broadly construed. Its special strengths lie in the period stretching from the 1950s to the 1990s, an era of dynamic growth, creativity, and religious fusion that witnessed the transformation of denominational Pentecostalism and the birth of the Charismatic movement. Given the overlapping nature of these families and the proliferation of parachurch organizations that have sprung up alongside them, researchers are advised to make use of the collection’s advanced search tools as they navigate its ample holdings.



Roger Robins, 'The Holiness and Pentecostal Families in Religions of America', Religions of America, Cengage Learning (EMEA) Ltd, 2019.




Any views and opinions expressed in these essays are those of the author in question, and any views or opinions from the original source material are those of the publication in question. Gale, part of Cengage Group, provides facsimile reproductions of original sources and do not endorse or dispute the content contained in them. Author affiliation and information within them are correct as of the original publication date.