The Church of the Nazarene confesses itself to be a branch of Christ’s “one, holy, universal, and apostolic” church, embracing as its own the history of God’s people recorded in the Old and New Testaments and God’s people through the ages, in all expressions of Christ’s church. Our denomination receives the creeds of the first five Christian centuries as expressions of its own faith. We identify with the historic church in preaching the Word, administering the sacraments, maintaining a ministry of apostolic faith and practice, and inculcating the disciplines of Christlike living and service. Our denomination heeds the Biblical call to holy living and entire devotion to God, which we proclaim through the theology of entire sanctification.
Our Christian heritage was mediated through the 16th-century English Reformation and 18th-century Wesleyan revival. Through the preaching of John and Charles Wesley, people throughout England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales turned from sin and were empowered for Christian service. This revival was characterized by lay preaching, testimony, discipline, and circles of earnest disciples known as “societies,” “classes,” and “bands.” The Wesleyan revival’s theological landmarks were: justification by grace through faith; sanctification, or Christian perfection, likewise by grace through faith; and the witness of the Spirit to the assurance of grace. John Wesley’s distinctive contributions included an emphasis on entire sanctification as God’s gracious provision for the Christian life. These emphases were disseminated worldwide. In North America, the Methodist Episcopal Church was organized in 1784 “to reform the Continent, and to spread scriptural Holiness over these Lands.”
A renewed emphasis on Christian holiness developed in the mid-19th century. Timothy Merritt of Boston, Massachusetts, USA, spurred interest as editor of the Guide to Christian Perfection. Phoebe Palmer of New York City, New York, USA, led the Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness and became a sought-after speaker, author, and editor. In 1867, Methodist preachers J. A. Wood, John Inskip and others, at Vineland, New Jersey, USA, initiated the first in a long series of holiness camp meetings that renewed the Wesleyan quest for holiness around the world. Wesleyan Methodists, Free Methodists, the Salvation Army, and certain Mennonites, Brethren, and Quakers all emphasized Christian holiness. Evangelists carried this movement to Germany, the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, India, and Australia. New holiness churches arose, including the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana, USA). Holiness churches, urban missions, and missionary associations grew from this endeavor. The Church of the Nazarene was born from the impulse to unite many of these into one holiness church.
Unity in Holiness
A Global Church
Distinctives of International Ministry