10/04/2009

PHC #5: Did Pilgrims split from the Nazarenes?

Pilgrim Holiness Church history #5--1912-1917... Did the Pilgrims Split from the Church of the Nazarene?

So, what do YOU think?
--Keith Drury

45 comments:

Keith Drury said...

I'll post the first comment. This was a very difficult column to write over these last few weeks. In my research I attempted to get into the heads and hearts of both sides of this conflict and apparently succeeded enough to start feeling like both "sides" creating a lot of inner turmoil for me. It was somewhat depressing to see both sides and I understand why folk prefer to pick one side as the "right" side in conflict--it is far easier on the psyche. I really wanted to just skip this story. However I finally decided to publish because it might teach us something about conflict. Maybe it will?

Roger L. Freed said...

Somebody must not have been "entirely" sanctified.

Keith Drury said...

Roger: good question! Does holiness remove a person for conflicts like this? Does a conflict like this always mean nobody involved was sanctified? Or,could it be that we assume SOMEbody was sanctified and the wrong "side" wasn't? These are worthy theological/practical questions... thanks for bringing them up.

Lawrence W. Wilson said...

I think it's time for the holiness denominations to make another serious attempt at merger--or at least greater collaboration.

Imagine what we could accomplish in evangelism, communications, education, missions, and social activism if we could get all holiness churches to speak with one voice.

This is the great lesson form your historical series:

We lose strength when we fight with one another; we gain strength when we unite.

Anonymous said...

That is a good question Keith! When the Jews crossed the Jordan, the ability to sin and reject God was not gone. In fact, they proved by their actions that it was not! And, they were called by God to be sanctified and did sanctify themselves. And, God sanctified them! Could there be a misconception about this "emotional" crisis?

Sadly, the fallout from this battle has, through the years, destroyed more lives of people just seeking God than the church will ever know until the books are laid bare. God help the people involved in this as he warned them about millstones!

Anonymous said...

One last point, how many Wesleyans have also learned the lesson Rees learned, don't make the DS angry, disagree with him/her, or think differently (or even, like God, at times). If so, it could very well be over for you!

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Maybe that is why many through the years have left organized religion and taken on more of a monastic lifestyle seeking God in quiet without the distraction of the foolishness that accompanies organized religion and the personal folly of leadership.

Anonymous said...

By the way, Keith, this explains the constant conflict through the years over "holiness conventions."

The battle it seems, never ended! The battlefield just changed.

Mark Schnell said...

Keith, I learned from you regarding the ongoing debate between Calvinist and Arminians that the answers are sometimes found in the tension between two poles.

I can't help but think this story might be the same situation.

As to the sanctification question: Wow, that is a tough one. I wonder if our zeal for the Kingdom's work makes us work against one another sometimes. We lose sight of who the enemy is. But then again, wouldn't sanctification "protect" us from that? That question keeps going round and round!

sumpteretc said...

When we view sanctification as perfect love, I think we would have to conclude that love was not shown well on either side. Too often, we have been more concerned with doctrinal purity or protecting our own power base than we have been with working for the good of others and for unity.

Joel Byer said...

Keith, I appreciate your work and effort that went into writing this article.

Do you have a "side" you lean towards?
Having known nothing about the story, I lean somewhat towards Rees take of it all, but think he was way too inflammatory.

I guess it just goes to show that problems are by there very nature complex...or else they wouldn't be problems. :-o

G.R. ''Scott'' Cundiff said...

Thanks for the article. Very interesting. I posted a link to it on NazNet and we're discussing it at http://www.naznet.com/community/showthread.php?p=306121

Dennis said...

That scenario certainly seems unfortunate to us now - and I'm confident to many then. We might do well to remember that the holiness movement came about largely of people in that day who weren't willing to stay put. Most "came out" of groups where they saw what they believed to be injustices and violations of holiness principles. They were pretty good at identifying things that weren't holiness. Sometimes it got pretty ugly: a hundred years later sometimes it still does. Today we still have people who are a little "hotter" than the rest of us would like, leaders who get involved in unseemly situations, and DSes that perhaps overstep their authority. We also have gotten a little smoother at doing it all.
May it be that a hundred years has taught us that grace is always needed, for ourselves and for those of different opinion.

Craig Moore said...

I think this sad story speaks volumes about the theology vs experience of the Holiness Movement's perspective of "Entire Sanctification." Interesting and wishful theology no doubt. Lived out in everyday life....not so easy! These "holiness giants" show us the flaws of this doctrine.

Tim said...

Taking these articles as a whole, I couldn't disagree more with Larry Wilson (though it may result in my being "Rees'ed" from writing Sunday School stuff as a result (;>). It seems the more organizational structure the PHC added, the less effective it became as a "movement." It almost seems to have prevailied in spite of structure rather than because of it. In light of the upcoming "listening tour" the GS's of the Wesleyan Church have planned, the lessons of history suggest de-centralization and freedom are keys to achieving revival and growth. The question I have is where will the Seth Rees's come from?

Anonymous said...

Interesting history. Like many others "I've Heard it on the Grape Vine", but knew none of the details given in your narrative.

I know this will sound a little foolish but my first split second reaction upon reading this story, knowing it will be read wider than the Wesleyan and the Nazarene Church, is to reach out quickly and grab our doctrine of holiness before it hits the ground. I know, I know, it was silly of me.

Frankly, I'm glad I didn't read this story when I was young in the faith, (many, many years ago now) I think it could have had a negative effect upon me. Not just about the doctrine of holiness, but about the Christian life in general. It reminds me to pray for those Christians, many young in the faith perhaps, in Florida going through what appears to be similar circumstances. "God help them all"!

What to make of this interesting piece of history of our beginnings from this distance?

Well, the short answer is to simply declare "the Devil made them do it!" and slip quiety out the back door. Its been 100 years ago now anyway, what difference does it all make now? But I confess I fall in that category of people known for having "inquiring minds".

These are a few of the thoughts I take to bed with me tonight:

1. These were good men who were saved from sin on both sides of this issue.

2. The leading persons invovled clearly evidenced gifts given them by the Spirit for the work of the Church.

3. I beleive that whenever God is working in revival movements as Holiness churches were experienceing in those days it would be extremely naive to think the Devil sits it out. There's no doubt Rees as well as other ministers were being used of God to reach the unsaved and the church was experiencing great days.

4. I beleive that while Rees did not possess perfect wisdom (he would frustrate me) he did act in good faith to what he understood to be right, keeping in mind the background from he came.

5. It looks to me like the Nazarene brethren had legitimate reasons to be concerned. Rees was a one man show.

6. But I am left with this haunting question as to why anyone would want to jump in front of a spiritual revival movement and try to put a hold on it. I don't care if it was at a college. This does raise legitimate questions.

7. Finally, in the last analysis, there's simply not enough information to find perfect peace about this situation. I would need to sit down with each of those persons involved and do a very personal and thorough review of their throughts and feelings and concerns.

I am not a stranger to conflicts in the church. I have lived through some interesting experiences. Good and bad results come from such things. Good Christian people can do some really stupid things. People gifted by the Holy Spirit in administration are needed now as ever. Personalities are one of those things that Wesley felt did not reach perfection in this life. We really aren't an angelic choir!

Do I expect to see Rees and Bresee and the other persons invovled in the situation under discussion in heaven? Indeed I do! Hey! If Elvis Presley gets to go to heaven surely there's room for Rees and Bresee. "Men look on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart"

Outside-the-Beltway Drury said...

When I first visited the (in)famous corner in Pasadena [Washington Blvd. and Hill] in 1996, I had the best milk shake and fries in all of Pasadena at Connals Sandwiches. Around the corner, the former Pilgrim Church of Pasadena (later named Rees Memorial Wesleyan Church) located on Hill St. had just been closed and the property leased/sold to an African American congregation.

The former campus church for the Pasadena Nazarene college was across Washington Blvd.(now named Bresee Church of the Nazarene) and it wasn't doing much better. Sunday morning worship barely topped 30--more significant--when I first walked into the main sanctuary, a number of kind African American worshipers from Jubilee Christian Faith Center (the charismatic, word of faith, congregation led by the Apostle Charles Tucker which was renting the bulk of the facility) redirected me to the small chapel at the side of the property where I joined a handful of aging white people. For all intents and purposes the Bresee church was dead too, supplanted by an African American congregation.

A former pastor of Rees Memorial once told me of the continuing tension between the two churches years later. He described how members of Bresee would attend Sunday evening services at Rees and stand up to give testimonies at how blessed they were to be Nazarenes.

I suppose it is significant that both churches renamed themselves for their competing "heroes."

Anonymous said...

True holiness teachers should always shuns away from conflicto and any negatives that comes across their paths for the simple reason that they have no ambition except to bring men towards to an experience of the deepest work of God's grace. If they have no choice but to face the reality of uncall for. unhealthy challenges, then it is better to withdrew just like what Jesus did.

It might seems this is running away from reality or divine responsibility. No. not so, it is simply keeping your peace with God and leave the dictation of the future to God.

John Mark said...

The most depressing thing in all this was the comment by OTB Drury, a sad testament to our inability to handle conflict. This has been played out on a smaller scale in who knows how many church splits since.
As you (Keith) pointed out, there was undoubtedly plenty of blame to go around, as there always is.
This raises a lot of questions about carnality vs. humanity- or just what is "perfect love"- and how difficult it is to attain or keep, apparently......
Thanks again for this fascinating series. I join with those who call for greater levels of cooperation among the various holiness churches: I don't see merger as ever a realistic hope. Cooperation might be better than merger over the long haul anyway.

Robert Easter said...

Don't know the PHC history, but it occurs to me that any time a group bails on its church, the continuation of the group they then form is a continuation of the rift that it is founded on. As far as this is true, then we have churches today built on the One Foundation of Christ, but on top of that Foundation are layers of strife, pride, and animosity built up like a hill. A "city ..set apart," to be sure- but is this what Jesus intended?

Byron Gurnee said...

Interesting Point Robert. Our church at Keepville one of the oldest holiness churches has been part of two moves. One away from the "merged church" in 1968 and then recently away from the conference that became a connection after the "pull out". We have since joined the Bible Methodist Church with desires to be viable in our time. We left on great terms with no problems at all. God has been good and working at Keepville!

David Wilson. said...

I don't recall ever hearing anything about that

Keith Springer said...

Since Rees' denomination, the Pilgrim Church of California, had only 457 members at the time it merged with the International Holiness Church (which was approximately 20 times larger), one important question might be: How much influence did all the turmoil in Pasadena have on the Pilgrim Holiness Church at large? Since Rees' group only represented 5% of the Pilgrims in 1922, it might be best to say that 5% of the Pilgrims were people who had once been Nazarenes.

Carol Shallenburg said...

Seems like Satan has been striking the Shepherd to scatter the sheep for a long time. Sad to see two sides argue like that. Unfortunately the Nazarene and Pilgrim Churches are not the only one suffering from this deception of Satan. Some churches are trying and some have accepted homosexuality! Our best course of action can be found in 2 Chron... Read More. 7:14. If Christians of any denomination regarded the words of this scripture we would see a powerful outpouring of God on our land. Let's just get back to the Word and let God be God!

Carolyn Huntsman said...

I have been a member of both churches and can only say, "Thank God I am Methodist!!!!"

Annette Allan Callaghan said...

Never heard of a split. I'm Wesleyan Methodist (SA) formerly PHC before the merger - for almost 46 years now. I say hands up to the Nazarenes also.

Mark-Connie Haines said...

"In a conflict like this can people on both sides be “pure in heart... ” or does conflict like this mean there is always sin in someone’s heart?” Short answer -- they can be free of sin using Wesley's narrow definition. I think people can be pure in heart and still do stupid and short-sighted things. It seems to me that both sides of this conflict may not have intended to break a known law of God. However, both sides fell into the trap of thinking they could not be mistaken about the other sides' intentions. When will we realize only God can judge our hearts? I have a hard enough time keeping track of my motives let alone reading someone else's mind to know their motives.

Garry Spriggs said...

If my memory serves me correctly, there were no "splits" to form the original PHC. There were mergers of smaller groups, even one in NY that had "Pentecostal" in their name, but I don't remember the Nazarenes being a part of any of its historical beginnings. I stand to be corrected if there were. I was raised in the PHC and became a Wesleyan after the merge. I also attended the Nazarene church for several years when I was about 9 and then a PHC was started in the area.

Anonymous said...

John Wesley never claimed that pure/perfect love is sinless perfection!

Mark Schnell said...

Thanks anonymous. This is a good reminder. Even Wesleyans forget this at times. The Calvinist and Lutheran theologians I'm around love to hammer the term "Christian perfection" because they say it's impossible. But your reminder is really what Wesley was getting at.

EugeneinTX said...

"Church Talk" (Pilgrim/Nazarene/Wesleyan Methodist) was very big around the home and extended family I grew up in, but I don't think I ever heard details of this story. I was 14 at the time of the merger. Most of my Pilgrim relatives, including pastors and missionaries, became Nazarenes around that time rather than merge with WMs. I'm still not sure what that was all about...

Zeal for the Lord is often not perfectly expressed by the Redeemed, being the emotional and (only sometimes)rational creatures we are. Was any of this God's Perfect Plan? Likely not. Does God build His Church through (and in spite of) the imperfect decisions and actions of His people? As scripture illustrates countless times, yes.
Thanks for the column!

Anonymous said...

Can anyone explain why the emphasis on be ye holy is so strong and the emphasis on the bishop must be w/out reproach, ... temperate, sober-minded, given to hospitality, apt to teach...gentle, not contentious is non-existent in holiness circles?

John Kennedy said...

From NazNet

I read Drury's article/s on this with a great deal of interest. I had read what Timothy Smith had had to say on the subject years ago. I think they both handled the issue pretty even-handedly. Smith, to no one's surprise, spoke more from a Naz perspective, while Drury gave more attention to the other side.

Smith referred to Eckel's action in disbanding the congregation as somewhat arbitrary. He also included an anecdote about the reacion of Bud Robinson, who was a member of the congregation. Robinson wryly noted that when he was put out of the Methodist church he was at least given a trial.

Greg Farra said...

From NazNet
The church we used to be members at (non-Nazarene) did a history for theor 150th anniversary. The went through a split a few years before, and the official history blamed everything on the former pastor. Maybe the truth lies out in the middle somewhere.
__________________
There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know.
--Donald Rumsfeld

Dave McClung said...

First of all, I always enjoy the way that Keith Drury makes me think. Presenting the two different perspectives was a good way to present the story.

As a read the story (from both perspectives) I felt a deep appreciation for Fred Fullerton. Fred was pastor of the Wollaston Church of the Nazarene which is located on the campus of Eastern Nazarene College all of the time that I was president of ENC. Fred and I never had a conflict. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to lead a college without the support of the pastor of the college church.

Shea Zelweger said...

From NazNet
Very well written, and it makes a solid point. The first question to consider (do you find yourself siding with one group?) has given me something to think about. I found myself feeling that the anti-Rees side was probably right- this may have a lot to do with the fact that I'm familiar with the Pasadena-Rees incident, and have generally heard it from the "Nazarene side," but I'm also not too comfortable with the actions of Rees- particularly the public declaration of other people's sins. If there were an ordained minister in our Church making such claims about a University President, I would probably support making formal chargers against that minister.

Greg gates said...

From NazNet:
Rees didn't build another church "in town," he built it right across the street from the college! (by the way, it is still there. a yellow building and serving as a black church now) There was a whole lot cheaper real estate in Pasadena then than that spot. He about sank the denomination with his constant accusations. My opinion is that it shows how grateful we ought to be for leaders like Bresee and Wiley to help the church survive such a blistering attack.

But Drury is a masterful educator. His questions at the bottom are outstanding and positioning of the two account together with those questions was genius. His students are lucky to have him.

Dennis Scott said...

From NazNet:
I suppose we should be grateful when individuals believe so strongly in what they believe that they are willing to take strong stands. In a similar fashion, there is great appreciation for individuals who refuse to take themselves so seriously when other leaders are of different opinion. The tough part is knowing when to take a stand and when to graciously back away. Conflicts apparently are going to continue. Avoiding a fight is not always a sign of weakness.

In the case in point, perhaps the question could be, "Did Rees' leaving contribute to the making of more Christlike disciples than if he had remained?" I don't know that can be determined, but it might be easier than trying to figure out who was right, and who was wrong.

Generally, I can't help but think there are better ways for us to learn and grow than to fight and argue. While it's true that iron sharpens iron, it happens best when both pieces of iron are working together to sharpen, rather than striking each other in battle.

Dennis Scott said...

From NazNet:
Sometimes in the heat of conflict, it is better to simply back off, let the other party have their way even though you absolutely know (believe) them to be wrong, and prove you are bigger than that particular battle. Truth doesn't need to be proven to still be truth. Most of the time truth will prevail, but even if it should not, that doesn't make it stop being true.

Thirty years ago, an acquaintance under pressure did me wrong. Frankly, he simply wasn't strong enough to do what he should have done. He made me look foolish, and characterized me wrongly in public in order to save himself and his position. In the ugliness of that battle, I could have straightened the record and won the battle with just a couple strategic sentences. I chose to keep quiet, concede the skirmish, and allow both of us to continue in ministry. To casual observers, and in some circles, I was made to appear the loser - even though the facts would have vindicated me. I committed it to the Lord, and have left it in His hands. As far as I know, the truth has never come out, but that doesn't change it from being the truth: the Lord knows.

That person is retired now, and often goes way out of his way to greet me, hug me, and thank me for our friendship. Once every few years, I think about it, shrug my shoulders and let the Lord continue to use me in ministry. The church seems to have survived fairly well inspite of that bump in my personal journey.

Dalton McNulty said...

May I weigh in? As a denomination, the Church of the Nazarene has seen only one "split" in its history and that occured in/around 1918 when we separated from the Pentecostal church (we were originally known as the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene at our 1907 founding in Pilot Point, Texas). The Church of the Nazarene came about as the result of the merger of numerous holiness movements at the end of the 19th and start of the 20th century.

vanilla said...

In response to the question posed in the title: Arithmetic sometimes has its uses, and I think Keith Springer pretty much nailed it.

Now, if by "Pilgrims" we mean the group formed in Pasadena following the excommunication, well...

Timothy said...

Doing a little investigation I found absolutely nothing about the "history" between Rees and Ellyson prior to Pasadena. Only that they were both in OHIO (about a 4 hours drive apart) at the same time.
It probably is likely that Rees traveled to the Dasmascus area for a revival and said something Ellyson didn't take to kindly too.
The mystery lies in the Cornfields of the Midwest...

Vicky Benson said...

We work with so many different churches and provide literature for so many groups that we see ourselves more as part of the body of Christ, though we have also been quite involved in our local church. We have seen messy situations through the years, but have also seen God work resolution in many of them. Satan always tries to drive wedges between people, don't you think? And he tries to get us to see each other as the enemy. We need to be aware of his devices. The flesh likes to see the other person with a magnifying glass and ourselves with rose-colored glasses. (Trying to remove a speck in another's eye with a log in our own.)

The holiness message is very important, but I have seen that it is very easy for those with a holiness emphasis to become Pharisaical. I have unfortunately known two men who gave every appearance of having high holiness standards and message and yet it was later revealed that they were abusing their wives terribly and one of them was involved with another woman, even while spreading the gospel and having fruitful ministry. How God must grieve! I am so glad for my own parents, (Watson and Rose Goodman) who were so close to God, remained humble, and sometimes "suffered wrongs" and "turned the other cheek." They exhibited God's wisdom and pursued peace as much as was in them to do so. They "finished well."

Wes McCallum said...

IT’S TIME TO MERGE.
Perhaps both Nazarenes and Pilgrims did miss it back in 1917, however since then both groups have complimented each other as “sister denominations”. Over the past century their mutual ministries and heritage have proven to be greater than any perceived division. A MERGER WOULD ABSOLVE THIS HISTORIC BLUNDER AND FULFILL CHRIST’S PRAYER FOR UNITY (John 17). It’s time to take a risk to discover a new identity.

This couple have romanced for decades, yet never announced A WEDDING DATE. How about February 25, 2017 in Pasadena — the centennial of their first lover’s quarrel?

Kevin Jackson said...

I'm a long time Nazarene, and never heard this account. That was an interesting read. I have always assumed that everyone got along back then, but that was clearly not the case.

Steven said...

There is a very good treatment of the "Seth Rees Controversy" in the Centennial History of the Church of the Nazarene - Our Watchword & Song (2009) edited by Floyd T. Cunningham. It accurately balances both sides of the issue. See pages 204-213.