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The Conservative Holiness Movement

A Historical Appraisal

Cover for The Conservative Holiness MovementThis booklet presents a germinal essay on the formation of the Conservative Holiness Movement, providing a broad overview from its early twentieth-century roots in the radical Holiness tradition fostered by such visionaries as Martin Wells Knapp and Seth Cook Rees to the development of self-identified “conservative” dissenting fellowships that coalesced under the leadership of ministers like H. E. Schmul and Glenn Griffith during mid-twentieth century.  It brings into focus the underlying rationale of the conservative position which perceived the quest for upward social mobility (embourgeoisement) as a three-prong threat–a nefarious spiritual trident endangering the Holiness people’s beloved “ship of Zion.”  It further documents how the radical response to this challenge led to a shift in the primary rationale for Holiness ethics throughout much of the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition.  An Afterword shares additional reflections refined in light of continued research into the movement’s history.


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Other than the Foreword and Afterword, the essay which primarily comprises this booklet first appeared as “Behavioral Standards, Embourgeoisement, and the Formation of the Conservative Holiness Movement” in the Wesleyan Theological Journal Vol. 33, No. 2 (Fall 1998), 172-197, and has been republished with permission.

Copyright (c) 2014 Wallace Thornton, Jr.  All Rights Reserved.