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CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE

CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE. The Church of the Nazarene is a Protestant, evangelical, perfectionist body that originated in the early twentieth century as a result of successive mergers of small perfectionist, or holiness, groups. Its official beginning as a national church occurred in Pilot Point, Texas, in 1908, when the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, formed the previous year from a union of the Church of the Nazarene on the West Coast and the Association of Pentecostal Churches in New York and New England, merged with the Holiness Church of Christ, a Tennessee-Arkansas-Texas group. Despite the name, the latter had no doctrinal connection with the religious body known as the Church of Christ. The Holiness Church of Christ was itself the result of the merging of two groups: the New Testament Church of Christ, organized in Milan, Tennessee, in 1894 and then expanded to rural areas of West Texas; and the Independent Holiness Church, with congregations in East Texas. These joined forces in 1904 at Rising Star, Texas, and contributed about 100 small churches to the Pilot Point merger of 1908. The number of Nazarene churches in Texas grew from 129 in 1916 to 134 in 1926 and 155 in 1936. Membership increased from 3,821 in 1916 to 8,646 in 1936. From 1908 to 1919, the organization was known as the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene. Doctrinally, the Church of the Nazarene is of Methodist lineage. It subscribes to the view expounded by John Wesley that the moral depravity of the soul can be cleansed away by operation of the spirit of God in a religious experience subsequent to conversion. According to Nazarene belief, the experience, termed "entire sanctification" or "Christian perfection," is characterized by purifying of inner motives, although it does not perfect human judgment or preclude mistakes and temptations. Other doctrines of the Church of the Nazarene include those common to conservative Protestantism. Belief in the free agency of man and in universal atonement places this denomination among Protestant churches espousing Arminianism, a strongly antipredestinarian theology. In Texas the Church of the Nazarene is divided into four districts. Each district, led by a district superintendent, holds an annual assembly and is accountable to a General Assembly that convenes quadrennially and to a Board of General Superintendents. By 1966 Nazarene congregations in Texas numbered 280, with a membership of around 18,000. Total giving for all purposes exceeded $2.8 million, and church property in this state was valued at $13 million. In 1995, 32,745 members attended 337 churches in Texas. The total giving of the congregations was $25,897,083. The church's property values exceeded $134 million.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Church of the Nazarene, Manual of the Church of the Nazarene: History, Constitution, Government, Ritual (Kansas City, Missouri: Nazarene Publishing House, 1932). Ernest W. Moore, Jr., History of the Church of the Nazarene in Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1963). Timothy Smith and W. T. Purkiser, Called unto Holiness: The Story of the Nazarenes (2 vols., Kansas City, Missouri: Nazarene Publishing House, 1962, 1983).

Ernest W. Moore, Jr.

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Ernest W. Moore, Jr., "CHURCH OF THE NAZARENE," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ihc01), accessed July 29, 2014. Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.