Saturday, August 14, 2010

This Week in Texas Methodist History August 15

Seven People Completely Sanctified at Cedar Bayou Revival August, 1895

In the second of his two volumes on Texas Methodist history, Macum Phelan reports that the Holiness Movement reached its peak in Texas around 1894-95. Depending on one’s point of view, the Holiness Movement was either a vital outpouring of the Holy Spirit that energized Methodists or a deeply divisive force that split congregations and conferences. Phelan’s sympathies were with the second viewpoint.

A hallmark of the Holiness Movement was the doctrine of entire sanctification. According to this doctrine a person was sanctified when he or she received the assurance of salvation through the witness of the Holy Spirit. A “second blessing” or “entire sanctification” was also the work of the Holy Spirit. It allowed the believer to be free from the worldly desires that led to sin. It then became possible to lead a holy life.

The Holiness Movement was closely tied to revivalism, and especially to travelling revivalists. Much of the tension in the 1890s revolved around station preachers (that is preachers appointed to a particular church) who resented the incursions of travelling revivalists. The revival preacher would sometimes earn as much in two weeks as the station preacher earned in six months. Station preachers complained that revivalists swooped in and worked their members into a lather and then left. The station preacher was then responsible the day-to-day ministry to the people.

The General Conference of the MECS dealt with the issue by passing a rule that that the station preacher had to give permission for a travelling evangelist to hold a revival in his parish. Such a rule naturally led to some of the revivalists surrendering their credentials so they could preach where the Spirit directed them. Several Christian denominations were founded during the Holiness era by preachers who had once been Methodists.

The situation was not always contentious. In August, 1895, the Texas Christian Advocate reported on a sixteen day meeting at Cedar Bayou in which several preachers cooperated. Seth Ward, the presiding elder of the Galveston District and later bishop, started the meeting with a quarterly conference. Four other preachers including E. L Shettles also took the pulpit. The Cedar Bayou preacher, E. M. Meyers, reported that nine of the “best members of my church” claimed to have been entirely sanctified by the blood of Christ.


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