The Church of the Nazarene traces its anniversary date to 1908. Its organisation
was a marriage that, like every marriage, linked existing families and created a
new one. As an expression of the holiness movement and its emphasis on the sanctified
life, our founders came together to form one people. Utilizing evangelism, compassionate
ministries, and education, their church went forth to become a people of many cultures
Two central themes illuminate the Nazarene story.
The first theme is "unity in holiness."
The spiritual vision of early Nazarenes was derived from the doctrinal core of John
Wesley's preaching. These affirmations include justification by grace through faith,
sanctification likewise by grace through faith, entire sanctification as an inheritance
available to every Christian, and the witness of the Spirit to God's work in human
lives. The holiness movement arose in the 1830s to promote these doctrines, especially
entire sanctification. By 1900, however, the movement had splintered.
P. F. Bresee, C. B. Jernigan, C. W. Ruth, and other committed leaders strove to unite
holiness factions. The First and Second General Assemblies were like two bookends:
In October 1907, the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America and the Church
of the Nazarene merged in Chicago, Illinois, at the First General Assembly.
In April 1908, a congregation organized in Peniel, Texas, drew into the Nazarene
movement the key officers of the Holiness Association of Texas.
The Pennsylvania Conference of the Holiness Christian Church united in September
In October 1908, the Second General Assembly was held at Pilot Point, Texas, the
headquarters of the Holiness Church of Christ. The "year of uniting" ended with the
merger of this southern denomination with its northern counterpart.
With the Pentecostal Church of Scotland and Pentecostal Mission unions in 1915, the
Church of the Nazarene embraced seven previous denominations and parts of two other
groups ¹. The Nazarenes and the Wesleyan Church emerged as the two denominations
that eventually drew together a majority of the holiness movement's independent strands.
The second theme is "A mission to the world".
In 1908 there were churches in Canada and organized work in India, Cape Verde, and
Japan, soon followed by work in Africa, Mexico, and China. The 1915 mergers added
congregations in the British Isles and work in Cuba, Central America, and South America.
There were congregations in Syria and Palestine by 1922. As General Superintendent
H. F. Reynolds advocated "a mission to the world," support for world evangelisation
became a distinguishing characteristic of Nazarene life. New technologies were utilized.
The church began producing the " Showers of Blessing " radio program in the 1940’s,
followed by the Spanish broadcast " La Hora Nazarena " and later by broadcasts in
other languages. Indigenous holiness churches in Australia and Italy united in the
1940's, others in Canada and Great Britain in the 1950's, and one in Nigeria in 1988.
As the church grew culturally and linguistically diverse, it committed itself in
1980 to internationalisation-a deliberate policy of being one church of congregations
and districts worldwide, rather than splitting into national churches like earlier
Protestant denominations. By the 2001 General Assembly, 42 percent of delegates spoke
English as their second language or did not speak it at all. Today over 60 percent
of Nazarenes and 80 percent of the church's 425 districts are outside the United
States. An early system of colleges in North America and the British Isles has become
a global network of institutions with 3 graduate seminaries in North America, Central
America, and the Asia-Pacific region; 11 liberal arts colleges in Africa, Canada,
Korea, and the United States; and 37 theological schools worldwide.
¹ The seven denominations were: the Central Evangelical Holiness Association (New
England), the Association of Pentecostal Churches of America (Middle Atlantic States),
New Testament Church of Christ (South), Independent Holiness Church (Southwest),
the Church of the Nazarene (West Coast), the Pentecostal Church of Scotland, and
the Pentecostal Mission (Southeast). Several mergers occurred regionally before regional
churches, in turn, united together in 1907 and 1908.