What do these denominations have in common?
Salvation Army, Church of the Nazarene, Free Methodist Church, Brethren in Christ, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, International Pentecostal Holiness, Church of God (Anderson, Indiana), Church of God in Christ, Shield of Faith, and the Christian & Missionary Alliance.
Some are Pentecostal,; some non-Pentecstal fundamentalist. But they are all what are called "holiness churches." And, almost always they were very, very legalistic. Not the current Thrid Wave Charismatic revivalists' version of "you must do this and that" holiness; but the "you can't do this and that" holiness. Cannot smoke, drink, chew or go with boys that do type of legalism.
Some of the churches and leaders in the above denominations want to do something about the legalism baggage without ditching the holiness part. So they have written The Holiness Manifesto.
Kevin Mannoia, who served as chair of the WHSP (Weslyean Holiness Study Project) steering committee, was recently interviewed by Christianity Today about this document. Here are some excerpts from the interview,
We recognize, for example, that in the mid-20th century a lot of what we did was based out of a legalism that was behaviorally oriented and in many cases became judgmental.
And we're trying to say that we all recognize that pitfall. We reject that, and we want to capture the spirit of this message afresh.
For a long time now I've felt that one of the main reasons for holiness in our lives was as an example of "Christ in us the hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). Instead, many of these churches made holiness a test of salvation. IN other words, like the Roman Catholics, they were getting Justification mixed up with Sanctification. Here Mr. Mannoia talks about this as one of the objectives of the WHSP document,
One characteristic of God is holiness, and at the root of that is his love for humanity. Out of that abundant love then, his otherness, which is essentially his holiness, finds expression in reaching and engaging with humanity for redemptive and reconciling purposes.
So if we pursue becoming Christ-like, which is the essence of holiness, then we will not only be transformed into his holy character, but that love will flow through us and compel us to engage and to transform culture. You can't have individual holiness without social holiness. It's impossible.
To me the most important statement made in the interview was the one quoted below. I've emphasized two words which I consider rather important,
In each case, you can trace their histories [the denominations included in this project] and find that especially in the mid-20th century they struggled with legalism, wherein holiness was described in behavioral terms rather than heart transformation.
The interview ends with,
CT: How can the holiness message change the church?
Mr. Mannoia: As I work with pastors and church leaders, I see a frustration with the flat-lined church in North America. It seems to have set church leaders on a search for a silver bullet to mitigate that decline. Often, they look to methods. They've looked at cell-based ministry, the Sunday school movement—all great things, but they're methods. And lately I have been preaching really hard that the message, not the method, is our mission. We've distracted ourselves by looking at the latest and best, and often allowed the message to go wanting. Let's let go of the methods, and let's zero in once again on the message that God entrusted to us. Let's preach it, let's live it, let's model it, and then let the creative ingenuity of individual leaders in their context figure out how to bring it to bear into their community in unique ways.
And I say, Amen.
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