The Nazarene Historical Consciousness
Nazarenes began their denominational pilgrimage with a sense of history. Those with Methodist roots saw the Church of the Nazarene as Methodism repristinated, enshrining an historic emphasis that the older church had abandoned. From a different angle of vision, those with non-Methodist roots saw the new denomination’s significance in its unitive solution to the problem posed by the plethora of sects spawned by the Holiness Revival—a viewpoint that infused the address of Edgar P. Ellyson, a former Quaker, to the Second General Assembly in 1908. And all of the founders—Methodists and non-Methodists alike—appreciated fully that the new church, on its own terms, overcame the regional schisms that had dominated American religion since the debate over slavery in the 1840s. The minutes of the Second General Assembly reflect the heady sense of accomplishment that participants felt about reconciling Northern and Southern wings of the Holiness Movement into a new denominational order.
Three years later, the Third General Assembly chose Edward F. Walker to be “General Historian” for the church. Regional historians were designated to assist him: H. B. Hosley and Fred Hillery in the Northeast; C. B. Jernigan in the South; and Leslie F. Gay on the West Coast. Jernigan approached his assignment with great seriousness, advertising for historical materials and publishing in 1919 a remarkable account of the Holiness Movement in the Southwest.