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Protestantism and Non-Christian Religions

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Pilgrim Holiness Church

by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

A body in the Methodist tradition with a strong emphasis on the Wesleyan principles of sanctification of believers and evangelistic missionary work. In 1897 Martin Wells Knapp, a Methodist minister in Cincinnati, Ohio, organized the International Apostolic Holiness Union to restore the primitive spirit of John *Wesley on “apostolic practices, methods, power and success.” Twenty-five years later the International Holiness Church (derived from the Union) joined with the like-minded Pilgrim Church of California to become the Pilgrim Holiness Church. In 1964 inclusive membership totaled more than 33,500, with national headquarters located in Indianapolis, IN, and churches scattered throughout the U.S. and Canada. The government is a mixture of Episcopalian and Congregational policy; two features are the admission of women to the ministry and a rigid examination on the creed by a church council before a candidate is received into the church.

The church’s stress on sanctification is based on Wesley’s teaching that once a person is justified he may grow in holiness through his generous response to the Indwelling Spirit. This “second blessing” adds a sense of security that the sinner is now reconciled with God, and gives him an emotional experience that is unmistakable. In its accent on “true Wesleyanism,” the Pilgrim Holiness Church holds that sanctification is both possible and commendable; that man’s sinfulness has not deprived him of the capacity for a willing cooperation with grace. Evangelism is likewise held to be true to the Wesleyan spirit. Instead of concentrating on large established communities in the major urban areas, the church prefers to expand its influence into less populated regions. Its average of less than 50 members for each church is symbolic of this attitude; the active Sunday school enrollment (more than 99,200 in 1964) is almost three times the adult membership. In spite of its limited size, the denomination supports missionaries in Africa, Mexico, South America, and the West Indies, and operates two secretariats for evangelistic ends—Church Extension and World Missions. Both are generously supported by the denomination, which has one of the largest per capita contribution ratios in the U.S. The church also professes belief in the early Second Coming of Christ (see PAROUSIA). While millennialism is commonly held by the *Adventists and *Pentecostal Churches, the doctrine is rare in the Methodist tradition. The Pilgrim Holiness Church further believes that the Second Coming will precede this 1000-year period of the highest spiritual and material blessings on earth as a prelude to the end of the world.

The weekly magazine, Pilgrim Holiness Advocate, published in Indianapolis, is an indispensable bond that unites more than 1,000 congregations in 40 states.

New Catholic Encyclopedia
Vol. 11, 1967, pp. 361-362

Copyright © 1999 by Inter Mirifica

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