The Church of the Nazarene is the largest Protestant church to emerge from the Holiness Movement in the Methodist church, during the Third Great Awakening. It is the result of a merger, finalized in 1907 and 1908, of several holiness sects which had sprung up in various parts of the United States beginning in 1886.
Nearly all of these groups grew out of the National Holiness Movement which swept the country, and particularly the Methodist churches, after the Civil War. This movement was a protest against the decline in Methodism of emphasis on the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness or Christian perfection, and most of the persons drawn into the numerous groups formed as a result of the movement were Methodists. The holiness sects in the United States therefore share the Methodist tradition and genius and many of them retain parts of the Methodist polity.
The Church of the Nazarene represents the moderate and conservative elements of the perfectionists and is distinguished from the radical Pentecostals in that it repudiates speaking with tongues and unrestrained emotionalism.
In doctrine and organization it is Methodistic, Arminian, and Perfectionist. Central to its theology is a belief in Christian perfection, holiness, perfect love, or entire sanctification as a second work of grace which is wrought instantly in the believer by an experience subsequent to regeneration, justification, or conversion. This work of grace is always a separate experience, and is commonly called the "second blessing."
The Church of the Nazarene had 5100 churches in 1998, with 627,000 members. Vigorous missionary activity has led to rapid growth, so that by 2009 the church had reached over 90% of its goal of 2 million members worldwide (and 1.25 million in the U.S. and Canada).
World headquarters are in a suburb of Kansas City, Missouri, where it has a publishing house that issues periodicals. The Church supports maintains a large number of hospitals, schools and colleges.
- Kirkemo, Ronald B. For Zion's Sake: A History of Pasadena/Point Loma College. (1992). 414 pp.
- Kostlevy, William C. Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement (2001)
- Sanders, Cheryl J. Saints in Exile: The Holiness-Pentecostal Experience in African American Religion and Culture. (Oxford U. Press, 1996). 177 pp.
- Smith, Timothy Lawrence and W. T. Purkiser. Called unto holiness: the story of the Nazarenes (2 vol 1962), standard scholarly history by Nazarenes
- Synan, Vinson. The Holiness-Pentecostal Tradition: Charismatic Movements in the Twentieth Century. (Eerdmans, 1997). 340 pp.
- The original name was the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene, but the word "Pentecostal" was dropped in 1919.
- se "Centennial Goal progress," April 24, 2009