In the middle of the 1800's a movement gained momentum in American culture. Emerging from the Victorian era and its emphasis on morality and traditionalism, the religious movement focused on personal religious transformation in a crises conversion event, often through 'revival' events. The movement generated activists who preached and lobbied to end drinking, smoking, gambling, dancing, and all and any actions that were felt to led people into moral decay.
Theologically most holiness people were related to Wesleyan-Armenian teachings, most often articulated through the legacy of John Wesley. Many of the people in the holiness movement were originally members of the Methodist Church. Out of this movement a missional outreach developed providing half-way houses, orphanages, rescue shelters, and work training. Added to this were store-front or street revivals and mission services. Often these were located in the thick of sinful activities: rowdy areas, saloon blocks, or near brothels and entertainments.
Many in the movement tended to encourage a withdrawal from aspects of society that might impede their spiritual journey to a more perfect state of spirituality. Bethany was born from just this type of desire to gather together and form a community of shared faith and values. Other communities dotting the state of Oklahoma likewise became centers of holiness worship and life. Out of the Bethany locale's Utopian dream eventually emerged what is now known as Southern Nazarene University.
Other holiness groups would develop as well. Some would merge with a new belief system that gains prominence in the early 1900's amid confusion and often contempt, the Pentecostal movement.
One unique feature of many in the holiness movement was acceptance of women as preachers. Women such as Phoebe Palmer led the way in this regard with Catherine Booth, Maria-Woodsworth Etta and others being well known women ministers of the mid to late 1800's.


SNU Archives, Bethany http://www.snu.edu/archives
History of early Holiness in Oklahoma
SCU History with section on earlier Holiness and Pentecostal institutions in OK.

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