The theology and heritage of the church flow from many sources. Basically, Pentecostal Holiness Church people look to the Day of Pentecost as the beginning of the early Christian church that ultimately produced the denomination. The atmosphere of the Upper Room (Acts 2), with the “sound of a rushing mighty wind,” the “cloven tongues as of fire,” the speaking forth in “other tongues as the Spirit gave utterance,” and the dynamic public witness that followed, has inspired the church to perpetuate the power of pentecost in this generation.
In its statement of faith, the Pentecostal Holiness Church distills and preserves the three great spiritual reforms of recent Christianity-Lutheran, Wesleyan, and pentecostal. Each of these revival movements brought to light and reemphasized truths concerning the Christian experience that apparently had been lost since the times of the early church.
The first spiritual reform was the Lutheran Reformation of the sixteenth century. The most enduring contribution of the Protestant Reformation to Christian experience was Martin Luther’s doctrine of the believer’s justification by faith alone.
This doctrine became the bedrock of the Reformation and remains to this day the basic doctrinal foundation of all evangelical churches, including the Pentecostal Holiness Church. The church regards the “new birth” as the conversion experience that admits the believer into the family of God. The church’s belief on this crucial point of doctrine is expressed in her eighth Article of Faith.
We believe, teach and firmly maintain the scriptural doctrine of justification by faith alone (Romans 5:1).
Pentecostal Holiness people thus regard themselves as spiritual heirs of the Reformation. Therefore, great importance is given to evangelism. The saving of the lost is seen as the primary task of the church.
The Methodist movement, begun by John Wesley in eighteenth-century England, produced the second major contribution to the church’s theology, the doctrine of sanctification as a second work of grace. In pentecostal history this is seen generally as the second spiritual reformation of the church.
From the beginning Wesley’s Methodist Societies emphasized sanctification as a “second work of grace” following conversion, calling for a life of holiness and separation from the world. Wesley also used the terms “heart purity,” “perfect love,” and “Christian perfection” to describe the work of sanctification and the life of holiness in the believer.
The burden of the Wesleyan revival was that the converted believer need not live out his lifetime as a slave to inborn sin; Christ “suffered without the gate” in order to “sanctify his people with his own blood.” This experience of sanctification is the birthright of every Christian.
When American Methodism was formed in 1784, the church accepted Wesley’s mandate to “reform the continent and spread scriptural holiness over these lands.” For over a century the holiness cause was promoted by Methodist preachers and churches throughout the nation. As the church grew larger and wealthier, however, the holiness testimony tended to fade as a distinctive teaching and experience in the church. Despite attempts to renew the holiness message in the church both before and after the Civil War, the trend away from holiness theology and experience was clearly established by the end of the nineteenth century.
The last major holiness revival among the Methodists and other mainline Protestant churches came after the formation of the National Holiness Association in Vineland, New Jersey, in 1867. But the resulting revival failed to bring the majority of the American church back to the holiness cause. When the Southern Methodist Church rejected the holiness movement in 1894, over 25 new holiness groups were formed in the United States dedicated to the promotion of holiness preaching and living.
The Pentecostal Holiness Church was one of those holiness groups in America which began after 1894 as a result of the controversies over the question of sanctification.
During the last years of the nineteenth century, there arose a conviction among many fervent people in the holiness movement that a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit was the great need of the church. A general attitude of seeking for deeper and further spiritual grace seemed to permeate the movement as the new century was about to dawn. This cry for a “new pentecost” was experienced in both Europe and America.
The modern pentecostal movement had its origins in Topeka, Kansas, in a small Bible school conducted by Charles Fox Parham, a holiness evangelist who began his ministry as a Methodist pastor. In 1901, Agnes Ozman, a student at Parham’s school, received the baptism in the Holy Spirit accompanied by speaking in tongues. Ozman was a member of the Fire Baptized Holiness Church, which merged with the Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1911.
The pentecostal movement received worldwide influence in 1906 in Los Angeles, California, in the Azusa Street revival led by the African-American holiness evangelist William Joseph Seymour. From Azusa Street, the pentecostal experience spread around the world as holiness people by the thousands received the pentecostal baptism with the Holy Ghost with the apostolic sign of speaking with other tongues.
Not since the days of the early church had any revival movement spread so quickly and so far. In every continent, holiness people flocked to altars to receive their own personal pentecost.
Once again the gifts of the Spirit were experienced by the church. The atmosphere of the book of Acts became the norm for the thousands of pentecostal churches and missions that appeared throughout the world. Everywhere, the restoration of the charismata was understood as proof positive that the second advent of Christ was near.
The Pentecostal Holiness Church was a part of this pentecostal outpouring. From the beginning it played a part in the unfolding drama of this third spiritual reformation of the church. Organized as a holiness denomination in 1898, the church officially incorporated the theology of the Pentecostal Reformation in its Articles of Faith in 1908 by adopting the following statement:
We believe the pentecostal baptism of the Holy Ghost and fire is obtainable by a definite act of appropriating faith on the part of the fully cleansed believer, and the initial evidence of the reception of this experience is speaking with other tongues as the Spirit gives utterance (Luke 11:13; Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 8:17; 10:44-46; 19:6).
The Pentecostal Holiness Church also holds to the other basic doctrines of historic Christianity such as the Trinity, the deity, the virgin birth, and the second coming of Christ, and future rewards and punishments after the final judgment. It was, however, the distinctive doctrines of holiness and pentecost that gave birth to the denomination.