From Fringe to Center:


Holiness Movement
William Warren Sweet
Merle Gaddis
Timothy L. Smith
Charles E. Jones
Donald W. Dayton
Edith Blumhofer
Russell E. Richey
Kennth Rowe
June Miller Schmidt
Melvin E. Dieter
David Bundy
William Kostlevy

How to Cite

Kostlevy, W. (2022). From Fringe to Center: : Historians Interpret the American Holiness Movement. Methodist Review, 14. Retrieved from


The historical interpretation of the American Holiness Movement was initiated by participants who largely understood it as the faithful continuation of the ministry of John Wesley and early Methodism. In the 1920s the first professional historians, including William Warren Sweet and his student, Merrill E. Gaddis, interpreted the Movement as an expression of declining rural North American culture. Beginning in the 1930s the new social history of Arthur Schlesinger Jr. began replacing the older views highlighting the importance of religion as a causative force in history. This work reached maturity in the work of Timothy L. Smith. Smith, unlike Sweet and Gaddis, saw the Movement as urbane and eastern. In the 1960s younger historians inspired in part by social upheavals of the 1960s building on Smith began to celebrate other features on the Movement. The work of Charles E. Jones, Donald W. Dayton, and Melvin E. Dieter was especially important. While elements of Sweet’s views could still be located in surveys of American religious history, the work of Holiness Movement inspired scholars was increasingly found in the work of United Methodist scholars as it inspired debates about the meaning and history of Evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. More recently, David Bundy and William Kostlevy have emphasized the movement’s radicalization and spread beyond Methodism.

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