chapter  1
32 Pages

Introduction

WithGlen O’Brien

This chapter describes the emergence in Australia of Wesleyan-Holiness churches in the years immediately following the Second World War. The demographics of today’s Wesleyan-Holiness churches as fitting the ‘Right-Wing Protestant’ typology of religious sociologists is described, as well as the movement of the Wesleyan-Holiness churches toward the church end of the church-sect continuum. The contrasts between the Australian and American religious experience and their differing expressions of Christianity are significant in the particular case of Wesleyan-Holiness churches as they encountered a religious landscape in Australia significantly different from that at home. A generalised anti-Americanism did not help. This chapter also includes a declaration of the author’s stance as a ‘reflexive insider’ and participant-observer. It describes the trend in the ‘New Religious History’ to move away from mainstream churches and seek out the little-known, the quirky, the particular, the peculiar, and the marginalised – Fundamentalism, Pentecostalism, cults, sects, and religious configurations of all types. The spatial and temporal boundaries under which the Wesleyan-Holiness churches are considered are described, as well as a rationale for why they deserve better coverage than they have so far been given.