chapter  7
37 Pages

Joining the evangelical club

Moving along the Church-sect continuum
WithGlen O’Brien

This chapter describes the way the membership demographic of Wesleyan-Holiness churches has become more and more like other (not only Evangelical but also mainline) Protestant churches. It argues that religious movements do not move inexorably along the church-sect continuum as though following a fixed law. There are many factors that can interrupt movement along the continuum. A Holiness denomination, such as the Australian Church of the Nazarene in its founding years, may be positioned toward the church end of the continuum in its place of origin and be positioned toward the sect end in its mission areas. On the other hand, the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Australia, in recently lifting its total abstinence rule, is an example of a church further away from a sectarian outlook than its parent church in the United States. Overall, the Wesleyan-Holiness churches in Australia have become more mainstream, borrowing freely from trends in the broader Pentecostal-Evangelical culture. The Church of God (Anderson) is an exception to this trend, having had less success establishing itself in the Australian religious context because of its inability to develop a network of connections among fellow Holiness churches, much less in wider Evangelicalism.