A Wheel within a Wheel: Southern Methodism and the Georgia Holiness Association

Article excerpt

A Wheel Within a Wheel: Southern Methodism and the Georgia Holiness Association. By Briane K. Turley. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, c. 1999. Pp. viii, 226. $35.00, ISBN 0-86554-633-9.)

Although Briane K. Turley's subject matter appears narrow, this monograph has important implications for the study of southern religion, particularly for southern Methodism. The author maintains that Holiness doctrines, though officially endorsed by the region's Methodists, had little impact in the southern states until the late 1870s. Holiness did develop a southern following as Reconstruction ended, but its tenets were not the gradualist ideas of John Wesley but views developed by northern Methodists, such as Phoebe Palmer, that the Holy Spirit could deliver one from sinful desires quickly and easily. Initially welcomed by clergymen of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, the Holiness Movement soon attracted unfavorable attention by asserting that Methodists who did not claim Holy Ghost baptism were not fully saved. About 1885 southern church leaders began a harsh campaign against the movement that reduced its following and humiliated its clerical defenders. Afterward, the southern church eased off its persecution, as Holiness leaders remained loyal to the denomination and muted criticism of church officials. Holiness adherents survived within southern Methodism by maintaining institutions free from denominational control, such as Indian Springs Campground in Georgia and Asbury Seminary in Kentucky.

Turley's analysis of the Holiness movement is based on considerable research in primary documents and is often perceptive. He demonstrates, for example, that Holiness supporters were not uniformly poor, rural, or uneducated. Furthermore, the author makes an excellent case for the importance of the Holiness movement within the Methodist tradition. …