Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Spiritual Direction the Wesleyan-Holiness Movement

Academic journal article Journal of Psychology and Theology

Spiritual Direction the Wesleyan-Holiness Movement

Article excerpt

Though the term "spiritual direction" is not a common part of the vocabulary of the Wesleyan-Holiness people, the goals of spiritual direction form the core of their spiritual quest. Avoiding "direction" for fear of spiritual abuse, the Wesleyan-Holiness people seek to help each other toward Christian perfection by way of face-to-face groups, spiritual companioning, family worship, covenant groups, and faith mentoring. These specific structures and practices, along with observance of the personal spiritual disciplines and the disciplines of service, are primarily rooted in the heritage of the Wesleyan revival in 18th-century England and secondarily in the American Holiness Movement of the 19th century. Indirect indicators associated with spiritual maturity are described and comparisons between psychotherapy and spiritual guidance are made.


As the 19th-century Holiness Movement in America matured, it formed itself into four clusters of churches: Wesleyan-Holiness groups with Methodistic roots, those with a nonMethodist heritage who adopted the Wesleyan doctrine of holiness and its practice of revivalism, those who added tongues-speaking to the Wesleyan tradition, and those who embraced Keswick teachings (Tracy & Ingersol, 1998).

This writer most directly represents the Wesleyan-Holiness churches. These churches are nourished by roots that tap deep into the Wesleyan revival in 18th-century England. Their 21st-century witness can be seen in the Christian Holiness Partnership (CHP), formerly Christian Holiness Association (CHA). This is the oldest Holiness association in the world. It began in 1867 as the National Camp Meeting Association for the Promotion of Holiness. Methodists controlled it at first, but today its membership and leadership includes representatives from many churches. The CHP member churches include the Wesleyan Church, the Free Methodist Church, the Church of the Nazarene, the Salvation Army, and 19 other churches and two international mission societies. The Wesleyan Theological Society is an auxiliary of CHP and produces the Wesleyan Theological Society Journal. The Nazarene Publishing House is the largest Wesleyan-Holiness publisher.

It is hard to speak one voice about this dappled movement. But if there is one area of agreement, it is the idea that spiritual direction is not relevant. The Holiness churches vigorously seek the goals of spiritual direction, but spiritual direction per se is not a common part of their vocabulary.

For example, the 543-page Beacon Dictionary of Theology published by the Nazarene Publishing House offers no definition of spiritual direction. Two professors at Nazarene Theological Seminary who have team-taught spiritual formation for 18 years say that the only time spiritual direction comes up in their course is as a brief metaphor for pastoral ministry. These men have a new book, Living the Lord's Prayer: Design for Spiritual Formation (Weigelt & Freeborn, 2001), and the phrase "spiritual direction" is not mentioned.

I recently worked with a group of scholars and writers from Wesleyan-Holiness groups to produce the Reflecting God Bible, the Reflecting God textbook, workbook, leader's guide, and the still-to-come Reflecting God Journal. We worked under the supervision of the Christian Holiness Partnership. Though many suggestions were made, no one suggested that spiritual direction be treated in these books--and it is not.

Given the democratic, free church, Protestant, and individualistic elements in our cultural and ecclesiastical heritage, spiritual direction seems dictatorial and risky. However, if you speak of soul friends, spiritual companioning, spiritual guidance, small group ministry, and faith mentoring, we feel so at home that we may lounge in your family room, even put our feet on the coffee table.


The goal of spirituality in the Wesleyan mode is to bring the converted believer into the experience of sanctifying grace whereby inner sin is cleansed, the image of God restored, and the heart so filled with divine love that the believer can love God with all the heart, mind, soul, and strength and the neighbor as one's self. …

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