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Touched by the Wind: The Charismatic Movement in the Episcopal Church

The 1857-58 revival, coming in the midst of the movement’s ascendancy, played a pivotal role. The revival began in Hamilton, Ontario, where Palmer was conducting special meetings. It spread quickly throughout North America, making its primary impact on the urban centers. Wherever it appeared, the revival broke out in seemingly spontaneous prayer meetings, catching many clergy totally by surprise. Arising from below, even the leadership of this “visitation” was drawn primarily from the laity. Like Palmer’s Tuesday Meeting, these union sessions of prayer totally transcended denominational sectarianism:

Arminians and Calvinists, Baptists and Pedo-Baptists, Episcopalians and Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Friends, sat side by side on the same benches, sang the same hymns, and Amen to the same prayers. In this Pentecost as at the first, what became evident to the followers of Jesus, were not the things in which they differed but those upon which they agreed.18

Holiness teaching marked the meetings. Even those who could not accept the two-fold Wesleyan scheme, none-the-less adopted the view that true conversion freed the Christian from the power of sin. Multitudes became convinced that justification in the eyes of God must be evidenced by sanctification in their own subsequent experience.

Two books published during the revival assisted in sharpening this doctrinal focus. William Arthur, an Irish Methodist, published The Tongue of Fire19 in 1856. The book filled with perfectionist themes set the tone for the revival. The second, The Higher Christian Life,20 written by William Boardman, made its appearance in 1858. Boardman, a Presbyterian, sought to present the holiness doctrine in non-Wesleyan language. The book swept more non-Methodist circles into the Holiness Movement than any other single force that preceded it.21

Though this revival had a worldwide impact, it did not result in the establishment of the millennium on earth as many had anticipated. Indeed, in the United States, the Civil War followed on its heels. Ultimately, it would split the movement in half. Many, such as Methodist Bishop Jesse Peck, saw the war as a judgment from God for the national sin of slavery. With that scourge removed, the perfectionist message could be pressed forward, Christian unity achieved and the Kingdom of God established. These leaders joined forces with other renewalist impulses to forge the Social Gospel.22

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Category: Church History, Pneuma Review, Summer 2000

About the Author: D. William Faupel, Ph.D., serves as Professor of the History of Christianity and Director of the Library at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. His graduate education includes degrees in theology, library science and the history of Christian thought from Asbury Theological Seminary, and the University of Kentucky in Kentucky and the University of Birmingham in England. Dr. Faupel, ordained in the Episcopal Church, has served as pastor, education and editor and writer. He is the author of The Everlasting Gospel: The Significance of Eschatology in the Development of Pentecostal Thought (Deo Press, 2008).

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