Evangelical Christian Church (Wesleyan)
Evangelical Christian Church (Wesleyan)
The Evangelical Christian Church was born in the holiness revival that occurred spontaneously in various parts of the United States during the latter part of the nineteenth century. In 1882 L. Frank Haas, along with four others, conducted open-air and hall meetings in the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. These efforts resulted in the conversion of many people. Haas and his coworkers assumed spiritual leadership for this rapidly growing fellowship of new Christians.
While the organization of a church was not the original plan, the necessity of organizing was soon realized. The converts needed to be established in holiness of heart and life and opportunities were opening for the expansion of the work into other communities. The name Heavenly Recruit Association was chosen and the new organization was granted a charter by the city of Philadelphia in 1884.
The evangelistic ministry spread rapidly into the areas surrounding Philadelphia. Churches were soon established in Chester and West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and Wilmington, Delaware. New missions were organized at other locations in eastern Pennsylvania and in the state of Indiana. At the Annual Conference held at Linwood, Pennsylvania, in 1889, resolutions were passed to establish an itinerant ministry, elect a presiding elder, and station pastors. Haas, president of the association was elected the first Presiding Elder.
Articles of Faith and Bylaws were adopted by the Annual Conference of 1892, which convened at Reading, Pennsylvania. At this time the publication of a church paper was approved. It was called The Crown of Glory, and it was first published in Pennsylvania but later was moved to Indiana and was succeeded in 1906 by a new publication, A Voice From Canaan. Previous to these publication efforts, Good News and The Heavenly Recruit had been printed and circulated by the association.
At the tenth Annual Conference, held at West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, in 1894, the denomination, which had outgrown the limitations of the original charter, voted to reorganize. At this time the church at Philadelphia withdrew, claiming the original charter and name. The conference then adopted the name Holiness Christian Association, elected Rev. C. W. Ruth as Presiding Elder and continued their sessions as the first Annual Conference of the reorganized denomination.
The Annual Conference of 1896, held at Reading, Pennsylvania, authorized the organization of a second Annual Conference in Indiana and a General Conference. The Indiana Conference was duly constituted that same year at Tipton, Indiana, under the direction of Rev. Jonas Trumbauer, the Presiding Elder. The first General Conference convened at Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1897. At this conference the organization modified its name to Holiness Christian Church.
In the period of 1907-1908, the Pennsylvania Conference considered consolidating with the Pentecostal Church of the Nazarene (the word "Pentecostal" was dropped in 1919). Release was requested from the General Conference and was granted. In 1908 several of the churches and ministers did unite with the Church of the Nazarene, forming the nucleus for their Philadelphia District. About an equal number of churches and ministers declined merger, reorganized, and continued as the Pennsylvania Conference of the Holiness Christian Church. In 1916 this conference reunited with the general church then centered in Indiana.
In 1919 at the General Assembly convened in Cincinnati, Ohio, the Holiness Christian Church, with the exception of the Pennsylvania Conference, voted to merge with the International Apostolic Holiness Church. The Indiana Conference, which provided much of the strength of the new organization, was joined by the Kansas and Oklahoma Conference and the Illinois and Missouri Conference in the union, which selected the name International Holiness Church. A subsequent merger with the Pilgrim Church formed the Pilgrim Holiness Church, which in 1968 united with the Wesleyan Methodist Church to become the Wesleyan Church. The Pennsylvania Conference continued as the Holiness Christian Church.
Annual camp meetings were conducted at various locations throughout the church's history. In 1921 a camp meeting ground was purchased at Seyfert, near Reading, Pennsylvania. This continues to serve as the Conference Center for the denomination. The growth of the church led to the development of congregations beyond the original boundaries of the conference. Presently there are churches in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New York, and Virginia, as well as Jamaica. A denominational camp meeting has also been held at Fruitland, Maryland, since 1950. Publication of a church periodical, first called The Holiness Christian Messenger, and now The Christian Messenger, was begun in 1937.
The church was incorporated under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1945. The corporate name, Holiness Christian Church of the United States of America was changed to Holiness Christian Church in 1969. The present name, Evangelical Christian Church (Wesleyan) was approved by the Annual Conference in 1976 and was legally authorized on January 1, 1977.
The Evangelical Christian Church is a member denomination of the Christian Holiness Association and the National Association of Evangelicals. Supportive and cooperative ministeries are also addressed through affiliation with the Evangelical Wesleyan Fellowship, an association of similar holiness denominations.
Throughout its history, the church has been involved in missionary endeavors. Work was conducted in Central and South America, Africa, and other world regions. In 1945, a movement which had begun in Jamaica twenty years previously, united with the Holiness Christian Church. The Jamaican church was incorporated in 1949 and was the focus of evangelistic and missionary activity through the years. Recognized as a District Conference in 1969, the Holiness Christian Church in Jamaica continues its ministry under that name while remaining fully a part of the Evangelical Christian Church.
Missionary outreach has also been accomplished through cooperation with selected international mission organizations. Through its present affiliation with World Gospel Mission, the Evangelical Christian Church (Christian Disciples)is part of a global thrust to bring Christ's love to the nations.