Last summer I was asked to write a book review of From Aldersgate to Azusa Street: Wesleyan, Holiness, and Pentecostal Visions of the New Creation, edited by Henry H. Knight III for Pneuma, which is the academic journal for the Society for Pentecostal Studies. The key contribution of the volume is that it points to the similarities between the Wesleyan, Holiness, and Pentecostal traditions. The similarities are deep enough that the three traditions are rightly viewed as a distinct theological family.
From Aldersgate to Azusa Street demonstrates the common vision that unites these traditions in chapters that focus on thirty different figures. There are many names you would expect to find in a book like this: John Wesley, John Fletcher, Francis Asbury, Richard Allen, B.T. Roberts, Phineas Bresee, Charles Parham, William Seymour, and E. Stanley Jones. However, one of the reasons I think this book should be read by pastors and laity is because of the way it provides an accessible introduction to so many lesser known (but very significant) historical figures. A few examples are: Lorenzo Dow, Julia Foote, Amanda Berry Smith, Ida Robinson, and Mildred Bangs Wynkoop. Some of you will be familiar with these people. However, too many people have never heard of them. If you are unfamiliar with these women and men, they are worth knowing! And this book provides a great introduction.
Here is how I summarized the significance and contribution of From Aldersgate to Azusa Street in the conclusion of my review for Pneuma:
The volume provides a long overdue description of common theological emphases and experiences in the Wesleyan, Holiness, and Pentecostal traditions. The biographical approach brings into focus a broader movement of Christians who expected and anticipated a transformational encounter with God’s grace that, impacted their personal lives in profound ways and changed how they thought about and interacted with their broader cultural context. Several decades ago in Discovering an Evangelical Heritage, Donald W. Dayton argued that the Wesleyan and Holiness traditions were concerned about gender equality, racial reconciliation, and lifting up the oppressed before liberal Protestantism turned its attention in that direction. In his subsequent work, Theological Roots of Pentecostalism, Dayton traced the development of the theology of entire sanctification from Wesley through American Methodism and into the holiness movement, arguing that Pentecostalism is rooted in the Wesleyan tradition. From Aldersgate to Azusa Street develops both of these themes in crucial ways, showing an unmistakable family resemblance among the Methodist, Holiness, and Pentecostal traditions. The book narrates the stories of women and men who, because of their common concern for personal and corporate holiness worked to correct issues of systemic injustice and accepted leaders who often challenged prevailing assumptions about race and gender. Methodist historians, in particular, have not given sufficient attention to their spiritual offfspring in the Holiness and Pentecostal traditions. This book addresses that deficiency and ought to spark renewed scholarly interest in this neglected trajectory. For these reasons, From Aldersgate to Azusa Street is a gift to the academy, and a useful resource to help members of these traditions recognize just how much they have in common.
You can read my review for Pneuma in its entirety here.
Kevin M. Watson is Assistant Professor of Historical Theology & Wesleyan Studies at Seattle Pacific University. You can keep up with this blog on twitter @kevinwatson or on facebook at Vital Piety.