Abiding within: Black participation in the Church of the Nazarene, 1914–1969
Aim of research. The goal of this study is to outline how African American, Afro-Carribean, and Cape Verdeans participated in and contributed to the evangelistic and holiness message of the Church of the Nazarene (CN) (a predominantly white holiness denomination) from 1914 to 1969. This period represents the founding date of the first Afro-Caribbean congregation in Brooklyn, New York, until the disbanding of the Gulf Central District, which was the CN's segregated jurisdiction that oversaw and governed the work of all African American churches in the South. Since there were no more than 1,700 black1 Nazarene members organized during this time, the research will be able to focus on such a large historical period.
Thesis. The specific thesis of this project is that because of their commitment to the holiness experience and message of the denomination, persons of African descent—despite their different ethnic particularities, geographical locations, historical backgrounds, and racial experiences in the CN—participated in ecclesiastical governance, local congregational development, and the evangelistic thrust of the CN during the middle years of the 20th century. As such, this project outlines how black ministers and churches from various ethnic backgrounds, geographical regions, and ecclesiastical experiences sustained Nazarene ministries, contributed to denominational leadership, supported international missions, created outreach ministries, and at times, addressed social and racial issues in their communities. By doing this, this study is the first comprehensive analysis of how black Nazarene life unfolded in the United States during the early to mid-20th century.
Methodology. This inquiry will investigate four specific historical periods that marked how various black ministers and congregations carried out the holiness and evangelistic message of the denomination under different historical and jurisdictional realities: (1) 1914–1932, (2) 1933–1946, (3) 1947–1957 and (4) 1958–1969. Interpretive analysis of archival materials and oral interviews—district assembly minutes, general assembly minutes, personal testimonies, newspaper articles, correspondence letters between denominational leaders, interdenominational publications, theological treatises, congregational histories, and printed sermons—will focus on reconstructing how black participation took shape in the midst of various historical realities, social milieus, ethnic sensitivities, and models of governing black churches.
0320: Religious history
0328: Black history