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Denomination and Dissent: Benjamin Franklin Haynes and the Travails of Methodist Identity, 1885-1925




Wood, Andrew

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation




This dissertation explores the themes of denomination and dissent in two related denominations, the Methodist Episcopal Church, South (MECS), and the Church of the Nazarene, using the life of Benjamin Franklin Haynes. A prominent clergy leader in both denominations, Haynes rose rapidly as a favored son in the MECS before being drawn into conflict with bishops over politics, preachers’ rights, and, later, holiness doctrines. Haynes and his fellow MECS clergy of the Tennessee Conference were ardent prohibition advocates who dissented from sectional and MECS norms that eschewed clergy involvement in politics and articulated exalted privileges for MECS bishops over clergy. Haynes became the editor of the conference’s dissenting newspaper, the Tennessee Methodist, which defended clergy labor rights and reputations and employed the dissenting language and rhetoric of ‘low-church’ or ‘Country’ Methodism. ‘High church’ or ‘Court’ opponents reacted firmly, and increasingly denied even the right of dissent, which they labeled ‘censoriousness’ and ‘disloyalty.’ Dissenters labeled their Court opponents ‘critics of criticism.’ These conflicts, and those over holiness advocacy, eventually resulted in Haynes’s exit from the MECS. Among Nazarenes, Haynes became editor of the connectional organ, the Herald of Holiness. There he became the voice of the Nazarene center, supporting its episcopal offices, the general superintendents, and defending its connectionalism inherited from mainline Methodism. This study proposes a different context for understanding the holiness schism in Methodism, highlights the vital importance of southern Methodists’ polity traditions for understanding southern Methodists’ political behaviors, explores overlooked portions of the 1890s MECS crisis over polity, details in far greater depth the efforts of one of the South’s most important late nineteenth century religious and political dissenters whose work symbolized, inspired, and encouraged a wide range of other dissenters, and provides a new way of understanding the early character, and later history, of the largest of the holiness denominations by establishing its intimate inheritance in terms of Methodist polity. It also provides a high-profile case of religious mobility, the movement in or out of a religious body, a generally understudied aspect of American religion.