The Circuit-Riding Missionary and Gilded Age Methodism

Jay Riley Case

in An Unpredictable Gospel

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780199772322
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199932528 | DOI:
The Circuit-Riding Missionary and Gilded Age Methodism

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William Taylor's antiformalist Methodism in India and Liberia embodied American characteristics of individual autonomy, democratization, religious disestablishment, and pragmatic attitudes toward media, transportation, and technology. But it also ran against powerful trends in Gilded Age American culture by resisting bureaucratic centralization, harking back to primitivist theological authorities, and pointing to supernaturalism. Furthermore, Taylor's faith in “uncivilized” individuals led him to downplay Western conceptions of race, ethnicity, gender, and nationality, creating tensions with many in the Methodist establishment who embedded these characteristics in their promotion of the progress of civilization. Taylor's missionary program resonated deep with a segment of American evangelicalism known as the holiness movement. Increasingly dissatisfied with the disenchantment, systemization, bureaucratization, and centralized control that characterized much of late-nineteenth-century American culture and religion, the holiness movement would, among other things, lay the foundations for another new force in world Christianity, Pentecostalism.

Keywords: William Taylor; India; Liberia; Methodism; holiness movement; bureaucratization; systemization; supernaturalism; civilization; antiformalist

Chapter.  12710 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Christianity

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