A predominantly American religious movement which centres on the belief that complete sanctification takes place instantaneously in a single crisis experience. It arose in the mid-19th cent., primarily in the Methodist Church. It was promoted from 1835 by Phoebe Palmer, a Methodist lay leader. The movement reached a wider public through Holiness Camp Meetings, beginning in 1867 at Vineland, New Jersey. Though still mainly Methodist, it spread to other Protestant Churches. In the last two decades of the 19th cent. tensions between the Holiness advocates and Methodist bishops led to seceding groups forming new Holiness denominations. Of these the largest are the Church of the Nazarene, which emerged as a distinct denomination in the USA in 1908, and the Church of God (Anderson, Ind.), which traces its origins to 1881.
The movement modified Wesleyan teaching by emphasizing revivalist techniques of invitation, decision, and testimony, and by insistence on visible evidence. By the late 19th cent. physical healing was commonly expected, and the experience of sanctification was called ‘baptism with (or sometimes of) the Holy Spirit’. Divided by the rise of Pentecostalism in the early 20th cent., the surviving Holiness groups became less exuberant. Holiness denominations in Britain are small.