Featured Columns

Written by Stan Ingersol
From his column Past to Present

Last year in the July-August edition of eNews, I wrote about Milgram Thabayiah, from Syria, and Samuel Krikorian, from Turkey, who spearheaded Nazarene ministry in the Middle East. In this issue, let’s look at the impact of other immigrants in our church’s history.

International immigration has shaped Nazarene life in various ways. English and Irish Methodists brought their religion to North America when they immigrated in the 1760s. They organized Methodist societies, and then appealed to John Wesley for preachers.

Of these, Francis Asbury was surely the most consequential. In 1771 at age 26, Asbury left his mother and native England never to return. A missionary-bishop, Asbury was in the vanguard as Methodism spread along the Atlantic coast and westward. Timothy Smith, the esteemed Nazarene historian, argued that this task of Asbury’s contemporaries constituted America’s first holiness movement. Another immigrant, Richard Whatcoat, served with Asbury as an early bishop.

Some immigrants came to North America for economic opportunity, united with the church, and returned to their native land as missionaries.

The holiness revival of the nineteenth century was likewise indebted to immigrants. Henry Worrall joined the Methodists in Yorkshire, England, before crossing the Atlantic. He settled in New York City, married, and gave us two splendid daughters: Phoebe Palmer and Sarah Lankford. In the 1830s, these sisters founded and led the Tuesday Meeting for the Promotion of Holiness. Their ministry—especially Palmer’s—gave the Wesleyan-Holiness renaissance its initial impetus.

Some immigrants assumed roles inside Phineas Bresee’s immediate circle. Robert Pierce mastered the publishing trade in England before coming to America to work for Funk & Wagnalls in New York City. After conversion, he entered the ministry. Upon moving to Los Angeles, he became managing editor of The Nazarene Messenger, a weekly, contributing editorials and other matter. Pierce was the united denomination’s first General Assembly Secretary, filling that role at the first (1907) and second (1908) general assemblies, and editing and publishing the official minutes and Manuals of those meetings.

A. O. Henricks (later “Hendricks”) was another of Bresee’s right-hand men. Born in Sweden, he was ordained by Bresee in 1904. He pastored Pasadena First, Los Angeles First, Spokane First, and other churches. He was president of Pasadena and Trevecca Nazarene colleges, conducted the funeral service of Bresee’s wife Maria, and late in life was a missionary pastor in Barbados and Trinidad.

Haldor Lillenas

Haldor Lillenas also gravitated into Bresee’s sphere of influence. Born near Bergen, Norway, Lillenas attended Pasadena College and married Bertha Wilson, daughter of General Superintendent W. C. Wilson. The couple pastored in California, Texas, and Indiana. He founded Lillenas Publishing Company in Indianapolis in 1926 and sold it in 1930 to Nazarene Publishing House, which retained him as manager. His compositions and arrangements shaped Nazarene identity in the church’s first half-century.

Nazarene educator, missionary, and theologian Mildred Bangs Wynkoop was her family’s first American-born member. Her parents, from Norway and Switzerland, met in Seattle’s Salvation Army center, and were charter members of Seattle First Church. Their other children included Rev. Bernice Bangs Morgan, home mission pastor in Alaska; and Carl Bangs, world-renowned specialist on theologian James Arminius, and Bresee’s most recent biographer.

John Dias

Some immigrants came to North America for economic opportunity, united with the church, and returned to their native land as missionaries, playing crucial roles in building an international church. João (John) Dias joined the burgeoning ranks of Cape Verdeans who migrated to New England. He experienced an evangelical conversion, united with a holiness body, and opened our second mission field when he returned to Cape Verde in 1901. He led the work there until retiring in 1938.

Nobumi Isayama

J. I. Nagamatsu, Hiroshi Kitagawa, and Nobumi Isayama were Japanese immigrants who found jobs in the citrus groves of California. Brought into the church by Christian workers, each attended Pasadena College and returned as missionary pastors to Japan. Each later served as a district superintendent there.

Santos Elizondo, a Mexican, migrated to Los Angeles, where she was converted. After her ordination and her husband’s death, she moved in 1907 to Juarez to spearhead ministry in northern Mexico. She was a pastor and orphanage director until her death in 1941. J. B. Chapman hailed her as “without doubt one of the most resourceful, tactful and successful missionaries in any movement.”

George Sharpe came from Scotland to pursue business opportunities in America. Instead, he was converted in a revival, entered the ministry, and pastored Methodist churches on the East Coast for a decade. He returned to Scotland and founded a holiness church in Glasgow in 1906. After 1909, he led the Pentecostal Church of Scotland, which merged with the Nazarenes in 1915. A daughter, Kanema, married Dr. David Hynd and was a missionary in Swaziland.

Stan Ingersol is manager of archives for the Church of the Nazarene.

Subscribe to eNews!