“But enough of hypothetical cases. I am myself a scion of the holiness movement. My great-great-uncle and my great-grandfather left the Methodist Episcopal Church because they believed that it was apostate and that all true Christians should ‘come out’ from existing denominations to form a holy community faithful to Christ. My grandparents, in turn, left the church in which they had grown up in order to minister to Christians who were outside that community. I grew up in what amounted to a house church, steeped in Scripture and in a piety focused on personal dedication to Christ. I was told over and over that we should be simply ‘Christians’ rather than giving our loyalty to any human tradition. I was taught that we should seek for an experience of the Holy Spirit that led to our total consecration to God and hence to freedom from sin.
I now believe that much that I was taught was wrong. Our belief in the ‘invisible Church’ led us to downplay the importance of actual, organized Christian communities. More seriously, our commitment to entire sanctification and ‘keeping ourselves unspotted from the world’ led us to look down on the flawed and worldly Christians who make up practically every actual Christian community. Our belief that the Church had historically compromised with the world led us to despise much of the tradition of Christianity (especially since Constantine), hence insulating ourselves from the challenges posed by that tradition.”