Thursday, November 13, 2014

Phineas F. Bresee

(I originally wrote the following piece for "For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations Second Edition," edited by Heather Josselyn-Cranson, OSL 2013.  )

Phineas Franklin Bresee was born to Phineas and Susan Brown Bresee in Franklin, NY, December 31, 1838.  At 16, Bresee experience his own “warmed heart” through a personal faith in Christ.  Soon, thereafter, he sensed a call to ministry and was granted a Methodist exhorter’s license.  He was ordained a deacon in 1859 and an elder two years later.[1]

In 1867, in Chariton Iowa, Bresee “entered into the blessing of entire sanctification.”[2]  Bresee had struggled with doubt.  The altar call after his sermon that night produced only one seeker; Bresee, himself.  “. . . [A]s I cried to [the Lord] that night, he seemed to open heaven on me, and gave me . . . the baptism with the Holy Ghost . . . it not only took away my tendencies to worldliness, anger and pride, but it also removed the doubt.”[3]  That experience of Christian Perfection would have a huge impact on Breese’s ministry.

Bresee served rural charges, and then large, urban churches in Iowa[4] and, after 1883, Los Angeles and Pasadena, CA.  He was appointed presiding elder in West Des Moines (1864)[5] and in Los Angeles.[6]  Further, Bresee served as a delegate to multiple General Conferences.[7]

Education was important to Bresee, as was seen by his serving on the board of Simpson College[8] and the University of Southern California.[9]  Later, Bresee became the president of Pacific Bible College (now Point Loma Nazarene University).[10]

 By the mid-1890’s, Breese’s commitment to the message of holiness led to his role as vice president of the National Holiness Association (NHA).  The experience of holiness also brought a passion for the poor.  The first miracle after the baptism with the Holy Ghost was upon a beggar, and so, Bresee reasoned, the priority of a Holy Ghost-baptized church ought to be the poor.[11]  This passion led him to withdraw from the MEC’s appointive system in 1894 to serve with the Peniel Mission.  However, while away, preaching for the NHA, Bresee was ousted from the Mission.  He was now left without the Mission or a MEC appointment.[12]

Thus, at the request of a number of southern California’s Holiness people, the Church of the Nazarene was organized on October 20, 1895 as a “Christian work, especially evangelistic and city mission work, and the spreading of the doctrine and experience of Christian holiness.”[13]  Bresee was the general superintendent of a growing holiness denomination.  A series of mergers with other regional holiness groups established the church as a national denomination in 1908 at Pilot Point, TX.[14]

Bresee served as the denomination’s senior general superintendent until his death on November 13, 1915.  He left behind his wife, Maria, six children, and what would become the largest denomination in the Wesleyan-Holiness wing of Methodism.

[1] Ingersol, Stan. Nazarene Roots: Pastors, Prophets, Revivalists & Reformers. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 2009. p. 87-88.
[2] Bangs, Carl. Phineas F. Bresee: His Life in Methodism, the Holiness Movement, and the Church of the Nazarene. Beacon Hill Press of Kansas City. 1995. p. 71-73, 77.
[3] Girvin, E.A. Phineas F. Bresee: A Prince in Israel. Kansas City, MO. Nazarene Publishing House. 1916. p. 50-52.
[4] Ingersol. p. 88.
[5] Kostlevy, William C., Ed. Historical Dictionary of the Holiness Movement. Lanham, Maryland, and London. The Scarecrow Press, Inc. p. 28-29.
[6] Bangs. p. 286.
[7] Ingersol. p. 88-89.
[8] Ibid. p. 88.
[9] Kostlevy. p. 29.
[10] Ingersol. p. 91.
[11] Ibid. p. 88-89.
[12] Kostlevy. p. 29.
[13] Bangs. p. 195-196.
[14] Kostlevy. p. 29.

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