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Innocent Ecstasy, Updated EditionHow Christianity Gave America an Ethic of Sexual Pleasure$
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Peter Gardella

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190609405

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190609405.001.0001

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Evangelical Ecstasy

Evangelical Ecstasy

(p.76) 5 Evangelical Ecstasy
Innocent Ecstasy, Updated Edition

Peter Gardella

Oxford University Press

Evangelical Christians stress forgiveness and transformation in a moment of rebirth. In the 1800s, all Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and most Episcopalians and Lutherans in America called themselves “evangelical.” But some Methodists took rebirth a step further. John Wesley (1703–1791), who founded Methodism, taught that Christians could be cleansed of all sin, even effects of original sin, by the Holy Spirit. Just before the Civil War, many American Methodists began to claim freedom from sin through ecstatic prayer. Rebirth in the Spirit, called holiness, cleansed sexual passions. Holiness prayer groups and new churches were often led by women, such as Phoebe Palmer. After the war, holiness groups developed summer resorts on the New Jersey shore and Martha’s Vineyard. In the Pentecostal movement, holiness found its most physical expressions, speaking in tongues and healing. By the 1920s, Pentecostals like Aimée Semple McPherson asserted they set millions free through ecstatic experience.

Keywords:   evangelical, Christians, rebirth, Methodists, holiness, Holy Spirit, Phoebe Palmer, Pentecostal, tongues, Aimee Semple McPherson

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