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Holy Jumpers

Evangelicals and Radicals in Progressive Era America

William Kostlevy

Publication Date - May 2010

ISBN: 9780195377842

256 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

A fascinating investigation of a radical communal society offering an alternative vision of Christianity.


In this groundbreaking book, William Kostlevy presents a fascinating study of the Metropolitan Church Association (MCA), a religious community founded in Chicago in the early 1890s. The MCA was one of the most controversial societies of the era. Its members were called "jumpers" because of their acrobatic worship style, and "Burning Bushers" after their caustic periodical, the Burning Bush. They objected to the concept of private property, rejected "elite" denominations, and professed an alternative, radical vision of Christianity, using modern music and folk art to spread their message.

A product of the holiness revival of the late nineteenth century and a catalyst for Pentecostalism, the MCA played a vital role in the twentieth century growth of evangelical Christianity, yet it has long been ignored in studies of American radicalism, of communal societies, and even of holiness and Pentecostal Christianity. Kostlevy rectifies this omission, providing a valuable new context for understanding the origins of Pentecostalism. He investigates the internal struggles of the Holiness Movement, showing how radically divergent theological currents came to dominate a major segment of the American evangelical community. He also shows how deeply the MCA impacted the lives of twentieth century evangelists Bud Robinson and Seth C. Rees, self-designated first woman bishop Alma White, and Pentecostal evangelists A. G. Garr and Glenn Cook. As Holy Jumpers demonstrates, Holiness Christians, and the MCA in particular, played a profoundly formative role in the development of modern evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity.


  • Research based on the previously unavailable papers of the Metropolitan Church Association
  • Fills an important gap in the history of American Pentecostalism

About the Author(s)

William Kostlevy is Associate Professor of History and Political Science, Tabor College.


"William Kostlevy, master encyclopedist and bibliographer of holiness currents, narrates the formation of the radical Holiness Movement in which Pentecostalism was conceived before its birth in the 20th century. Careful readers of his book will be fascinated by the story of the 'holy jumpers,' will have many of their cherished assumptions about evangelicalism and its social expression challenged, and will learn much about these movements in Asia and around the world. I enthusiastically welcome this study." --Donald W. Dayton, author of Theological Roots of Pentecostalism

"A stimulating, well researched contribution to American religious history. Holy Jumpers shows how complex the evangelicals were and how little we know about them and their social agenda." --Robert S. Fogarty, Editor of The Antioch Review

"American religious history is sometimes best understood from its margins. William Kostlevy's study of the Metropolitan Church Association demonstrates that although this institution is on the margins of American religious history as it is often written, it is not marginal to understanding American religion today. This insightful, carefully-crafted volume significantly enhances our understanding of American religion, as it has been and as it is, as well as its influences around the world." ---David Bundy, Associate Provost for Library and Information Technology and Associate Professor of History, Fuller Theological Seminary

"Kostlevy (Tabor College) balances the MCA's [Metropolitan Church Association's] utopian vision with its fanaticism and disruptive strategies, revealing a story of conflict in pursuit if harmony . . . Highly Recommended." --CHOICE

Table of Contents

    Table of Contents


    Introduction Variations of Holiness Radicalism in Progressive Era America

    Chapter 1 Martin Wells Knapp and the Origins of the Radical Holiness Movement

    Chapter 2 Marching the Pearly White City: The Birth of the Metropolitan Methodist Mission

    Chapter 3 Pentecost Comes to the White City: The Chicago Revival and the General Holiness Assembly of 1901

    Chapter 4 The Pentecostal Dancers Invade Boston

    Chapter 5 "A Standard for the People": The Burning Bush Movement and the Organization of Mission in the MCA

    Chapter 6 "Forsaking All for Jesus:" F. M. Messenger and Burning Bush Communalism

    Chapter 7 The MCA and the Making of Modern American Religious Culture

    Chapter 8 The Fire Wanes and Is Rekindled: The Burning Bush Movement, 1913-1931


    End Notes

    Works Cited

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