Sunday, 2 January 2011

James O McClurkan & Trevecca Nazarene University

The Teevecca Nazarene University in Nashville is affiliated to the Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical Weslyan denomination with congregations around the world, including some in Northern Ireland.

This institution is more than a hundred years old and was founded by Rev James O McClurkan (1861-1914), a Cumberland Presbyterian minister with Ulster-Scots roots.  He was one of the twelve children of John McClurkan and one of four brothers who became preachers.  The other three were Will, Christopher and Newton.  The McClurkans were originally from the Ballymena area of county Antrim and they emigrated from Ulster to Pennsylvania before moving south and settling in Tennessee.

James was a very frail and unhealthy child and as he grew up he was often ill.  In 1874, when he was only thirteen years old, he crossed the ridge from his home on Shoulder Strap to attend and autumn revival in Bethany Cumberland Methodist Church, an old log building in Houston County.  During the service he was converted and then at the age of seventeen he became a minister in the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.  Two years later he enrolled in Colverdale Academy in Dickson County and following that he attended Tacuna College in Texas for his theological training.

In 1898 McClurkan led a group of Nashville men in establishing the interdenomination Pentecostal Alliance, a nondenominational group that taught a doctrine of holiness.  Most of his associates were Wesleyan-holiness believers but McClurkan's own theology was oriented towards the Keswick holiness position.  He was a friend and admirer of A B Simpson, founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, and for the first three years the Pentecostal Alliance virtually functioned as the Christian and Missionary Alliance South, sending its workers to Nyack, New York, for training at Simpson's Bible College there.

In 1901 the Pentecostal Alliance reorganised as the Pentecostal Mission and drifted away from Simpson's influence.  At the same time it launched the Pentecostal Literary and Bible Training School for Christian Workers.

The misison began a loose affiliation with the Church of the Nazarene in 1910, when the Third General Assembly of the denomination was held in Nashville.  However many members still remained reluctant to surrender their autonomy.  In spite of many points of agreement with the Nazarenes and the growing need to unite with a stronger body, several issues stood in the way of union.

In 1911 the curriculum of the college was enlarged and the name changed to Trevecca College, after an instituion started in Wales in 1768 during the Wesleyan revival.  Unfortunately McClurkan contracted typhoid fever and he died on 16 September 1914, at the age of just fifty-three.

It is ironic that even though one of the issues of disagreement was the Nazarene practice of ordaining women, after his death McClurkan's wife became one of the first women ordained by the Nashville Nazarenes in November 1914.

The union with the Nazarenes finally came in February 1915 and Trevecca became an official college of the Church of the Nazarene in 1917.  Meanwhile in 1914 the college was moved from downtown Nashville to a site on the Gallatin Road in east Nashville and in 1935 it moved again to its present location on Murfreesboro Road in southeast Nashville.  In 1995 the board of trustees voted to change the name of the school from Trevecca Nazarene College to Trevecca Nazarene University.

Trevecca is a presitigious college and a testimony to the pioneering work of a great Scotch-Irish minister.

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