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Global Renewal Christianity: Africa

Vinson Synan, Amos Yong, and J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, eds., Global Renewal Christianity: Spirit-Empowered Movements—Past, Present, and Future, Volume 3: Africa (Lake Mary, FL: Charisma House, 2016) liv+ 499 pages.

This volume focused on the Spirit in Africa is the third in a series of now four texts. Produced for the enrichment of anyone intrigued with the phenomenon of Pentecostalism, this particular collection of articles offers scholarship of substance and depth, written to inform and to critique, a text which also concomitantly highlights the agents of this spirituality on the continent of Africa. Anyone remotely familiar with African Pentecostalism will note that many of the authors selected to contribute here are authorities speaking from within the movement itself, offering their weighty insights, firsthand observations, and care-full commentaries. Alongside of them are others who complement these selections with their own observations drawn from varied vantage points. Such a collection of material is a scholar’s feast but is equally attractive to those outside of the academies of theology, missiology, and sociology. The volume is a significant addition to what has already been written about the origins, nature, and influence of Pentecostalism in Africa and is a real treasure for anyone called to a deeper understanding of this brand of spirituality as it is found today on the continent.

The reports of the vigor and fluidity of the Pentecostal movement in so many African nations give cause for optimism.

The other aspect of this major work that deserves attention is that the text is itself a gift from the heart of Pentecostalism to the broader academy. The idea of publishing a multi-volume project on the Pentecostal movement worldwide, a vision embraced and nurtured amongst the proponents of the E21 association (Empowered 21) of Pentecostal-Charismatics, points to the concern for documentation and conscientious self-reflection. This author gets the sense that making a clarion call to the Pentecostal academy and its friends was not just the result of a brainstorm but was an act of worship in that same sense that characterizes this spirituality as affective, embodied, and expressive. In step with the nature of the Spirit as interrelationality, the gift is not just lifted upward but outward toward the community, and at least for this author, the opportunity for exposure to Pentecostalism in Africa as shared in the pages of this book is a gift gratefully received.

Whence Pentecostalism in Africa? One of the many themes addressed within the book is the origin of Pentecostalism on the continent and then its appearance in various regions throughout. The subject is touched on for West Africa, in particular Ghana and Nigeria, but the book also features the less popular histories of Burkina Faso and Cameroon. Eye-opening reports on the beginnings of the movement in various places include Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Madagascar, among others. The consensus regarding origins is mosaic. In many contexts, Pentecostalism is better understood as a “homegrown” phenomenon where indigenous initiatives figured prominently—as in the case of Peter Anim in Ghana and Ghali Hanna in Egypt—or where neighboring African Pentecostals brought the message of Spirit renewal. Ethiopia was impacted by a Pentecostal Kenyan evangelist and Namibia was reached through South African Pentecostals. But the influence of Pentecostals who came from outside the continent is also evidenced, especially in the story of Angola (Brazilian missions figure prominently) and Botswana (American Pentecostals were key). In the case of Namibia, Pentecostal missionaries from South Africa can be traced back to the American evangelist John G. Lake.

Pentecostalism’s focus on deliverance and empowerment meets the needs of the spiritual populace.

Allan H. Anderson’s chapter on the African spiritual world makes several compelling statements that best address the question: Why Pentecostalism? Anderson points out that the African holistic understanding of life where social space is shared with a host of agents in the spiritual realm is inherently attuned to Pentecostal sensibilities. Those sensibilities are grounded in the power of the Holy Spirit and spiritual gifts in the church. For those living in the awareness of causal factors beyond the material world, a religion that cannot address the problem of evil, poverty, and sickness is inept. Consequently, Pentecostalism’s focus on deliverance and empowerment meets the needs of the spiritual populace. For this reason, Anderson offers, the often overlooked answer to the growth of Pentecostalism can be found in its own religiosity. The Spirit of “no-less-unusual manifestations” as recorded in the Bible is the same Spirit at work in Pentecostalism in Africa today (p. 313).

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Category: Fall 2017, Ministry

About the Author: Anna M. Droll, M. Div. (Fuller Theological Seminary), is ordained with the Assemblies of God and is a district-appointed missionary, having founded Kairos Global Missions in 2012 with her husband Raymond. Her ministry is focused in Africa where she also served as Communications Coordinator for Global Teen Challenge Africa. She is adjunct professor of Evangelism and Missions at Southeastern University and adjunct professor of Old Testament at Northwest University. She is finishing her PhD work with advisor, Amos Yong, exploring dreams and visions in African Pentecostal spirituality. A forthcoming publication will be articles to be presented in the Encyclopedia of Christianity in the Global South on Christianity in the West African countries of Togo and Benin. Facebook

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