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Global Renewal Christianity: Africa

Other articles in the volume address themes that are unique to a region, issue, or to the author herself. For example, Madipoane Masenya offers her perspective as a female African scholar who navigated a heavily Westernized academy that was woefully detached from real concerns in apartheid-riddled South Africa and from the actual living faith of Pentecostals. Her contribution brings up the issue of “detached scholarship” and the problem of biblical studies that have little relevance to real life concerns, such as her marginalized status as a woman of color (p. 387, 389).

In another chapter, Clifton Clarke offers the African philosophy of ubuntu to bear upon the tension between Pentecostals and Muslims in Nigeria. Clarke remarks about the way that Pentecostalism “enlarges” the ethos of ubuntu, which is in essence a concern for “the other” that recognizes that life is a shared communal reality undergirded by respect and compassion. Clarke points to “the unifying force of the Holy Spirit” as congruent with the concept of ubuntu and with a vision for interreligious dialogue. The metaphor of Spirit unity which embraces unity in diversity can provide a fresh pneumatological impulse toward the goal of intercommunal harmony as evangelism. At the same time, Nigerian Pentecostals can posture themselves as partners with Muslims in “the dialogue of life” by emphasizing shared experiences rather than differences (pp. 345-352).

The topic of prosperity teachings on the continent is threaded throughout. Nimi Wariboko offers an insightful report on how West African Pentecostals negotiate the pressures to engage in consumerism. His term “born again shopping” refers to the spiritualizing of the shopping experience that takes place when the poor in cash but rich in faith touch or pray over items in response to their inability to purchase. Other commentaries on the “prosperity gospel” and its effects are offered by authors in reference to the contexts of Malawi, Zambia, Madagascar, Nigeria, and South Africa. While Harvey C. Kwiyani remarks that in the Malawian context greed is “disguised as the gospel of blessings” (p. 156), E. Kingsley Larbi reports on the prosperity teachings of David Oyedepo of Winner’s Chapel as heavily weighted with the themes of obedience, covenant relationship, hard work, and wise investing. Trad Nogueira-Godsey mentions Amos Yong among others who do not discount that positive attitudes and a more committed work ethic may result from a prosperity theology (p. 258-259).

African Pentecostalism as liquid spirituality—the ability to adapt, absorb, and rework itself in response to social context.

Two more topics of interest found in this book are worth noting. The first is the “charismatization” of Roman Catholicism in Africa, and the second is the framing of African Pentecostalism as highly adaptable “liquid spirituality.” The African acceptance of the Charismatic Renewal that had already impacted Catholicism in the 1960s and 70s in North America is attributed in part to the influence of the African Independent Churches (AICs) on Roman Catholics. The AICs exemplified a brand of Christianity that incorporated native spirituality such as exorcisms, the prophetic, and healings as re-envisioned through the narratives of the Bible and superintended by the Spirit. Therefore, Charismatic Renewal became a vehicle for reviving the indigenous, holistic worldview, one which was better equipped to meet the existential needs of the populace along the lines of the AIC churches. For Nigeria, it was the initiative of Catholics who experienced baptism in the Spirit while in the U.S. that later brought the American Francis McNutt to lead conferences on Charismatic Renewal in Nigeria in 1974. Admittedly, this fresh vitality brought to Catholicism in Africa has not been unaccompanied by fresh challenges. According to Donatus Ukpong, dreams, visions, and prophetic utterances have been seen as valuable spiritual resources to Catholic Charismatics while these revitalized trends toward the spiritual dimension stand over against traditional pastoral methods (pp. 333-334).

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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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