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Pentecostalism at the 2008 AAR Meeting

What Convention
When 2008-11-01 09:00 to
2008-11-03 17:00
Where Chicago, IL, USA
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The annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) will host three sessions on Pentecostalism.

Session 1: Pentecostalism and Prosperity: Changing Discourses

Saturday, 1:00-3:30 PM - Chicago Hilton Towers Conference Room 4K

Presider, Heather Curtis (Tufts University)

Jonathan L. Walton, University of California, Riverside, "From the Storefront Margins to the Megachurch Mainstream": The Influence of the Black Spiritual Movement on Contemporary African American Protestant Christianity

Abstract: The purpose of this paper is to assess one particular tradition within African-American religious practices that was cultivated within the storefront model, the Black Spiritual movement. I will argue that characteristics of this movement, i.e. its syncretic fusion of New Thought, Christian Science, Afro-Pentecostalism, and African American Protestantism, laid the foundation for the practical, "seeker-friendly" theology that we witness in many of today's African American megachurches. Therefore, drawing on the conceptual tools of social history and cultural theory, I seek to demonstrate that rather than regarding the megachurch phenomenon in African American communities, and the dominant theological orientations therein, as something distinctive to the post-civil rights era, it is more instructive to understand this as a by-product of the religious practices that have structured black life in America for the majority of the previous century.

Michael J. McClymond, St. Louis University, Prosperity Already & Not Yet: An Eschatological Interpretation of the Health & Wealth Teaching in North American Pentecostalism

Abstract: Prosperity theology has been controversial in pentecostalism since the 1970s. According to a standard view, the prosperity emphasis derives from New Thought as mediated through E.W. Kenyon to Kenneth Hagin, Sr. and many others. Such a construal suggests that prosperity theology is extrinsic to pentecostalism. This essay argues instead that prosperity theology is an extreme version of a concept intrinsic to pentecostalism, viz., realized eschatology. Early pentecostals stressed Jesus' Second Coming and "tarrying" for Spirit-baptism. Yet prosperity teachers offer no practice of "tarrying" for blessing and rarely speak of the Second Coming. The Latter Rain Revival, with its radical doctrines of "little gods" and "manifest sons of God," exhibited an over-realized eschatology--also evident in the Healing Revival. Without rejecting their manysided vision of human wellness, pentecostals might correct the imbalances of prosperity theology with a return to anticipatory eschatology through "tarrying" for God's blessings and reemphasizing Christ's coming kingdom.

Philip Wingeier-Rayo, Pfeiffer University, The Transculturalization and the Transnationalization of the Government of 12: From Seoul to Bogota to Charlotte, North Carolina

Abstract: Historically transcultural and transnational movements, whether ecclesial or secular, traveled from the developed countries of the West to the developing countries of the southern hemisphere. Through globalization and immigration the G12 movement based out of Bogota, Colombia has reversed this trend and has exported its teachings and method to England, France, Spain and the United States. The G12 movement derives its roots from David Yonggi Cho in Seoul, Korea, yet it has transculturalized the message to the Latino context, and again into Western society. This ethnographic study will examine a satellite congregation of the G12 in Charlotte, North Carolina that is adapting the teachings to the immigrant context of the United States. The study finds tensions between the prosperity (or holistic) gospel and the finite limitations of the immigrant population. Likewise the "Fourth Dimension" teaching of envisioning healing and prosperity contrasts with the "Third Dimension" realities of the immigrant population.

Respondent: Gaston Espinosa (Claremont-McKenna College)

Business session: James K. A. Smith & Amos Yong, presiding


Session 2: Joint session between PCMs & Black Theology Group

Sunday, 9:00-11:30 AM - Chicago Hilton Towers Conference Room 4K

Identity and Belief Constructions in Afro-Pentecostal and Black Church Theological Traditions
Presider, Stacey Floyd-Thomas (Brite Divinity School)

Estrelda Alexander, Regent University School of Divinity, Recovering Black Theological Thought in Writings of Early African American Holiness-Pentecostal Leaders

Abstract: This paper challenges the entirely otherworldly characterization of Pentecostalism by reflecting on the critical writing of a number of early Pentecostal leaders. These include Charles Price Jones, founder of the Church of Christ (Holiness), William J. Seymour the leader of the 1906 Azusa Street Revival which brought the movement into public prominence, Charles Harrison Mason founder of the six million member Church of God in Christ, Ida Bell Robinson founded the largest African-American Pentecostal denomination established by a woman , and black oneness leaders Garfield T. Haywood and Robert Lawson. Much of this work foreshadowed contemporary black theology, coming several decades before that movement came into its own right.

Frederick L. Ware, Howard University School of Divinity, On the Compatibility/Incompatibility of Pentecostal Premillennialism with Black Liberation Theology

Abstract: Eschatology is a principal category that lies at the intersection of Pentecostalism and black liberation theology. In the United States, racial consciousness is manifest in visions of the future of the nation and which roles and quality of life that African Americans can expect to have in this future. Racial consciousness is expressed (not always but mostly) through Christian symbolism, namely eschatology covering a spectrum of pre-, post-, and a-millennialist views. The tendency of black Pentecostals is towards premillennialism. My presentation deals with the question of whether premillennialism is untenable in light of the quest for liberation and therefore warrants revision or substitution by another view of millennialism.

Stephen Ray, The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia, Not As Far Off As Once Thought

Abstract: This paper will explore the ways that the distinct methodologies of Black Theology and Pentecostal/Charismatic theologies have created a seeming chasm between the two movements that many have deemed unbridgeable. The guiding thesis of the paper is that this assessment while valid in many ways can easily lose sight of the ways that the common commitment to liberation of both these movements creates significant intersections and paths for understanding. To do this work, I will deconstruct the Pentecostal critique of the materialist concerns of Black Theology while simultaneously challenging Black Theologies insistence that the Pentecostal framing of salvation in purely theological terms is insufficient. My hope is that by exposing the methodological presumption that each movement holds about the other to a rigorous interrogation resonances hitherto unseen may come into focus.

Dale T. Irvin, New York Theological Seminary, Constructions of Identity and Belief in Black Pentecostal & Black Church Theological Traditions

Abstract: Thirty years have passed since Leonard Lovett's dissertation, "Black Holiness-Pentecostalism: Implications for Ethics and Social Transformation" (Emory University, 1978) first appeared. In the conclusion of that work, Dr. Lovett sought to lay the groundwork for a fuller dialogue between Black theology and the Black Pentecostal movement. Thirty years later that dialogue has still hardly begun. During these intervening decades, Pentecostalism has grown exponentially as a popular global movement. Black theology has undergone its own global engagement, doing so through a sustained dialogue with other liberation theologies around the world. I will suggest that the global dimensions of both Black Pentecostalism and Black theology are not extraneous. The global African (or more properly pan-African) dimensions of both Black Pentecostalism and Black theology are central to the constructed identity of both movements. I will suggest that the dialogue between Black theology and the Black Pentecostal movement needs to be consciously carried on in a global theological arena, and that their common global African heritage will be an important element of the dialogue moving forward.

Respondent: A. G. Miller, Oberlin College


Session 3: Joint session between History of Christianity & Pentecostal-charismatic Movements Consultation

Sunday, 1:00-2:30 PM - Chicago Hilton Towers Lake Ontario

Pentecostalisms in Africa: Histories and Theologies
Presider, Arun Jones, Austin Seminary

David Tonghou Ngong, Baylor University, Material well being in the soteriological discourse of African neo-Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity: The Legacies of African Traditional Religion

Abstract: Some observers of the contemporary African scene have pointed out that the recent growth of Neo-Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity on the continent may not be unconnected to its stress on human material well being in its salvific discourse. While some African theologians have seen this stress as adequately addressing the present African situation, thus pointing a way forward for African Christianity, others have simply rejected this Christianity. This paper takes a middles course: it points out that it is the duty of African theologians to address the key issue that attracts converts to this Christianity, namely, its understanding of material well being, especially in African religious traditions. This paper explores these matters in dialogue with contemporary retrievals of one of the first African theologians, St. Augustine of Carthage.

Genevieve Nrenzah, Florida International University, The Pentecostal-charismatic Religious Movement & Changing Discourses on African Religions in Ghana

Abstract: This paper explores Christianity in Ghana focusing on the history of its encounter with African traditional religions in the context of Pentecostalism. I argue that as a Christian religious form, Pentecostalism has throughout its history in Ghana contributed to the continuity of indigenous religions by providing followers with spaces within which to cultivate indigenous beliefs and practices. The rise of spiritual churches represented the earliest phase of Pentecostalism in Ghana, when Christians embraced aspects of African Traditional Religions, deploying their rituals and beliefs to meet the spiritual needs of its followers. The modern phase of Pentecostalism in Ghana sees the rise in Charismatic Christianity, featuring discourses demonizing African Traditional Religions. While Charismatic churches present a negative image of indigenous beliefs and practices, the latter thrive in their followers beliefs and practices. In this way Charismatic Christianity can be said to facilitate the continuous influence of traditional religion in Ghana.

Adelaide Boadi, Drew University, Emerging Pentecostal theologies of the global south & their reshaping of worldwide pentecostalism: The case of Africa

Abstract: In this presentation, I will explore the evolvement of Pentecostalism in the Global South, with particular reference to Ghana (and other parts of Africa) into megachurches over the last century, looking at African Independent/Indigenous/Instituted Churches, the Pentecostal/Charismatic and Neo/(Post) Pentecostal movements. I will examine the key issues in the periodization of African Pentecostalism, and discuss the emerging theologies within the movement, paying attention to the worldviews/ethos that produce them.

Respondent: None (short session)

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last modified 2008-07-18 12:59