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The realities in question are late-modern capitalism; the modern state and citizenship; and the media, mobility, and postmodern plurality of our age. North American histories of this Christian movement typically trace its roots back to the Azusa Street revival, which took place in south Los Angeles between and But there was one more distinction. In contrast to the strict segregation that characterized most U.


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In the years that followed, the movement spread to cities and towns across the United States and Canada. From the very first Pentecostalism showed a strong missionizing impulse, one given theological urgency by the premillennialist conviction that the end times might be near. What was and is still today so distinctive about Pentecostal outreach, however, was the way in which it prompted not just credentialed pastors but people of humble means to set out to spread the Word.

Although during these early years some churches barred women from formal leadership roles, most parted ways with their mainline counterparts by allowing women to serve as preachers, teachers, and healers. In this and later periods, however, whether this egalitarian promise was realized in church practice depended on a more complex set of social and religious concerns. Indeed, and not surprisingly, the soft inclusivity of the early movement soon ran up against the hard American realities of race, class, and gender.

Here was a developmental tension in the North American scene that in decades to come was to reappear regularly on the global Pentecostal stage. The tension weighed most heavily on congregations further along in the long march from peripheral sects of the hopeful poor to institutionalized churches with fashionably clad claimants to middle-class standing. In the latter settings, it was not uncommon for church leaders to signal their aspiration to respectability by conforming to mainstream models of dress, hierarchy, and social exclusion.

And so it was that in the United States in the s and s, one by one most of the Pentecostal denominations separated on the basis of race.

Pentecostals in the 21st Century

As in the biography of all religions, there was much that was unique and even accidental to the early genesis of North American Pentecostalism. It goes without saying that many of these characteristics would not have been associated with movements of charismatic renewal in, say, Wales or southern India around this same time see below. However, what insured that the North American movement had transnational potential was that many among its core features emerged as religious adaptations to a sociological and public-ethical environment not at all unique to the early twentieth-century United States.

The confluence of peripatetic mobility, radical insecurity, and dreams of spiritual birth so apparent in the first wave of North American Pentecostalism, was, so to speak, about to go global. In historical retrospect, five parallels stand out between the social genealogy of early Pentecostalism in North America and Pentecostalism in the global south today; together they take us some of the way toward understanding the circumstances and powers conducive to Pentecostal growth in both times and places.

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The first and most mundane condition is that, where the Pentecostal message resonates with local hearts and minds, it does so in part because the restless wayfarers attracted to its appeals are religion-minded rather than secularist in world view. This cultural precondition may at first seem trivially self-evident. However, the public pervasiveness of a secularist social imaginary provides part of the explanation as to why Pentecostalism, while blossoming across the United States and today the global south, never made much headway among the indigenous laboring and middle classes of twentieth-century Europe, or among those few pockets of high secularity in the global south, like Uruguay, the most secularized nation in continental Latin America.

Rather than to gifts of the Holy Spirit, however, these latter wayfarers look to some mix of secular liberalism, socialism, ethno-nationalism, consumerism, or expressive individualism to provide the terms for participation in a brave but disenchanted new world. The second condition many early North American Pentecostals shared with their cousins in the global south today follows from this first. That is, although religious-minded and desiring a small island of ethical fellowship in a turbulent social sea, many among the spiritual wayfarers found themselves marginalized from established religious institutions, the leadership of which lay in the hands of religious luminaries with cozy ties to established political and economic elites.

Finding oneself at the margins of a cronyist establishment is, of course, the default condition for the great mass of people in the state-based societies that first appeared on the global scene several thousand years ago; with that in mind, marginalization is itself insufficient to bring a movement for new religious fellowship into existence. In the United States of the early twentieth century, as in urban Brazil or Nigeria today, migration, urbanization, and cultural dislocation weakened the hold of once-secure elites on political, economic, and religious affairs.

Whether on Azusa Street or the global south today, some individuals come forth to declare their independence and affirm their dignity and power through the adoption of a more emotive, participatory, and personally accessible variety of Christianity. As in the Zimbabwean, Ukrainian, south Indian, and Chinese cases discussed in this volume, larger and more denominationalized churches—particularly those promoting some variety of the prosperity theologies that burst onto the global scene in the s and s see below —may also make a point of highlighting their ties to a transnational communion, one that today not uncommonly shows North American influences.


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As was already the case among North American Pentecostals in the s and s, some among the better-organized churches may move early on to displace the free-flowing-gifts-of-the-Spirit for a more restrictive pastoral structure. Margaret M. In her discussion of Catholic charismatics in the Philippines chapter 8 , Katharine Wiegele reveals that the El Shaddai movement is undergoing a similar routinization of a once free-flowing faith. As Marsh and Tonoyan show in their overview of the Ukraine and Russia chapter 6 , the routinization process among Pentecostals in these countries is compounded by the generational tension between old-school Russians and new-school cosmopolitans.

Finally, as Rebecca and Timothy Shah highlight in their essay on south India chapter 7 , the tension between charismatic independence and routinized respectability there overlaps with stark hierarchies of caste, class, and gender. In these and other examples, where pastors and congregants strive to be more respectably established, church organization tends to become less charismatic, more hierarchical, and more masculine. Some among these churches may begin to require that pastors show not only proof of gifts of the Holy Spirit, but seminary credentials. Similarly, and as has been widely reported from contemporary West Africa and Latin America, what was at first a non- or interdenominational movement with multiple authority figures pastors, preachers, prophets, healers, Bible-study teachers may give way to a clear denominational pattern of exclusive affiliation and strict or even authoritarian pastoral control.

Notwithstanding this pattern, even in established churches like the AOG or the ZOAGA rates of lay participation remain high, not least by comparison with their Catholic and mainline Protestant counterparts.

Into All the World: Black Pentecostalism in Global Contexts

Equally revealing, a developmental tension often simmers just below the smooth surface of congregational life. As some among the faithful opt to settle in neat church pews, others read the Acts of the Apostles and, flush with the faith of the Holy Spirit, set out to establish their own house-church or assembly hall. Faith gives divine permission to speak without certification through the authoritative offer of new names and re-formed identities.

Its fissiparous dynamism also helps to explain why Pentecostals, though scriptural literalists, are not properly termed fundamentalist. Contrary to the pattern of doctrinal drilling and ideological inflexibility seen in fundamentalist faiths, Pentecostal churches show wide variation on matters of theology, doctrine, and belief. Especially when a church is just getting started, congregants seem more interested in the direct experience of gifts of the Holy Spirit than in theological indoctrination. For most believers, the central aim of Pentecostalism has little if anything to do with state-centered politics or macrosociological questions of economic policy or social justice.

In this regard Pentecostalism differs from Catholic liberation theology, the Evangelical Moral Majority in the s United States, and most contemporary varieties of political Islamism or Hindu nationalism. For those drawn to the faith, Pentecostalism is first and foremost a matter of individual and local rebirth—ethical subject formation, not structural reform.

For this reason, too, the social processes that accompany being born-again have a distinctive directionality: they proceed from the individual to the family, the family to the congregation, and only then, and most uncertainly in terms of constancy of program or vision, outward into the broader society. However subjective and individualizing, Pentecostalism does not produce the atomized individualism associated with some varieties of spirituality and lifestyle coaching in the postmodern West.

The latter are now seen as moral dangers, threatening to drag the born-again believer back down into preconversion sin. As Birgit Meyer, Matthew Engelke, and Joel Robbins have all emphasized, converts may seek to minimize such threats by engaging in deliverance rituals or rituals of rupture that stigmatize preconversion relationships and erect high moral walls between believers and unbelievers.

Some but not all Pentecostals may also forbid secular forms of learning, not least in the humanities and social sciences although among the new generation of college-educated, middle-class Pentecostals, this latter prohibition is fading. Some of the most subjectively demanding prohibitions take aim at men.

Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century

Their preconversion privileges are re-presented as sins and misdeeds indulged at the expense of their female partner and children. A stream of positive injunctions accompanies the negative proscriptions, as men are enjoined to shift their social energies and their pocket monies back to the family and conjugality. Although the attachments that emerge vary from one church and country to another, the result is less commonly atomizing than relationally re-embedding, as the believer and his or her family are drawn into a voluntary community of church sisters and brothers. But the process often shows a gendered dimension, as illustrated in a report from a Pentecostal slum in Mozambique: The emphasis on mutual aid and social support.

For example, when you get sick you have someone who can help you.

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When someone is suffering, they come to help with whatever, it could be money. So in Mozambique, as in many other parts of the global south, many born-again women find themselves alone with children in the pews, dreaming of ways to bring errant husbands into their churches. As this discussion illustrates, Pentecostal rebirth has powerful gender effects.

This points to a fifth genealogical parallel between the first stages of Pentecostal growth in the early twentieth-century United States and the global south today.

Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century

In some congregations in North America, and in much of the global south, women make up the majority in the assembly hall or the Bible study group. In male-dominated Latin America, two-thirds of the Pentecostal congregation may be female. In south India, as Rebecca and Timothy Shah show, Dalit untouchable -oriented congregations are also predominantly poor and female.

In these and many other cases, Pentecostal services involve a more diverse array of ritual roles than Catholic or mainline Protestant services, and women are especially active in prophecy, healing, and Bible study, even if the roles of pastoring and preaching remain disproportionately male. This division of religious labors indexes a developmental tension long pervasive in Pentecostal circles.

As Allan Anderson has observed, many among the earliest pastors, preachers, and prophets in North America were women. But high rates of female participation were no guarantee of congregational equality. Glossolalia, or speaking in tongues, represents another distinguishing element of Pentecostal experience. The current estimate of million followers is particularly phenomenal considering that Pentecostalism had no adherents when the movement began in Source: David Barrett. In the U. That figure is outnumbered only by Baptists, Methodists and Lutherans.

While the growth-rate for Western churches has reached a plateau, Pentecostalism worldwide is growing at an exponential rate. The majority of Pentecostals around the world are found among the poor and the working classes, the same socio-economic groups that gave rise to Pentecostalism in North America in the early 20th century. A good example of the sources of this growth is the Assemblies of God AG , the largest Pentecostal denomination, which has 2.

Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century by Robert W. Hefner | | Booktopia

From to , the number of AG churches in the U. Worldwide, the number of AG churches almost doubled within the same time period to more than , Instead of a centralized, bureaucratic organization, Pentecostals form a network linked by personal ties and similar beliefs. Missionary activity is another source of growth. Thousands of Pentecostals have taken off for foreign lands within the past century, spurred by Biblical mandate, a personal sense of calling and an empowering experience of the Holy Spirit.