Pentecostals And The World

Pentecostals And The World

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PNEUMA 38 (2016) 373–393

Pentecostals and the World

Theoretical and Methodological Issues for Studying Global Pentecostalism

Michael Wilkinson

Trinity Western University, Langley,bc, Canada


This article raises a number of theoretical and methodological issues for studying global Pentecostalism. More specifically, it examines a range of internal debates among Pentecostals about the nature of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy, including related questions about authority and authenticity. The argument maintained in this article is that globalization and the development of global society is uneven and all religions, including Pentecostalism, are attempting to come to terms with the mean- ing of social change and the role of religion. This can be observed through a range of social interactions, such as those among Pentecostals about the process of social change, the nature of global society, and the role of religion. A number of cases are presented to examine these cultural debates among Pentecostals, including a discus- sion of the implications for Pentecostal scholarship. The article concludes with a series of methodological questions for scholars of Pentecostalism.


globalization – religion – culture – theory – methodology – Pentecostalism


The study of Pentecostalism has become so commonplace that one can barely find an academic conference at which it is not discussed. All disciplines and major societies have keynote addresses, numerous sessions, book reviews, films, and author-meets-critics panels to review the latest research. Pentecostal Theology is not reduced to any particular discipline but is in many ways transdis- ciplinary, with scholars from the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences,

© koninklijke brill nv, leiden, 2016 | doi: 10.1163/15700747-03804004




education, health, and schools of business pondering the meaning of this reli- gioustransformation.PentecostalStudies,just likethe Pentecostalswho arethe object of study, is no longer marginal or peripheral to the contemporary eye but is central and mainstream for the world to see. It is not that Pentecostals have suddenly appeared in the world; for more than a century they were in the world but just outside of the purview of the scholar.

The general storyline, too, has become common.1 Pentecostalism, it is believed, is an American phenomenon that has its roots in the Azusa Street Revival that took place among the socially deprived and disenfranchised. It grew quickly, attracting an increasing number of radical Evangelicals who took their tongues-speaking message to the world, which embraced it enthusiasti- cally, making it the most significant transformation within Christianity in the twentieth century. Pentecostals themselves asked, “What meaneth this?” and after a hundred years they refer to their history as the “Pentecostal Century” or “The Century of the Holy Spirit.”2

The general acceptance of Pentecostals in society along with its fashionable study in the academy, however, also leads to some generalizations that need qualification. Increasingly these types of debates are quite fruitful and are lead- ing to a more nuanced understanding of the global movement. For example, the debate among historians about the origins of Pentecostalism in which the- ories of diffusion are increasingly critiqued by polygenesis assumptions is gen- erating much attention.3 Likewise, theologians are developing more nuanced understandings of glossolalia, Spirit baptism, and sanctification with the appli- cation of hermeneutics more informed by narrative theological assumptions.4 Furthermore, pentecostal perspectives increasingly critique generic evangeli- cal assumptions and their application of the historical-critical method. Social

1 See Michael Wilkinson, “The Emergence, Development, and Pluralisation of Global Pente-

costalism,” in Stephen Hunt, ed.,The Handbook of Global Contemporary Christianity(Leiden:

Brill, 2015), 93–94.

2 See Vinson Synon, The Century of the Holy Spirit: 100 Years of Pentecostal and Charismatic

Renewal, 1901–2001(Nashville,tn: Thomas Nelson, 2001).

3 See Allan Heaton Anderson, To the Ends of the Earth: Pentecostalism and the Transformation

of World Christianity (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Adam Stewart, “From Mono-

genesis to Polygenesis in Pentecostal Origins: A Survey of the Evidence from the Azusa Street,

Hebden, and Mukti Missions,” in PentecoStudies: An Interdisciplinary Journal for Research on

the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements13 (2014): 151–172.

4 See Kenneth J. Archer, A Pentecostal Hermeneutic: Spirit, Scripture, and Community (Cleve-

land,tn: cptPress, 2009); Martin Mittelstadt, Reading Luke-Acts in the Pentecostal Tradition

(Cleveland, tn: cpt Press, 2010); Amos Yong, Renewing Christian Theology: Systematics for a

Global Theology(Waco,tx: Baylor University Press, 2014).

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scientists, too, are pushing the boundaries of research and moving beyond general descriptions of pentecostal political leaders to a more theoretically driven reflection on the meaning of pentecostal politics in the world.5 Here, too, debates about gender and the liberating and limiting effect of Pentecostal- ism come face to face with a range of theological views about the role of women in ministry.6 The practice of Pentecostalism likewise has garnered the atten- tion of scholars who are offering ethnographic detail on the role of emotions, affectivity, language, embodiment, and experience.7 And yet, there remains a nagging sense of ambivalence and reservation among some about the growing scholarship on Pentecostalism, so that some Pentecostals question the author- ity and the authenticity of the scholarship. All of these issues are reflected in the Society for Pentecostal Theology and over the past five years have played out in numerous ways in our annual meeting, from the expanding focus of Pen- tecostal Studies among our presenters to the way in which we conduct our business meeting.

Peter Beyer in his research on religion and globalization offers an optic that helps makes sense of these many internal and cultural issues about Pente- costalism and Pentecostal Theology.8 In this article I draw upon his theoretical views to examine and interpret pentecostal research as a case study of social change. The case study is primarily based on secondary data, although I will include some primary data from my own research. My argument is that many of these internal debates among Pentecostals are also reflected in the schol-

5 See Paul Freston, “The Future of Pentecostalism in Brazil: The Limits to Growth,” in Robert

W. Hefner, ed., Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century (Bloomington: Indiana University


nity,” in Robert W. Hefner, ed.,Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century(Bloomington: Indiana

University Press, 2013), 91–114.

6 See Bernice Martin, “Tensions and Trends in Pentecostal Gender and Family Relations,”

in Robert W. Hefner, ed., Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century (Bloomington: Indiana

University Press, 2013), 115–148.

7 See Jon Bialecki, “Affect: Intensities and Energies in the Charismatic Language, Embodiment,

and Genre of a North American Movement,” in Simon Coleman and Rosalind I.J. Hackett, eds.,

TheAnthropologyof GlobalPentecostalismandEvangelicalism(NewYork:NewYorkUniversity

Press, 2015), 95–108.

8 Peter Beyer, Religion and Globalization (London: Sage, 1994); Beyer, “Movements, Markets,

and Social Contexts: Canadian Pentecostalism in Global Perspective,” in Michael Wilkinson,

ed., Canadian Pentecostalism: Transition and Transformation (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-

Queen’s University Press, 2009), 264–276; Beyer, Religions in Global Society (New York: Rout-

ledge, 2006); Beyer, Religion in the Context of Globalization: Essays on Concept, Form, and

Political Implication(New York: Routledge, 2013).

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arly work on Pentecostalism and can be understood as cultural issues about orthodoxy, orthopraxy, orthopathy,9and the related questions about authority and authenticity: in other words, what Pentecostals believe, how they practice Christianity, the experience of faith, and, more critically, who gets to say what is orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy, and how it is an authentic expres- sion of Pentecostalism. Following an overview of Beyer’s theory about religion and globalization, I will review a selection of literature from the field of Pente- costal Studies to show how these internal debates are related to broader issues of social change that in fact are not limited to Pentecostals. Rather, all religions are adjusting to global forces that play out in particular ways for the practi- tioner and the scholar. Furthermore, the way in which North American and European scholars have framed these debates leaves many participants miss- ing from the discussion, especially those from Africa, Asia, and Latin America who are underrepresented in our meetings.

Religion, Globalization, and Pentecostalism

Pentecostalism is an expanding area of research that draws on a range of ideas and examples from religious studies to history, anthropology, theology, and sociology. Some of the key studies in sociology include those by Margaret Poloma, David Martin, and Donald Miller. Not surprisingly, sociologists are primarily concerned with the relationship between religion and the modern revolution in politics, economics, and culture. The main assumption is that with modernization there is secularization. Secularization is fiercely debated among sociologists, and since the 1980s a host of scholars have either held to its views, like Steve Bruce,10 or have rejected it, like Rodney Stark,11 or modified it to explain why some societies are secular at the level of the state, social institutions, and the individual with varying degrees. David Martin is one such sociologist who has continually called for comparative work that explores how religion changes from region to region and across time.12 He



11 12

Beyer examines issues about orthodoxy and orthopraxy; however, his theory does not include orthopathy. My work builds on his by adding it to the analysis.

See Steve Bruce, God is Dead: Secularization in the West (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), espe- cially chapter 9 in which he accounts for the charismatic movement as an exception to the rule. For a criticism of market theory, especially the work of Rodney Stark, see Bruce, “Christianity in Britain,r.i.p.,”Sociology of Religion62 (2001): 191–203.

Rodney Stark, “Secularization:r.i.p.,”Sociology of Religion60 (1999): 249–273. For his key books on Pentecostalism see David Martin, Tongues of Fire: The Explosion of

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has made the case that in some places in which religion has declined it has been replaced by other forms. Methodism is often his primary example of the impact of modernization and secularization that erodes religious vitality.13 Pentecostalism, however, comes to replace Methodism in illustrating the forces of modernization, secularization, and religious innovation during periods of social change. The British give more credence to secularization theories14than do American sociologists such as Rodney Stark, who has influenced much of the scholarship on religion in the United States.15

Donald Miller’s work is a good example of the type of research that is based on the assumptions of competitive marketplaces in which there are winners and losers in the religious economy.16 Whether he is assessing the Vineyard and Calvary Chapel as examples of how American Protestantism is reinvented or progressive Pentecostalism throughout the world, these examples serve to demonstrate that the demand for religion is high. But if certain providers fail, then they will be replaced. Secularization is a myth and Pentecostalism, says Miller, is proof.

Margaret Poloma’s research has focused on another dimension related to the modernization and secularization thesis, namely, the institutionalization of denominations and its eroding effect.17Poloma’s research on the Assemblies of






Protestantism in Latin America (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990); D. Martin, Pentecostalism: The World Their Parish(Oxford: Blackwell, 2002).

There are many variations on the secularization thesis. Generally, the argument is that as societiesbecome modernthe roleof religionchanges.Thesechangescaninclude adecline in participation in organized religion, a reduction in religious belief, the privatization of religion, and the differentiation of social institutions. On this last point about differen- tiation, there is some disagreement. Some sociologists view differentiation as evidence of secularization whereby the authority of religion loses influence in society. Beyer, on the other hand, argues that religion, even when differentiated, still addresses other social institutions, such as politics, and often challenges their authority.

See Steve Bruce, Secularization: In Defence of an Unfashionable Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011).

See Rodney Stark and Roger Finke, Acts of Faith: Explaining the Human Side of Religion (Berkeley,ca: University of California Press, 2000).

See Donald Miller, Reinventing American Protestantism: Christianity in the New Millen- nium, (Berkeley,ca: University of California Press, 1997); D. Miller and TesunaoYamamori, Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement (Berkeley,ca: Univer- sity of California Press, 2007).

Margaret M. Poloma,The Assemblies of God at the Crossroads: Charisma and Institutional Dilemmas(Knoxville,tn: University of Tennessee Press, 1989); Margaret M. Poloma, Main Street Mystics:TheToronto Blessing & Reviving Pentecostalism(Walnut Creek,ca: Altamira

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God demonstrated a range of institutional dilemmas, most notably the decline among certain practices such as speaking in tongues, although the belief in the initial evidence doctrine remained stable. Poloma is not deterministic in her analysis and argues that denominations can be renewed as the antidote to institutionalization. Her primary example in the 1990s was the Toronto Blessing, when she stated very clearly that even Pentecostalism needed to be revived.

My own research takes another approach. Sociologists in the twentieth cen- tury focused primarily on the relationship between modernization, religion, and secularization. These debates are not over. However, an increasing number of sociologists are now examining the relationship between globalization and religion and observing pluralization. What this means is that for the twentieth century, sociologists had to account for the erosion of religion with increasing modernization. Occasionally there were anomalies, and Pentecostalism was considered the exception to the rule. For globalization theorists, the main issue is not how religion disappears under the conditions of modernity; rather, the question is, how does religion change and increasingly pluralize under the con- ditions of globalization? Pentecostalism or, more to the point, Pentecostalisms is not the exception to the rule but the primary example that illustrates the pattern among all religions. Furthermore, pluralization is not simply about increased diversity or the multiplication of pentecostal identities. Pluralization also means there is fluidity and ambiguity so that the borders and boundaries that clearly demarcated who was in or out in the past are disputed in global society. As Peter Beyer has argued: with modernization, secularization; with globalization, pluralization.18

The various debates about the nature of globalization include its economic, political, and cultural dimensions.19Firstly, some theorists of globalization see economics as the primary dimension of the new world order. By extension, the role of religion in a new global economy is twofold. One, it offers the globalizer some theological justification for engaging the world economically. Two, for those religious groups that reject the world, religion is a means of mobilizing the masses to rise up against the new world economy. Hence, the ongoing interpretation of religion as a form of economic deprivation is central to its analysis. Secondly, some globalization theorists view the restructuring

18 19

Press, 2003); Margaret M. Poloma and John C. Green,TheAssembliesof God:GodlyLoveand the Revitalization of American Pentecostalism(New York: New York University Press, 2010). Beyer, Religion in the Context of Globalization, 43–62.

See Michael Wilkinson, “Globalization,” in Robert A. Segal and Kocku von Stuckrad, eds., Vocabulary for the Study of Religion(Leiden: Brill, 2015), vol. 2, 102–108.

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of the world politically so that a more universal and modern pattern expands everywhere. Religion for these theorists is largely viewed as an outmoded form of social activity that refuses to enter into the modern world. Religion generally and Pentecostalism more particularly are contemporary forms of fundamentalism. Thirdly, cultural globalization examines the various ways in which religions are negotiating a new world order and examines a range of issues, including the negotiation of religious and cultural diversity, public expressions of religion, new forms of religion, and the expansion of religious traditions throughout the world through migration and missionaries. My own work is shaped more so by cultural globalization.

While the work of Peter Beyer does not primarily focus on the issues raised by cultural globalization theorists like Roland Robertson,20 he does offer a theoretical framework on globalization that has some implications for under- standing religion and culture. For this reason, I draw upon his work to make an assessmentof theculturalaspectsof Pentecostalismthatisespeciallyinsightful for the purpose of this article.The main assumptions of his research include the following points about the nature of globalization as a process of social change, its relationship to religion, and ways in which religions interact in global soci- ety.

Beyer’s view of global society is one in which the world is structured along the lines of a single social system with a number of specialized and differ- entiated subsystems.21 While globalization theorists have given attention to the specialized domains of economics and politics, few have focused on the development of religion as its own domain in global society. Beyer argues that religion, like other global institutions, has also developed as its own specialized subsystem. To be very clear, Beyer is not saying that all religions are the same or universal. He is addressing the nature of the global system, its subsystems, espe- cially religion and its constituent religions. Beyer’s focus on the systematization of religion as a domain in global society is about the formation of religion insti- tutionally that becomes the site or location for all the religions of the world.The differentiation of religion generally and the construction of religions particu- larly leads to a series of issues both for the role of religion and religions in global society. Religion, according to Beyer, does not decline or disappear under the conditions of globalization, as the secularization theorists would say. Rather, religion is a differentiated sphere of global society that engages other spheres,



See Roland Robertson, Globalization: Social Theory and Global Culture (London: Sage, 1992).

Beyer, Religions in Global Society, 18–61.

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such as the economic and the political. The various ways in which religion “communicates” to economic or political realms, however, depends on which religions are speaking. And increasingly, what sociologists are observing is that not all members within one particular religion family speak with one voice.

One consequence of the formation of global society for the various religions of the world is a range of debates about the role of religion, the relationship between all religions, the particular nature of religious beliefs, ways in which those beliefs are practiced, and the experience of religion.22 Together these issues are understood as a range of interactions that can be constituted as fol- lows. First, there are interactions at the level of subsystems, such as the religion and political spheresof global society.Second, thereareinteractionsat the level of religions, such as Christianity and Islam. Third, there are interactions at the level of religious tradition with examples that can be observed between Pente- costals and Roman Catholics. Fourth, there are internal interactions at the level of religious family, such as those that illustrate a range of debates among Pente- costals. Much research can be conducted to examine how religion and politics are constructed in global society or the relationship between Christianity and Islam or even between Pentecostals and Roman Catholics, whether that be the- ological engagement or ecumenical social relations. However, it is at the fourth level of social interaction where I focus my attention in this article, namely, those internal debates among Pentecostals about orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy.

The key questions are as follows. How are Pentecostals negotiating differ- ences among themselves about orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy across global society? Who gets to say what it means to be pentecostal, what they believe, how it is practiced, and how it is experienced? Is there a single expres- sion or universal pattern that is authoritative? Or is Pentecostalism diverse and plural in nature? What holds Pentecostalism together, especially if it is not an organizational pattern, theological belief, or experience? Is there a sin- gle authentic expression of Pentecostalism, or is this too varied and diverse throughout the world? If Pentecostalism under the constraints of globalization is a diverse and plural movement, is there a guiding framework through which pentecostal diversity can be appreciated? These are the questions that frame my research. Further work can explore the relationship between Pentecostals and other spheres of global society, such as economics and politics. Some excel- lent research here is already occurring. Research also needs to examine another important area on the relationships between Pentecostals and other religions,


Ibid., 89, 147–150.

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and here too some research is underway. For the remainder of this article, I explore only the internal debates within Pentecostalism and the various issues related to this process of global social change as they have played out among scholars in the Society for Pentecostal Theology.

Negotiating Pentecostalism in Global Context

The structuring of the world into a single social and cultural system, along with its various institutional subsystems, such as economics, politics, and religion, reveals an uneven process in which much debate and negotiation occurs. As the world witnesses the development of this process, its effect is especially apparent among the practitioners of all religions, including Pentecostals. Ques- tions about this process are raised at the levels of orthodoxy, orthopraxy, and orthopathy. More particularly, the nature of the questions revolves around issues of authority and authenticity, that is, who gets to say what it means to be pentecostal and what is an authentic expression of Pentecostalism. These internal debates are found in a number of arenas locally and worldwide, includ- ing congregations and parishioners as well as academic societies and scholars. Internal debates are particular and specialized for all religions, but the similar- ity shared across all religions suggests a broader or more universal contextual pattern of social change. There are many examples that could be reviewed to illustrate this process. I will limit my observations to the following categories.

Orthodoxy, the Nature of Spirit Baptism, and Prosperity

The question of orthodoxy and globalization is not simply about what Pente- costals believe; it is also about how those beliefs are negotiated in the context of social change. As the world becomes a smaller place, Pentecostals from all around the world are coming into contact with one another. One implication of increased contact is the awareness of sameness and difference. Orthodoxy, the normative view of belief including its acceptance and adherence, is one sphere in which there is much debate. I want to be clear that debates among Christians are not new. Globalization theory does not suggest that conflict is absent from the past. What sociologists point to are the social conditions of globality and the historical particularities of globalization. Previous periods of social change can also be analyzed for their own characteristics.

One issue that is especially pertinent to Pentecostals in the pew as well as to scholars of Pentecostalism revolves around the nature of Spirit baptism and its relationship to glossolalia. This, too, is not a new debate but one that has marked the pentecostal movement from its beginnings. However, the debate

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has become further complicated in the past twenty-five years in two ways: first, through the emergence and development of a sophisticated pentecostal theology as it engages nonpentecostal theologians, and second, through the pluralization and expansion of pentecostal theologies from outside of North America, especially nonclassical variations, into current debates.

Frank Macchia’s book Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology clearly illustrates my point.23Macchia’s work reimagines pentecostal theology by engaging Pauline and Lukan views on the nature of Spirit baptism. His great achievement here was his argument that while there are differences within Christianity and among Pentecostals, Spirit baptism is the defining doctrine of Pentecostalism. However, Macchia is aware of divisions and the lack of consensus about the belief. He states:

I want to explore from this broad eschatological framework how Spirit baptism might function as an organizing principle of a pentecostal theol- ogy. It may thus be possible to heal the fractures of pentecostal theology and contribute to the global pentecostal conversation about the signifi- cance of life in the Spirit for theological reflection. I speak as only one voice for a given context. The use of the word ‘global’ in the subtitle is meant as an invitation for others to converse with me from contexts very different from my own.24

Macchia explicitly recognizes that there is a range of viewpoints and offers a way forward to reflect upon these differences through dialogue. He does not suggest a universal view of Spirit baptism; rather, he allows for multiple voices to be heard on what this defining doctrine means for Pentecostals worldwide.

Globalization and the pluralization of Pentecostalism focus on sameness and difference or, in the case of Macchia’s work, the particularization of Spirit baptism as a global theme in local context. For Macchia Spirit baptism is the central global metaphor that unites Pentecostals across space and time in spite of its local variations. He recognizes that this belief is contentious, and yet he invites the broader community to begin a conversation that he hopes will lead to healing among Christians who have been wounded through the debate. As a way forward he envisions a global ecumenical dialogue in which participation is inclusive of all Pentecostals and the larger Christian community.



Frank Macchia, Baptized in the Spirit: A Global Pentecostal Theology (Grand Rapids, mi: Zondervan, 2006).

Ibid., 17.

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table 1

Regional representation and growth of Renewalists

Continent Total number Total number Estimated

1910 2010 2025

Africa 1.1 million 175.8 million 265 million Asia 5,800 129.5 million 210 million Europe 26,300 24.4 million 31 million Latin America 15,300 181.6 million 226 million North America 54,400 68.9 million 89 million Oceania 500 4.0 million 5 million

The intention of Macchia’s theologizing is to move beyond the impasse of competing notions of Spirit baptism, recognizing that there is room to embrace local variations. His eschatological framework of hope and love extends the view of Spirit baptism from initiation and empowerment to one whose func- tion is unity. It is still to be determined if Pentecostals will pick up Macchia’s challenge and move in this eschatological direction in which hope, love, and unity are central or whether a modern apologetic that argues for a single uni- versal view will be embraced. Either way, my point remains unchanged. Global- ization has the effect of raising a number of debates about orthodoxy, including the nature of Spirit baptism among Pentecostals. Even more contentious, how- ever, may be the worldwide debate about the prosperity gospel and how it bypasses the Spirit baptism issue and has become the defining quality of the global movement, especially in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Worldwide, the pentecostal movement has shown signs of growth, espe- cially in the so-called Global South. One implication for scholars is the problem of definition that has led to a more inclusive one known as renewalist.25 The renewalist approach attempts to capture the range and diversity of the move- ment worldwide. It basically makes obsolete the older way of categorizing in which researchers differentiated between Classical Pentecostals, Charismatics, and neo-Pentecostals. In doing so it raises questions about the historical origins worldwide and further relativizes by expanding or pluralizing the types under a single rubric.

Table 1 shows how Renewalists have grown worldwide since 1910 with the most significant growth in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Estimated numbers


Wilkinson, “The Emergence, Development, and Pluralisation of Global Pentecostalism.”

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table 2

Growth of Renewalists worldwide as percentage of all Christians

Year Total As percentage of all Christians

1900 1 million 0.2% 1970 63 million 5.1% 2000 460 million 24.4% 2010 628 million 26.7% 2025 828 million 30.6%

of Renewalists for 2025 will show these regions to be those with the highest numbers. Not only are the overall numbers trending upward, but there is also considerable growth within Christianity so that in just over one hundred years Renewalists have increased their overall proportion of all Christians worldwide to about one in every four Christians in 201026(see Table 2). There is great vari- ation among Renewalists on beliefs and considerable debate about the nature of orthodoxy. It is impossible to estimate just how far and wide the prosperity gospel has impacted Renewalists. According to African scholars, however, more than 80 percent of African Pentecostals subscribe to the prosperity gospel, where it has had revolutionary impact across the continent.27 It is clear that the prosperity gospel does not mean the same thing for someone living in the United States as it does for someone in Nigeria, Argentina, or Singapore. There is a sense among sociologists that the prosperity gospel is gaining traction and becoming a key defining belief among Renewalists in the Global South.28

According to Kate Bowler, the prosperity gospel encompasses the overlap- ping themes of abundance, blessing, health, wealth, and victory.29 As a set





See T. Johnson, “Global Pentecostal Demographics,” in Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sar- geant, and Richard Flory, eds., Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pente- costalism(New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 319–328.

See Asonzeh Ukah, “God, Wealth and the Spirit of Investment: Prosperity Pentecostalism in Africa,” in Sabine Dreher and Peter J. Smith, eds., Religious Activism in the Global Economy:Promoting,Reforming,orResistingNeoliberalGlobalization?(NewYork: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 73–90.

Michael Wilkinson, “The Prosperity Gospel and the Globalization of American Capital- ism,” in Sabine Dreher and Peter J. Smith, eds., Religious Activism in the Global Economy: Promoting, Reforming, or Resisting Neoliberal Globalization? (New York: Rowman & Little- field, 2016), 57–72.

Kate Bowler, Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).

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of theological themes or cultural ideals, the prosperity gospel has transferred into other social realms. The prosperity gospel has spread worldwide largely through such multimedia ministries as Creflo Dollar in the United States, Joseph Prince in Singapore, and Enoch Adeboye in Nigeria. The prosperity gospel is also referred to by its critics as the “word of faith” teaching, or more pejoratively as the “health and wealth” gospel, or the “name it and claim it” gospel.30

Bowler traces the history of the movement in the United States and fairly evaluates its strength and weaknesses. While the United States illustrates a very particular view of the prosperity gospel, however, these themes have taken root elsewhere in the world and have been transformed to reflect a new local context. What this means is that the prosperity gospel itself shares similarities and differences around the world and requires researchers to pay attention to the local and the global or, as Roland Robertson says, the “glocalization” of this belief.31

In Latin America, for example, Andrew Chesnut’s research examines sev- eral inherent tensions between the prosperity gospel and illness and poverty.32 What appears to be a paradox for many scholars is how the poor continue to give money to the church when they cannot afford to do so. Chesnut argues that the prosperity gospel transforms the economically poor into consumers, and although giving appears counterintuitive, the poor are converted in two important ways. The first is a conversion toward Christianity and more specif- ically toward Pentecostalism. Second, Latin American Pentecostals who adopt the prosperity gospel are also socially transformed as they adopt a new eco- nomic ethic of work, saving, and investment. Furthermore, Chesnut explores how this dual conversion affects the family by reorienting spending patterns from gambling and alcohol to church, family, and work. The overall impact of the prosperity gospel is the adoption of a more conservative social moral ethic.

So while Spirit baptism remains a key theological issue for North American scholars, it appears that the theology of prosperity is more central for those in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.This raises questions about the nature of North


31 32

Katherine Attanasi and AmosYong, eds.,Pentecostalism and Prosperity:The Socio-Econom- ics of the Global Charismatic Movement (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); Michael McClymond, “Charismatic Renewal and Neo-Pentecostalism: From North American Ori- gins to Global Permutations,” in Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. and Amos Yong, eds.,The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism(Cambridge,uk: Cambridge University Press, 2014), 31–51. Robertson,Globalization, 173–174, 186.

R. Andrew Chesnut, Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

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American criticism of the Global South and the adoption by Pentecostals of the prosperity gospel. It turns the questions of authority and authenticity from a focus on the prosperity gospel in the Global South to the legitimacy of the questions themselves coming from the Global North.

Orthopraxy, Race, and Gender

The second area of debate revolves around orthopraxy or the correct practice of Pentecostalism. Here too there are many examples that illustrate the process of social change and the transformation of pentecostal practice. The focus of this section is on two important aspects that influence pentecostal practice: race and gender. Together race and gender reflect issues of stratification and inequality. No society in the world exists that is not based on some system of stratification, that is, the hierarchical structuring of society based upon such criteria as race, class, and gender. The particular histories of all societies reflect the way in which race and gender are understood and expressed in society, including in churches. Niebuhr’s classic book The Social Sources of Denominationalism, which is still read by sociology graduate students, was highly critical of the way in which churches in the United States were stratified along the lines of race and class.33His sociological observations were followed by his theological assessment that Christians in the United States were not shaped by the kingdom of God and were in need of transformation.

Pentecostal scholars are well aware of the way in which race and gen- der have played out in the United States. The racism of early Pentecostalism reflected the American social context, and while Seymour’s example of some- one who embraced Spirit baptism as a sign of racial reconciliation is held in great esteem, many rejected his church practice of an integrated congregation. Estrelda Alexander’s research on black Pentecostalism has established a series of issues for scholars to explore.34 Alexander covers a broad history of African American Pentecostals, outlining key people and events. The research offers an important story line that needs to be expanded and developed by the next generation of pentecostal scholars. It also needs to be incorporated into the global story of the transatlantic slave trade and referenced with the develop- ment of Pentecostalism throughout the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, where similar experiences of colonialism and slavery are part of the



H. Richard Niebuhr, The Social Sources of Denominationalism (New York: Meridian, 1929 [1957]).

Estrelda Y. Alexander, Black Fire: One Hundred Years of African American Pentecostalism (Downers Grove,il: InterVarsity Press, 2011).

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pentecostalstory.35Heretooweneedtounderstandhowtheongoingmigration of black Pentecostals from all over the world interacts with their own histo- ries and the particular history of the United States, where the experience of racism is similar and different. New immigrant Pentecostals in new local con- texts are negotiating new identities as they interact with stories not their own that invite new practices of liberation and racial reconciliation. Some work has addressed these new challenges, including that of Néstor Medina,36whose research is pushing the boundaries by raising questions that clearly demon- strate the power of race and racism that still exists within pentecostal churches and social institutions, including the Society for Pentecostal Theology.

Gender likewise represents an important challenge for the scholar of Pente- costalism. Numerous studies have demonstrated that Pentecostalism contains a series of dualisms.37For example, Bernice Martin identified very clearly how Pentecostalism is liberating and limiting.38 Her work pointed to the ambigu- ity and ambivalence of Pentecostalism for women who embraced a message of liberation and yet found many limitations to the practice of Pentecostalism in local congregations from preaching to prayer, teaching, and prophesying.

While the theme of dualism is explored in such contexts as Canada and the United States, variations on this idea are observed elsewhere. For example, in Latin America researchers asked how Pentecostalism might potentially be a source of social change for gender roles. Some researchers, however, observed that conversion leads to the adoption of a more conservative social ethic as





For example, see Peter Marina, Chasing Religion in the Caribbean: Ethnographic Journeys from Antigua to Trinidad (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).

See Néstor Medina, “Orality and Context in a Hermeneutical Key: Toward a Latina/o– Canadian Pentecostal Life-Narrative Hermeneutics,”PentecoStudies14, no. 1 (2015): 97–123. See Andrea Hollingsworth and Melissa D. Browning, “Your Daughters Shall Prophesy (As Long as they Submit),” in Michael Wilkinson and Steven M. Studebaker, eds., A Liberat- ing Spirit: Pentecostals and Social Action in North America (Eugene, or: Pickwick, 2010), 161–184; Pamela M.S. Holmes, “Acts 29 and Authority: Towards a Pentecostal Feminist Hermeneutic of Liberation,” in MichaelWilkinson and Steven M. Studebaker, eds.,ALiber- ating Spirit: Pentecostals and Social Action in North America (Eugene, or: Pickwick, 2010), 185–212; Linda Ambrose, “Zelma and Beulah Argue: Sisters in the Canadian Pentecostal Movement,” in Michael Wilkinson and Peter Althouse, eds., Winds from the North: Cana- dian Contributions to the Pentecostal Movement (Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 2010), 99–128; Lisa P. Stephenson,Dismantling the Dualisms for American PentecostalWomen in Ministry: A Feminist-Pneumatological Approach(Leiden: Brill, 2012).

Bernice Martin, “The Pentecostal Gender Paradox: A Cautionary Tale for the Sociology of Religion,” in Richard K. Fenn, ed., The Blackwell Companion to Sociology of Religion (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 2001), 52–66.

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it relates to the family and gender roles, which was not necessarily beneficial for women, while others observed gender changes as consistent with Latin American values of family, women, and society.39 Research in Africa by Jane Soothill on gender roles in Ghana challenged the gender paradox, especially as it is discussed in Latin America, arguing that it is not evident in Ghana. Her research explored how gender roles are contextual and that in Ghana Pentecostalism serves to support male honor and prestige, especially among pastors of pentecostal congregations.40In contrast, Kelly Chong in her research on gender in Korea observes the close association between religion and gender and ways in which congregational practices associated with the repentance of sin, surrender, obedience, and dying to self all support the femininity of religion.41Chong also observes a strong link between the growth of Christianity in Korea and the construction of a particular femininity with women playing a prominent role.

Scholars of global Pentecostalism need to pay attention to the local as well as those practices among Pentecostals elsewhere in the world. Increasingly, the whole world is stratified along the lines of race and gender where people are liberated and marginalized according to country, class, sexuality, employ- ment, education, religion, disability, and many other factors that characterize the framing of the other. Furthermore, particular pentecostal practices, inter- pretations, and implications vary from place to place. The main point I want to raise here is that there are divergent views on orthopraxy as it relates to race and gender. If the members of the Society for Pentecostal Theology do not engage these issues, then other scholars will do so, and if we absent ourselves from the table our voice will not be heard. There is no topic that ought to be excluded from our research, especially those about race, gender, class, and human sexu- ality.




For example, compare the findings of Elizabeth E. Brusco,The Reformation of Machismo: Evangelical Conversion and Gender in Colombia (Austin, tx: University of Texas Press, 1995) and R. Andrew Chesnut,Competitive Spirits: Latin America’s New Religious Economy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003).

Jane Soothill, “Gender and Pentecostalism in Africa,” in Martin Lindhardt, ed.,Pentecostal- ism in Africa: Presence and Impact of Pneumatic Christianity in Postcolonial Societies (Lei- den, Netherlands: Brill, 2015), 191– 219.

Kelly H. Chong, “Feminine Habitus: Rhetoric and Rituals of Conversion and Commitment among Contemporary South Korean Evangelical Women,” in Simon Coleman and Ros- alind I.J. Hackett, eds.,The Anthropology of Global Pentecostalism and Evangelicalism(New York: New York University Press, 2015), 109–128.

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Orthopathy, Embodiment, and Healing

Orthopathy is not part of Peter Beyer’s analysis, but I add it here because it is central to Pentecostalism and an expanding area of research across a number of disciplines.42Orthopathy is concerned with the affective or right sentiments. In some cases, it has to do with suffering and the body and the correct measures one takes for healing. For the purpose of this article it has to do with the ways in which Pentecostalism is embodied and includes the cultural meaning of bodies and emotions. Healing is a theme picked up by researchers, and it offers a clear example of how religion is embodied.

For three years Peter Althouse and I studied the practice of soaking prayer and its effects on Charismatics.43 Soaking prayer was made popular by Catch the Fire, a movement led by John and Carol Arnott. Most researchers assumed that the so-called Toronto Blessing was over by the end of the 1990s. We heard rumors that it was still attracting thousands of people to its regular confer- ences. Soaking prayer was being promoted as a key to personal renewal and social benevolence. The practice of soaking prayer fitted well Toronto’s mis- sion, which was “To know the Father’s Love and to give it away to Toronto and the World.” Soaking prayer represents a religious innovation and development among Charismatics. The older Classical Pentecostals spoke about being slain in the Spirit in reference to the encounter with the Holy Spirit in such a way that one fell down as if dead.What was more significant than the falling down in the testimonies of the early Pentecostals were the experiences such as dreams and visions, healing, glossolalia, and a range of bodily effects whereby some union between the individual and the Holy Spirit was transformative. The practice varied over time but phenomenologically looked very similar. Catholic Charis- matics preferred “resting” as a less violent term than being “slain,” and Catholics including Francis MacNutt linked resting in the Spirit with healing, whereby participants would spend extended time in quiet prayer “soaking” the person in God’s love. MacNutt was a somewhat regular guest in the early days of the Toronto Blessing when again, similar patterns of behavior were observed with people on the floor experiencing the Holy Spirit. In Toronto it was playfully referred to as “carpet time.” However, by the turn of the century carpet time was being promoted as soaking prayer, with national leaders in Canada and the



See Bryan S. Turner, The Body & Society (London: Sage, 1996); Philip A. Mellor and Chris Shilling, Sociology of the Sacred: Religion, Embodiment, and Social Change (London: Sage, 2014); Ole Riis and Linda Woodhead, A Sociology of Religious Emotion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

See Michael Wilkinson and Peter Althouse,Catch the Fire: Soaking Prayer and Charismatic Renewal (DeKalb,il: Northern Illinois University Press, 2014).

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United States, soaking prayer schools held in conjunction with renewal events, soaking prayer weekends, teaching videos, manuals, and a burgeoning music industry of soaking prayer music popularized by people like Julie True.44

Of particular interest here is the notion that soaking prayer is a ritual of renewal whereby participants learn to rest, receive, and eventually give away God’s love. Participants are taught that they need to stop trying to “do” and just “be” in God’s presence. Soaking prayer is not intercessory prayer. It is not spiri- tual warfare prayer. It is resting prayer, a sort of meditative prayer that focuses on receiving. In most cases, the people we spoke with were ministry leaders who were tired, burned out, or exhausted from their work as pastors, church leaders, and missionaries. The most notable high profile person is Heidi Baker. Baker’s story follows this pattern of illness, exhaustion, and stress in ministry with her eventual healing through the Toronto Blessing. Baker continues to speak regularly at Catch the Fire events. She is leader of the worldwide Iris Ministries with its key operation in Mozambique and is networked with other prominent Charismatics in the Revival Alliance.45

Baker is also a proponent of soaking prayer and, according to our interview with her, regularly invests hours on a daily basis in this form of prayer. Her experience, like many others we interviewed, illustrates the healing impact of prayer. Soaking prayer is not simply a therapeutic technique, however, although it does have therapeutic benefits. More interestingly, practitioners embody the culture of charismatic Christianity through soaking prayer so that they carry with them wherever they go the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Charismatics believe that when they lay hands on someone they are imparting the Holy Spirit, and this transference of the anointing is then passed on to those in need. Baker’s ministry is characterized by healing, but not in the traditional manner that most people think of, such as Benny Hinn’s ministry as a healing evangelist. Bakerdoesclaimthatpeopleshepraysforreceivesightforblindnessandhealth for illness. However, she primarily links healing to a gracious and loving God whose Spirit fills bodies with wholeness as a consequence.

John Arnott links healing with forgiveness, a teaching he appears to have learned from John Wimber. Speaking in Vancouver, Arnott invited people to be open to a new work that the Holy Spirit wanted to do in their lives. Following



Peter Althouse and Michael Wilkinson, “Musical Bodies in the Charismatic Renewal: The Case of Catch the Fire and Soaking Prayer,” in Monique M. Ingalls and Amos Yong, eds.,The Spirit of Praise: Music and Worship in Global Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity (University Park,pa: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2015), 29–44.

Michael Wilkinson, “Charismatic Christianity and the Role of Social Networks: Catch the Fire and Revival Alliance,”Pneuma38, no. 1 (2016): 33–49.

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whathe claimedwasawordof knowledge,heinvitedsomeonetocomeforward who was experiencing back pain. One woman responded to his invitation and Arnott asked her what happened to cause all this pain. The woman told a story about a car accident in which she had been injured a number of years ago, and yet she could not find relief from her pain. Arnott then asked her if she had forgiven the person that caused the accident. The woman responded by saying she had held something against this person and, in fact, had not forgiven. Arnott then proceeded to pray for her and asked her to forgive this person, in other words, asked for a sort of reorientation of emotions. Following this prayer of forgivenessArnottthen prayed,“Kingdomof God come,Will of God be done” and for her pain to be relieved. Arnott then asked how she was feeling and she claimed the pain in her back was gone. Of interest here is that it was not a long, drawn-out prayer and certainly did not include any link with evil spirits. But what Arnott did is link healing with forgiveness, thereby illustrating how orthopathy is embodied as illness, healing, and wholeness.

I am well aware that the teachings and practices from Catch the Fire are contentious and that many are skeptical about claims of angels’ feathers, heav- enly dust, and gold teeth. And yet, the neo-pentecostal movement has grown to represent a significant number within the renewalist family of Christianity. It represents a certain tension about authority and authenticity over the defining characteristics of pentecostal affections. For all Christians within the renewal- ist tradition, the appeal to the Holy Spirit as a form of authority and an expres- sion of authentic Christianity contains both its strength and its weakness. As a form of authority the Spirit, or the “s-factor,” as Donald Miller describes it,46 is a dynamic power that is innovative and transformative. As an expression of authentic Christianity the “s-factor” is highly debated and is claimed to be its greatest weakness by those who observe charlatanism, deceit, and heresy. As scholars of Pentecostalism we are certainly aware of these tensions and our research reflects many of these ongoing debates.

Conclusion: A Global Method?

What might be some of the implications for researchers, especially those who are members of the Society for Pentecostal Theology, as we reflect upon these


See Donald E. Miller, “Introduction: Pentecostalism as a Global Phenomenon,” in Donald E. Miller, Kimon H. Sargeant, and Richard Flory, eds., Spirit and Power: The Growth and Global Impact of Pentecostalism(New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1–23.

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internal cultural debates? Let me speak to the issue of methodology. The mem- bers of our society come from a variety of disciplines in which we have been trained to know the methods of our guilds, whether it be biblical studies, theol- ogy, history, or the social sciences.47Each discipline claims to see from a certain vantage point or perspective. As students we learned not only the techniques but also the language, so that we easily converse with others in our field of study. However, if Pentecostal Theology is transdisciplinary, as I stated earlier, what does that mean methodologically? Does it mean we need to forsake our disciplinary methods and develop new methods? Does it mean the methods we have learned from a previous historical period, rooted in European and American epistemologies, are now defunct? How do we communicate from our western or northern perspectives with scholars of Pentecostalism in the Global South? Is it possible for any dialogue to occur? What happens when our meth- ods or tools for research no longer work when the focus of our study has shifted from something that was highly local to that which is global? Is there a global method?

Furthermore, how does the Society for Pentecostal Theology adjust to the topic of global Pentecostalism when so much of what we do is oriented around particular disciplines and structured as such in our annual meetings? How helpful is it for us to engage in a global conversation when our activities are centered on disciplines so that biblical scholars speak primarily with biblical scholars, theologians with theologians, and historians with historians? If the global context has changed, is it possible that our methods may blind us to beliefs, practices, and experiences, especially if they are outside our European and American optics? We cannot claim to be global in focus if we perpetuate a narrow myopia that asks particular questions and ignores either willfully or ignorantly those questions from beyond our society or the cultures and disciplines each of us represent. Roland Robertson uses the term glocal to address the various problems associated with globalization, including the local and the global, the universal and the particular, and sameness and difference. I find this to be helpful as one way in which to think about a global method that recognizes we all have very particular if not local views of Pentecostalism


For a critical discussion of the development of sociological theory and its relationship to disciplines in global context, see Immanuel Wallerstein, “World-Systems Analysis,” in Anthony Giddens and Jonathan Turner, eds., Social Theory Today (Stanford, ca: Stanford University Press, 1987), 309–324. For an overview of the various ways disciplines have con- ceived and studied global Pentecostalism, see Allan Anderson, Michael Bergunder, Andre F. Droogers, and Cornelis van der Laan, eds.,Studying Global Pentecostalism: Theories and Methods(Berkeley,ca: University of California Press, 2010).

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shaped by our disciplinary commitments. If we are to become a society that includes more people than are typically here, however, then we must also embrace the global and that which represents difference. If Frank Macchia’s appeal to a global conversation about things that matter most to Pentecostal Theology is going to become a reality, then we must be willing to adapt and be innovative in our methods in order to facilitate a worldwide conversation. The Society for Pentecostal Theology must become global in its focus as one among many in a global society that is pluralizing so that biblical studies scholars learn from theologians, and theologians hear from social scientists, who in turn dialogue with historians, philosophers, and practitioners from every corner of the globe.

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