Stan Chu Ilo on Pentecostal and Charismatic Catholic Movements in Africa

By | September 6, 2019

– Well, thanks for coming
out everyone today. My name’s Tom Landy, Director
of the McFarland Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture. Welcome to Rehm Library and
to this afternoon’s event. This is part of one of the
Center’s major initiatives called Catholics and Cultures,
which explores the religious lives and practices of contemporary Catholics around the world. The Catholics and Cultures website,,
features articles, data, photos, videos, and the
like on what it means to be Catholic in about 25 different
countries around the world and nine eastern churches,
with new content added often. We’re thrilled by the way it’s grown and been received worldwide. Catholics and Cultures has
been significantly enriched in a really crucial and complimentary way, by the launch of a scholarly e-journal, The Journal of Global
Catholicism in the fall of 2016. We’re only three issues
into it, but in ramping up our production under the leadership of Professor Mat Schmalz and Marc Loustau, Mat’s the founding editor and
Marc’s the editor as well, it’s been rewarding not
only to read the articles, but as I was telling our speaker, to be able to track sort of
where it’s watched around the world, those little things
that drop down on the page and how many people in
really different places in the world are downloading
and reading which articles. So, we’re up to over 2000
articles in the three issues so far, which is pretty
good for a scholarly journal that’s getting started. So, I feel really grateful about that. I mention that, because two of the issues that we’ve recently published
are on African Catholicism and they were enabled in part by the work of our speaker
today, Father Stan Chu Ilo. Last July, Mat Schmalz
and I were also grateful for the opportunity to join Stan at the International Palaver
on African Catholicism in Nairobi, Kenya. An event which our speaker organized. We got to experience how wide his web of scholarly relationships
is on the continent, and we’re delighted to have him
hosted here today for a talk on Catholic and Pentecostal
charismatic movements in Africa. Father Stan Chu Ilo is Research
Professor at the Center for World Catholicism and Intercultural Theology at DePaul University. He holds a doctorate in theology from the University of St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto, and is completing a second
doctorate in sociology of education with the
University of South Africa. He’s an ordained Catholic priest in his home country of Nigeria. He’s visiting faculty at the
Institute of Social Ministry and Mission at Tangaza University
College, Nairobi, Kenya, and is the founder and
director of Canadian Samaritans for Africa, a non-profit
that works directly with African women to help alleviate poverty. He’s Director of the African
Christian Study Series for Pickwick Publications,
Wipf and Stock Publishers. He’s a commenter on Africa,
religion and politics for Canada Television and Al Jazeera. A columnist for CNN African
Voices, Catholic Register, and Premium Times and a blogger
on the Huffington Post’s World Affairs, Religion,
and Black Voices sections. He’s author of A Poor and Merciful Church, The Illuminative
Ecclesiology of Pope Francis, which is coming out in two weeks, okay. Editor of Love, Joy, and
Sex in a Wounded World: African Commentaries on Pope
Francis’ Amoris Laetitia. And, of a book that’s the
theme of today’s talk, Wealth, Health and Hope in
African Christian Religion: The Search for Abundant Life. So, please join me in welcoming my friend Father Stan Chu Ilo. (audience applause) – Thank you very much Tom,
and thank you everyone for being here. And thank you for the invitation Tom, Mat, and for wonderful friendship and mentoring as I learn from you guys
just in the great work that you have done. And what I want to do today
is going to be threefold. So first, is I will try
to identify what we mean when we talk about African Pentecostal and African Charismatic, these movements. What we mean by Pentecostal
and Charismatic. And then, I use five different experiences to tell the story. These stories will lead me to, you know, three firm conclusions that I will make and three suggestions. Just why does this matter to an audience like all of you here. So, let me make a very
important clarification. The use of the term African
Pentecostals and Charismatics will refer to any of these
six groups identified in the Typology
of African Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements in Africa. So, there are six kinds
of people who identify themselves one way or
the other with the term. First is the African Initiated Churches, or African Initiatives in Christianity, or African Independent Churches. Whichever way, you know,
we have multiple terms for this is called AIC. So, you will say they identify
themselves as Pentecostal or charismatics, some might
say “No, you are not.” The second is the classical
Pentecostal movements that have their roots
here in the United States going back to William
Simmons Azusa Street Revivals in North America, which began in 1906. And some other groups which
emerged due to African initiatives without western influence that have the character of
these classical Pentecostals. The third is the Trans-Denominational Pentecostal Fellowship. That is, Pentecostal groups
that cut across Africa that have links with North
America, European, Asian groups. For instance, the Full
Gospel Business Fellowships, the Women Aglow Fellowship, etc. Then there is the charismatic
renewal groups found in the mainline churches
like Roman Catholic Church, Anglican church and some
other mainline churches. The fifth will be the independent new Pentecostal charismatic churches. And the sixth, what you
might call the neo-prophetism we find traces in some of these groups, AICs, neo-Pentecostal churches. So the term charismatic and Pentecostal are often used synonymously in not only in African Christianity,
but in world Christianity. In this presentation I will
use the distinction made by Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu between Pentecostalism and charismatism. According to him, and I
quote, “Pentecostalism may be defined as that
stream of Christianity which emphasizes personal salvation
in Christ as transformative experience, wrought by the Holy Spirit.” And then charismatic we’ll
refer generally to historically younger Pentecostal independent
and parent church movements, many of which function within
non-Pentecostal denomination. Now, the expression
charismatic itself derives from St. Paul’s reference
to charismata neumatica. That is gifts of the spirit
as found in first Corinthians, chapters 12 to 14. First, St. Paul uses
the expression to refer to those extraordinary divine
graces that believers manifest on account of their
experience of the Holy Spirit. However, whereas there is a
distinction between the Catholic charismatics in terms
of their institutional and ecclesial structuring in many dioceses in Africa for example, and other forms of charismatic and Pentecostal preach their movements. It is important to note
that this distinction is more at the level of
institutional activities, rather than at the level of world view. Where there is cultural
knowledge, cultural symbols, or cultural artifacts. So, I’m going to concentrate
on locating the common stream which waters these groups. While showing at the same time the specific public dimension in my presentation. It is important to note from
the perspective of global Catholicism that the
Catholic charismatic movement owes its origin back to 1967, when Belgium Cardinal Suenens
secured Vatican approval for the birth of the Catholic
charismatic movement in world Catholicism which lead to the
first Catholic Charismatic mass at St. Peter’s
Basilica in Rome in 1977. The Pentecostal movement is
captured in the spiritual imaginations of many Catholics
today, and also in Africa. It is then into this complex
context that identify the Catholic charismatic group in Africa as a type of Pentecostalism
which is moderated by the formal structures
of Roman Catholicism. However, in many stances
the members of the Catholic Charismatic groups continue
to gravitate between multiple worlds which exude the features
of Pentecostalism in general like speaking in tongues,
healing ministries, explosions of miracles,
casting out demons, predicting the future, healing
people of ancestral curse, destroying the powers of
principalities and enemies whether in witchcraft or what they call Ogbanje in my culture. Breaking the yoke of poverty, and breaking the cycle of debts
in the family among others. They may do this through the
Pentecostal method of healing, and patterns of ritualization
in many instances, where they also appeal to
traditional Catholic spirituality and sacramental life, but not exclusively to this for the realization of the end for which a particular
instance of possession demands. However, within the
wider Catholic structure, one will notice that there
is stronger attempt to place the Catholic charismatics
under the leadership of priests to place the movement back to
politic exercise of Christian ministry and to house
their prayer meetings within traditional Catholic spirituality. Especially Mary and devotion and the cult of the Eucharist and the saints. African colleagues in Uganda,
Nigeria, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Côte d’Ivoire, where I
have studied these Catholic charismatic movements are
struggling to release the spirit under the stranglehold of
Catholic clerical gatekeepers. Their attentions with regard
to baptism and the spirit, speaking in tongues, and how
to authenticate prophecies, and the normal initial evidence, which must accompany one’s
initiation as a Catholic into the Catholic charismatic movement. This is not typical to
Africa, but as we shall show, these tensions point to
different manifestations of African Catholicism. My interest in the Pentecostal
and charismatic movement has been shaped by five
personal experiences which I wish to share with you. Now, from the point of view
of personal experience, and also personal conviction,
I think that theological studies and research for me
are not disinterested exercise. It’s not simply an intellectual
quest, even though it is, but it is also for me a spiritual
search for intelligibility in what I believe and what I teach. This is particularly
so because as you heard in introduction, I am
also a Catholic priest. The personal condition for my believing, and for what I teach, and what I hope for, and what I live is really
for me the basic inspiration for my scholarship in theology
and the social sciences. So, the rest of what I
will say here I structure around five personal experiences, and I will use those
experiences to tell the story of African Pentecostal
and charismatic movements. But, I just want to show you
on the slide two very important points that will flow through what I will say in these experiences. First is what I consider the
common features that you find in African Pentecostal
and charismatic movements. Identified by most scholars. One is the experience of
God’s love in the community through actual faith of persons, spiritual gifts and manifestations
in persons and places. Now, the places could be anywhere, it could be on the mountain,
it could be while people are sleeping. But, this is very pretty common. Then the other one is expression
and celebration of God’s love, through communal
witness, common liturgical celebration, common action,
and communal solidarity. Three, the communication,
so the move from experience, a lot experiential base, and
then the express in interaction with others and then they communicate because they also have agenda of dominion. So, it’s not just something
that they keep to themselves, they want to go out. Communication of God’s love
and action in the community through stories of healing, restoration, transformation and miracles. Then, I think then that this
is where many scholars remain at the level of explanation
of what happened or what is happening through conflicting theological accounts. Some positive, some negative,
based on denominational interpretations given all the
opposition from established churches and the state. So, it’s not just that the
explanation might not be accepted by, you know, institutions
like the Catholic church, or even institutions in the state, but also even among the Pentecostals there is also contestation
about, you know, how do you give an explanation
of what is happening. So, many people will say, “Well, that’s going to
be an expiration date.” You know, actually this one bishop told me this in one of my encounters. He said, “Well, you are
interested in these groups, why don’t you research
on something else because these groups will have an expiration date unlike the Catholic church
that has been here forever, these groups will come and go.” So, the question again I hear
is what kind of ecclesial life is that? How do you define this,
what’s going forward? And then, how do we transfer
this to the next generation? Is this the kind of
experience of Christianity that is transferrable,
and what do you transfer? If many of the narratives revolve around this personal experience, and
how do you validate or reject? And then you find, you
know, in general again, the common features, the
experience of the Holy Spirit, and the many gifts of the spirit especially the gift of speaking
in tongues and healing. Look at outside the sites
of formal church structures. But, I think this point is changing. They are beginning to be formalized structures in many places now. They’re located outside
the big city center, but in the suburbs, ghettos,
and roadsides where then. So, they are turning the
suburbs into downtowns because it’s now attracting more people. In Nigeria, going to Lagos, Lagos is the largest city in Africa. Now, going to Lagos, the
Redeemed Church of God has this mountain, you
know a place of meeting, wherever they’re meeting
there’s going to be traffic, so you better forget
traveling to Lagos that day because this single
church will have sometimes over half a million people. So, there is also strong leaders. So, they are less cultic and ritualistic. You know, when you go to
Pentecostal like you have, you know, in the Catholic church, the priest will have the
missal, or missalette, sometimes you don’t have
those kinds of books. Then, some people still regard them as very marginal faith groups. But, some also say they’re
searchers for solutions rather than researchers
of doctrinal differences. So, don’t worry so much on this level, the worry especially in
Africa as you will see, this is also a bit nuanced, the search for solutions to problems. Experiential and practical approach, rather than formal and
theoretical approach. A more direct and open
harvesting of the gifts of the Holy Spirit rather
than a controlled ecclesial attitude and defense when it
has to do with discernment, how do you discern? So, then there is diffuse with leadership rather than centralized or
hierarchical leadership. So, you will find people who
found churches or Pentecostals who pray in the car, in the bus, they can come to the market place. We have them in villages in the morning, having what you call “morning cry.” They are trying to preach like Jesus did. So, they receive this gift
from the central leader, so you have a very
diffused leadership style, unlike, say, the Catholic church where you have to go
through a lot of processes in order to become a priest. Here in Pentecostal, going
through the period of the life and the spirit seminar,
then you get qualified to proclaim the word. And then, an openness to gift exchange. So, there’s a lot of interaction
among the Pentecostals. So, people even help each
other to found churches. I know a friend of mine in
Burundi, he’s from Congo, now in Burundi he has started
within the last five years, he has started more than 400 churches. And when they’re talking about churches, is where two or more
are gathered in my name. So, it’s not like you know
having a big church or chapel like what you have here. So, it could be in an
uncompleted building, it could be in someone’s barn, it could be in someone’s
kiosk where they’re selling. They’re turning their Sunday
into a place of worship because many of them
believe just like Moses wherever you stand is holy ground. Then, they are more inclusive
and flexible approach to ministry and problem solving. Rather than controlled
or structured approach. Now, my stories. The first account was, and I will just tell this without
really going into my text. My sister became a
Pentecostal in the late 1980s. And you know, we shared a
room, because we were born the same day, we share the same birthday but we were born different years. And you know, she would
start her prayers at 10. And then would pray into the midnight. And she would be speaking in tongues, and every time she starts
I would have to go out. You know, so I was
sleeping in the living room because her prayer was quite intense and you know she was sweating
profusely from her battles. Which is normal, you
know, not only that Africa is not as cold as here, but you know, after all that intensive
exercise she was sweating. So, I remember my dad,
you know, telling her, “Are you going to continue
with this crazy group? If you continue, it’s not
going to give you a career, it’s not going to give you a husband.” So, my dad was the Secretary
General of the diocese and pastoral council. So, he was so happy one
day he came back to report to us that, “You know what?
The bishops of Nigeria have now come up with
the law that Catholics should not copy from the Pentecostals.” Even the Catholic
charismatics should not copy from the Pentecostals
because they are watering down the faith. So, early in my study, I
therefore wanted to find out were the Pentecostals and charismatics in Africa were crazy people? I wanted to know whether
my sister was crazy, and whether there was something wrong with my sister’s kind of faith. I had been particularly
interested in how the African Pentecostal movement, how
their map of the universe is like and unlike the map of the universe in African traditional religion. And, whether their map of
the universe is similar to what Catholics believe
and what Catholics practice. And I would say that my
research points constantly to the fact that the world
view remains the same. That is, the world view
of cause and effect, the world view that you find in Africa that says that abundant life emerges through my participation and
sharing in that bond of life that is rooted in ancestral traditions. So, the good that I have, the
values that occurred to me will grow to the extent
that I am connected with all the positive
values of my ancestors. So, somehow, that evil is the
result of someone dismantling or warring against the
procurement or participation in this common bond of life. And so, when I study these Pentecostals, I am concerned about the
believed faith experiences, the stories they tell, their actual faith much more than maybe
whether that actual faith squares off with beliefs
that we find in the creed. The second experience for
me was quite personal. The death of my sister
that I just mentioned. My sister died out of
pregnancy induced hypertension they call preeclampsia. So, after her death, members
of her group came to our family and they say that, “We saw her
death in a prophetic vision. And, we also see that more
death will come to your family if you do not allow us to come
and heal the family root.” And, rightly so, as you will
suspect, my father turned them down and said, “I do
not believe in this thing you are saying, as a
staunch Catholic I believe that you say your rosary,
you say your family prayer, you go to mass, do charity,
live an honest life, that’s all that God asks of you.” So, I was quite concerned,
what is this kind of revelation that the Pentecostals and
charismatics in Africa claim? How do you authenticate this
claim to see what will happen, and in interpreting what happened, and predicting the future? How do they understand
the movement of history? How do they interpret the
dialect of good and evil and how do you understand many situations? Sicknesses, diseases,
death, and the last dance? This has been an ongoing quest for me. According to Ogbu Kalu, whose
work on African Pentecostalism I find the most authoritative so far, he says that, “Missionary
historiography and accounts by western colonial
administrators, travelers, and anthropologists give the
impression that the African gods have been in retreat.” That is that African traditional
religion is in decline. Relying as they did on external data, they concluded that western
rationality, science, and the Christian faith had
displaced the traditional religious systems and cultures of Africa. Such displacement was perceived
as a sign of the ethical, scientific, and spiritual superiority of western Christianity over
African traditional religion. In addition, the speed with
which Africans converted to Christianity was also seen
as the proof that Africans freely give up their
fetishes and other aspects of their religious practices
for the Christian faith. Many anthropologists like James Fraser, concluded that religious
changes in Africa validated the evolutionary uni-linear
theory of the abandonment of religious traditions by
so-called primitive societies for a higher religious tradition. A view validated by Weber’s
secularization theory. Thus, religious change was interpreted in African traditional religion. Some people interpreted
religious change among Africans as the validation of a social
evolution and an inevitable progressive movement that
Africans have embraced. Now, this is some of the
conversation that is on-going among African social scientists, especially sociologists of religion. So, is the fact that many
Africans who embrace traditional Christianity in a more specific sense, the fact that many Catholics
are now turning to Pentecostal, is that a conversion? Does that validate religious change? What has taken place? So, how do you distinguish
between say my sister’s faith when she was a Catholic
and now that she became, or when she became a Catholic charismatic or Pentecostal African? So, what is the difference
between African traditional religion becoming Catholic and
becoming African Pentecostal? These are some of the questions that I continue to think about. And then, the final personal
experience I wanted to share was also the multiple deaths
that occurred in my family between 2013 and 2014. So, in my extended family,
we lost four of my cousins within a space of two years. And, you know, the one very
close to me, who was 23, she had a heart condition that, you know, she had a narrow mitochondria
valve in the heart. And which could be
corrected through a stent, and you know, I tried what I
could to bring her to receive medical attention in Toronto
where I was then teaching, but unfortunately she didn’t
get a visa to come to Canada. So, she had a stroke and died. Now, her mother said that
is someone in the family who had struck her with a
spell while she was pregnant. So, she left the Catholic church and joined the Pentecostals. Praying that her daughter
will get a miraculous healing, and unfortunately, she died. And when she died, it was like
again the group came saying, “We need to do this prayer
in order to liberate the family from death.” So, I amid these kinds
of death among my family, I wanted to investigate further
what is going on in order to be able to help not only my own family, but so many people whose
stories in Africa are stories of death, stories of
sickness, stories of poverty, stories of very permeable
religious adherence and loyalty, moving from one church to the other, from one religion to the other, gravitating from one
belief system to another. And, the fifth story is what
I’m going to ask Jasmine to play for us. We’ll listen to the
journalist, it kind of captures these whole stories, and
then we’ll form the basis of the final commentary that I will make. So, let us listen to the news. – Materialized a few
weeks ago in a community near Nguni state, that’s
south east Nigeria, has been turned into a Mecca
of sorts by miracle seekers. The lake is believed by
many to have healing powers. TVC News correspondent Carl
Ofoyne was one of the latest visitors to the lake, he tells us more. – [Carl] This is the famous Nachi lake that has been attracting
thousands of miracle seeking people daily since it materialized on November 11, 2013. The vehicles that bring
people daily from far and near to the lake are literally in the hundreds. (cars honking) But funny enough, the Nachi lake’s water is not like any other lake
water you may have seen. It is totally dirty and
its smell is overpowering. However, this does not deter
people who visit it daily with one health challenge or
another from diving into it. (crowds talking) Even some in critical conditions
who cannot enter the lake on their own get assisted
by their relations to dip their frail bodies in it. (crowds talking) Ironically, all the people
I spoke with look forward to a miracle after bathing
in the water and cared less about how dirty it is. – This is my mom, so she’s
sick and a lot of challenges as a woman so I believe
on having this water as I came all the way from
a back lake down to Pepe so by the specialist admits
I’ve got all of these problems, predicaments that I’m
passing through, it’s over. – I see someone that came to
this place, he’s not working when he come here and yet
when he sits in the water his back is okay. – [Carl] That is why you believe in it? – Yeah, even before I came
to this place I believe when I came to this
place everything be okay. – I saw a woman with my
cruel cruel eyes healed from the blindness and
another person from the sore in his leg, spider came out. After a time in the water. – [Carl] It is because of this
belief that everything around the lake it now taken as a healing object. Trees turned in before they are formed and took over the area have been felled and cut to pieces by
miracle seekers who believe that they have the capacity to heal. (chopping wood) The surroundings of the
lake are currently dotted by holes dug by people
scooping water to drink and take home for healing
and other miracles. Expectantly every business in Nachi community today is booming. (people shouting in foreign language) From photographers to
people sending miracles, for people rendering transport services, to people selling kebab,
popularly known as suya, they all say they are smiling home with thousands of lira every day. (speaking in foreign language) – [Carl] So, are you
praying for this water to remain and not to dry? (speaking in foreign language) – The expression I’m
having here now I’ve never had this present before, it’s wonderful. I’m saving by taking on the
miracle also in my business. (speaking in foreign language) – [Carl] But how did this lake
suddenly come into existence? Who told Nigerians that
it has healing powers? And yet evidences of people
that have been healed by the lake or is this
another trick being played on gullible Nigerians, bruised
and battered by poverty and diseases, occasioned by bad leadership and lack of professional
health care delivery system. This man was one of the
early comers at Nachi Lake when the news first broke. He’s still visiting the
place with his family. – Since the early days, on the
11th of November, the Fulani perhaps were carrying cotton. They passed through that dry
land, and the cotton baggers began to start delivering. They heard a sound behind
them, and they probably stood. And they went back down behind them to find out what’s happening
only to see water springing up. Hose pipe, water pipe that
was there had got busted. The water kept on striking. The man called one of
their brothers and said, “Look, that’s water coming up here.” He told him to print out
what the Nachi waters were, they were precisely at Mecca. That was how they knew something. So this guy got the water, sent
to the brother who was blind for 15 years, after the healing water, bathed with water, started seeing again. So, through that man, the news spread. – [Carl] He said the crutches left behind by crippled men and women healed after bathing in the
lake constitute enough evidence that it has healing power. And a quest position, and
perhaps that of many others like him means that Nachi miracle
lake will continue to play host to many people desperate
for life changing miracles in the coming days. But our fear is that there will
be an outbreak of contagious diseases in the homes of many
of these miracle seekers soon. We say this because of some
of the diseases we saw, people wash in the same
lake that many people bathe in have also drank. Even though this pool of water behind me is not full of pestilence so many of us have read
about in the Bible, many miracle seekers who
believe in what the water can do for them have turned the pool into a predicament of some sorts. That for the period I’ve been here, I did not witness any miracles. So many who have been
assisted into the water were also assisted out by their relation. Thus leaving me wondering
whether it is their faith that did not see them through. Carl Ofoyne, TVC News. Nachi, in Nguni state, southeast Nigeria. – Thank you. So that’s the fifth story,
and this formed the basis of a research that I have in
this book that was presented at the beginning. And this place is 10 miles
from my ancestral home. So, I had to spend three
weeks talking with people about this experience. It formed a foundation of kind
of reaffirmed my conviction that I need to be where my
people are, and I need to hear and listen to them. And listening to them can
help me to develop the phenomenological basis in order
to talk with them about God. So, I will draw some
five conclusions here. First of all is that I
do believe that Africa is going through a double crisis. The crisis of state, and
the crisis of religion. And I understand crisis in a positive way. Now, Christianity especially,
modern African Christianity came as a result of the
missionary movement especially in the 19th century continuing
to the 20th century. At the same time colonialism
came, also in Africa after the abolition of the slave trade following the Berlin conference. Colonialism came to Africa
again through the west. And now we have two
realities that emerged. One was the reality of
African Christianity, especially the mainline
churches, and the other was the reality of the African state, the states in Africa following
the end of colonialism. Now, in politics what
happened after the getting of independence in Africa
was the dismantling of the state by force. So, Africa was overwhelmed
with coup d’etat, almost all countries in Africa but two had this political crisis. So, the military were bringing down the state through guns, ammunition. Now, I think the same
thing is happening also, that’s my own reading, is
happening also in religion. So, you have established
mainline, missionary churches founded firmly as this
connection with international sentiment mainly for instance Catholicism. Now you have the Pentecostals
emerging within Catholicism, within Protestantism
as a form of resistance to the mainline churches. Now, these two crisis
that I call the crisis of the post-missionary
Christianity in Africa and the crisis of the
post-colonial state in Africa seem to me to exude common parallel. However, I think, and this
is my judgment that it points us rather than bemoaning
these Pentecostal movements, it points us to one
very important reality. That there is something that
they need in their heart that they are not finding in the current religious traditions and practices. But, it also points to something deeper. That is, what is that deep
desires of their heart which they are not finding fully realized in the traditional churches? And many people like you that
research for abundant life is at the center of religion in Africa. Abundant life understood as
cosmic and human flourishing that I have referred to as
when everyone is participating in the bond of life. People are flourishing,
the earth is flourishing, people are flourishing. Now that is actually what
approximates to the authentic desires of every religious practice. And now, this crisis I
see as an opportunity. Rather than dismiss these
groups as maybe crazy people, rather than dismiss these
groups as maybe people who are fundamentalists, who
are sectarians, who are sects, that we need to deepen
our contact with them because our folks are here. And you cannot just say it doesn’t matter. While I was there, one of
the questions I asked was, even the parish priest
were in the Catholic Church where this was happening never came there. So I asked the priest, “Why
haven’t you been there?” He said, “I don’t want to give validity to this crazy stuff.” So, five conclusions I want to draw. The first is that the
Pentecostal groups represent an attempt to respond to
the challenges imposed by the insertion of African
traditional religions into Christianity and sub Saharan Africa. In this regard, some
African scholars claim that African Pentecostalism is a new form of incorporation of the gospel. The second is the claim
that they are the fruits of a growing rejection
among African Christians of western Christianity
especially represented in the mainline churches. Roman Catholic church,
Anglican Church, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, and Presbyterian as well as the dodge reformed church because in southern Africa,
the Zionist movement is really the strongest
and the most populist religious group in the
whole of southern Africa. Because some scholars argue
that African Pentecostalism is emerging as a result
of the fragmentation in post-missionary Christianity in Africa. Some of us point to also
the competition for space within a very suffocating
cultural economic political space. Where the Pentecostal
feature of dominion taken from one verse in the Bible
that says, “Occupy till I come,” that the Pentecostals also
feel that they will dominate the space in order to weed
off the contrary forces that are bringing about the diminishing of this abundant life. The third conclusion is
that African Pentecostalism is a response on the part
of African Christians to use the resources of
the Christian heritage, especially African cultures,
Biblical narrative, especially from the Old
Testament in challenging the social context that has
given them so much suffering, poverty, political
instability, diseases, wars, and deaths which have
characterized African history for more than a century. And, I am not an Afro
pessimist, but, you know, I think also wars, Afro
optimism mostly pillowed with some realistic account
of what is going forward in African history. Indeed, Wes Colla called the Pentecostals in Africa factories of hope. That’s how he said they
offer hope to the people. Whether that hope is valid, again, we have to work out how to
validate what that hope is. But, I think that they are developing, that we need to develop
new cultural analytics in order to read and
understand the Pentecostals. The fourth conclusion
is about what is African about these Pentecostals
since they also share a lot of commonalities with other Pentecostals here in North
America and in Europe. The African in these groups
indicates the primary journey and origin of this movement. And it’s very important to
understand that Pentecostalism did not originate here
in the United States. Classical Pentecostalism, what
we call the Big Bang Theory of Pentecostalism, that is
this big explosion since 1906 that has its origin here
in the United States, yes, started here. But, from history, there are
many other African, indigenous, prophetic and spiritual movements that are still very strong. Some of them interacted
with the missionaries, and some of them were
actually seen by missionaries and colonialists as
some form of distraction and they tried to kind of
how to quench the fire. People like Simon Kimbangu, for instance. Walter Harris in Liberia
who originally started from Ivory Coast. But again, we cannot also forget
what we call Ethiopianism. This is a variety of Pentecostalism
if you use that term, that goes back to African
slaves here in the United States who were fighting for
the liberation of Africa and blacks from slavery. And when they came back to Liberia, when they were kind of
returned to Liberia, Liberia being a country
in Africa that was started by ex-slaves, they brought home with them these streams of Ethiopianism. Some of you who know, Bob Marley. Don’t you, you know Bob Marley? You know the song “Rasta Man,
vibration, yeah, positive.” Yeah, that’s Bob Marley. You know, like about how do we
bring about what some people call the origin, go back to the version of the authentic, the real African. The real African spiritual heritage. That’s a conversation for another day, but others also regard the Pentecostals as the protest movement. The movement that resists the
kind of pigeon holing of God. That’s why a very common
feature of this Pentecostalism charismatic is the kind of
flourishing of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. So, many Pentecostals actually
regard mainline churches as enemies because they want
to capture a tabernacle God, rather than allow this
outburst of spiritual energy to flourish and then to form and shape the people’s imagination. Then finally, the exponential
growth has been reported, you know, if you read any
history of modern Christianity, there is a general belief that Africa is the new heartland of Christianity. And just as we are witnessing
a post-western Christianity and a post-Christian
western society that Africa will soon again become the
new homeland of Jesus Christ. You know, like Jesus and the holy family went into exile in Egypt. Many people claim that
Africa is the place. In order to understand
the future of Christianity and Catholicism one must
understand the futures of present day African Christianity. And I think that the most, the
exponential growth in African Christianity today has been driven more by this Pentecostal movement. African Pentecostals and
charismatics are the fastest growing religious movements in Africa. And also in places like
Brazil, Peru, and Philippines. Now, for many, and I am
among those who think that this is a very good thing. Because, you know what? A lot of Catholic priests
are now becoming what? Pentecostals. Because there is now the
battle for membership. When I was born in my
homeland, I can’t remember any Pentecostal or charismatic
groups that existed. Today, the best universities
in many parts of Africa are run by Catholics, but
also they are completely for students with the
Pentecostals who also run the best universities. The best charitable organizations
are run by Catholic church still, the Catholic
church controls about 63% of social services in Africa. Health care especially, and education. But, the Pentecostals are
also beginning to do the same. So, it is a good competition. Now, I do not subscribe
to, you know, some version of a competition that says
that these are just different kinds of commodities
being throw out there. So, religion has become
like a shopping mall where there is a bazar of options. And so, increase the options
so as to increase competition, and increase quality. I do not subscribe to that
because at the end of the day, one must ask what is the
direction of history in Africa, and how can Christianity be
a medium for the emergence, a part of one of the conversation
partners in the emergence of the Africa that offers
to people abundant life. The Africa that offers people peace. The Africa where every young person has access to social mobility. And so, by will of conclusion,
I raise the same question that Pope Francis raised
when he was in Africa, where he talks about how
can we deepen the culture of encounter so that
anyone who comes in contact with the Christian religion
in any of these elements would have a transformative experience. Not only for individuals,
but also for culture. The second point is very
important to suspend quick, uninformed and unscientific
judgment about Pentecostal and charismatic healing and
other religious phenomena and miracle experiences. In many instance in my own
work, I see these Pentecostal groups as having a good
intention, which is to purify the church and to ward off evil. Indeed, Alan Anderson says
that Pentecostals in Africa is Africa’s own new
version of the Reformation. But then, the Pentecostals, some of them are not only
interested in reforming the church, they want
to create a new church. So, it’s very important
then that what Pope Francis calls the art of accompaniment
that we as theologians, as pastors, that we accompany God’s people in places like this. It’s very very important
that we do not just abandon them as crazy people, so that
let them do it their own way. I think a deeper theological
study, similar to the one I found so many people now
doing is also called for. But, it doesn’t have to rely solely on traditional theological methods. It must be grounded in socio-cultural and historical methods. Not only in our seminaries,
but also in our theological schools, but also in our
Catholic universities. I think that Pentecostalism
should be studied not only in Africa, but also even here. Because, it is also, if one may add, it is one of the most vital, most dynamic Christian movement globally. What is happening in
Africa is also happening in many parts of the world. And I think that we must
work with the people, and I want to actually conclude
with a very important quote. When I share this story with
one of my spiritual directors, he told me this, which
is very, is a guide, I felt like is a guide in revelation, God telling me something. If I have to speak in
Pentecostal charismatic language. I see God speaking to
me when he said to me, “Stan, your people are
crying inside, but maybe you theologians and priests
in Africa cannot hear or see their hidden wounds
because you go not see the church present in that messy pond or
Jesus jumping into that pond in the form of these poor
people you encountered.” So, for me, that pool that they
called the Pool of Bethesda became for me a site of
encounter of something deeper. That many Africans are
searching for healing. Many Africans are searching for meaning. Their faith is strong, but then how can we
understand that search. And how can we become
part of that faith journey so that it can bring them
to a place where they can experience, even in small ways a glimmer of the reign of God. Which in traditional African religion, we call abundant life. Thank you very much. (audience applause) – Questions, comments? – Yes. – [Seminar Attendee] I
think you touched on this, kind of in the conclusion but
what can the Catholic church, Catholics in general as
well as priests learn about, learn from their Pentecostal
Christian brothers? – One of the things for
me I think one could learn from our Pentecostal brothers
and sisters is that God does operate in history
beyond the formal structures of our rituals and sacramental systems and that the things of
God can only be followed, rather than simply analyzed. So, sometimes we kind of
create these frameworks within which we think
God operates and outside of those frameworks then
it becomes problematic. I mean, the baptism in the
spirit is still a big problem among many bishops in Africa. They say, “Why do you have to
be baptized in the spirit?” You know, since you have
already received baptism? So, I think it’s that
experience of God that is beyond simply our formal structures and the theological or doctrinal systems. I mean, St. Augustine said,
“If you understood God then it’s no longer God.” So, sometimes we tend
to kind of package God so much so that it becomes
something really packaged, rather than a person who you
encounter and whose experience of continues to increase
as you approach the margin. Hope that makes sense. – [Seminar Attendee] Yes. – [Male Questioner] Thank you so much, this is a wonderful talk
and I learned a great deal. And I’m very excited to see what I can do with this information. I have a couple questions,
the one I’m going to ask you is what’s at stake at you calling charismatic Pentecostalism a movement. Generally speaking, especially
in religious studies in theology, charismatic
Pentecostalism is very often kind of lumped into the
category of new religious units. But, very much in accord
with what you projected, charismatic Pentecostalism
is not very new. It might be over a hundred years old, I’m sure a lot of people are betting that its even older than that. And aside from the movement
if we’re talking just pure numbers locally, 500 million
to 700 million charismatic Pentecostal Christians in the world. That’s not a movement, that’s
a huge chunk of Christianity. In Guatemala, there are now
more charismatic and Pentecostal Christians than there are Catholics. So, it’s not really a movement
there, it’s the established church of Guatemala. So, why call it a movement? – Yeah, that’s a very nice question. You know, I call it a movement
in this regard in terms of the movement of the
spirit in history rather than the normal
characterization of movement in social science by social movements. It also gives a pointer to the
fact that it’s not something that could fossilize, or can
be contained in a particular tabernacle or house in a
specific historical epoch. So, it’s like something that continues the Christian journey. I do appreciate the fact that sometimes the characterization, you
know there are different typologies of classical Pentecostalism. Some people tend to,
there are some streams of Pentecostalism that is rooted in some forms of Messianism,
that’s also on its Cathological movement those who think that,
and that’s where it interacts with some evangelical
streams that think of this, you better get converted, you better repent because
Jesus is coming soon. So, it’s also understood in
that typology as a movement that tells people, “Get
ready, the Lord is near.” So, let’s move to the Cathological future that are with those who are chosen. This is a particular stream of Pentecostalism called
The Chosen in Africa. They just call themselves Chosen. And the movement is about God is coming soon you better get ready. – [Foreign Seminar Attendee] Thank you for such a wonderful presentation. I wanted to know especially
building from that kind of work that could help with the particular… If you could tie a few
of the strengths in terms of let’s say the impact of
structural judgment policies and perhaps Vatican
counsel and what you call of Post-colonial state in their
versions of the most vibrant part of this movement
especially at its perhaps transformation or few labels by certain theology not simply… But of abundance of the gospel prosperity and how all of this
particular to many of this… – Yeah, thank you. You see the Pentecostals,
I think that’s been, again I didn’t have
time to talk about that. There’s been I think three
phases of the Pentecostal movement in Africa. One is the one during the colonial system, one occurring immediately after
the second Vatican council, and then the third phase
happening after the collapse of the Berlin wall. So, and that collapse of the
Berlin wall also coincided with the worst forms
of economic, political, and social crisis and
devastation in Africa. I know as a high school
student that we suffered so much because of structural
adjustment program. Which in my language
translates to something that bites you in the head, that you are about to have a concussion. So, really, structural adjustment
program in my language, we were kids, we didn’t
know what it means, they say it’s concussion. You become so hungry that you collapse. So, the Pentecostals, then
the third phase was as society was fragmented, there
was some sign, some need, how do we find coherence? I mean, some of us believe that, this is my own personal
belief that religion should help people to have
coherence so that everything around you, you can have
a harmonious narrative. So people were no longer
finding coherence, people were dying of hunger. And that also coincided with the worst phase of the HIV/AIDS crisis. So, people were afraid of the future. So, in a sense, that was when
this emergency of prosperity gospel came to Africa. Which I personally do not use because I think in my language, I can’t
find, there’s no word for, the word for prosperity in
my language means “aizindo.” That means “good life.” So prosperity is an American capitalist narrative of religion. Whereas most people I see here, they don’t want to be
millionaires, they just want to get healing, they just
want to be touched by God, they are troubled. And as, I did a lot of
interviews with the people here, and you can see the people
dealing with business, small business that is not flourishing. I think Vatican two gave
Pentecostalism like you see after the Second Vatican Council
then this Belgian cardinal tried to promote Pentecostalism
and charismatic movements in global Catholicism. That it allowed, it opened
up to indigenous movement. And that indiginarity, especially
the African All Conference of All African Conference
of Churches actually came up in 1974 with the moratorium. Missionaries, leave Africa. Aid organizations, we don’t want you. So, we want Africans to
preach, promote Christianity as well as cultivate the land. That even the African Catholic
bishops also in the 1975 synod came up with a
co-responsibility within the church, where they also itemized this. That there are many things
happening in Africa, including the new experience
of the holy spirit. Which, you know, during
the Second Vatican Council, the Pope John-Paul the 23rd said, you know we prefer a new Pentecost. So, Vatican two is ushered
in this new Pentecost. I think the structural
adjustment made Africans to realize that the mainline
churches including our Rome were not doing a good job
addressing the socio-cultural, and especially the economic
problems of people. It cannot just be stopped,
they needed a praxis. Now, it is an open question
whether African Pentecostal and charismatic movement have
offered a praxis to reverse history in Africa. They have offered hope,
they have offered claims. Then, as I say in my forthcoming
book, there is a difference between being poor in the
Lord, and being the poor of the Lord. Being poor in the Lord is about praxis, it is not enough to make claims. It’s also important to translate
these claims into concrete, daily, Christian practices
that makes history with all these ambiguities to
conform to God’s Cathological kingdom, the fruits of
this Cathological kingdom which should be tangible. Maybe you think I’m talking
like a Pentecostal now. – [Last Seminar Attendee]
Following up on that, what would you say to
people who criticize… And practices as distracting and unnecessary social justices? – That’s a very important
question, but there are strains. Again Pentecostalism in Africa,
there are multiple strains. I know, for instance, the Winner’s Chapel, two biggest Pentecostal
groups in my homeland. Enoch Adeboyeh, these
also skip my mind now, the other, Oyedepo. These are two, Winner’s
Church and Redeemed Christian Mission which has more than 100 parishes in the United States, it’s
here in 27 states in the U.S. It’s from Nigeria. It’s not here in
Massachusetts, I mean Tom, I know you might have,
you would love to go and see what’s going on there, but they run a very
serious social justice. Now, you are talking about DACA. Some of my students in
Chicago who are from Africa, who is helping them? The Redeemed Church. Now, in Italy, when I was
studying in Rome, it dawned on me that whereas many Catholics
in Italy do not feel a sense of belonging in the churches
there that the Redeemed Church was consciously recruiting Catholics. Most Catholics then in Italy,
in Rome, including members of my own family go to the
Pentecostals on Sundays including the Redeemed Church because they help them to do the immigration, navigate
the very complex immigration processes and they have
a sense of solidarity. I studied 38 Pentecostal
groups when I was doing my Ph. D., and what I found
was that I thought this way, that they are not really involved in a lot of social justice. But, I found a lot of
solidarity among them. Now, I think their message,
some of the messages might also habilitate against the
fight for social justice, but one of the things
I found just recently. You look at Africa, the way it
is today, in my home country the Vice President is
a Pentecostal pastor. In Zambia, the former president
had to come to a synagogue of all nations in Nigeria on
a regular basis to take power from a TV juncture. I visited a politician while I was home, a senator who’s a good friend of mine. And, I found holy water on his altar. So, I prayed for him as a
priest, he said, “Bless me.” And then the holy water he
had was from T.B. Joshua. T.B. Joshua is a Pentecostal, a world renowned Pentecostal pastor. So, then I said to him, “Is
this T.B. Joshua’s holy water?” He said, “You bet. Oh
my wife brought it here, so you know what God has joined together let no man put
asunder, so you should use it to bless us.” So, they are also fighting
political war because they think to dominate the political
space would help them in order to dominate the social economic space. So, one of the, this All
Business Men Fellowship. It’s so strong in
Nigeria, the politicians, all their captains of industries,
they are well connected to these Pentecostal groups. Then on Sunday, some of them,
they come to Catholic church. They say, “Well, we know the
Catholic church is so strong, but we also know that these other people they are also doing some good work.” So, and that’s the last
point I want to make to this, there is some kind of, I
think from my experience as an African and international
with Africans themselves, that many Africans can
live with ambiguity. So, what you call secretism,
is actually trying to, it’s not either or. But, both and. So, they are searching and
then pick one good thing here, they pick the other and
maybe over time commentators might be able to give it a form. But even right now, I
think some of the typology and navigational equipment
we use to study this group has not offered a definitive
answers to how they operate, so yes, and no. That would be my answer. – [Tom] Let’s stop there,
that’s a great place. And thank you so much for
so many things you said. (audience applauds)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *