"Theology of Presence" in African Christianity: A Transforming Missiological Factor for Women in Contemporary Pentecostal Churches in Africa

By Lugazia, Faith K. | International Review of Mission, December 2017 | Go to article overview

"Theology of Presence" in African Christianity: A Transforming Missiological Factor for Women in Contemporary Pentecostal Churches in Africa


Lugazia, Faith K., International Review of Mission


The history of Christianity reveals the returning back to its roots in Africa and Asia. In confirming this reality, Todd M. Johnson acknowledged: "The 100-year view focuses on Christianity's 20th-century shift to the global South, (1) and the fact that the fastest growing type of Christianity globally is Pentecostalism." Allan Anderson, a scholar of Pentecostal Christianity, estimates that in 1970, there were 68 million Pentecostals; 30 years later, the figure rose to 505 million; and eight years later (2008), reached 601 million, making up about a quarter of the world's Christians. The rapid rate of growth accelerated dramatically in the last quarter of the 20th century, and especially in the global South. (2) By 2010, over three quarters of all Christians will be living in the South. (3) Africa (4)h as experienced the Pentecostal phenomenon intensely. Many scholars have written on the phenomenon without paying attention to the reason behind the participation of women in Pentecostal churches. Some see the experiences of women in these churches as no different than those of African religions or of the missionary churches. (5) Others argue that with regard to visions or the intensification of spiritual life, women could bypass "official" ministers to mediate their experience to others. Thus, it is not surprising that women are in the majority in many "spirit movements," beginning with Pentecost and continuing through new global Pentecostal movements. (6) Philomena Mwaura adds that women participate in Pentecostal churches, especially in leadership roles, because "church hierarchy is rarely determined by formal education but by spiritual gifts and seniority." (7)

This missiological paper is aware that, in the 21st century, churches work on a gender basis, because although "women['s] participation... is still evident in the church [, m]en are refusing to accept women's leadership roles, denying women's ordination to ministry" (8); and that "[i]n many institutions and discussions, we do see that the very complex, difficult and challenging questions of women are covered and made invisible by gender approach." (9) This paper, therefore, will deal with the transformative affirmations of contemporary Pentecostal churches in Africa for women.

This paper will deploy a "theology of presence" to claim that contemporary Pentecostal Christianity in Africa, with some continuity in the African worldview and in biblical cultures, has touched upon and answered women's complex, difficult, and challenging questions, which for many years have been denied by Christian missionaries in Africa. I intend to affirm the connection of theology of presence and women's transformation in contemporary Pentecostal churches in Africa, speculate on the transformative and liberating facts found in contemporary Pentecostal churches in Africa, and suggest further research for women's transformation and change within contemporary Pentecostal Christianity on the continent.

The term "theology of presence" comes from Dick Westley's teachings in Christian religion in 1988 that confirm God's accompanying of individuals through the journey of life. In this theology, according to Westley, actualization takes place through Jesus Christ (God's incarnation), who in turn uses the person he chooses for healing and giving abundant life to his creation. It affirms God's incarnation: "God coming to earth in human form to live and breathe and walk and work and minister among us... God in his infinite power could have chosen to engage with his creation in any way. Yet the method he chose was presence--the physical presence of 'Jesus Christ becoming human and pitching his tent among us.'" (10)

In my use of the term "culture," I refer to Niebuhr's definition from an anthropological point of view: culture is the "artificial, secondary environment" that man superimposes on the natural. It comprises language, habits, ideas, beliefs, customs, social organization, inherited artifacts, technical process, and values. …

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