Ghana's New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy

By Essamuah, Casely B. | The International Journal of African Historical Studies, May 1, 2006 | Go to article overview

Ghana's New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy


Essamuah, Casely B., The International Journal of African Historical Studies


Ghana's New Christianity: Pentecostalism in a Globalizing African Economy. By Paul Gifford. Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 2004. Pp. 216. $24.95.

The West African country of Ghana has had a far wider influence in Africa and Christian history than its size, population, or wealth deserves, and that makes this engaging volume by Paul Gifford even more significant. Gifford, professor at University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies, has previous publications on Ghana and the subject of "new Christianity," but this is his first full-length book on Ghana. In researching this phenomenon, Gifford spent a considerable period attending the functions of these churches, and reading up on their voluminous literature. He also had a group of research assistants who enlarged the purview of his survey. The result is a fascinating account of this "new Christianity" which is a welcome addition to the already cluttered field of Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, and Independents who constitute more than half of Ghana's population that claims to be Christian. This "new Christianity" is that of Charismatics, who by their diversity defy easy categorization, but one can surmise that unlike Pentecostals, the Charismatics do not place much emphasis on healing as they do on speaking in tongues. Nevertheless, concentrating on Nicholas Duncan Williams, Mensa Otabil, Charles Agyin-Asare, Heward-Mills, and Salifia Amoako, Gifford delineates several common strands. These include an emphasis on success as financial or material wealth; utilization of the Bible for narratives that promote a success-driven spirituality; a theology of faith gospel-where emphasis on health and wealth is dominant but sin and suffering are hardly mentioned; deliverance from spiritual forces; and extensive use of literature, audio, and television media in self-advertisement for propaganda.

These charismatic churches have become formidable economic enterprises in themselves. Gifford's singular contribution is to place this phenomenon within the developing economy and relatively stable political context of Ghana. …

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