Religion in a Changing World: Comparative Studies in Sociology

By Madeleine Cousineau | Go to book overview

tutions, as these were promoted as the chief means of Adventism's evangelistic outreach. However, these institutions soon performed the additional functions that they served in the United States, such as providing opportunities for the upward mobility of members--and thus of helping to reduce tension between Adventism and the societies where it was located.

The relationship of Jehovah's Witnesses in the developing world to their central organization, the Watch Tower Society (WTS), which is also located in the United States, was also crucial. But in this case the outcome was the reverse to that with Adventists: The patterns that had prevented the tension between American Witnesses and their surrounding society from abating to any discernible degree were exported throughout the international organization. For example, it was the WTS that decided that Witnesses should "eschew all association and co-operation with other missionary bodies" to build schools, and should not recognize secular authority, which greatly heightened tensions between Witnesses and newly independent African countries ( Assimeng 1986:53,218; 1970:100). Such decisions had the effect of keeping Witnesses separate and bolstering antagonisms against them, thus maintaining their sectarianism.

Pentecostals contrast strongly with these examples. They exhibit much greater variety because the absence of a single centralized umbrella group has allowed the local churches to blend much more closely with the environments in which they have found themselves.

This chapter, which began with the assumption that church-sect theory has proven useful in understanding and predicting the evolution of schismatic religious groups such as Adventism in the United States, has shown that the theory is also relevant to the evolution of religious groups introduced through missionary endeavor. Furthermore, it has proven useful in accounting for the different profiles developed by global church organizations in those cases--Adventists and Witnesses--where their umbrella organizations are structurally centralized and hierarchical.


NOTES
1.
Information from interviews.
2.
Information from interviews. There are currently three Adventist members of Congress, which is the highest such number to date.
3.
Several similar examples are cited in Lawson ( 1996).
4.
They had often also been exposed to Adventism during several years in church-run schools.
5.
Interviews.
6.
Interviews.
7.
Interviews.

REFERENCES

Assimeng Max. 1970. "Sectarian Allegiance and Political Authority: The Watch Tower Society in Zambia, 1907-1935." "Journal of Modern African Studies 8"(1):97-112.

-127-

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