Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pentecostals and the Body: Call for Papers


Volume 8: Pentecostals and the Body

Forthcoming 2017

Edited by:

 Michael Wilkinson (Trinity Western University, Canada) and
Peter Althouse (Southeastern University, USA)

The body is an important area of research in sociology as well as across a number of disciplines including religion. The intersection of religion, sexuality, gender studies, queer studies, disability studies, health and illness, pain, death and dying, emotions, and embodiment, or more specifically the social and cultural meanings of the body are especially insightful. While literature on embodiment continues to expand, to date, there is no sustained examination of Pentecostalism and the themes associated with research on the body. And yet, Pentecostals offer some very interesting observations about religion, religious experience, religious embodiment, healing, sexuality and notions of control, holiness, and celebration. Pentecostals are well known for overt bodily expressions of religious experience, spirituality that includes kinaesthetic worship such as speaking in tongues, dancing, twirling, and falling down. Among Pentecostals there is also considerable debate about bodies, the relationship between bodies and the Holy Spirit, possession of evil spirits, deliverance and exorcism. Pentecostalism also has a long history of claiming divine healing for the body and emotions. Believing that healing is a sign of divine power and presence raises a certain tension with bodies that never experience healing or face some type of disability. Pentecostalism is also associated with notions of sexuality, and gender roles that are liberating and limiting. Generally, we intend to explore the following: How and by what means is Pentecostalism embodied? What debates highlight the tensions over bodies and so called authentic expressions of Pentecostalism vis-à-vis the body and the politics of the body? What is the social processes and social interactions by which bodies embody religion?

To explore these issues we propose to include articles around the following themes.

1. The Kinaesthetic Body – Pentecostals and charismatic worship, speaking in tongues, dreams, and visions.
2. Bodies and Spirit(s) – Pentecostal notions of being filled with the Holy Spirit and deliverance of other spirits.
3. Health, Illness, and Disability – Pentecostals and the practice of healing and discourses around illness and death.
4. The Politics of Sexuality and Gender Roles – Pentecostalism as liberating and limiting for bodies, social control and gender roles, sexuality and notions of holiness/purity of body.

The editors will seek out contributors who can address questions raised in the sociology of religion about Pentecostalism and the sociology of the body with authors representing regional and cultural variation.

Please send all proposals (300 words) to

Submission of proposals: July 30, 2015
Notification of acceptance: September 30, 2015
Completed manuscripts (7,000 words): June 30, 2016

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Pentecostalism, Religious Experience,and the Body / Le pentecôtisme, l’expérience religieuse et le corps

The 33rd ISSR Conference: Sensing Religion
July 2-5, 2015

Thematic Session

Pentecostalism, Religious Experience, and the Body / Le pentecôtisme, l’expérience religieuse et le corps

Michael Wilkinson, Trinity Western University (Canada)
Peter F. Althouse, Southeastern University (USA)

The intersection of religion, sexuality, gender, disability, health and illness, pain, death and dying, emotions, and embodiment is especially insightful for researching Pentecostal and Charismatic notions of the body. Pentecostalism is well known for overt bodily expressions of religious experience that includes kinesthetic worship such as speaking in tongues, dancing, twirling, and falling down. Among Pentecostals and Charismatics there is considerable debate about bodies, the relationship between bodies and the Holy Spirit, possession of evil spirits, deliverance and exorcism. Pentecostalism also has a long history of claiming divine healing for the body and emotions. Believing that healing is a sign of divine power and presence raises a certain tension with bodies that never experience healing or face some type of disability. Pentecostalism is also associated with notions of sexuality and gender roles that are liberating and limiting. While literature on embodiment and religious experience continues to expand, to date, there is no sustained examination of Pentecostalism and the themes associated with research on the body. To explore these issues we invite presentations to address any of the following areas: the kinesthetic body; bodies and Spirit(s); health, illness, and disability; and the politics of sexuality and gender roles. 

La confluence de la religion, la sexualité, le genre, l’infirmité, la santé et la maladie, la douleur, la mort et le mourir, les émotions et l’incarnation nous donne une compréhension assez perspicace lorsqu’on étudie les notions pentecôtistes et charismatiques du corps humain. En effet, la spiritualité pentecôtiste est bien connue pour ses expressions kinesthésiques, par exemple la glossolalie, la danse, et « tomber dans l’esprit ». Parmi les pentecôtistes et les charismatiques le corps humain, le rapport entre les corps et le Saint-Esprit, la possession diabolique et l'exorcisme, sont tous des sujets de débat. On constate surtout une tension lorsqu’on essaie de réconcilier la croyance fondamentale pentecôtiste voulant que tous et toutes aient accès à la guérison, que ce soit pour le corps ou pour les émotions, avec le fait incontournable qu’il y a toujours des malades et des personnes handicapées au sein du mouvement. Les notions de sexualité et des rôles de genre au sein du pentecôtisme sont à la fois restrictifs et libérateurs. Tandis que la recherche sur le lien entre spiritualité et corps est encore en augmentation, il n’existe jusqu’à présent aucune enquête scientifique sur ce lien chez les pentecôtistes et les différents thèmes associés avec les recherches au sujet du corps. Pour mieux améliorer cette recherche, nous invitions des dissertations qui adressent les thématiques : le corps kinesthésique ; les corps et l’Esprit (les Esprits) ; la santé, la maladie et l’infirmité ; et les politiques des rôles concernant la sexualité et du genre. 

Details on the program can be found here

Paper Proposals can be submitted online here.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Pentecostalism and Development

I just finished attending my first Glopent conference, the 8th international meeting of the European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism. The conference was held at SOAS, University of London.

The conference theme was "Pentecostalism and Development" and featured plenary addresses by Matthew Clark (Deakin University, Australia), Tomas Sundnes Drønen (School of Mission and Theology in Stravanger, Norway), and Dena Freeman (visiting fellow at the London School of Economics).

The conference attempted to address a number of questions about the relationship between Pentecostalism in the so-called "developing world" and how scholars understand and interpret what is happening.

The various speakers and papers in parallel sessions raised a number of excellent questions. For example, one of the basic issues revolves around the relationship between Pentecostals and development agencies, how they view that relationship, who get's to define the role religion plays, and as Matthew Clark argued, whether or not they see that relationship as one of mutual and shared concern. My view is that the suspicion Pentecostals have towards development agencies accounts for the large amount of work that Pentecostals do themselves, which bypasses state sponsored development work.

Tomas Sundnes Drønen offered a rich ethnographic description of small, primarily rural Pentecostal churches in northern Cameroon struggling to gain acceptance by government authorities, negotiating identities with larger more accepted Lutheran Churches, and the fascinating ways in which Pentecostals desire to be successful like their Muslim counterparts. I appreciated his focus on the mosaic of Pentecostalism and the various small rural churches often lost in the shadow of the megachurches of America and Nigeria.

Finally, Dena Freeman offered an account of the conversion of Ethiopians to Pentecostalism, which included the rupture of continuity with traditional life. And yet, these Ethiopian Pentecostals have gained new social identities, successful businesses, and for development workers, new models for expanding projects.

There is more that could be said about the conference and I'm still processing the many rich ideas I hope to apply to my own work. Questions like, what constitutes the social good? What is social engagement? How do we understand the role of religion and civil society? What is the social impact of religion and what benefit does religion contribute to community cohesion and citizenship? How might Pentecostals contribute to public policy and development? What happens when development projects fail? Or politically, when the goals, motives, and outcomes differ between development agencies and faith based organizations?

If you've never attended a Glopent conference, I strongly recommend it.

Friday, August 22, 2014

New Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism

Pentecostalism is one of the fastest-growing religious movements in the world. Groups in the United States dominated early Pentecostal histories, but recent global manifestations have expanded and complicated the definition of Pentecostalism. This volume provides a nuanced overview of Pentecostalism's various manifestations and explores what it means to be Pentecostal from the perspectives of both insiders and outsiders. Leading scholars in the field use a multidisciplinary approach to analyze the historical, economic, political, anthropological, sociological, and theological aspects of the movement. They address controversies, such as the Oneness-Trinity controversy; introduce new theories; and chart trajectories for future research. The Cambridge Companion to Pentecostalism will enable beginners to familiarize themselves with the important issues and debates surrounding the global movement, while also offering experienced scholars a valuable handbook for reference.

Part I. Historical Considerations -- 1. The Origins of Modern Pentecostalism: Some Historiographical Issues / Cecil M. Robeck, Jr. -- 2. Charismatic Renewal and Neo-Pentecostalism: From North American Origins to Global Permutations / Michael J. McClymond -- 3. Then and Now: The Many Faces of Global Oneness Pentecostalism / David A. Reed -- Part II Regional Studies -- 4. North America Pentecostalism / David D. Daniels III -- 5. Pentecostalism in Europe and the Former Soviet Union / Jean-Daniel Pl ü ss -- 6. Pentecostalism in Latin America / Daniel Ramirez -- 7. African Pentecostalism / Cephas N. Omenyo -- 8. Asian Pentecostalism in Context: A Challenging Portrait / Wonsuk Ma -- Part III Disciplinary Perspectives/Contributions – The Status Quaestiones -- 9. The Politics and Economics of Pentecostalism: A Global Survey / Calvin L. Smith -- 10. The Cultural Dimension of Pentecostalism / Andr é Droogers -- 11. Sociological Narratives and the Sociology of Pentecostalism / Michael Wilkinson -- 12. Pentecostal Spirituality / Daniel E. Albrecht and Evan B. Howard -- 13. Pentecostal Theology / Mark J. Cartledge -- 14. Pentecostalism and Ecumenism / Wolfgang Vondey -- 15. Pentecostal Mission and Encounter with Religions / Veli-Matti K ä rkk ä inen -- Instead of a Conclusion: A Theologian’s Interdisciplinary Musings on the Future of Global Pentecostalism and Its Scholarship.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Pentecostals Have Lunch with Pope Francis

A group of evangelical leaders recently had lunch with Pope Francis including Pentecostals and Charismatics Brian Stiller, James Robison, Kenneth Copeland, and John Arnott.

Brian Stiller, a prominent Canadian leader was raised in the home of a Pentecostal preacher in the Prairies. He completed a graduate degree at Wycliffe College, University of Toronto and wrote his thesis about Canadian Pentecostalism. Later he served as President of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and worked hard to include Pentecostals in the evangelical fold. Stiller recently retired as President of Tyndale University College in Toronto and now serves as Global Ambassador for the World Evangelical Alliance.

Stiller reported on the luncheon and included observations about the Pope's views on Christian unity, relationship with Pentecostals, and challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church including issues of sexual abuse, finances, and leadership.

Stiller's report can be found here.

Pope Francis continues to fascinate evangelical Protestants and especially Pentecostals with his openness for dialogue. The lunch is another of his ecumenical gatherings meant to highlight global Christian unity. At this point there does not appear to be anything institutionally or structurally that points to any long term or ongoing discussion, which would be of interest sociologically. Having said that, the initial stages of discussion and openness do point to a cultural shift and that requires some reflection and analysis about the future of world Christianity.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Global Pentecostalism in the 21st Century

University of Indiana Press. 2013. Pp. v + 270; paper.

This edited volume offers the reader excellent coverage on a range of issues about the social, cultural, and political aspects of Pentecostalism.  With contributions from sociologists, anthropologists, and religion scholars, the editor has brought together some of the top experts in the field with cases from most regions of the world including Brazil, Zimbabwe, China, Russia, Ukraine, India, and the Philippines. The chapters include rich empirical findings, theoretical sophistication, and debates in the literature about the social and political impact of Pentecostals, its civic and public role, why Pentecostalism is or is not growing, issues of institutionalization, relationship to the varieties of modernity, and impact on family and gender issues. The Introduction offers a solid overview of how the volume contributes to the scholarly work to date on global Pentecostalism and a response by Peter Berger addresses the main issues raised about modernity, religion, and public engagement.

The volume is a project of the Institute on Culture, Religion, and World Affairs (CURA) at Boston University and focuses especially on how Pentecostals, now more established in the world, engage culture and social institutions. This book represents an important study of how Pentecostals have shifted from an anti-modern stance to a more confident view of their place in the world. CURA was started by the eminent sociologist of religion, Peter Berger and has included projects with David Martin and Bernice Martin. I highly recommend this volume.