Kevin G. Smith
Batanayi I. Manyika
Provided that we adopt a broad and inclusive definition of Pentecostal and Pentecostalism (Anderson 2002; 2004), there remains no doubt that Pentecostalism (including Charismatic and Neo-Pentecostal forms) has become the dominant expression of Christianity in Africa. This is acknowledged by friend and foe alike. For instance, Asamoah-Gyadu (2007) celebrates the pentecostalisation of mainline churches while Arnett (2017) laments the same, but neither denies the fact that the Christian faith in Africa wears Pentecostal-Charismatic garb.
In response to this reality, and motivated by a sense that the time is right to explore more deeply what Spirit-dependence should mean for the Seminary, we organised an academic webinar at which scholarly reflections on pentecostalisation in the African church were presented. The two-day event represented a paradigm-breaking moment for SATS. We crossed the Rubicon in two senses.
Firstly, harnessing technology to host a conversation that involved scholars and delegates from all around the world changes the rules of engagement for scholarly dialogue. At minimal cost, scholars presented from America, England, France, Ghana, South Africa, and the Congo, while 99 delegates participated from many nations. The conversation was as rich and bi-directional as at any live conference. Secondly, we had a deep sense that this was a divinely orchestrated moment in the seminary’s priority to become a more contextually-sensitive and culturally-diverse voice. Our dream of the Global South rising as a thought leader for the church began to be realised. We experienced six superb presentations by black African theologians who can hold their own in any academic forum. This was a first instalment, a foretaste of the potential SATS has to contribute to transformative theological thought on our continent. As recently as last year, this was not even a blip on the radar of possibilities at SATS. We sense that God is doing a new thing.
We do not despise the day of small beginnings.
Presenters and Presentations
On day one, Dr Craig S. Keener (Asbury Theological Seminary) delivered a plenary address titled, ‘The Pentecost Paradigm for Pentecostalism’. Anchored in Luke-Acts, Keener walked us through themes related to baptism in the Spirit as a prerequisite for cross-cultural mission. Underscored in Keener’s address was the continuity of this phenomenon from Luke’s day to the present. The zenith was an appeal to the cultivation and preservation of a unity born of the Spirit within a sacrificially loving community, the church.
Dr Jesse Kipimo (SATS) examined on pentecostalisation in Francophone Africa, using the Congo Evangelistic Mission (CEM) as a case study. Dr Robert Falconer (SATS) reflected on the Holy Spirit in inaugurated eschatology and how this intersects with an enchanted African society. Falconer called for a broader view of the Spirit embracing the charismata while seeing the renewal of the cosmos in Christ as key.
Dr Annang Asumang (SATS) called for adjustment in theological education in the Global South. In a balanced and insightful paper, he sought to build bridges between the global north and the Global South, centred on an appreciation of pentecostalisation as a work of God.
Dr Pretorius (SATS) spoke on the nexus between science and faith, particularly the relationship between neuroscience and the Holy Spirit, calling for further dialogue and research.
On day two, Prof. Marius Nel (Northwest University) delivered a plenary address titled, ‘Pentecostalisation’s Pastoral Response to the Challenges of South African Xenophobia’. Launching from an analysis of neo-Pentecostals’ use of neo-prophecy, Nel argued for the therapeutic role played by prophecy in attending to the victims of xenophobia. This was a content-rich paper deserving of multiple reads for one to glean the implications for a South African context.
Dr Modisa Mzondi (SATS) shared some historical insights regarding the pentecostalisation of the African church. His presentation looked at Enoch Sontonga’s song and prayer ‘Nkosi sikelel’ iAfrica’. Mzondi underlined that pentecostalisation of the church in Africa is a divine answer to this song and prayer. In a balanced and Bible-based presentation, Dr Collium Banda (Northwest University) cautioned against attempting to complement Christ’s salvific works through the use of anointed mantles, as seen in the practices of a few African Pentecostal prophets. He warned against excesses of these prophetic figures. Dr Elijah Dube (UNISA) spoke on flamboyant prophets in both South Africa and Zimbabwe, addressing their abuse of authority. Dube looked at public sentiment and the regulation that has arisen because of these prophets, signalling that the church should do more by way of curtailing their abuses.
Last but not least, Dr Kevin Smith (SATS) presented on spiritual warfare as understood in neo-Pentecostal circles and how this compares to Ephesians. He recognised the silence of many occidental commentators on the supernatural, while equally lamenting the overindulgences of some neo-Pentecostals on the matter.
From this broad an in-depth dialogue, we were humbled to provide a platform through which academics, church leaders, students, and thought leaders could engage with well-informed scholars. Like the blacksmith who knows full well to strike the iron whilst it is still hot, we aim to continue the conversation through a publication. To this end, we will be collating the papers presented into a special edition of Conspectus (the Journal of the South African Theological Seminary). The issue should be available in October 2018.
We are a people who believe in the power of God and in the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Through the presentations, we experienced a range of sentiments. We recognised God authentically at work in the Global South and we appreciated the many positive contributions of African Pentecostal churches. We voiced concerns about a variety of abusive and unbiblical trends and practices. Perhaps most of all, we heard the call of God for the church in the Global South to take up the mantle of theological and missionary leadership. In response, we echoed the sentiments of Isaiah and Martin Luther—‘here we are, Lord; send us’ and ‘here we stand [to serve]; we can do no other’.
Anderson, Allan H. 2002. ‘Diversity in the Definition of “Pentecostal/Charismatic” and Its Ecumenical Implications.’ Mission Studies 19.
———. 2004. An Introduction to Pentecostalism: Global Charismatic Christianity.
New York: Cambridge University Press.
Arnett, Randy. 2017. Pentecostalization: The Evolution of Baptists in Africa. Eldon, Missouri: Randy Arnett.
Asamoah-Gyadu, J. Kwabena. 2007. ‘Pulling Down Strongholds: Evangelism, Principalities and Powers, and the African Pentecostal Imagination’.
International Review of Mission 96 (372–373): 306–17.