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‘Anglocostalism’ in Nigeria: Neo-Pentecostalism and Obstacles to Anglican Unity

  • Jesse Zink

Abstract

In the last several decades, the religious landscape in Nigeria has been transformed by the rise of neo-Pentecostal or ‘new generation’ churches. These churches teach a gospel of prosperity, advance an oppositional view of the world, focus on a supernatural arena of spiritual forces, accord a unique weight to the Bible, and practice a charismatic worship style. One result of the presence of these churches has been to change the face of Anglicanism in Nigeria. Concerned about the possibility of diminished influence and prestige, the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) has responded to neo-Pentecostal churches by adopting more of its rivals’ beliefs and practices. This paper argues that this changing environment explains, in part, Nigerian opposition to efforts at global Anglican unity and argues that it is impossible to address the future of the Anglican Communion without first understanding the on-the-ground religious context in Nigeria.

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1.

Jesse Zink is a doctoral student in theology and assistant chaplain at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

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2. The research for this paper was conducted in June 2011 in four Anglican dioceses in eastern and northern Nigeria. Quotations are verbatim and taken from notes made during approximately 35 interviews over the course of the month.

3. Ayegboyin, Deji and Asonzeh Ukah, F.K., ‘Taxonomy of Churches in Nigeria: A Historical Perspective’, Orita: Ibadan Journal of Religious Studies, 34.1-2 (2002), pp. 6886 (72–73, 84–85). See also Damaris Seleina Parsitau, ‘From the Periphery to the Centre: The Pentecostalisation of Mainline Christianity in Kenya’, Missionalia, 35.3 (2007), pp. 83–111 (88). For what it is worth, Nigerian Anglicans seem to know they are referring to this broad movement of churches when they use the phrase ‘new generation’.

4. Although often called the ‘Anglican Church of Nigeria’, the official name of the Nigerian Anglican province is ‘Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion)’.

5. Ayegboyin and Ukah, ‘Taxonomy of Churches in Nigeria’, pp. 80–82. Kalu's book-length study African Pentecostalism: An Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) refers to the period from 1900 to the 1960s as that of ‘early charismatic movements’.

6. Kailing, Joel B., ‘A New Solution to the African Christian Problem’, Missiology: An International Review, 22.4 (1994), pp. 489506 (494).

7. Kalu, Ogbu U., ‘Pentecostalism and Mission in Africa, 1970–2000’, Mission Studies, 24 (2007), pp. 945 (12).

8. Ojo, Matthews A., The End-Time Army: Charismatic Movements in Modern Nigeria (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2006), p. 233.

9. Ojo, End-Time Army, p. 177.

10. Kalu, ‘Pentecostalism and Mission in Africa’, p. 10.

11. Onoja, Adoyi, ‘The Pentecostal Churches: The Politics of Spiritual Deregulation since the 1980s’, in Julius O. Adekunle (ed.), Religion in Politics: Secularism and National Integration in Modern Nigeria (Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, 2009), pp. 263273 (263).

12. Ukah, Asonzeh F.K., ‘Contesting God: Nigerian Pentecostals and their Relations with Islam and Muslims’, in David Westerlund (ed.), Global Pentecostalism Encounters with Other Religious Traditions (New York: I.B. Tauris, 2009), pp. 93114 (99).

13. Isiramen, Celestina O., ‘Pentecostalism and the Nigerian Socio/Economic Debacle: A Therapy or a Delusion?’, in Celestina O. Isiramen, Friday J. Imaekhai, and Benson O. Igboin (eds.), Religion and the Nigerian Nation: Some Topical Issues. (Ibadan, Nigeria: En-Joy Press, 2010), p. 303.

14. Ojo, Matthews A., ‘The Charismatic/Pentecostal Experience in Nigeria’, Journal of African Christian Thought 2.1 (1999), pp. 316 (26).

15. Gifford, Paul, ‘Prosperity: A New and Foreign Element in African Christianity’, Religion, 20 (1990), pp. 373388 (374).

16. Gifford, ‘Prosperity: A New and Foreign Element’, p. 383.

17. Isiramen, ‘Pentecostalism and the Nigerian Socio/Economic Debacle’, p. 320.

18. Ukah, ‘Contesting God’, p. 98.

19. Kalu, ‘Pentecostalism and Mission in Africa’, p. 30.

20. Parsitau, ‘From the Periphery to the Centre’, p. 100.

21. Kailing, ‘A New Solution’, p. 501.

22. Gifford, Paul, ‘Reinhard Bonnke's Mission to Africa, and his 1991 Nairobi Crusade’, in New Dimensions in African Christianity (Ibadan: Sefer, 1993), pp. 186215 (194).

23. Ojo, ‘The Charismatic/Pentecostal Experience in Nigeria’, p. 29.

24. Kailing, ‘A New Solution’, p. 491.

25. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, J., ‘Neo-Pentecostalism and the Changing Face of Christianity in Africa’, in Karen L. Bloomquist (ed.), Lutherans Respond to Pentecostalism (Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2008), pp. 927 (12).

26. Isiramen, ‘Pentecostalism and the Nigerian Socio/Economic Debacle’, p. 309.

27. Ojo, End-Time Army, p. 236.

28. Gifford, ‘Prosperity: A New and Foreign Element’, p. 378.

29. Omenyo, Cephas Narh, Pentecost outside Pentecostalism: A Study of the Development of Charismatic Renewal in the Mainline Churches in Ghana (Zoetermeer, The Netherlands: Uitgeverij Boekencentrum, 2002), p. 222.

30. Paul Gifford, ‘Expecting Miracles: The Prosperity Gospel in Africa’, Christian Century, 10 July 2007, p. 20.

31. Nkwoka, A.O., ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit: Pentecostalism and the Anglican Communion in Nigeria’, in David O. Ogungbile and Akintunde E. Akinade (eds.), Creativity and Change in Nigerian Christianity (Lagos: Malthouse Press, 2010), pp. 7994 (83). Nkwoka has done the most work on relations between Anglicans and the new generation churches and this section is indebted to his work.

32. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, p. 84. As university students, many of these people were far from ‘untutored’, though they may have lacked formal theological education.

33. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, p. 84.

34. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, p. 86.

35. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, pp. 85–86.

36. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, p. 90.

37. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, p. 91.

38. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, p. 90.

39. Nkwoka, ‘Interrogating the Form and the Spirit’, p. 89.

40. Onoja, ‘The Pentecostal Churches’, p. 268.

41. Ojo, ‘The Charismatic/Pentecostal Experience in Nigeria’, p. 26.

42. Kalu, Ogbu U., ‘Historical Perspectives: The Third Response: Pentecostalism and the Reconstruction of Christian Experience in Africa, 1970–1995’, Journal of African Christian Thought, 2.1 (1999), pp. 316 (4).

43. Omenyo, Pentecost outside Pentecostalism, p. 297.

44. Kailing, ‘A New Solution’, p. 503.

45. Kailing, ‘A New Solution’, p. 503.

46. Kailing, ‘A New Solution’, p. 504. Across Africa in this period, many mainline denominations began to show the influence of the new religious movements. See, for instance, Mlahagwa, Josiah R., ‘Contending for the Faith: Spiritual Renewal and the Fellowship Church in Tanzania’. in Thomas Spear and Isaria N. Kimambo (eds.), East African Expressions of Christianity (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 1999), pp. 296306 (305).

47. Asamoah-Gyadu, ‘Neo-Pentecostalism and the Changing Face of Christianity in Africa’, p. 13.

48. Kailing, ‘A New Solution’, p. 503.

49. Bitrus, Ibrahim, ‘The Influence of Neo-Pentecostalism in Nigeria’, in Karen L. Bloomquist (ed.), Lutherans Respond to Pentecostalism (Minneapolis: Lutheran University Press, 2008), pp. 8188 (85).

50. Asamoah-Gyadu, ‘Neo-Pentecostalism and the Changing Face of Christianity in Africa’, p. 21.

51. Bitrus, ‘The Influence of Neo-Pentecostalism in Nigeria’, p. 84.

52. In an indication of the multiple legacies of the post-civil war revival, some Anglicans are working to counteract the influence of the prosperity gospel. During my visit, one diocese hosted an ‘expository’ preaching conference led by the Langham Foundation in Nigeria, an Anglican evangelical organization. The conference leaders instructed the participants in the importance of paying attention to the meaning of the text in context and showed how common prosperity gospel interpretations of some particular passages are incorrect. One leader told me, ‘It is not that we are against prosperity. But I don't think the reason Jesus Christ came to earth was to bring prosperity. He came to save mankind from sin.’ In spite of efforts like these, it seems clear that the prosperity gospel has taken root among Anglicans in Nigeria.

53. Offiong, Essien A., ‘Youths and Pentecostalism’, in David O. Ogungbile and Akintunde E. Akinade (eds.), Creativity and Change in Nigerian Christianity (Lagos: Malthouse Press, 2010), pp. 131142 (135).

54. Omenyo, Pentecost outside Pentecostalism, p. 233.

55. Asamoah-Gyadu, ‘Neo-Pentecostalism and the Changing Face of Christianity in Africa’, p. 22.

56. Asamoah-Gyadu, ‘Neo-Pentecostalism and the Changing Face of Christianity in Africa’, p. 20.

57. Chapman, Mark, ‘Introduction’, in Martyn Percy, Mark Chapman, Ian Markham and Barney Hawkins (eds.), Christ and Culture: Communion after Lambeth (Norwich: Canterbury Press, 2010), p. 24.

58. Ayegboyin, Deji Isaac, ‘A Rethinking of Prosperity Teaching in the New Pentecostal Churches in Nigeria’, Black Theology, 4.1 (2006), pp. 7086.

1. Jesse Zink is a doctoral student in theology and assistant chaplain at Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

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Journal of Anglican Studies
  • ISSN: 1740-3553
  • EISSN: 1745-5278
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-anglican-studies
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