Colloquium Presentation Abstracts
Historical & Interdisciplinary Perspectives
Presented October 13, 2007, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Ogbu Kalu, McCormick Theological Seminary
Paper Title (Working): "Early and Contemporary AAC&P Linkages to and Impact on Africa"
Abstract: African Americans were involved in the evangelization of the African motherland right from the eighteenth century. This paper will explore: i.the early contacts by African Americans who were inspired by the Higher Life movement; ii. the nationalist tone of redeeming Africa that was battered by the slave trade through religion. This ideology served as the clarion call of the Ethiopian movement and became a core aspect of African Pentecostalism. iii. The missionary achievements of the Church of God in Christ and Pentecostal Association of the World in the period 1920-1950, especially in Liberia. iv. The conclusion will compare these models of engagement with the networks created by contemporary A-A leaders such as Bishop Blake in California. The goal is to clear the underbrush for a joint research project that will understudy the contemporary forms of linkages, networks, blockages and impact of African American Pentecostals on contemporary African Pentecostalism. The prominent areas of noticeable impact include the black racial ideology, theological education and ministerial formation (especially award of doctorates), social welfare projects, cultural and liturgical exchanges which psychologically provide confidence-building, visibility and public profile for individual pastors and their ministries through international conferences and the sharing of pulpits; and the reshaping of African Pentecostal polity through episcopal ordination. This last dimension has, within two decades, transformed the African Pentecostal polity from congregationalist to hierarchical, strcuctures. (full text expired)
Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., Fuller Theological Seminary
Paper Title: "The Azusa Street Mission and Los Angeles’ African American Community"
Abstract: This study shows the complexity of the situation in early 20th Century Los Angeles by noting the nearly doubling of the African American population of the city in 1903. Those African Americans who came to Los Angeles prior to 1903 comprised the dominant middle and upper middle classes and included many white collar, university trained, property owning folk. Those who came to the city in April 1903 were drawn largely from the lower to lower middle classes of blue collar workers. Los Angeles included ten African American congregations (including Azusa Street) at the time of the 1906 Azusa Street revival. Nine of the churches are a study of accommodation to the dominant white culture, advertising degreed pastors, robed choirs, and pipe organs, while Azusa Street alone tended to the needs and worship patterns drawing upon traditions found in slave religion. Thus, class and culture appear to have played a role in the rejection of Azusa Street by the rest of the city’s African American churches. (full text expired)
David D. Daniels III, McCormick Theological Seminary
Paper Title: "Navigating the Territory of Civil and Vernacular Society: Early"
Abstract: AfroPentecostal involvement within the public arena during the early twentieth century differed from the public roles of black Protestant churches as conceptualized by scholars such as W. E. B. DuBois. As a historical inquiry, this paper will argue that AfroPentecostalism initially operated within black vernacular society with its antecedents in “slave society” rather than black civil society. While black civil society through its educational, political, and artistic institutions interacted with the State as a counterpublic, early AfroPentecostalism through its operation within black vernacular society functioned with little regard to the State. As AfroPentecostal educational, political, and artistic institutions emerged, some streams of AfroPentecostalism lodged their institutions within vernacular society while others situated them in the terrain where civil and vernacular society overlap. By differentiating between civil and vernacular society, a shift the study of early AfroPentecostalism from a focus on beliefs and culture to institutions could be achieved. (full text expired)
William C. Turner, Jr., Duke University Divinity School
Paper Title: "Pneumatology as Liberation Theology"
Abstract: This paper will advance the thesis that good pneumatology is liberation theology, and good liberation theology is pneumatology. It will take seriously the claim of that "Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty…" The effort will explore the gap between African American Church life in matter of worship, service, prophetic social consciousness with emphasis on liberation, alongside the underdevelopment of pneumatology in major scholarly projects. This lacuna was not lost on numerous scholars in the first generation of black theologians. Ironically, there has been little sustained effort to close it. Consequences are grave where much of the fervor is without the guidance of such reflection. Further, there are drastic consequences for the larger church where the effort to remedy the neglect in pneumatology is undertaken without sufficient sensitivity to concrete issues of liberation, which are essential to keep the focus on reality. (full text expired)
Valerie C. Cooper, University of Virginia
Paper Title: "Laying the Foundations For Azusa: Black Women and Public Ministry in the 19th Century" (full text expired)
Abstract: (none available)
Ethical & Theological Perspectives
Presented February 23, 2008, 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM
Leslie Callahan, University of Pennsylvania
Paper Title: "My Whole Body Belongs to God: Historical and Ethical Reflections on the Pentecostal Scandal"
Abstract: The recent Juanita Bynum Weeks scandal calls to mind previous sex scandals in the history of Pentecostal Christianity – from that of Charles Fox Parham through Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker and beyond. This essay explores the issues by comparing and contrasting white and black Pentecostal attitudes toward sexuality and the body, and how these play out variously in white Pentecostal and AfroPentecostal Christian communities. Historical considerations invite theological and ethical mandates, which will be articulated in dialogue with Sanctified Church and Black Apostolic notions of sanctification.
Cheryl J. Sanders, Howard University
Paper Title: "Pentecostal Ethics and the Prosperity Gospel: Is There a Prophet in the House?"
Abstract: This paper will provide an overview of the role of social ethics in the preaching of African American Pentecostals. A dominant theme of Pentecostal preaching has been the promotion of the prosperity gospel, emphasizing God's will for the believer to become wealthy. But how many pastors who nurture their flocks with this message also embrace the social ethical role of the biblical prophets as advocates for the rights of the poor? Many Pentecostal preachers are abandoning the African American struggle against white supremacy, accepting faith-based government funding for their community development programs with all the strings attached, and buying into the divisive family values discourse crafted by political conservatives for consumption by white evangelicals. Are there any signs of a resurgence of prophetic activism among those who are willing to call forth the fires of Pentecost as the struggle for the souls of black folk rages on?
Leonard Lovett, Church of God in Christ Ecumenical Office
Paper Title: Ethics in a Prophetic Mode: Reflections of an Afro-Pentecostal Radical
Abstract: If theology is "the reflective clarification of the content of the Christian faith" and ethics is a "study of what is in light of what ought to be," it is fitting to reflect on the mosaic of one’s journey through the prism of prophetic mode as a way of encouraging present and future scholars. The invitation to write this essay led me to confront once again the problematic questions regarding racial injustice. World class scholars on Pentecostalism for over a decade have asked me why so little has been written about two leading scholars on Afro-Pentecostal thought in the most recent dictionaries and encyclopedias on Pentecostalism. The reference was to James Tinney and yours truly. My response has been that such an answer lies within the context of our journeys, to be borne out of my personal and our collective pain, even as any proposed response must contain with it signs of hope and promise with regard to the future of Afro-Pentecostalism in North America.
Craig Scandrett-Leatherman, Lighthouse Free Methodist Church
Paper Title: "Roots, Water and Oil: Materials for Being, Healing and Becoming of Bodies-in-Community"
Abstract: In African American Pentecostal rituals, physical materials are used for salvation, sanctification and healing. Comparing these rituals with biomedicine rituals suggests that religious rituals emphasize inter-subjective relationality while biomedical rituals emphasize objective expertise. This article joins the diverse disciplines of African American ritual study, phenomenological anthropology and emergent philosophy into a pentecostal theology that accounts for both the science of observations and the relationality of subjective experience which aims at believers’ wholeness, healing and hope. Developing a pentecostal theology of materials used for being, healing, and wholeness involves a biblical exegesis of the Holy Spirit’s relation to creation. Finally, the history of pentecostalism – it's beginnings at the peak of modern optimism and at a low point of U. S. race relations – suggests places and points of dialogue between pentecostal and postmodern perspectives.
Clarence E. Hardy, Dartmouth College
Paper Title: "Pentecostal Church Mothers, Remaking Respectability and Religious Modernism"
Abstract: In his interviews with followers of Bishop Ida Robinson and his unpublished reports on apostolic Pentecostals, Arthur Fauset provides a clear window into how black women asserted new grounds for their own spiritual authority as black migrants unsatisfied with the choices immediately available attached themselves to new religious communities. As black arrivals from the South, the Caribbean, and parts unknown established their new lives in northern US cities, they generated new religious attachments and new conceptions of religious experience and of the divine. While Fauset appears reluctant to compare emerging Pentecostal groups to the esoteric sects he mentions in Black Gods of the Metropolis, his case studies demonstrate how Pentecostals actually echo these other groups in their attempts to remake or reject institutional expressions of black separatism. It is women willing to reshape a fading Victorian respectability and imagine new possibilities for religious leadership that truly distinguish Pentecostal groups from the groups Fauset studies and describes. As black women religionists remake the "politics of respectability" they (along with many others) replace the (black) nation with the physical body as the principal site to imagine the divine. As they do, they shape a religious modernism better suited to the demands of black urban life in the twentieth century.