This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
University of Birmingham
South African Pentecostalism and Political Participation After the first Dutch settlers arrived in South Africa in 1652, Protestant Christianity (with almost entirely European membership) through the Dutch Reformed Church held total monopoly until the 19th Century.1 Today, some three-quarters of the Black population are members of many ‘Protestant’ churches, but this figure includes a majority of African initiated/independent churches (AICs) and Pentecostals. South Africa was one of the first countries on the continent to receive Pentecostalism, in 1908. In less than a century, between 10-40% of the population have become Pentecostals, depending how ‘Pentecostal’ is defined. The 10% includes ‘Classical Pentecostals’ of several denominations, the largest being the Assemblies of God (AOG), the Apostolic Faith Mission (AFM) and the Full Gospel Church of God (FGC). It also includes various new Pentecostals and ‘Charismatics’, churches affiliated to associations like the formerly white-dominated International Fellowship of Christian Churches (IFCC) now led by Ray McCauley and Mosa Sono, and many non-aligned churches. These together would be accepted as ‘Pentecostal/ Charismatic’ by their fellow Pentecostals and Charismatics in the West, with whom they have great affinity, and most of these churches have both Blacks and Whites as members. But the other 30% of the population consists of the almost entirely Black ‘Zionist’ and ‘Apostolic’ churches, including the largest denomination in South Africa, the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), and other significant churches like the St Engenas Zion Christian Church, the St John Apostolic Faith Mission, and the Narareth Baptist Church
1 This article appears in a modified form as ‘Public Space and Invisible Forces: Pentecostals and Politics in South
Africa’, André Corten & André Mary (eds) Imaginaires Politiques et Pentecôtisme: Afrique/ Amérique Latine, Paris: Karthala, forthcoming.
(amaNazaretha).2 There are between 4,000 and 7,000 smaller church organizations of a similar type, many being house churches which form socially meaningful groups both in rural villages and especially in urban sprawls. Almost all of these churches, like all Pentecostal churches, emphasize the power of the Spirit in the church, especially manifested through healing, prophecy, exorcism and speaking in tongues. These churches arose during the religious and social ferment that followed the arrival of Zionist and Pentecostal missionaries from North America in 1904 and 1908 respectively, and the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910. A number of African ‘Zionist’ and ‘Apostolic’ churches began to appear from that time onwards, most in striking continuity with the fledgling Pentecostal movement. These are African forms of worldwide Pentecostalism with their genesis in the western Pentecostal movement,3 which have maintained both historical and theological affinities while developing in quite different and distinctive directions.4 This analysis of Pentecostalism in South Africa is a result of my own academic research over the past decade and my involvement in the movement there for 25 years. The Pentecostal movement, including the many African churches that have emanated from it, is not a North American imposition but collectively one of the most significant African expressions of Christianity in South Africa today, where at least ten million people can be identified with a form of Pentecostalism. South Africa differs fundamentally from other African countries on several fronts. In the first place, it has by far the largest European settler community in Africa, about 17% of the population in 2000, with another 9% of the population of mixed race (the so-called ‘Coloureds’) and ‘Indians’, most either Afrikaans or English speaking. The remaining 74% 2 Another 30% of the population belonged to Protestant churches and 12% were Catholics. Percentages given are very
approximate estimates, based on available statistics, and do not include the numbers of people in Protestant and Catholic churches who would be ‘Charismatic’. See Allan Anderson & Samuel Otwang, Tumelo: The Faith of African Pentecostals in South Africa, Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 1993, 3-9, 14-5.
3 Walter J Hollenweger, The Pentecostals, London: SCM Press, 1972, 120; Harvey Cox, Fire from Heaven: The Rise of
Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century. London: Cassell, 1996, 246; Allan Anderson, Zion and Pentecost: The Spirituality and Experience of Pentecostal and Zionist/ Apostolic Churches in South Africa. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press, 2000, ch. 1.
4 For recent information on South African Pentecostalism as well as historical detail, see Anderson, Zion and
except to say that it was mainly Black. with vast natural resources and a developed industrial and mining infrastructure. Thus the gap between poor and rich is also a gap between Black and White. The White Pentecostals live in a totally different world from that of their Black counterparts.of the population are Africans of nine ethno-linguistic groups and a number of immigrants from elsewhere in Africa. . Pat Robertson and Kenneth Copeland visited the country in the 1980s and were among those who seemed to add their support to the beleaguered White government. The political responses of most White Pentecostals have been considerably influenced by the ‘Religious Right’ in the United States. But the other side of this scenario is that although political power has been in the hands of the Black majority since the 1994 elections.5 These churches have assets worth millions. rather than White pioneers who were 5 Allan Anderson. South Africa is arguably the continent’s wealthiest nation. Secondly. Prominent North American ‘televangelists’ Jimmy Swaggart. middle class. and this has repercussions for the churches. and sometimes they even supported them. while for the vast majority of (Black) Pentecostals such wealth is an elusive dream. especially Ray McCauley’s Rhema with origins in the Rhema ‘faith movement’ of Kenneth Hagin in Tulsa. The history of South African Pentecostalism is well known and will not detain us further. and this is not only true of newer ‘Charismatic’ churches but of ‘classical’ Pentecostal denominations too. With few exceptions. Both churches are White-led and both proclaim a gospel of prosperity and health. 72-83. 1987. the White minority wields economic power. the best known being the Rhema Bible Church in Randburg near Johannesburg and the Hatfield Christian Church founded by Edmund Roebert in Pretoria and now led by Francois van Niekerk. ‘The prosperity message in the eschatology of some new Charismatic churches in South Africa’. The largest and wealthiest congregations in the nation are predominantly White. Missionalia 15:2. Oklahoma. Black and White Pentecostals failed to overtly confront the political structures that oppressed them. but for Black Pentecostals. this influence is minimal. independent Charismatic churches in the Gauteng heartland.
Social & Cultural History. JJ Kritzinger. misunderstood. Journal of Religion in Africa. Zion and Pentecost. but national African leadership was not given space to emerge. Allan H Anderson. Allan H Anderson. 161. 1992. ‘The Segregated Spirit: The Pentecostals’. The percentage of the African population comprising members of the AICs has dramatically increased from 21% in 1960 to 30% in 1980.000 by 1990. Bazalwane: African Pentecostals in South Africa. 175. . Cape Town: Struik.8 The AFM is a striking example of the differences in outlooks of White and Black members of the same church. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press.responsible for its rapid growth. 1984. University of Cape Town. 34. Christianity in South Africa: A Political. 1992. 48. ‘Dangerous Memories for South African Pentecostals’. Chris R de Wet. London: Oxford. like other churches in South Africa at this time. From Africa's Soil: The Story of the Assemblies of God in Southern Africa. 1976.7 Pentecostals. 38-9. 311. The secessions from the AFM marked the beginning of the independent African Pentecostal churches. & Walter J Hollenweger (eds). 58-9. eventually resulting in secessions of independent Zionist and Apostolic churches and increasing distance between Black and White Pentecostals in the same denomination. Gerrie Wessels. Die Onvoltooide Sendingtaak in die PWV Gebied. 1992. From the founding of the church in 1908. Pretoria: University of Pretoria. IS van der Merwe Burger. 64. 30. 'The Apostolic Faith Mission in Africa: 1908-1980. A vice-president of the church until 1969. 8 De Wet. 227-41.000 by 1970. which mushroomed from some 30 churches in 1913 to 3. 1999. Allan H Anderson. Zulu Zion and Some Swazi Zionists. Richard Elphick & Rodney Davenport (eds). Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. The major Pentecostal denominations were mostly created by White South Africans with a small number of foreign missionaries. Allan H Anderson. Oxford: James Currey & Cape Town: David Philip. 'Summarised results before adjustment for undercount'. 20-1. Cape Town: David Philip. Oxford: Oxford. 1988. who had apparently ignored biblical concepts like the priesthood of believers and the equality of humankind. Central Statistical Services.6 It expanded initially among oppressed African people who were neglected. Pretoria Population Census 1991. and the wife of a government minister and later State President. became a National Party senator in 1955. 170. 1997. BGM Sundkler 1961. 51-3. 2. A case study in church growth in a segregated society'. Geloofsgeskiedenis van die Apostoliese Geloofsending van SuidAfrica 1908-1958. Johannesburg: Evangelie Uitgewers. Bantu Prophets in South Africa. Jim Fouché. 121-3. and deprived of anything but token leadership by their White Pentecostal ‘masters’. 6 Allan H Anderson. C Peter Watt. 29:3. Bishops and Prophets in a Black City. 1989. 1999. and to over 6. 285-312. PhD thesis. Allan H Anderson & Gerald J Pillay. 89-107. 7 Martin West. and to 46% in 1991— an extremely significant section of the South African population. ‘The Lekganyanes and Prophecy in the Zion Christian Church’. 1975. power was vested in the all-White executive council. 167. Pentecostals after a Century: Global Perspectives on a Movement in Transition. BGM Sundkler. yielded to the pressures of White society and developed racially segregated churches.
another anti-Christian ideology that amounted to the seduction of ‘biblical’ Christianity by evil forces. organized in 1925 and for a long time not affiliated to the Assemblies of God in the USA. The division of the organization was into different autonomous associations or ‘groups’ as a result of the work of particularly gifted leaders and missionaries. The oppression of the majority of South Africans in this political system went unnoticed and participation in politics (other than in the politics of the White government) was ‘sinful’. 85-8. although White churches remained separate. Communist-inspired proponents of ‘liberation theology’.was a member of the church. For the first time in eighty years. and therefore part of the ‘Antichrist’ system that would destroy ‘genuine’ Christianity. . The swart gevaar (‘Black danger’) was thought to be everywhere present. These ‘groups’. when newly elected president Isak Burger embraced vice-president Frank Chikane and apologized for the sins of his people. 22. and the many autonomous congregations that sprung from this movement soon constituted the AOG majority. This was the prevalent view.9 Political factors kept the two sections apart until the media-hyped unity celebration in 1996. a unique feature among Pentecostal churches at the time. but more often were declared to be dangerous. Blacks were legal members of the AFM. 10 Watt. In 1938. 39. Bazalwane. and most 9 Anderson. Anderson. Bazalwane. when Nicholas Bhengu and his associates joined the movement.10 White-controlled Pentecostal denominations were at least sympathetic to the government that guaranteed their continued dominance and privilege. evil invisible forces. when a new constitution allowed for two sections in the church. 78-82. and those Christians who dared speak against it were at best ‘liberals’. African nationalism and Black political aspirations were ‘Communist’ inspired. The AOG. the AOG was not divided into separate ‘mother’ (White) and ‘daughter’ (Black) churches. 57. In 1950 Bhengu launched the ‘Back to God Crusade’. Only Whites could be legal members until 1991. however. The glaring structural sin of the apartheid system was unrecognized. was initially a Black church controlled by White missionaries. the stage was set for the future participation of Black leaders in the national executive of the AOG. were mostly divided on racial lines and reflected the divisions in South African society. Unlike the other major Pentecostal churches.
12 Watt. 112. 38-9. 143. Although he remained sympathetic to the liberation movement after his reconversion. Ngidi would not allow any discussion on what he perceived to be political matters.13 Ngidi was.14 Secretary General of the ANC turned business magnate. he had to cease his active involvement in order to become a Pentecostal minister again in 1983. although they developed their own strategies for survival as the oppressed in this abnormal and violent society. had to resign his church ministry in order to join the freedom struggle. Milton Keynes: Nelson Word. in most Pentecostal circles) that involvement in politics was ‘sinful’. Bhengu didn’t challenge the status quo. a convert of Bhengu. in fact. Black Pentecostals were also affected by this attitude. 11 Anderson. . Like so many other Pentecostal leaders. 69-70. Bhengu believed that political activity was futile and forbade his members any political affiliation. a former African nationalist. Cyril Ramaphosa. his political activities were seen as inconsistent with his Christian faith. raised no objection to racist affronts and fostered the apolitical attitude that characterized some (but not all) Pentecostals under the apartheid system. 178. Bazalwane. pioneered the AOG's transformation to an indigenous African church. influential Zulu AFM leader in the 1970s. 119-20. was formerly a Pentecostal and at university was chair of the local Student Christian Movement. He didn’t often make socio-political pronouncements. but believed that Black people would liberated from political and economic oppression through the gospel. 13 De Wet. who headed the ANC negotiation team in the period leading to the 1994 elections.12 Similarly. This was probably due to the prevailing view in the AFM (and.11 Nicholas Bhengu. which furthered the traditional apolitical feeling in the AFM.White Pentecostals preferred the status quo. Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press. Waiting in the Wings. and perceived himself as having ‘backslidden’ when he did so. 14 Joseph Kobo. Yet AFM pioneer Elias Letwaba. Joseph Kobo. and received several threats to his life. therefore. Richard Ngidi. but once again. was described by some African nationalists as a ‘sellout’. Community of the Saved: An African Revivalist Church in the East Cape. was known for his opposition to involvement in politics. a product of his environment. 1976. like many Africans of his time. Allie A Dubb. 1994.
and Pentecostals in Latin America. was usually implied rather than expressed. the power of the Spirit enabled them to cope in a hostile environment and to assert their human dignity in an inhuman world. they held back from politics because they were poor and outsiders to the political process. including Black women. Prominence. meccas for spiritual pilgrimage and centers of ritual power. . oppression and all kinds of affliction is achieved. 15 Edward L Cleary. they were often excluded from the forum of the South African Council of Churches with the support of the worldwide ecumenical movement. The White regime was controlled by invisible powers beyond the strength of the Black majority to resist. with a keen sense of powerlessness. and bypassed the restrictive laws of the Whites. EL Cleary & HW Stewart -Gambino (eds). 16 Comaroff. The leader of the church becomes a liberating Moses figure who leads his (and rarely. The Spirit gave them confidence and authority to work for God. and the impression was thus created that they were supporters of the system. Inheriting a form of premillenialism from its North American roots. 254. 13. and Politics’. Power. affliction and poverty— and above all. This. The Spirit also enabled the poor and excluded. their voice was seldom heard in international circles. It may be idealistic to suggest that paramount in the minds of Black Pentecostals were issues of socio-economic or political liberation.15 Unlike Black Christians in ‘mainline’ denominations. evil spirits. affirming their humanity against a system that denied it. CO: Westview Press. Boulder. to be leaders in the only community where the exercise of such leadership was possible.Mobilizing the Invisible Powers The creative combination of Pentecostalism with Christian fundamentalism and African religion is characteristic of most forms of Pentecostalism in southern Africa. 1997. Politics. As a result. the worldview of this form of African Christianity was pessimistic and escapist. and this resonated well with the African experience of oppression. as Jean Comaroff has pointed out. her) people out of bondage into the promised land. Despite tendencies towards escapism. where freedom from sickness. 261. 16 Some African Pentecostals established cities of ‘Zion’. sorcery. ‘Introduction: Pentecostals. and like Pentecostals in Latin America. the ‘new Jerusalem’.
and where people are urged to take their eyes off ‘worldly’ things like politics. As in Latin America. The paramount example of the tensions in the disparate elements of the apartheid society is the Zion Christian Church. After the unbanning of political parties and the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990. the ZCC enjoyed the favour of the ruling regime. London: Hurst. 1998. Without access to the corridors of political power. including integrated churches. is created an alternative ‘government in exile’ in microcosm. poverty and social oppression. 197. in effect. Pentecostal President Chiluba’s proclamation of Zambia as a ‘Christian nation’ in 1991 heartened their resolve that by the power of the Spirit they could substantially mobilize the invisible forces of the Spirit to occupy and bring the kingdom of God to this public space. The apartheid government from 1948 adopted a policy of ‘non-interference’ in the affairs of Black churches. however. Matthew Schoffeleers suggests that African churches in South Africa may have gone through ‘a 17 Paul Gifford. in South Africa most African members of all varieties of Pentecostalism are poor and until recently.There too. they retreated to an escapist spirituality where their symbolic protest of cultural resistance was all that was available. But this is not the whole story. In theological terms. where the distinction between the ‘not yet’ and the ‘already’ is blurred.17 The benefits began to outweigh the disadvantages of such participation. this is a ‘realized eschatology’. Since being registered with the South African government in 1943. which opposed any sort of social mixing. . The development of these separate churches was seen as in complete harmony with the apartheid ideology. At the same time in neighboring Zambia. African Christianity: Its Public Role. which in effect meant encouraging the development of churches totally ‘independent’ of what were sometimes seen as troublesome mission churches. Pentecostals began to discover their political clout and to realize their potential to change the public space with their massive vote. Black Pentecostals. began to seek new ways of invading the public space. frustrated and angered by the non-involvement and complicity of their White counterparts. marginalised.
18 Most African church leaders. The approaches of the apartheid regime to the ZCC during the 1980s culminating in the visit by South African President PW Botha to the Easter Festival in 1985. 144. In total. as there have not.process of progressive depoliticisation’. 59. It appeared that Black Pentecostals expressed their political convictions at that time more by their participation in trade unions and civic associations (alternative local authorities) than in structured political parties. although there was certainly evidence of depoliticization among Pentecostals. The survey of 1992 is the latest available indication of political preferences. This percentage is likely to be much higher today after two democratic national elections. after decades of press censorship. Africa 60 (1). been any soundings of the vote of Pentecostals in the two national elections of 1994 and 1999. ‘All the ZCC bishops through all the generations of the church have consistently preached racial harmony and reconciliation’. an even greater degree of political awareness was emerging among ordinary South Africans at that time. especially the ANC. and 18 Matthew Schoffeleers. reinforced the popular perception that the ZCC was a supporter of the apartheid system. It is true that ZCC leaders generally took an apolitical stance and forbade their members participation in structured political activities. A few African Pentecostals said that Christians should not take part in politics. 5. as the depoliticization of ordinary African people is less of a restricting factor. 152. Bazalwane. to my knowledge. 45% of ‘classical’ and ‘new’ Pentecostals would have voted for the African National Congress (ANC). over half of all Pentecostals were supporters of African nationalist organizations. the ruling party since 1994. Yet the ZCC attempted to play a role in the changes that took place in the early 1990s. During research in the northern Pretoria satellite township of Soshanguve in 1991-95. 64. and 43% of African Zionist and Apostolic churches. this is potentially one of the most dynamic forces for the mobilization of the political imagination. But the realities were a little more complex. ‘Ritual Healing and Political Acquiescence: The Case of the Zionist Churches in Southern Africa’. but should pray for the political situation. One ZCC member wrote. propaganda. Anderson & Otwang. 19 Anderson. . In a survey in 1992.19 Because of the intense involvement of Pentecostals in their church communities. generally took a ‘neutral’ stance and forbade members active participation in structured political activities. institutionalized violence and banned political organizations. including the ZCC bishop. 1991.
294-5. 1992. although as expected. and thereby to help promote peace during a time of violent strife. Most significantly. ‘Consistency in the ZCC’. saying that leaders had responsibility to stop the carnage in South African townships. The historic Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).21 Mandela was patently the leader closest to this ideal. None had ever spoken at such a large gathering of hundreds of thousands. 20 JRL Rafapa. This unique event was also a watershed for the Pentecostal and Zionist churches. . in The ZCC Messenger 22.this has become a prominent emphasis in the church’s mass gatherings. was chaired by Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu. and each was invited to address the assembled throng. 6. rather than any of the three political leaders present.20 The visit of the nation’s three most significant political leaders to the ZCC’s Easter Festival in 1992 (Mandela. he declared. and subsequent events have placed most ZCC members squarely behind the ANC government. ‘The Lekganyanes’. was clearly the most influential personality on this occasion and the moment was supremely his. Mandela received the greatest ovation and made reference in his speech to prominent ANC officials who were members of the ZCC. This was a pragmatic effort on the part of the ZCC bishop to play a constructive role in the negotiations then being conducted. 21 Anderson. His members would support those leaders who stood for peace and reconciliation. His followers hung on his every word as he admonished the political leaders for their ‘warmongering’ and inflammatory speeches. The ZCC in the person of Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane attended. the real focal point of the proceedings. held between 1996 and 1998. Each politician was keen to seem supportive of this enormous African church and to solicit the ZCC vote. the afternoon’s pageant belonged to Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane. for the ZCC was pre-eminently a church of peace. The politicians were on his turf and had to take careful note of what he had to say. who was playing a significant role in the negotiation politics of the time. especially as their significance in the national life was recognized by an invitation to address the TRC in November 1997. de Klerk and Buthelezi) at the invitation of Bishop Barnabas Lekganyane was surely a manifestation of the changing attitudes sweeping over all South Africans. Lekganyane. And yet.
There was a certain tension between this spirituality. based on 22 Piet Meiring. confessed the ‘shortcomings’ of White Charismatics who ‘hid behind their so-called spirituality while closing their eyes to the dark events of the apartheid years’. and Africans were denied basic human rights in the very churches where they had found freedom in the Spirit. Both the IFCC and the AFM made representations to the TRC on behalf of Pentecostal and Charismatic churches. the bishop’s spokesman did not confess past failings. acquiesced in the midst of the social evils in South Africa. the South African Pentecostal movement. they confessed that they ‘jointly accepted responsibility for the past’ and had ‘helped maintain the system of apartheid and prolong the agony’. After showing a video of the historic unity celebration earlier that year. and it is still too early to say which way the Pentecostal influence will go. The AFM was represented by both Isak Burger and Frank Chikane. Many African Pentecostals silently withdrew to the independent church movements or to their newfound Pentecostal spirituality that remained otherworldly for the most part or used ritual as a form of cultural resistance. 275-7. . Vanderbijlpark: Carpe Diem Books. Ray McCauley.Lekganyane did not address the Commission himself. in spite of its witness to spiritual freedom. sinful. As a whole. The original integrated fellowship was short-lived. White Pentecostals either became active supporters of the regime or considered any involvement in political structures as ‘worldly’ and therefore. 1999. But this is one of the world’s newest democracies. Public Space and Invisible Forces The scenario of a country where a political elite control the public space and where ordinary people do not have access to corridors of political power is probably still true of the new South Africa. and that the apartheid government was now seen as part of the evil invisible forces that had been overcome by good forces of reconciliation and truth.22 The representations of the IFCC and the AFM indicate that a significant change of view had taken place. Unlike other church leaders. but expressed concern about the violence and crime in the nation and asked for the temporary return of the death penalty. still recovering from the effects of centuries of unjust minority domination and oppression. Chronicle of the Truth Commission. representing the IFCC.
especially in a society where there was no access to the . The rapid increase in urbanization and the socio-political oppression of Black South Africans between 1960 and 1990 may be one reason for the remarkable growth of Pentecostalism during this time. With the dawning of democracy in 1994. even though the vast majority of its members remain marginalized and outside the public space. But more fundamental was the question of how the Pentecostals imagined the public space. Pentecostalism has become the major force in South African Christianity. The insecurities inherent in rapid urbanization provide strong incentives for people separated from their roots to seek new. Pentecostalism was often felt to be politically immature and conservative. The public space was on the road to becoming a place where the good forces could dominate. with its roots in a marginalised and underprivileged society struggling to find dignity and identity. of social segregation and political elitism is still a feature of South African Pentecostalism in the 21st Century. Pentecostal churches are rapidly gaining in strength and their influence on the public space far outweighs their numbers. Those conservative Whites who had seen the old order as a ‘good force’ now saw the ANC government as an ‘evil’ force. The acceptance of the status quo. and therefore irrelevant. Pentecostals have found themselves being wooed by ‘secular’ politicians and are themselves beginning to occupy significant positions among the political elite. and its doctrine of the Spirit which encourages full participation in the life of the community for those of any social background. while for the majority. speaking in tongues and ‘spiritual warfare’. For most of them. the public space was occupied by evil forces that needed to be overcome by weapons like prayer.democratic principles of human freedom and equality offering participation to all in the life of the community. Because of its ability to adapt to and fulfil African religious aspirations and to utilize popular cultural artifacts. In spite of a prevalent tendency towards political elitism. Through its often-egalitarian structures it has become a potent force in the establishment of democracy. It was now a short step to active participation by Pentecostals like Frank Chikane and Kenneth Meshoe in the public space itself. Pentecostals began a paradigm shift. Nevertheless. and the view of politics as part of a ‘sinful’ universe that could not be resisted. the good had overcome the evil and Christian principles had prevailed in the public space. culturally and socially meaningful religious expressions.
166. Some were concerned by the seeming lack of political awareness in their church and especially among their pastors. The increasing disillusionment experienced by Black people in South Africa's political matrix resulted in a rejection of European values and religious expressions such as those found in ‘mainline’ churches. which have not yet adjusted to the new political freedom. are difficult to maintain. . Others were just as adamant that the church should keep out of politics— mostly because the church leader had said so and not for any particular reason. there was no clearly discernible pattern linking one or other church with a particular political stance. the Zionist churches were ‘a more radical expression of cultural resistance’ for those dispossessed by colonialism than that of the more orthodox Protestant churches.23 Comaroff’s study suggests that the forms of socio-political protest exhibited by this ‘cultural resistance’ are implicit rather than explicit. ‘returning to the displaced a tangible identity and the power to impose coherence upon a disarticulated world’. although not as escapist as the ‘evil forces’ mindset of the White Pentecostals. As Jean Comaroff has demonstrated. He felt that the church should keep abreast of what was happening in the public world. a significant number of Pentecostals interviewed were supporters of the ANC and other nationalist organizations. Many felt that the church should be involved. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press. Pentecostals 23 Jean Comaroff. because the church was not an island. nevertheless may be out of touch with the new political realities. 1985. One member was disturbed by the fact that an event of such enormous import as the release of Nelson Mandela was not even mentioned in his church at the time. but this preoccupation with ‘cultural resistance’ may be one of the reasons why the ZCC could not contribute much more than to protest about violence to the TRC. but are nevertheless all-pervasive. Spirit of Resistance. A survey conducted in 1992-3 during my research in Soshanguve indicated that although there might have been slightly more apoliticism among Pentecostals than among the general population. as the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Body of Power.instruments of social and political power. When members were asked if the church or its members should involve themselves in political matters. The prolongation of this ‘cultural resistance’ mindset. She sees the symbols of Zionist ritual as an enduring form of resistance to White hegemony. This is true of all kinds of African Pentecostalism. such as that of ‘apoliticism’. Stereotypes.
58-62. Some churches have ‘welfare committees’ responsible for feeding and clothing the poor and destitute. especially in helping their poor members and thereby assisting in the creation of a transnational middle class in more recent years. maintain bursary funds for the education of their children. and provide assistance for members in financial distress. The churches thus provide for their members ‘new bases 24 Anderson & Otwang. Although he made this appeal to a ‘politics of the Spirit’. African Pentecostal churches of all kinds are concerned to provide for holistic needs in many different ways. mutual aid in times of personal crisis. and in practical ways like employment. West’s observation of ways in which the social needs of church members are met in an urban setting is still appropriate. As Martin West pointed out concerning African churches in Soweto. The church as a ‘voluntary association’ provides its members with a sense of family. Pentecostals felt that by allowing Christians to participate in political activity. The ZCC has a nation-wide ‘ZCC Burial Assurance Fund’ and a ‘ZCC Literacy Campaign’ with adult education centres scattered throughout the country. If the ANC stuck to the principles of the Freedom Charter then the country would be in safe hands. Another said that the church should be involved in political matters after the pattern of Frank Chikane and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. friendship (providing support groups in times of insecurity). Therefore.expressed their political convictions quite freely during these interviews. protection in the form of leadership (and particularly charismatic leadership). and leadership opportunities. This was an oft-expressed view. he said that the ANC was the best government to bring this about. One felt that Christians should involve themselves in political matters so that a just government could be established based on ‘the laws of God’. some churches form funeral societies. so Pentecostal churches ‘meet many of the needs of townspeople which were formerly met by kin groups on a smaller scale in rural areas’. people could easily be deceived. . the church was thereby able to exert its influence on the world. The Christians alone had the answers to bring peace and security to the land.24 The good ‘invisible forces’ were able to invade and eventually subjugate the evil ones. social control (by emphasizing and enforcing certain norms of behavior). If the church didn’t get involved.
the need for political leaders to talk to each other and negotiate for peace. Most members felt that the church should not be involved in violence as a means of political protest. The research showed that members of Pentecostal churches were no less aware of or involved in political issues 25 West. The problem of unemployment also raised the issue of unequal opportunities between Blacks and Whites— Blacks should receive equal pay for equal work.for social organisation’. Pentecostals were asked what they thought was the most urgent national problem needing a solution. ‘What sort of government would you like to see in the new South Africa?’. 196-9. The issue of the prevalent violence was probably uppermost in people’s minds. Most Pentecostals wanted a government that would serve the interests of the people first and foremost. In the Soshanguve survey. One said that apartheid must be done away with ‘in practice and not just in theory’. where everyone would have the right to vote and would be free from oppression. as there were certain boundaries that could not be crossed by Christians. On the question. the problems of education. with one political group oppressing the others. Some felt that the church had a responsibility to bring peace about. . answers were varied. said one respondent. and certainly goes far beyond their individual pronouncements and moral platitudes on these issues. Christians interviewed from all churches said that there needed to be a real and lasting peace.25 The result of this on the social life and the public space is much greater than the church leaders have anticipated. the shortage of housing and the rampant unemployment. and their answers revealed an awareness of social issues involved at that time. and where people would be accorded equal value in the eyes of the authorities. Some people didn’t want to see a situation arising where a new form of oppression would result. Most members said that they would like all the different political parties to come together and be represented in a future government clear support for the ‘government of national unity’ created in 1994. People wanted to see the government provide more houses for the homeless and for those inadequately housed. People spoke about the violence in the country.
by 1999 was vice-president of a united AFM. Chikane.27 Since 1995. Frank Chikane.than members of other churches were. 1988. after intense pressure. This has brought him increasing criticism from conservatives in the AFM. 182. some even calling for his resignation at the 1999 annual church conference. 27 Frank Chikane. former General Secretary of the South African Council of Churches and president of the AFM's Composite Division. Chikane. 9-12. No Life of my Own. His continued involvement in the freedom struggle and his community projects brought confrontation with the conservative AFM leadership. Ron Sider. 77.26 The political repercussions of the rapidly changing South Africa in the 1990s were felt throughout Pentecostal churches. This resulted in increasing pressure for change on White Pentecostal leaders and the gradual emergence of Black Pentecostals in church leadership and in the political arena. son of an AFM pastor in Soweto. . he had come full circle from excommunication to the church’s highest office bearer. Anderson. and once he was interrogated by a White deacon in his own church. albeit in the Black section of this church. Perhaps Gerrie Wessels. 62-3. considers himself ‘Pentecostal’ in every sense of the word. when elected President of the new AFM Composite Division. Ordained AFM ministers were supposed to reject participation in political activities. was forgotten. Johannesburg: Skotaville. ‘Interview with Rev Frank Chikane’. in Transformation 5(2). Chikane has become a high profile diplomat in the ANC administration and one of the most influential people in the country’s political and ecclesiastical life. manifesting in agitation for united structures and equality of leadership opportunities. Zion and Pentecost. Between 1977 and 1982 he was detained without trial four times— on two occasions for over seven months. 49. One of the South African Pentecostalism’s best known figures. is an example of the few South African Pentecostals who struggled against apartheid and unjust structures both within and outside the church. 1988. members of African Pentecostal churches have shared to some extent in the struggle for liberation. National Party senator in the apartheid government and also AFM vice-president. who in 1981 suspended him ‘from full-time service’ for ‘one year’ and did not reinstate him until 1990. It appears that in South Africa. In 1993. 26 Anderson & Otwang. and had been appointed by President Thabo Mbeki as Director General in the Office of the President.
polling more votes (1. ANC mayor of Winterveld. Azusa 1(1). Tshwane Christian College. gave shelter to students from White-dominated theological colleges who had been expelled for political reasons in 1989-90. the ACDP was taken seriously enough for President Mbeki to devote part of a major parliamentary speech attacking it. It could be said that Pentecostals dominate the ACDP. a group of Pentecostals drew up a similar document called The Relevant Pentecostal Witness. which was more specifically a Pentecostal stance against apartheid and the theology justifying the status quo or acquiescing before it. At least half of the signatories in The Evangelical Witness. but it remains to be seen whether this party will play any more significant role in future South African politics.28 In 1988. Part of the driving force behind this movement was a reminder of the non-racial origins of the Pentecostal movement and a theology of the Spirit motivating a preference for the poor and oppressed. including the left-wing PAC and AZAPO. Jan Mathibela. drawn up by the Concerned Evangelicals in 1986 as a reaction to the political conservatism in Evangelicalism were Pentecostals. `The Experience of the Spirit in Apartheid South Africa'. An independent Pentecostal college. One of the graduates from this college. There were other signs of Black Pentecostal participation in the public sphere. 1990.5% of the national vote) than several other opposition parties. was chair of the Winterveld civic association and from 1994-99. 31. Although Meshoe is seen in political circles as somewhat of a political novice and conservative moralist.29 There were other. one of the largest and poorest of the informal housing settlements in the country. In the 1994 elections. an ‘important document in the struggle against apartheid’. Pretoria: National Initiative for Reconciliation. Meshoe himself returns from his parliamentary office in Cape Town every weekend to pastor his church in 28 J Nico Horn. was elected with one other representative to the national parliament. 29 Rustenburg Declaration: National Conference of Churches in South Africa. Kenneth Meshoe. 1990. leader of the newly-formed African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP). less public protests.There were other signs of Pentecostal resistance to apartheid. Representation of the ACDP in parliament after the 1999 elections increased to six. a Pentecostal pastor. . A significant number of Pentecostals were involved in the Rustenburg Declaration of 1990 calling for an end to apartheid and the creation of a democratic society.
where rapid urbanization and industrialization have thrown people into a strange. a Black dormitory township in east Gauteng.mg. albeit on the more conservative side of the political spectrum. and insecure world where they are left groping for a sense of belonging. 1999 [www. and where (in some cases) the social distinctions were further leveled by the use of universal uniforms worn by all the faithful. spiteful sorcerers and inherently dangerous witchcraft. provide substantially for this universal human need in a positive response to the problems of modernity. A sympathetic approach to African life and culture. especially healing from sickness and deliverance from a seemingly malevolent and capricious invisible world. and an engagement with the African world of invisible forces.co. impersonal. the motivation for social and political engagement.Vosloorus. The former President of the ‘Bantustan’ Bophuthatswana. The bestowal of spiritual power was the means by which ordinary people could become part of an egalitarian community where social distinctions on the basis of theological elitism became blurred. They give solutions to basic human problems. but they may be a further indication of the increasing participation of Pentecostals in public life. Johannesburg. The spirituality of Pentecostalism was in fact a new and holistic approach to Christianity that appealed to the African imagination more than older forms of Protestant Christianity had done. Lucas Mangope. Pentecostal churches. and the catalyst for change in the emergence of a new order. It has become the means by which Pentecostals imagine the triumph of good over 30 ‘How the opposition parties fared’. The Pentecostal experience of the power of the Spirit is a unifying factor in a still deeply divided society. have been major attractions of these churches to people oriented to a world of both evil and good spirits. fears and uncertainties.za/mg/news/] . and leader of the smaller United Christian Democratic Party. they offer a baptism of power that enables a person to overcome the threatening world of unpredictable ancestors. Daily Mail & Guardian. December 23. Many forms of African Pentecostalism have liberated Christianity from the foreignness of European cultural forms. Above all. which has three seats in parliament. is a member of the Assemblies of God. albeit a minority of Pentecostal support. This is accentuated in the South African Black townships today. with their firm commitment to a cohesive community and their offer of full participation to all.30 These two parties undoubtedly benefit from significant.
Central Statistical Services. 1992. 1999. Christianity in South Africa: A Political. Allan & Otwang. Social & Cultural History. Cleary. Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press. ‘The Segregated Spirit: The Pentecostals’. ‘The Lekganyanes and Prophecy in the Zion Christian Church’. Tumelo: The Faith of African Pentecostals in South Africa. ‘Introduction: Pentecostals. Anderson. and Pentecostals in Latin America. No Life of my Own. Samuel. for Pentecostals in South Africa will continue to be a force to be reckoned with. Anderson. Journal of Religion in Africa. . ‘The prosperity message in the eschatology of some new Charismatic churches in South Africa’. 285-312. Anderson. Edward L. Allan. Power. 1997. 1992. Chikane. Population Census 1991. Prominence and Politics’. CO: Westview Press. Anderson. & Walter J Hollenweger (eds). Richard Elphick & Rodney Davenport (eds). Gerald J. 2000. 1987. Politics. Burger. 89-107. Oxford: James Currey & Cape Town: David Philip. Frank. Allan. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press. Geloofsgeskiedenis van die Apostoliese Geloofsending van Suid-Africa 1908-1958. 1997. 72-83. Anderson. Allan. Zion and Pentecost: The Spirituality and Experience of Pentecostal and Zionist/ Apostolic Churches in South Africa. EL Cleary & HW StewartGambino (eds). 29:3. 'Summarised results before adjustment for undercount'. Pentecostals after a Century: Global Perspectives on a Movement in Transition. But the question remains to what extent has the rather ambiguous Pentecostal vision of equality and freedom been integrated with a concern to see these ‘good’ forces invade and subjugate the evil ones of political elitism and greed? The future will tell. Allan H Anderson.evil in all areas of public space. Johannesburg: Evangelie Uitgewers. 227-41. 1988. Missionalia 15:2. Allan. 1-24. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press. Pretoria. Anderson. ‘Dangerous Memories for South African Pentecostals’. Bazalwane: African Pentecostals in South Africa. Allan & Pillay. IS vdM. 1988. BIBLIOGRAPHY Anderson. Pretoria: University of South Africa Press. Allan. 1999. Boulder. 1993. Johannesburg: Skotaville.
Horn. JJ. Chronicle of the Truth Commission. Joseph. Community of the Saved: An African Revivalist Church in the East Cape.Comaroff. London: SCM Press. Body of Power. University of Cape Town. Ron. BGM. 1975. Allan H Anderson . Johannesburg: Witwatersrand University Press. Watt. 1996. London: Hurst. Harvey. Waiting in the Wings. 1976. Pretoria: National Initiative for Reconciliation. Dubb. London: Cassell. ‘Consistency in the ZCC’. ‘Ritual Healing and Political Acquiescence: The Case of the Zionist Churches in Southern Africa’. Africa 60 (1). Pretoria: University of Pretoria. 1991. J Nico. The ZCC Messenger 22. Meiring. Hollenweger. Bishops and Prophets in a Black City. Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press. 1999. 9-12. JRL. Azusa 1(1). From Africa's Soil: The Story of the Assemblies of God in Southern Africa. Oxford: Oxford. 1990. Allie A. 31-6. Rafapa. 6-7. Die Onvoltooide Sendingtaak in die PWV Gebied. Sider. Jean. 1992. 1-25. Gifford. © 11 September. Spirit of Resistance. 2000 . Kobo. Cox. Chris R. Matthew. in Transformation 5(2). 1976. A case study in church growth in a segregated society'. The Pentecostals. Piet. Sundkler. 1985. Vanderbijlpark: Carpe Diem Books. BGM. Cape Town: Struik. Cape Town: David Philip. London: Oxford. De Wet. `The Experience of the Spirit in Apartheid South Africa'. Kritzinger. 1998. 1961. 1990. Rustenburg Declaration: National Conference of Churches in South Africa. 1984. Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-first Century. 1992. Paul. Bantu Prophets in South Africa. ‘Interview with Rev Frank Chikane’. African Christianity: Its Public Role. PhD thesis. Zulu Zion and Some Swazi Zionists. Walter J. West. 1989. Schoffeleers. 1994. Milton Keynes: Nelson Word. 1988. Sundkler. 1972. C Peter. 'The Apostolic Faith Mission in Africa: 1908-1980. Martin.
This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
We've moved you to where you read on your other device.
Get the full title to continue reading from where you left off, or restart the preview.