Pentecostalism and empowerment: a study of the Church of Pentecost and International Central Gospel Church
Tettey, Michael Perry Nii Osah
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Contemporary Pentecostal and Charismatic (PC) Christianity has attracted scholars and practitioners of religions globally. This is because Pentecostalism in all its variations has been reckoned as the fastest growing brand of Christianity. In the particular case of sub- Saharan Africa, Pentecostalism has become one of the key religious features of Christianity since the late 1990s. As such, it clearly has a strong appeal to millions of Africans. Notwithstanding, the PC movement has also had its share of criticism based on its distinctive beliefs and practices, particularly in relation to the prosperity gospel and the abuse of power. In this thesis, using the Church of Pentecost (COP) and International Central Gospel Church (ICGC) as case studies, I examine the individual (personal) and group (collective) empowerment/disempowerment components in Pentecostalism in Ghana. Theories encompassing empowerment, social, cultural and religious/spiritual capital are reviewed within Pentecostalism in Ghana. The thesis central focus is on how the churches (COP and ICGC) constitute social, cultural and religious capital in their efforts to empower individuals and society. The study explores internal structures of power, polity and leadership in the churches, as well as their role in social policy, human development programmes, civic and public life issues. These were the main themes that emanated from the research. The findings show that the churches have made positive impact in transforming religious and social landscapes. They have also shown prospects in human development and brought awareness in the spheres of politics and civic responsibility. However, some beliefs and practices (i.e. gender inequality in church leadership, structures of power and authority, etc.) have affected aspects of individuals’ and groups’ empowerment. These insights come from the research analysis of the processes and outcomes of the churches’ practical work, for instance, theology/preaching, practical ministries, church projects in areas such as education, gender roles and practices, moral conduct and church discipline, trust and voluntarism. A case study research method involving textual examination of primary documents, qualitative interviews and participant observation was used to show the different perspectives from a representative sample of pastors and members of the COP and ICGC. While most scholarly works give a lot of insight to the developments of Pentecostalism in Ghana, their efforts have mainly focused on the founders and leaders of the movement as representative of their organisations. This has been useful to a point; however, this study has shown that such an approach muted the voices of the members of the churches whose viewpoints in the development of the PC churches remain significant. Thus, this study built-in views from both the clergy and laity of COP and ICGC. The thesis shows the present developments (life, thoughts and practices) of the PC churches in Ghana with COP and ICGC in context. It expands discussions on works previously written by Paul Gifford and Emmanuel Kingsley Larbi. Gifford and Larbi give an account of the developments of the churches with tremendous insight into their religious and social backgrounds. J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu further builds up the discussion on Pentecostalism in Ghana and draws attention to its contemporary forms and religious significance in Ghana’s religious life and society. The fluid nature of Pentecostalism requires constant updating and this thesis fills in some of the previously unexplained recent developments and on-going reforms within Pentecostalism in Ghana.