Intra-African Pentecostalism and the dynamics of power: the Living Faith Church worldwide (Winners’ Chapel) in Cameroon, 1996-2016.
Chewachong, Amos Bongadu
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The embeddedness of Pentecostal/Charismatic tenets within contemporary global frameworks of transnational power reveals the ability of religion to shape the sociocultural and spiritual experiences of people on the move from one place to another. For this reason, sociologists of religion and scholars of World Christianity have noted the rapid missionary expansion of African Pentecostal/Charismatic movements to the northern hemisphere. Some have even referred to the missionary work of non-western forms of Christianity in the western world as the ‘Southernisation of European Christianity’. But if the aggressive strategies adopted by African Pentecostal/Charismatic churches in the western diaspora are intended to reawaken Christianity in Europe, what then is the motivation for intra-African Pentecostal/Charismatic movements in traversing national boundaries, with their distinctive version of the Christian faith, making Africa a theatre in which Christian missionaries are both sent and received? This thesis examines the intra-African missionary praxis of a highly influential Nigerian Pentecostal/Charismatic church, the Winners’ Chapel, and its accompanying power dynamics in Cameroon from 1996 to 2016. Using a qualitative research approach, the study examines the character of transnational Pentecostal/Charismatic movements in Africa, using Winners’ Chapel in Cameroon as a case study. After an investigation of the emergence of the church, the study examines the various strategies used to achieve and maintain control of the mother church in Nigeria over its daughter church in Cameroon, such as the deployment of Nigerian missionaries, the use of Nigerian-defined Winners’ Chapel tenets in Cameroon, the place of sermons and testimonies, and the role of the media. The thesis studies the conflicts of loyalty and contestations that emerge between Nigerian Winners’ Chapel missionaries to Cameroon and their Cameroonian colleagues in Cameroon. It concludes with an assessment of how far Winners’ Chapel can be said to contribute to the provision of social capital and empowerment in Cameroon. The findings in this study provide a significant and original contribution to the understanding of how power dynamics can operate within complex relationships between transnational Pentecostal/Charismatic actors (missionaries), and their receiving countries colleagues in the continent of Africa. It also contributes to the literature on African Pentecostalism but offers fresh insights into the encounters, contestations, and resistance that emerge between ‘founder-owners’ and recruited workers of intra-African Pentecostal/Charismatic Movements. By appropriating international relations concepts such as Joseph Nye’s ideas of ‘soft power’ and concepts in the sociology of religion such as Peggy Levitt’s ‘remittances’, popularised by Afe Adogame, the study potentially unveils the nexus between international relations, the sociology of religion and development within Pentecostalist transnational discourses in Africa.