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Black Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in History and Culture

Amos Yong, Estrelda Alexander

Publication Year: 2011

In 2006, the contemporary American Pentecostal movement celebrated its 100th birthday. Over that time, its African American sector has been markedly influential, not only vis-à-vis other branches of Pentecostalism but also throughout the Christian church. Black Christians have been integrally involved in every aspect of the Pentecostal movement since its inception and have made significant contributions to its founding as well as the evolution of Pentecostal/charismatic styles of worship, preaching, music, engagement of social issues, and theology. Yet despite its being one of the fastest growing segments of the Black Church, Afro-Pentecostalism has not received the kind of critical attention it deserves.

Afro-Pentecostalism brings together fourteen interdisciplinary scholars to examine different facets of the movement, including its early history, issues of gender, relations with other black denominations, intersections with popular culture, and missionary activities, as well as the movement’s distinctive theology. Bolstered by editorial introductions to each section, the chapters reflect on the state of the movement, chart its trajectories, discuss pertinent issues, and anticipate future developments.

Contributors: Estrelda Y. Alexander, Valerie C. Cooper, David D. Daniels III, Louis B. Gallien, Jr., Clarence E. Hardy III, Dale T. Irvin, Ogbu U. Kalu, Leonard Lovett, Cecil M. Robeck, Jr., Cheryl J. Sanders, Craig Scandrett-Leatherman, William C. Turner, Jr., Frederick L. Ware, and Amos Yong

Published by: NYU Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Most of the chapters in this book were originally shared and discussed among the contributors and other scholars in the fall of 2007 and spring of 2008. We would like to acknowledge the following for their helping to make possible this initial research and sharing of ideas:...

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1 Introduction: Black Tongues of Fire: Afro-Pentecostalism’s Shifting Strategies and Changing Discourses

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pp. 1-18

In 2006, the contemporary American Pentecostal movement passed a milestone, celebrating its one hundredth birthday. Over that time, its African American sector has been markedly influential, not only vis-à-vis other branches of Pentecostalism but also throughout the Christian...

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PART I: Origins

The essays in this section shed light on how African Americans within the earliest period of the Pentecostal movement engaged the racially complicated social context of early twentieth-century America out of which the movement arose. Two noted historians of Pentecostalism bring their collective knowledge to bear on...

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2 The Azusa Street Mission and Historic Black Churches: Two Worlds in Conflict in Los Angeles’ African American Community

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pp. 21-42

The Azusa Street Mission and the revival that it hosted between April 1906 and the end of 1909 have been the subjects of much study in recent years.1 Yet while the Mission has been explored from various perspectives, it has never been considered specifically as one African American congregation among ten such congregations that served the African American...

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3 Navigating the Territory: Early Afro-Pentecostalism as a Movement within Black Civil Society

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pp. 43-62

Just prior to the advent of Pentecostalism among African American Holiness Christians in 1906, the Black Church was a predominately Baptist and Methodist entity. Nearly all African American Christians were Protestant, and 96 percent were either Baptist or Methodist. The membership of the four major black Protestant denominations—the National Baptist...

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PART II: Gender and Culture

One of the most engaging aspects of African American Pentecostalism has been its ability to infuse the black religious context with new models of how gender, race, and class can be construed in ways that empower, rather than denigrate, black people. The essays in this section highlight the specific contribution Pentecostal spirituality has made in helping...

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4 Laying the Foundations for Azusa: Black Women and Public Ministry in the Nineteenth Century

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pp. 65-82

Once, while lecturing in a course on Pentecostalism, I was struck by a student’s question.1 The student asked simply, “Why Azusa?” In a sense, this young person was asking if phenomena like glossolalia had reoccurred at various times during history, why did these experiences come together so powerfully in the Pentecostal Revival at Azusa Street that began in 1906?2 What particular circumstances...

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5 Church Mothers and Pentecostals in the Modern Age

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pp. 83-94

What would it mean to place Pentecostals at the center of histories of black religious culture in the modern era? And what would it mean to place women’s leadership at the center of our accounts of black Pentecostalism’s evolution into an urban religion three decades after the black poet Frances Harper declared in...

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6 Rites of Lynching and Rights of Dance: Historic, Anthropological, and Afro-Pentecostal Perspectives on Black Manhood after 1865

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pp. 95-116

In traditional African societies, males became men not only by biological maturation but by social intervention. In other words, men were made by the community. Men were made through ritual process, through a communal rite of passage. This rite involved three stages. First, the boys-to-become- men were separated from the society of women...

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7. Crossing Over Jordan: Navigating the Music of Heavenly Bliss and Earthly Desire in the Lives and Careers of Three Twentieth-Century African American Holiness-Pentecostal “Crossover” Artists

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pp. 117-138

This chapter centers on the lives and relatively brief careers of three African American male “crossover” artists whose religious and musical roots were in the Holiness-Pentecostal church. The lives of Sam Cooke, Donny Hathaway, and Marvin Gaye are well chronicled in popular rock and roll, R&B, and soul musical literature. All three were versatile...

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PART III: Prophetic Ethics

The ongoing struggle for black Pentecostals to find a prophetic, public voice has been largely ignored by most scholars of the movement. Indeed, the reductionist assumption that black Pentecostalism is largely an ecstatic, other worldly escape from social reality has precluded serious consideration of the wealth of ethical discourse found among black...

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8. Pentecostal Ethics and the Prosperity Gospel: Is There a Prophet in the House?

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pp. 141-152

A dominant theme of modern Pentecostal preaching has been the promotion of the prosperity gospel, which emphasizes 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...

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9. Ethics in a Prophetic Mode: Reflections of an Afro-Pentecostal Radical

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pp. 153-166

The ancient prophets were sent not only to foretell and predict events but to challenge the status quo in the name of YHWH. Any theology that does not seek to radically probe the nature and meaning of reality for our present moment is truncated and invalid. Ethics deals with the realm of “oughtness.” Its primary task at its best is to radically critique

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PART IV: Pneumatology

Until recently the idea of a “Pentecostal theology” would have been considered an oxymoron, given the Pentecostal emphasis on the emotions, affections, and ecstatic worship. However, over the last generation there has emerged a growing consideration of how Pentecostal spirituality and piety harbors within itself a unique set of theological...

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10. Pneumatology: Contributions from African American Christian Thought to the Pentecostal Theological Task

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pp. 169-190

The maturity of Pentecostal theology demands development of a more robust theology of the Holy Spirit because of the centrality of the Spirit in Pentecostal spirituality and because the immanent and economic history of the Spirit is marked by movement toward liberty. A critical pneumatological discourse is essential for carrying Pentecostal theology beyond...

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11. On the Compatibility/Incompatibility of Pentecostal Premillennialism with Black Liberation Theology

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pp. 191-206

One aspect of African American religion and culture is the tendency toward utopian and eschatological vision, what I call the mythic dimension of racial consciousness.1 Here is where the turn to another reality takes place, and where belief and hope are born. Here is a nostalgic longing for recovery of a lost past or a dream of a promising future. Brought forcefully...

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PART V: Afro-Pentecostalism in Global Context

The final two essays of this book highlight the historical intersection between African American Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity, and the phenomenal growth of Pentecostal spirituality throughout the Two-Thirds World. Indeed, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the most explosive and exponential growth of Pentecostal spirituality is...

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12. Black Joseph: Early African American Charismatic Missions and Pentecostal-Charismatic Engagements with the African Motherland

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pp. 209-232

The story of the African American charismatic–Pentecostal missionary enterprise to Africa beginning in the early twentieth century must be set within the larger framework of African American missionary engagement of Africa, which started in the nineteenth century. Ironically, black people who...

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13. Meeting Beyond These Shores: Black Pentecostalism, Black Theology, and the Global Context

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pp. 233-248

More than thirty years have passed since Leonard Lovett’s dissertation, “Black Holiness-Pentecostalism: Implications for Ethics and Social Transformation,” first appeared.1 In that work, Lovett sought to lay the groundwork for a fuller dialogue between black theology and the black Pentecostal movement. Three decades later that dialogue has still hardly begun. Over the intervening years, Pentecostalism has...

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pp. 249-252


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pp. 255-261

E-ISBN-13: 9780814789070
E-ISBN-10: 0814789072
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814797303
Print-ISBN-10: 081479730X

Page Count: 271
Publication Year: 2011