‘I Got the Call – Not Him’

Founding an African Initiated Church as an Act of Emancipation

In: Journal of Religion in Africa
Marie-Luise Frost Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, Research Programme on Religious Communities and Sustainable Development Berlin Germany

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This paper examines how the call to found their own churches has allowed and enabled women to subvert and challenge prescribed gender roles. It focuses on African Initiated Churches including both African Independent and Pentecostal Charismatic churches. While the importance of women in these churches is widely acknowledged, less attention has been given to the question of how female church founders gain and maintain their leadership positions. Drawing on historical cases as well as on interviews with founders and church leaders conducted in South Africa and Nigeria, this paper shows how the charismatic authority and doctrinal independence women gain through the call not only legitimate their position but enable them to challenge social and doctrinal norms and thus emancipate themselves from traditional gender roles. However, it also discusses whether in some cases women did not fully use their authority in order to keep it.

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