Williams, “Mainline Churches: Networks of Belonging”

Williams, Beth Ann. 2018 “Mainline Churches: Networks of Belonging in Postindependence Kenya and Tanzania.” Journal of Religion in Africa 48(3): 255-285.

Christian churches are not abstract or ethereal institutions; they impact people’s daily decisions, weekly rhythms, and major life choices. This paper explores the continued importance of Lutheran, Presbyterian, and Anglican church membership for East African women. While much recent scholarship on Christianity in Africa has emphasized the rising prominence of Pentecostalism, I argue that historic, mission-founded churches continue to represent important sources of community formation and support for congregations. Using oral interviews with rural and urban women in Nairobi and northern Tanzania, I explore the ways churches can connect disparate populations through resource (re)distribution and shared religious aesthetic experiences. Moving below the level of church institutions, I focus on the lived experiences and motivations of everyday congregants who invest in religious communities for a range of material, interpersonal, and emotional reasons that, taken together, help us understand the ongoing importance of mainline churches in East Africa.

Pedersen, “The Politics of Paradox”

Pedersen, Morten Axel. 2017. “The Politics of Paradox: Kierkegaardian theology and national conservatism in Denmark.” In Distortion: Social Processes Beyond the Structured and Systemic, edited by Nigel Rappaport, 84-106. London: Routledge

In the autumn of 2010, an article with the headline ‘DF [Dansk Folkeparti, Danish Peoples’ Party]: The Concept of Menneskesyn Does Not Exist’ was printed in the Danish centre-left newspaper Politiken. The piece begins with the journalist describing how one councillor for the Criminal Justice Department, a Louise Aagard Larsen, had visited a prison. Here, an inmate had asked her to explain the Danish Peoples’ Party’s (henceforth DF) menneskesyn (lit. ‘vision of humanity’, meaning general concept of humanity, including notions of whether humans are good or bad, and how they should treat each other). Realizing that she did not know how to answer, Ms Larsen sent an email to the press office of DF. ‘The reply surprised her’, explains the journalist, and then cites the email that Ms Larsen received from Kenneth Kristensen Berth, who presented himself as ‘an MA in sociology and history’, and as someone speaking on behalf of the press office of DF (Berth later ran for parliament and is now a Danish MP for DF):

The concept menneskesyn has been invented for the occasion to criticise the Danish Peoples’ Party for our position regarding foreigners and immigrants. The concept has been launched by the left and it is totally devoid of meaning, so one cannot answer your question.

Kasselstrand, Zuckerman, Little, and Westbrook, “Nonfirmands”

Isabella Kasselstrand, Phil Zuckerman, Robert Little & Donald A. Westbrook (2018) Nonfirmands: Danish youth who choose not to have a Lutheran confirmation, Journal of Contemporary Religion, 33:1, 87-105, DOI: 10.1080/13537903.2018.1408283

Abstract: Most Danish youth participate in the traditional Lutheran ritual of confirmation. However, a growing minority does not. Based on survey data collected in 2011 from over 600 Danish pupils, this study examines the ways in which Danish ‘nonfirmands’ are different from their peers who participate in confirmation in relation to religious background, personal religious beliefs, intellectual engagement, and demographic factors. We further explore key motivations for ‘nonfirmation’ expressed by the nonfirmands in the sample. Broadly speaking, our findings highlight secular socialization and individual beliefs about God as key elements in understanding the nonfirmand and his or her reasons for opting out of confirmation. We expect confirmations to continue to decline in popularity as nonfirmation gains social acceptance, as nonfirmands raise their own children, and as Denmark becomes increasingly secular.

Haapalainen, “Spiritual Senses”

Haapalainen, Anna. 2016. Spiritual Senses as a Resource. Temenos 52(2): 289-311.

Abstract: This article discusses knowledge gained through experiencing the presence of God through the ‘spiritual senses’ as a resource in an Evangelical Lutheran parish. Believers’ being-in-touch experiences with the divine produce a special kind of knowledge that can be shared and passed on in the parish. This ‘spiritual asset’ plays an important part in parochial activities. This development can be explained by the rise of experience-based religiosity and charismatic Christianity, a global Christian trend which is also affecting the mainline churches.

Bonnemère, “Church presence and gender relations”

Bonnemère, Pascale.  2016. Church presence and gender relations in the Wonenara valley (Eastern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea). The Australian Journal of Anthropology. Early online publication.

Abstract: Since 1951, date of the First contact, the Baruya of the Wonenara valley have twice been a pioneering frontline for Protestant missions. First in the 1960s, when several Lutheran and SDA pastors moved in, and the second time at the beginning of the 2000s, when three ‘New Evangelical Churches’ settled in the valley. After presenting the history of the presence of these five Churches, I analyse the pastors’ ideas, as expressed during services or in informal discussions, about the place of women in daily life and in church, and about gender relations more generally. The observation of church services reveals a possibility of women speaking in public that was hitherto unknown. Moreover, the pastors’ origins (Baruya or non Baruya) seem to play a role in the way they talk about women during their services, whatever their Church may say.

Hovland, “Christianity, place/space, and anthropology”

Hovland, Ingie. 2016. Christianity, place/space, and anthropology: thinking across recent research on evangelical place-making. Religion. DOI: 10.1080/0048721X.2016.1143054 [Pre-publication release]

Abstract: Place-making is a central activity for Christian groups. Yet the scholarly literature contains little comparative conversation on local Christian theories of place. This article ‘thinks across’ ten ethnographic descriptions of evangelical communities in order to pay attention to what these Christians pay attention to in their everyday place-making. It discusses seven problematics that commonly recur in evangelical place-work (namely linguistic, material, temporal, personhood, translocal, transcendent, and worldly concerns). This analysis nuances current anthropological debates on Protestant materiality, temporality, and personhood. The article argues that a central tenet of evangelicals’ place- making is a simultaneous taking apart and bringing together of faith and place. This results in a simultaneous fusing and ‘unfusing’ of situation and setting, which cannot be labeled either displacement or thorough emplacement. More broadly, evangelical place-making provides a modern example of deterritorialization that is different from placelessness. It also speaks to the complex interplay between ideals, intentionality, and agency.

Kusters, “Deaf Sociality and the Deaf Lutheran Church”

Kusters, Annelies.  2014.  “Deaf Sociality and the Deaf Lutheran Church in Adamorobe, Ghana.” Sign Language Studies 14(4): 466-487.

Abstract: This article provides an ethnographic analysis of “deaf sociality” in Adamorobe, a village in Ghana, where the relatively high prevalence of hereditary deafness has led to dense social and spatial connections. Deaf people are part of their hearing environment particularly through family networks, and produce deaf sociality through many informal interactive practices which take place in “deaf spaces”. In this context, efforts by the Deaf Lutheran Church to institute deaf-only signed worship services and (development) projects have been unsuccessful. Deaf community members are a priori socialized into practices of deaf sociality through deaf spaces and see little or no need for this set of practices which bring them few benefits. Furthermore, collective structuring, social security, social work, interpreting and leadership rather happen in the context of lineages and extended families—where sign language is used—rather than in deaf-based support networks.

Ketola et al., “New communities of worship”

Ketola, Kimmo, Tuomas Martikainen, Hanna Salomäki.  2014. New communities of worship: Continuities and mutations among religious organizations in Finland.  Social Compass 61(2): 153-171.

Abstract: The authors provide a summary of three key developments that have brought change to the field of religious organizations in Finland: the emergence of new Lutheran communities (the St Thomas Mass, the so-called Nokia Revival and the fundamentalist Luther Foundation Finland); Ashtanga yoga as a form of spirituality; and the spread of migrant religious communities. The article sets these developments in the context of late modern communal belonging and discusses how religious communities have been transforming over the last two to three decades in Finland.

Kaufman, “A Plea for Ethnographic Methods”

Kaufman, Tone Stangeland.  2014.  “A Plea for Ethnographic Methods and a Spirituality of Everyday Life in the Study of Christian Spirituality: A Norwegian Case of Clergy Spirituality.” Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 14(1): 94-102.

Excerpt: What counts as “real spirituality” or “real pastoral spirituality”? What can be sustainable sources of spiritual nourishment for clergy and others who are employed by the church? These questions might call for a wider understanding of pastoral spirituality than has traditionally been the case, and also for the willingness to look for such spirituality outside the explicitly “religious or spiritual sphere.” The quotes above are taken from open ended, in-depth interviews with ordained pastors in my Norwegian, Lutheran context. The twenty-one strategically sampled interviewees of this study on clergy spirituality all served as pastors in the Church of Norway (CofN) at the time they were interviewed.

At the outset of my research, my focus was primarily the contemplative or devotional practices of the clergyHowever, during the analysis, the salience and significance of everyday practices related to children and family life began emerging as a pattern worth exploring more in depth. This is a discovery that I would have probably not reached had I only studied classical texts written by spiritual figures such as Julian of Norwich, St. John of the Cross, or Evelyn Underhill.

This essay, then, has a twofold purpose; one material and one methodological. Materially, it makes a plea for the significance of an everyday spirituality not only for lay (people), but also for clergy, at least in non-Catholic traditions. This might also apply to lay leaders and deacons in Catholic contexts. Methodologically, I want to suggest that an ethnographic approach might enrich the study of Christian spirituality by expanding the sources (or data) to be explored, and by challenging or nuancing existing categories of the field. The ethnographic lens gives access to the spiritual experiences of contemporary people who have not written—or are not in the position to write—spiritual texts themselves.

Pöntinen, “African Theology as Liberating Wisdom”

Pöntinen, Mari-Anna.  2013.  African Theology as Liberating Wisdom: Celebrating Life and Harmony in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana.  Leiden: Brill.

Publisher’s Description:  In African Theology as Liberating Wisdom; Celebrating Life and Harmony in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Botswana, Mari-Anna Pöntinen analyses contextual interpretations of the Christian faith in this particular church. These interpretations are based on the special wisdom tradition which embraces monistic ontology, communal ethics in botho, and the indigenous belief in God as the Source of Life, and the Root of everything that exists. The constructing theological principle in the ELCB is the downward-orientated and descending God in Christ which interprets the ‘Lutheran spirit’ in a liberating and empowering sense. It deals with the cultural mythos which brings Christ down into people’s existence, unlike Western connotations which are considered to hinder seeing Christ and to prevent existential self-awareness.