Pentecostal

Pentecostal Pastors in Africa Push Prayer, Not Drugs, for People with HIV

Some church pastors have HIV-invited infected people to prayers and pronounced healing. RNS photo by Fredrick Nzwili

At prayer healing services in some Pentecostal churches, pastors invite people infected with HIV to come forward for a public healing, after which they burn the person’s anti-retroviral medications and declare the person cured.

The “cure” is not free, and some people say they shell out their life savings to receive a miracle blessing and quit taking the drugs.

“I believe people can be healed of all kinds of sickness, including HIV, through prayers,” said Pastor Joseph Maina of Agmo Prayer Mountain, a Pentecostal church on the outskirts of Nairobi. “We usually guide them. We don’t ask for money, but we ask them to leave some seed money that they please.”

But the controversial ceremonies are raising red flags as believers’ conditions worsen, and a debate has opened over whether science or religion should take the lead in the fight against the AIDS epidemic.

Australia's Hillsong Church Exports Its Influence Through Praise and Preaching

Senior Pastors Brian and Bobbie Houston in prayer at Hillsong Church. Photo via RNS/courtesy Hillsong Church

The ubiquitous praise song “Shout to the Lord” can be found in many churches across the U.S. on any given Sunday. What fewer people realize is that it comes from a church in the outskirts of Sydney, with a Hillsong brand that is spreading across the globe.

Hillsong Church has combined Christian rock, charismatic energy, and Australian accents to create a winning combination in major cities across the globe. On Sunday at their main campus just outside of Sydney, children and adults swarmed a petting zoo for children and coffee stations outside the glass entrance as volunteers gave out balloons celebrating the 30th anniversary of one of the most globally influential churches.

What Does the World Church's Geographical Shift Mean for Christianity?

Earth interconnectedness illustration, Anton Balazh / Shutterstock.com

Earth interconnectedness illustration, Anton Balazh / Shutterstock.com

A global leader in ecumenical movement has alerted participants to the forthcoming World Council of Churches 10th Assembly in Busan, to be aware that they meet in rapidly changing times for world Christianity.

He says there are consequences for all church institutions, including the WCC itself.

Rev. Wesley Granberg-Michaelson, in a book timed to coincide with the gathering, says so fundamental are the changes now shaping the Christian world that the WCC will need to "commit to deep change."

It they don't, he says, they could remain largely isolated from the dynamic and growing parts of the church, especially from the global South.

His perceptions are likely to strike a chord at when the World Council of Churches meets in Busan from Oct.30 to Nov. 8 for its 10th Assembly, the highest decision making body of the grouping that represents some 560 million Christians.

Granberg-Michaelson, is a former member of the main governing body of the WCC, its central committee, and worked on the staff of the organization for six years, originally as director of the Church and Society programme.

He says the book, From Times Square to Timbuktu, is an attempt to describe the "growing gulf" occurring in world Christianity, primarily between the burgeoning Pentecostal and evangelical churches in the global South and the declining churches of the global North.

'Break My Heart With What Breaks Yours'

High-octane contemporary worship with smoke, flashing lights, and words on huge screens energize and empower 3,400 Pentecostals from 69 countries filling the Calvary Convention Centre in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia,. This is the 23rd Pentecostal World Conference, a triennial gathering of pastors, leaders, and youth from around the globe. I’m here as part of a delegation from the Global Christian Forum, warmly invited, seated right in the front, and including representatives from the Lutheran, Orthodox, Seventh-Day Adventist, Mennonite, African-Instituted and Reformed church bodies, all members of the GCF steering committee. We’re easy to pick out of the crowd, since we’re the only ones who don’t spontaneously raise our hands in worship. I hope that image doesn’t make it to the big screens.

The explosive growth of Pentecostalism is an astonishing chapter in the story of world Christianity’s modern history. In 1970, Pentecostals (including charismatics in non-Pentecostal denominations) totaled about 62 million, or 5 percent of the total Christian population. In the four decades since, Pentecostals have grown at 4 times the rate of overall Christianity, and 4 times faster than the world’s population growth. Today they number about 600 million — one out of every four Christians in the world, and one out of every 12 people alive today. Most of this growth has come in the global South, in places like Africa, South America, and — yes — Malaysia.

The Pentecostal World Conference doesn’t look much like a typical denominational or ecumenical assembly. It’s more like a global revival service. Several of the world’s best-known Pentecostal preachers and leaders deliver stirring messages, complete with altar calls for those seeking the fresh empowerment of God’s Spirit in their lives and ministries. It’s a far cry from a Reformed Church in America General Synod, which I facilitated for many years. But these keynote speakers, along with the workshops held each day of the conference, open a window into global Pentecostalism’s present trends, challenges, and directions.

In writing From Times Square to Timbuktu: The Post-Christian West Meets the Non-Western Church, I found that one of the most intriguing questions I encountered is how rapidly growing forms of Christianity in the global South deal with social and economic issues within their societies. So in Kuala Lumpur, I was especially attentive to what might be said by the world’s Pentecostal leadership about the biblical call to justice and mercy. And I heard a lot that I wish I could now go back and add to my book.

Snake Handling Pastor Dies of Snake Bite

Rattlesnake. Image via http://bit.ly/KMHG5x.

Rattlesnake. Image via http://bit.ly/KMHG5x.

Pastor Mack Wolford — an eccentric snake handler and Pentecostal minister — was bitten by a deadly rattle snake at an outdoor service (or “evangelistic hootenanny”) at Panther Wildlife Management Area in West Va. He died shortly after, surrounded by friends and family, which, coincidentally, is the same way his father (also a pastor and snake handler) passed away nearly thirty years ago.

According to The Washington Post, “Wolford [like his father] believed that the Bible mandates that Christians handle serpents to test their faith in God -- and that, if they are bitten, they trust in God alone to heal them.” As the article points out, Wolford comes from a niche tradition in where the gospel words in Mark 16 are taken literally (and somewhat peculiarly), to “take up serpents and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them…”

Join a Circle of Protection on Nov. 16: Standing For and With the Poor

The New York City Human Circle will be replicated throughout across the nation, when faith leaders host Human Circles as members of the Sojourners National Mobilizing Circle, which is bringing together faith and community leaders to organize faith-rooted actions in their communities.

The purpose of these circles is not only to lobby for the poor but also with them.

Moving South: Day Three at the Global Christian Forum in Indonesia

The atlas also documents other dramatic trends, including the fragmentation of Christianity. New denominations, often borne out of strife and division, multiply endlessly. In Korea, for instance, there are now 69 different Presbyterian denominations. At the rate we are going, by 2025 there will be 55,000 separate denominations in the world!

That is an utter mess fueled by rivalry and confusion that hampers the church's witness and makes a mockery of God's call to live as parts of one body.

The atlas also documents the dramatic rise of revival movements throughout the world, and charts the story of Pentecostalism's rise. From its beginning a century ago, Pentecostalism now comprises a quarter of all Christians in the world. This fundamental change in Christianity's global composition, along with its geographical transformation, has created a dramatically different Christian footprint in the world.

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