Gender, Social Change and Spiritual Power: Charismatic Christianity in Ghana.

Author:Ochola, John N.
Position:Book review

Gender, Social Change and Spiritual Power: Charismatic Christianity in Ghana. By Jane E. Soothill. Leiden, Boston: Brill, 2007. 261 pp. np.

Jane E. Soothill appears to be well qualified to write this book on Charismatic Christianity, the fastest growing strand of Christianity in Africa. The book pursues multiple purposes, clearly explained in the Preface. The focus is on the interaction between charismatic Christianity, social change, and gender; the leadership roles of female pastors and pastors' wives; charismatic discourses on men, marriage, and family; the role of spiritual power in interpreting gendered social change; and the ways in which local appropriations of charismatic Christianity can be used in the production of both cultural continuity and social change.

The book has seven chapters. The first three establish the intellectual, phenomenological, and regional context for analyzing the gender discourses of Accra's charismatic churches. The analysis is presented in chapters four, five and six. The penultimate chapter draws together the main themes of the book.

The analysis is well organized and supported with numerous notes from publisned material, field observations, personal narratives, and other evidences collected from case studies of three of the largest charismatic churches in Acera, Ghana. The three churches are Action Chapel International, Alive Chapel International, and Solid Rock Chapel International.

Although the book is appreciably detailed and clearly written, it seems to suffer from numerous footnotes. In some parts of the book, especially the first four chapters, almost every sentence is punctuated with a footnote mark. As a result, a great deal of important discussion is relegated to the notes in small print at the bottom of each page. In some pages, such notes occupy more than a half of space in the page. Constant shifting from the text to the notes after every sentence makes it difficult to read the book.

Despite this criticism, Soothill has written a thought-provoking and carefully researched book. The key characteristics of the charismatic churches are clearly presented. Those churches tend to lack overarching structure. They rely on media, emphasize conversion, and give prominence to oral testimony. The main themes in charismatic Christianity are success and miracles, deliverance theology, and the increasing prominence, of the prophetic. Also important are the links between Pentecostallsm and modernity. Those...

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