Religious Studies and Theology, Vol 36, No 2 (2017)

Women, Rights Talk, and African Pentecostalism

Rosalind I.J. Hackett
Issued Date: 20 Dec 2017


In this essay, I seek to bring a rights perspective to women’s religious leadership and agency in Africa, notably in the case of the newer forms of Pentecostal-charismatic Christianity that now pre-dominate in many parts of the continent. Rather than adopting a legal approach, I focus on the concept of “rights talk” which provides a more productive and inclusive way to approach ideas about women’s leadership in locally grounded (and often transnationally connected) African Christian communities. The protagonists are the women church founders and leaders who have publicly addressed the emancipation of women in the varying contexts of gender inequality. I contend that the way modern Pentecostal-charismatic women leaders argue for equality, justice, and dignity in their religious communities can also be traced back to their forbears in the African-initiated or independent churches that date from the seventeenth century onwards. There are interesting parallels, as well as some differences, in the ways that they frame, explicitly or implicitly, their understandings of equality and freedom from oppression, and balance compliance and resistance to perduring patriarchal limitations on their religious agency.

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DOI: 10.1558/rsth.35161


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