Who Is an Evangelical… in Africa?

Anxious Bench | 10/15/2019 | Staff
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In his new book, Who Is an Evangelical?, Thomas Kidd acknowledges that “white English speakers” are just one evangelical cohort among many around the world. Even in this country, Christian immigrants from the Global South have “transformed American evangelical and Pentecostal churches.” In fact, such ministries “are perhaps more representative of evangelicals than the political labors of the Republican evangelical insiders, in spite of the disproportionate news coverage given to the latter.”

So it was striking to see this headline last week, at the website of America’s leading evangelical publication, Christianity Today:

Conflict - Eritrea - Abiy - Ahmed - Rifts

Recognized primarily for resolving decades-long conflict with Eritrea, the 43-year old Abiy Ahmed has also tried to mend interreligious rifts as a Protestant in a historically Orthodox nation with a substantial Muslim population. CT’s Kate Shellnut noted that Ahmed is the child of a Muslim father and Orthodox mother, but is himself a “Pente” — one of the 4.5 million members claimed by the Pentecostal Full Gospel Believers’ Church (FGBC).

But “Pente” can serve as a blanket term for all Ethiopian Protestants, including some of the largest communities of Lutherans and Mennonites in the world. Is a Pentecostal like Ahmed an evangelical?

Kidd - Pentecostals - Definition - Evangelicals - Protestants

Kidd argues that Pentecostals generally fit his definition of evangelicals as “born-again Protestants who cherish the Bible as the Word of God and who emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.” (I suspect he would have a harder time with Ahmed’s predecessor, a Oneness Pentecostal whose church denies the Trinity.) While he acknowledges significant differences between Pentecostals and those evangelicals who believe that certain gifts of the Holy Spirit ceased after the Early Church, Kidd thinks that evangelicals and Pentecostals are at least “cousins,” even if they “don’t always act like brothers and sisters.”

But over the weekend, Pentecostal scholar Dale Coulter tweeted that it would “muddy...
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