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Classifying African Christianities: Past, Present, and Future: Part One

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This two-part article examines the practice of classifying African Christianities, looking at past and current approaches in order to make suggestions for the future. Noting advances in such classification from the disciplines of African church history and the anthropology of Christianity, it proposes a generational approach to African Christian communities.

After reviewing past approaches and identifying their shortcomings, part one shows how Pentecostalism has disrupted such classifications further, prompting the late church historian Ogbu Kalu’s assertion of continuity within African Christianities through a longstanding pattern of revivalism. Kalu helpfully emphasizes African initiatives in Christian creativity and detects similarities over time in Christianity’s appeal to Africans. Yet he also relies on a problematic essentialist approach to Africa and, by foregrounding Pentecostals and African Independent (or Initiated) Churches, continues a trend that overlooks other African Christians. The challenge lies in developing classifications that include all African Christians, using concepts that generate insight-producing comparisons.

Affiliations: 1: 130 Malloy Hall, University of Notre Dame Notre Dame, IN 46556, USA, Email:


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