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Multi-Ethnic Recruitment in an Emerging West African Church: The Relationship of Religion to Ethnic Identity

Author  Moore, Barbara Jean

This dissertation examines the relationship of religion to ethnic identity as manifested in the progress and development of an emerging independent church in rural West Africa. Testing a model developed by the anthropologist, James W. Fernandez, it investigates the factors which affect the success or failure of new religious movements to recruit across ethnic lines. The application of this model to the growing Lobi and Tembo congregation in northeastern Côte d’Ivoire has made it possible to reconsider, not only the factors affecting multi-ethnic church growth but how studies of new religious movements in general can be made more profitable. I am suggesting that this can be done in two ways:

  1. For a better understanding of the dynamics affecting any religious movement, religious identity must be separated from ethnic identity. To subordinate religion to ethnicity as simply one of many objective criteria used by ethnic groups to define their distinctive character is no longer satisfactory.
  2. Any attempt to comprehend why religious movements succeed or fail in their pan-ethnic aims requires that more attention be paid to a number of inter-related aspects usually neglected in such studies.

These include:

  1. a closer examination of inter-ethnic relationships found within the movement,
  2. a recognition that factors affecting multi-ethnic church growth may operate differently in the local congregation and in the wider movement,
  3. a need to separate the message propounded by the movement from the structure which expresses that message, and
  4. a better understanding of the motivations that first attract new adherents to the movement and then bring the conviction necessary to cause them to remain as members.
  View  whole book display 2147 KB, 92 pages
Published  2011
Country  Côte d’Ivoire
Subjects  Anthropology
Keywords  religion; ethnic identity; religious movements; multi-ethnic church growth