Go to AfricaBib home

Go to AfricaBib home Africana Periodical Literature Go to database home

bibliographic database
Previous page New search

The free AfricaBib App for Android is available here

Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:Performance and the Negotiation of Charismatic Authority in an African Indigenous Church in Zambia
Author:Kirsch, Thomas G.ISNI
Geographic term:Zambia
Subjects:African Independent Churches
Tonga (Zambia, Zimbabwe)
Religion and Witchcraft
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/40341833
Abstract:This case study of an indigenous prophet-healing church among the Gwembe Tonga in Zambia describes a particular form of charismatic authority. It shows how charisma is socially negotiated, constructed and maintained in the course of the rituals of this church by means of an interactional form of control over the performance. Entitlement to religious leadership within the St. Moses God's Holy Spirit Church is immediately linked to acknowledgement as a medium of the Holy Spirit. But as the Holy Spirit is considered to be independent in selecting his worldly manifestations, there exist no official procedures for the appointment of religious leaders. For the participants in religious practice, it is not possible to find definitively binding criteria to distinguish a medium of the Holy Spirit from a patient possessed by demons. Without discussion, diverging interpretations from phenomenological appearances and varying social and moral expectations are brought into a religious practice that is mainly directed at a holistic empowerment mediated by the spiritual powers of the community's religious leaders. The negotiation over who is collectively entitled to religious authority unfolds processually through the singing of communal hymns. As songs are held to invoke the presence of the Holy Spirit, the communal singing of hymns is a prerequisite for almost any religious activity of the congregation. Since the mediumistic activities of the church leaders are dependent on the congregation's commitment to singing hymns, their status is in effect negotiated in a dialogical call-and-response form of singing that allows everyone to come to a judgement by either participating in singing or simply refusing to participate. A general refusal therefore ends mediumistic activities so that the church leader's status is ultimately reduced to that of a patient. Bibliogr., notes, ref.