By Bernhard Udelhoven, M.Afr
I was invited to attend the International Conference on Pentecostalism and the Catholic Church that took place in Abuja (13-17 November 2016), and that was organised jointly by the Nigerian and the German Bishops Conferences. It was a follow-up on a previous conference in Rome (which I did not attend), and it addressed questions about new trends in the Pentecostal global mission, in the ministry of deliverance and healing, oral hermeneutics and Pentecostal ways of reading the Bible (the Holy Spirit as prime agent of interpretation within a concrete community), a theology of prosperity shaped by the context of the Church’s option for the poor, and ventures of evangelisation through the social media. The conference addressed also the challenges of dialogue between the Catholic Church and Pentecostalism in its immense variety.
The attendance of the conference proved to be an interesting mix. Apart from various scholars on Pentecostalism from around the world (among them Amos Yong, Opoku Onyinah, Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu, Andreas Heuser, Richard Burgess and Afe Adogame), the conference was also intensely followed by thirty or so Nigerian bishops plus priests from all the fifty dioceses. Some of them were charismatics themselves, while others seemed rather sceptical about Pentecostal influences. Bishops and priests also had their own internal meetings in the evenings to discuss what the various contributions would mean to their situation and how they wanted to respond in a unified way. Apart from discussing a dialogue with Pentecostalism, the Nigerian Church was also seeking answers to the Pentecostal impact on Catholic practice. The invited Pentecostal and non-Catholic scholars were greatly outnumbered by the massive Catholic presence, but I guess that they also gained their own insights into the internal workings of the Catholic Church and how Pentecostalism is perceived by Catholics on an official level. Maybe it would have needed more time for all of us to digest better the different topics that have been presented to us.
Personally, I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet and interact with different scholars on a topic that I have been quite engaged with. The conference has made me more humble, showing me how little I know about Pentecostalism, about its enormous sense of mission, about new ways of doing theology (based on the primacy of the Holy Spirit, dynamic experience and orality over reflection and interpretation), and about a highly organised outreach, often from the grassroots. We would all profit from an informed debate on the Pentecostal challenges.
Link FENZA website: Spirits and the healing of body and spirit: pastoral challenges by Bernhard Udelhoven. A paper delivered at the Conference on Pentecostalism and the Catholic Church, Abuja, 14 – 17 November 2016. Content: Boko Haram spirits – Healing ministry in the Catholic Church – Healing linked to deliverance – Diagnosis, prophecy and exorcism – The need for a person-centred and inclusive approach in a pluralistic world -A shift in focus that our approach requires – The discernments of truth in the inner world – A boy in a mountain – Inner experiences and outer tensions – “Being attacked by the spirit of my great-grandmother” – “Dreaming of my late mother” – “Haunted by dreams of having sex with my late husband” – Our approach in a nutshell – Healing as a drama – Conclusion. Appendix: some areas of concern in the charismatic healing ministry that I encountered in some Zambian groups
The leadership of Nigerian Catholic Church and the Pentecostals yesterday (November 15, 2016) in Abuja began an international conference on Pentecostalism, religious harmony among Christians and relationship with Muslims.
The event four-day event jointly organised by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) and the German Bishops Conference, is being attended by experts and academicians from different parts of the world to discuss the theme: “The Catholic Church and Pentecostalism: Challenges in the Nigerian Context”.
The Metropolitan Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, John Cardinal Onaiyekan, said the conference sponsored by Missio Aachen of Germany is a follow-up to an earlier international programme on a related matter, held in Rome in 2013. He said it became clear at the Rome event that Nigeria was the focal point of Pentecostal development in Africa due to the activities of Pentecostal Christians, hence the need to fashion out ways of harmonious relationship among Christians and other religions.
A member of the Research Group on International Church Affairs, German Episcopal Conference Andreas Hesenchever said the Pentecostals have been accused of arrogance and overconfidence that made them get into conflicts with Muslims and other Christians, thus the need for dialogue for peaceful co-existence.
The Archbishop of Jos and President of the CBCN Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, said perpetual conflicts among Christians will impact negatively on Nigeria let alone Christian-Muslim conflicts and that “The artificial barrier erected for decades should be done away with. We have to relate and live well together in the interest of our country.
A leader of the German Bishop Conference Munster, Germany Bishop Stefan Zekorn, said the Pentecostal and Charismatic movement has proved to be an important challenge for the Catholic Church not only in Nigeria but many other countries worldwide for decades.
“The German Bishop Conference conducted a research and that experts have suggested positive encouragement and personal empowerment within Pentecostal communities that help people tackle the amenities of everyday life. Strong moral rule within the Pentecostal communities might help stabilize family and community values and bring people forward in their businesses and career,” Zekorn said.