Skip to main content

USC Center Awards $3.5 Million in Grants for Research on Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity

Donald Miller, executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC.
Donald Miller, executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC.

The Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California is funding research in 23 countries on one of the world's fastest growing religious movements: charismatic and Pentecostal Christianity. Grants totaling $3.5 million will be awarded to five centers, and another 16 individual scholars and their teams, to conduct research in Asia, Africa, Latin America, or the former Soviet Union. The USC research initiative is supported by a grant from the John Templeton Foundation.

“Global Pentecostalism is one of the most dynamic and potentially transformative religious movements in the 21st century,” said Dr. Kimon Sargeant, vice president of human sciences at the John Templeton Foundation. “The researchers selected for the Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Initiative have a unique opportunity to help scholars and the broader public understand how this movement — inspired by powerful worship and religious experience — is changing the cultural, social, and religious landscape around the world.”

Professor Donald Miller, executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at USC — and author of Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement — said that he was surprised when they received almost 500 applications from researchers around the world in response to the center’s initial solicitation of grant proposals. Letters of inquiry came from anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists, economists, and other disciplines. (Theological investigations were not included in this initiative.)

Philip Jenkins, professor of history and religious studies at Pennsylvania State University, said that “For years now, observers have recognized the enormous significance of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity worldwide, but the topic has never received the attention it deserves in the academy as a whole, and especially in teaching. “

Grants from this research initiative will support research centers in Nigeria, Russia, Indonesia, El Salvador, and potentially Brazil — where a proposal is still pending approval. In addition to documenting the growth of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity, a number of projects are focused on investigating its impact on civil society and politics. According to Donald Miller, “Some of the most creative faith-based programs in the world are being developed by fast growing Pentecostal and charismatic congregations — both Protestant and Catholic.” In his view, these movements are shifting the momentum of Christianity from the western world to the Southern Hemisphere.

Regional center grants are up to $500,000 over a two-year period and individual grants are up to $100,000. All grant applications were evaluated by an interdisciplinary team of scholars and were awarded on a competitive basis.

Regional Center Grants

  • Jeannette Aguilar, University of Central America in El Salvador (El Salvador), and Richard Wood, University of New Mexico: “The Impact of the Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements on Local Community Organizations and Civic Participation in Central America”      
  • Zainal Abidin Bagir, Center for Religions and Cross-Cultural Studies (Indonesia): “Pentecostal Growth and Social Relations in Indonesia”  
  • Umar Danfulani, Musa Gaiya, Yusuf Turaki, and Danny McCain, University of Jos (Nigeria): “Nigeria Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Centre ”         
  • Alexander Panchenko, European University at St. Petersburg (Russia), and Patrick Plattet, University of Alaska, Fairbanks: “Center for the Study of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements in Russia”  

Individual and Team Grants

  • Febe Armanios, Middlebury College: “Coptic Charismatic Renewal in Egypt: A Modern History   
  • Chad Bauman, Butler University: “Pentecostals, Charismatics, Conversion and Hindu-Christian Conflict in Contemporary India” 
  • Karen Brison, Union College: “A Cosmopolitan Ethnography of Global Pentecostal Networks: the View from Fiji”    
  • Graham K. Brown, University of Bath (U.K.), Center for Development Studies: “Theological Resources, Ethnic Boundaries, and Civil Society: A Case Study of Charismatic Churches in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia”      
  • Richard Burgess, University of Birmingham (U.K.), Centre of Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies: “Pentecostal Spiritualities, Inter-Religious Relations and Civic Engagement: A Comparative Study of Nigeria and Zambia”     
  • Robert Dowd, University of Notre Dame: “The Roman Catholic Charismatic Movement in Sub-Saharan Africa: Its Causes and Consequences”
  • Henri Gooren, Oakland University: “The Pentecostalization of Religion and Society in Paraguay and Chile”           
  • Gordon Hanson, University of California, San Diego, and Chong Xiang, Purdue University: “The Global Marketplace for Christianity”
  • Andrew Johnson, University of Minnesota: “Religion Behind Bars: Pentecostalism in Brazilian Prison and the Social Consequences of Religious Prisoners”
  • William Kay, Glyndwr University (U.K.): “Asian Pentecostal-style Church Growth: An International Comparative Project”
  • Karrie Koesel, University of Oregon: “Where Faith Thrives: The Rise of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity in Russia and China”
  • John McCauley, University of California, Los Angeles: “Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity and the African Political Landscape”   
  • Robin Shoaps, University of Chicago: “Making a Religious Difference: Communicative Ecology and Conversion in Two Maya Communities”    
  • Daniel Jordan Smith, Brown University: Pentecostalism and AIDS in Nigeria     
  • Timothy Wadkins, Canisius College, Institute for the Global Study of Religion: “The Preferential Option for the Spirit: Pentecostalism and Culture in Modern El Salvador”      
  • Jiexia (Elisa) Zhai, Miami University, and J. Gordon Melton, Institute for the Study of American Religion: “The Spread of the Chinese Indigenous Pentecostal and Charismatic Movement in the East Asian Chinese Community: the Case of the True Jesus Church”  

More information is available at www.usc.edu/pcri.

The Center for Religion and Civic Culture (www.usc.edu/crcc), a research unit of the College of Letters, Arts & Sciences at the University of Southern California, investigates the civic role of religion and collaborates with congregations, scholars, funders, and faith-based organizations. CRCC is a catalyst for interdisciplinary research and innovative partnerships.

The John Templeton Foundation (www.templeton.org) serves as a philanthropic catalyst for research and discoveries relating to the Big Questions of human purpose and ultimate reality. The foundation supports work at the world's top universities in such fields as theoretical physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, cognitive science, and social science relating to love, forgiveness, creativity, purpose, and the nature and origin of religious belief. It also seeks to stimulate new thinking about freedom and free enterprise, character development, and exceptional cognitive talent and genius.