Spirit and Power - A 10-Country Survey of Pentecostals
Historical Overview of Pentecostalism in Kenya
Origins and Growth
- 1910s-1920s: In 1912, the first pentecostal missionary arrives from Finland. In the same year, a charismatic movement known as Roho (“Spirit”) emerges in the Anglican Church. In 1918, North Americans establish a mission that later affiliates with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. The churches resulting from this mission become independent in 1965 and are renamed the Pentecostal Assemblies of God. By 2002, East Africa is home to some 5,000 of these churches (Anderson 2004: 111-12; Garrard 2003: 150-51).
- 1930s: In the 1930s, missionary opposition to female circumcision spurs the creation of indigenous churches, including the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa. The East African Revival, which began in Rwanda, reaches Kenya by 1937, drawing many Protestants toward evangelical and charismatic Christianity (Karanja forthcoming: 113, 138; Morgan 2006; Droz 2001: 25-27; Kimani, Feb. 27, 2006).
- 1940s-1950s: In 1942, a pentecostal evangelist founds the African Israel Church Nineveh after breaking with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada. Two significant pentecostal denominations emerge, the Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship of Africa, started by U.S. missionaries in 1944, and the Full Gospel Churches of Kenya, started by Finnish missionaries in 1949. In 1957, American evangelist T.L. Osborn sets up a healing mission on the Kenyan Coast. Osborn’s movement, with its emphasis on healing and its readiness to confront issues like witchcraft, attracts many followers (Anderson 1977: 168-69; Anderson 2004: 112-13).
- 1960s-1970s: After independence in 1963, indigenous churches grow rapidly and many foreign missionaries arrive. In 1967, American pentecostal Dale Brown founds the Kenya Assemblies of God, which joins with the Assemblies of God U.S in 1972. A survey in the early 1990s finds that the Assemblies of God is Nairobi’s fastest growing denomination, with an annual growth rate of 38% (Garrard 2003: 153; Maxwell 2000).
- In 1970, Joe Kayo establishes the pentecostal Deliverance Church of Kenya, an indigenous ministry that attracts urban youth. The Deliverance Church becomes an important member of the Evangelical Fellowship of Kenya, an umbrella body formed in 1976 of mostly pentecostal and charismatic churches (Anderson 1977: 165; Karanja forthcoming: 110).
- 1980s-present: Between 1972 and 1986, the number of pentecostal churches in Nairobi doubles (Droz 2001: 27). Televangelism, prosperity theology and crusades by Western preachers become more prevalent (Ombuor and Ayieko 2004). In early 2006, American pentecostal preacher T. D. Jakes draws nearly one million people to Uhuru Park in Nairobi (The Economist 2006). In 2003, Kenya’s population is approximately 63% Protestant and 26% Catholic (Kenyan Demographic and Health Survey 2003).
- The Forum’s 2006 pentecostal survey suggests that renewalists — including charismatics and pentecostals — account for more than half of Kenya’s population. The survey also finds that approximately seven-in-ten Protestants in Kenya are either pentecostal or charismatic, and about one third of Kenyan Catholics surveyed can be classified as charismatic.
Religion and Politics
- In 1952, the anti-colonial Mau Mau uprising is launched largely by members of the Kikuyu tribe. The African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa supports the Mau Mau and encourages its members to join the armed struggle. The colonial government responds by imposing a state of emergency and closing down its churches and schools. Churches affiliated with the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa are not reopened until independence in 1963 (Karanja forthcoming: 113-14).
- In 1964, Jomo Kenyatta becomes independent Kenya’s first president. Relations between Kenyatta and the dominant mainline churches, such as the Presbyterian Church and the Anglican Church, are relatively amicable during his presidency. Kenyatta is Kikuyu, as are most mainline church leaders, and his brother-in-law is the first African bishop of the Kenyan Anglican Church (Freston 2001: 147).
Pentecostals and President Daniel arap Moi, 1978-2002
- When Kenyatta dies in 1978, Daniel arap Moi becomes president. Moi is a member of the Kalenjin tribe, and he reduces Kikuyu influence in government. He is also an active member of the African Inland Church, a non-pentecostal evangelical church founded in 1895. State media portray Moi as a God-fearing leader, and he bases his one-party politics partly on Christianity. The only legal party is the government party, the Kenya African National Union (Karanja forthcoming: 129-30; Freston 2001: 147).
- In the 1980s, mounting opposition to Moi comes from the mainline church leaders of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. Member churches tend to be mainline in denomination, evangelical in theology and Luo-Kikuyu in ethnicity, though the Council also includes some pentecostal churches. Outspoken Council critics of Moi include Anglican bishops David Gitari, John Henry Okullu and Alexander Muge, along with Presbyterian leader Timothy Njoya. In contrast, the Evangelical Fellowship of Kenya, whose churches tend to be evangelical and pentecostal in denomination and theology and Kalenjin in ethnicity, largely supports Moi (Karanja forthcoming: 109-10; Freston 2001: 148-49).
- In 1986, the ruling party proposes to abolish the secret ballot and replace it with public “queue” voting. The Council, under the chairmanship of Bishop Gitari, leads the opposition, while Fellowship leaders remain silent. Gitari’s vocal anti-government stance prompts some less established Council churches, including the Full Gospel Church, the United Pentecostal Church, the African Inland Church and the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa, to leave the Council and join the Fellowship (Karanja forthcoming: 118-25).
- As opposition to one-party rule intensifies in the early 1990s, the Fellowship more openly supports Moi and in the process wins government favor. One of Moi’s strongest and most vocal supporters is Arthur Kitonga of the pentecostal Redeemed Gospel Church of Kenya. The government increasingly uses Kitonga to attract the support of other Fellowship leaders. As Moi faces increasing pressure to lift the ban on opposition parties, he attends a Redeemed Gospel Church of Kenya service in which the preacher delivers a forceful pro-Moi sermon (Karanja forthcoming: 125-27; Freston 2001: 146).
- Beginning in 1999, the ruling Kenyan African National Union and the interfaith Ufungamano Initiative, which includes Muslim, Hindu and mainline church leaders, establish rival constitutional review committees. The ruling party appeals to pentecostal and evangelical churches for support, and in January 2000, the Fellowship organizes a pro-government rally in Nairobi attended by pentecostal Archbishop Samson Gaitho, but it generates little support (Karanja forthcoming: 131-34). In January 2002, in a possible bid for pentecostal backing, Moi orders that schools seized from the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa during the Mau Mau rebellion be returned to the church (U.S. Department of State, 2003).
Post-Moi Politics, 2002-Present
- In December 2002, Kenyan African National Union candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, son of Jomo, is defeated by Mwai Kibaki of the opposition National Rainbow Coalition. With the exception of the African Independent Pentecostal Church of Africa, which publicly supports Kenyatta, most pentecostal and charismatic churches oppose direct participation in the campaign (Ranger forthcoming: 365; Miring’uh, Aug. 30, 2002).
- After the 2002 election, pentecostals push for the rejection of a draft constitution proposed by President Kibaki because it permits abortion under certain conditions and provides for Islamic Kadhis courts. Kadhis courts, known elsewhere as Sharia courts, adjudicate cases pertaining to Muslim personal law and have no jurisdiction over non-Muslims. In alliance with Roman Catholics and mainline Protestants, pentecostals form a new body called the Kenya Church to oppose the establishment of the Kadhis courts. While most pentecostals argue that the constitution should be secular, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God is among the few who respond to the Kadhis courts provision by supporting a proposal for Christian courts (The East African Standard, Aug. 25, 2005; Ranger 2004: 365; Amran, Aug. 30, 2005).
- In 2003, the interfaith Ufungamano Initiative launches an independent constitutional drafting process. After Christians in the initiative oppose the Kadhis courts provision in the new constitution, Muslims leave in protest. In May 2004, 34 Protestant churches threaten to take legal action to expunge the Kadhis courts provision (U.S. Department of State, 2004).
- In early 2004, mainline Christian leaders spearhead the call for a referendum on Kibaki’s draft constitution. After Kibaki schedules a referendum for November 2005, the Kenya Church launches a “No” campaign. In June 2005, a coalition of Christian churches unveils an alternative draft constitution, supported by most pentecostal leaders, which excludes Kadhis courts (Openda, March 25, 2004; The East African Standard, Aug. 25, 2005; U.S. Department of State, 2005; Kivuitu, Nov. 21, 2005; Kanina, Nov. 26, 2005).
- In the November 2005 referendum, 58% of the public votes against the draft constitution. Following the constitutional defeat, opposition leaders hold a breakfast meeting with the Kenya Church bishops to celebrate. At an opposition rally in Nairobi, pentecostal pastors lead the crowd in prayer (Daily Nation, Nov. 26, 2005; Kanina, Nov. 26, 2005).
- In August 2006, a Kenyan newspaper reports that a group of evangelical activists calling itself the “People’s Movement” is recruiting Christian politicians to run in parliamentary elections scheduled for December 2007. The most significant face of the movement is Parliament member Onesmus Kihara Mwangi, who enters the political limelight in 2005 by strongly criticizing Muslim influences on the draft constitution. Mwangi claims that 20 “born-again” Christians already serve in parliament and that more than 100 will seek election in 2007 (Ndirangu, Aug. 24, 2006).
- Also in August 2006, top representatives of Kenyan African National Union and the Liberal Democratic Party officially register the Orange Democratic Movement, composed of those who oppose the Kadhis courts, as a new political party to compete in the 2007 general elections (Kenya Times, Aug. 25, 2006).