Why are many American Pentecostals disobedient regarding efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19? Are Pentecostals and Charismatics in other parts of the world behaving differently? How was the strong faith in healing that characterized early Pentecostals impacted by the pandemic known as the “Spanish Flu”?
A few weeks ago, PCPJ gathered a panel of scholars and Pentecostal leaders to discuss these important questions. The panel consisted of:
– Jörg Haustein, doctor of World Christianities, University of Cambridge. – Erica Ramirez, president of PCPJ, director of applied research, Auburn Seminary. – Daniel Isgrigg, director for the Holy Spirit Research Center, Oral Roberts University. – Niclas Lindgren, director, PMU Interlife. – Andrea Johnson, Assistant Professor of History, California State University DH. – Micael Grenholm, pastor, editor at PCPJ.
Everybody brought interesting food for thought to the table. Isgrigg compared Pentecostal reactions to the Spanish Flu with what we see today. Ramirez spoke about what aspects of the Pentecostal faith makes it vulnerable to conspiracy theories. Haustein pointed to the nuance between different Pentecostal and Charismatic groups even in the same country. Johnson gave a historical backdrop to how American Pentecostals view politics.
The Pentecostal World Fellowship has produced some excellent material about COVID-19 that will be handed out in areas with limited access to information. Through Pentecostal churches and networks, it will hopefully reach 100 million people.
“As far as I know, this is the first time ever that the Pentecostal global network has coordinated an informational campaign about an urgent crisis in society in this way. We hope we will reach out to people in churches all over the world and be able to contribute in limiting and reducing the spread of COVID-19 in societies. This is a chance to be there for marginalized groups who might otherwise not be reached,” Niclas Lindgren, director of Swedish organization PMU that has helped producing the material, said in a statement.
Some examples of the advice provided in the material:
If someone gets COVID-19, it does not mean they have a spiritual ailment or they are punished by God.
No person should be stigmatized for contracting COVID-19 or blamed for having had little faith.
Encourage those who are very sick to seek medical attention according to the national health guidelines (see the example set by Jesus in Luke 17:14).
No person should be condemned for having practiced caution, remained home or avoided physical greetings. Instead, the exemplary behavior should be highlighted in the church.
The importance of praying for the affected; comforting and encouraging those who are experiencing fear and anxiety.
Dr. Denis Mukwege, Congolese gynecologist who receives his Nobel Peace Prize today, proclaimed in 2015 when he was preaching at a Swedish Pentecostal conference: ”The Panzi hospital is a fruit of your prayers!”A Pentecostal himself who occasionally pastors a local church in Bukavu, dr. Mukwege has repeatedly thanked the Swedish Pentecostal movement for supporting him.
This support goes way back and have had multiple layers. We have talked to Maria Bard at PMU, the Swedish Pentecostal Mission’s development cooperation organization, about what this bond between their organization and Panzi has looked like, as well as her personal meetings with and impressions of Mukwege himself.
What has the Swedish Pentecostal movement done to support Mukwege?
–First of all, Denis Mukwege’s father was a pastor in the Congolese Pentecostal movement CEPAC, which was founded by Swedish missionaries in 1921. Swedish Pentecostal churches funded parts of Mukwege’s medical education. Initially, he worked on a hospital called Lemera which was founded by Pentecostals. It was one of the biggest and most well-functioning hospitals in the region. Many Swedish Pentecostal missionaries have been treated and born there. It was destroyed as the First Congo War broke out.
–There was a lot of discussion on whether the Lemera Hospital should be rebuilt or if a new hospital should be constructed. Due to the recent genocide in Rwanda, there was a lot of need in the Congolese province of South Kivu. In addition to grants from elsewhere, the director of PMU at the time, Roland Stenlund, convinced the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) to help financing the establishment of a new hospital, led by Dr. Mukwege. The Panzi Hospital.Continue reading Pentecostal Nobel Prize Laureate Denis Mukwege is “Accepted in All Camps”→