Multi-Ethnic Recruitment in an Emerging West African Church: The Relationship of Religion to Ethnic Identity

Statement of Responsibility:
Moore, Barbara Jean
Series Issue:
SIL International
Publisher Place:
Dallas, Texas
Part Of Series:
SIL e-Books 23
92 pages

This dissertation examines the relationship of religion to ethnic identity as manifested in the progress and development of an emerging independent church in rural West Africa. Testing a model developed by the anthropologist, James W. Fernandez, it investigates the factors which affect the success or failure of new religious movements to recruit across ethnic lines. The application of this model to the growing Lobi and Tembo congregation in northeastern Côte d’Ivoire has made it possible to reconsider, not only the factors affecting multi-ethnic church growth but how studies of new religious movements in general can be made more profitable. I am suggesting that this can be done in two ways:

  1. For a better understanding of the dynamics affecting any religious movement, religious identity must be separated from ethnic identity. To subordinate religion to ethnicity as simply one of many objective criteria used by ethnic groups to define their distinctive character is no longer satisfactory.
  2. Any attempt to comprehend why religious movements succeed or fail in their pan-ethnic aims requires that more attention be paid to a number of inter-related aspects usually neglected in such studies.

These include:

  1. a closer examination of inter-ethnic relationships found within the movement,
  2. a recognition that factors affecting multi-ethnic church growth may operate differently in the local congregation and in the wider movement,
  3. a need to separate the message propounded by the movement from the structure which expresses that message, and
  4. a better understanding of the motivations that first attract new adherents to the movement and then bring the conviction necessary to cause them to remain as members.
Publication Status:
Ivory Coast
Content Language:
Work Type:
Work Type:
religious movements
multi-ethnic church growth
ethnic identity
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