A critical evaluation of gender discourses in pentecostal churches with specific reference to sermons by prophets Walter Magaya and Emmanuel Makandiwa of Harare, Zimbabwe
Building on scholarly debates on pentecostalism, gender and modernity in Africa, this paper seeks to engage a postcolonial perspective to explore and discuss the ambivalent, even paradoxical nature of African Pentecostal gender discourses. The study looks at the conceptualisation of gender discourses and predominantly gender equality, in particular the attempt to reconcile the notions of male–female equality and male headship, in messages delivered by prominent Zimbabwean Prophets, Emmanuel Makandiwa and Walter Magaya. It argues that the appropriation and interruption of Western notions of gender equality in these messages can be interpreted as a catachrestic postcolonial translation of modernity. Hence, the study critically evaluates if sermons by prophets Makandiwa and Magayaare a major vehicle of communicating messages on gender issues in a wider Zimbabwean audience. Both primary and secondary data collection methods were used. The respondents were identified from the church services that the researcher attended on her mission to have an experience with the nature and content of the sermons from both Prophet Makandiwa and Prophet Magaya. A questionnaire was administered to 40 congregants. 4 case studies of 4 church leaders and two Focus Group Discussions were conducted. The study assumes that it is clear what gender equality is and then suggests that it is either supported by progressive liberals or resisted by conservatives. From this perspective, it can be considered that both Prophet Makandiwa and Prophet Magaya stuck halfway to modernity in their sermons. They adopt the idea of equality of men and women, but at the same time still adhere to some traditional religious ideas about male headship. From this perspective, sermons by powerful prophets can be used as a vehicle for communicating to larger audiences and for maintenance of status quo.
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