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Birmingham GloPent Conference Report

On 19 and 20 January 2006, scholars affiliated with universities in Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United Kingdom convened in Birmingham for the first conference of the “European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism”.

The presentations, responses, and discussions under the conference title “What is Pentecostalism? Constructing and Representing Global Pentecostalism in Academic Discourse” were focused on theoretical and methodological issues in researching Pentecostalism from multidisciplinary perspectives: anthropology, sociology, history, religious studies and theology.

DroogersProf Simon Coleman (University of Sussex) gave considerations to the issue of distance in anthropological research, elucidating key differences and intriguing parallels between anthropology and Pentecostal word views, tracing their impact on the study of Pentecostalism in this academic discipline. His insights into anthropological theory and practice were complemented by the contribution of Prof. André Droogers (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam). Droogers presented a systematic overview of the various essentialist and normative paradigms in philosophy of science, outlining the consequences of these options for Pentecostal studies. Prof David Martin also dealt with scientific paradigms in his sociological contribution, calling attention to the limits of sociological rescripting and the use of metaphors often bound to external ontologies. Instead, an adequate understanding of the interplay of structure and agency in Pentecostalism is needed, which can be achieved by articulating Pentecostal moral accounts.

The importance of historical studies was emphasised by the presentations of Prof Cornelis van der Laan (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and Prof Michael Bergunder (University of Heidelberg). Van der Laan gave a practical introduction to methodological issues in reconstructing Pentecostal history with a special emphasis on the opportunities and challenges of archival research. Bergunder suggested a new theoretical framework for conceptualising Pentecostalism as a discursive network by tracing historic and synchronous interconnections, thus providing the researcher with a non-essentialist approach to delineating and exploring Pentecostalism in religious studies andAnderson & Bergunder theology.

These presentations were complemented with responses by Prof Allan Anderson (University of Birmingham), Dr Mark Cartledge (University of Wales), and Dr William Kay (University of Wales), as well as the ensuing discussions. In addition, six current projects by PhD and post-doctoral researchers from Amsterdam, Birmingham and Heidelberg were presented with a special focus on theoretical and methodological challenges: “Listening to Argentian Scholars” (Wilma Davies), “Conversion Careers in Latin America” (Dr. Henri Gooren), “Ethiopian Pentecostalism” (Jörg Haustein), “Tanzanian Pentecostalism” (Katharina Aue), “Pentecostals and the Seeker Church” (Miranda Klaver), and “Indian Indigenous Churches” (Paul Joshua).

The conference marked the official start of the “European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism”, which was also highlighted by the introduction to the GloPent internet platform (, an on-line collaboration facility, allowing scholars affiliated with European institutions of higher learning to present and discuss their work on the internet. Selected papers from the GloPent conference will be published there as well, in the on-line journal “PentecoStudies” (

The cordial atmosphere, academically challenging presentations and discussions, as well as many opportunities for exchange between researchers in different contexts made this conference a memorable and beneficial event. We thank our host Prof Allan Anderson for organizing this first  GloPent gathering. The next GloPent conference will take place in Amsterdam in the first quarter of 2007.


last modified 2006-05-30 18:10