A Church of Strangers

To the Glory of God ?To the Glory of God ?


A Church of Strangers: The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG) in Durban, South Africa. Cambridge University Press. Africa series.

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a church of Brazilian origin, has been enormously successful in establishing branches and attracting followers in post-apartheid South Africa. Unlike other Pentecostal Charismatic churches (PCCs), the UCKG insists that relationships with God be devoid of ‘emotions’, that socialization between members be kept to a minimum and that charity and fellowship are ‘useless’ in materializing God’s blessings. Instead, the UCKG urges members to sacrifice large sums of money to God for delivering wealth, health, social harmony and happiness. While outsiders condemn these rituals as empty or manipulative, this book shows that they are locally meaningful, demand sincerity to work, have limits and are informed by local ideas about human bodies, agency and ontological balance. As an ethnography of people rather than of institutions, this book offers fresh insights into the mass PCC movement that has swept across Africa since the early 1990s.

The book forms part of the International African Library’s series of Cambridge University Press:

Ilana van Wyk (2014). The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God: A church of strangers.

Cambridge University Press, 300pp. ISBN: 978-1107057241

ILANA VAN WYK Researcher HUMA UCT Cape Town. Her current research focuses on the intersections between religion and money; she works on new forms of Christianity, in particular prosperity-gospel and Pentecostal Charismatic Churches, and on the South African Lottery.

4 Kommentare zu diesem Artikel bisher »

Kommentare zu »A Church of Strangers«

  1. exploitation of the poor

    can an important ethnographic study of the people involved ignore the institutional dimensions of the UCKG?
    i have not read the book, but have had extensive contact with the church’s manifestations in sao paulo (brazil), mocambique and SA.
    the most worrying aspect is its exploitation of particularly the poor.

    Georg Meyer

  2. the study focusses on an aspect that is, indeed, crucial: insiders tend to idealize the exclusive nature of their fellowship and even try to find theological justification for it; many an outsider simply ignores, or erroneously assume that there might be truth in such self-righteousness.
    it is essential that interested persons and congregations exchange experiences and perceptions over these and similar phenomena.


  3. I agree & this unfortunately enriches the leaders immensely. They drive the most expensive cars, wear most expensive suits &shoes. Poor people flock there in the hope of getting jobs & wealth…I also haven’t read the book yet.
    Lungile Nyathikazi

  4. Many thanks for this information.
    I wasn’t aware of this study about the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God – a close neighbour of the Diakonia Centre.
    Best wishes


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