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Charismatic equality in the Evangelico movement

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Earlier this month, Time magazine published an article about the "Latino Reformation," supported by some interesting statistics and analysis of the growth of Latino Charismatic Protestantism. According to historians and theologians, Charismatic Protestantism has been around since the early 1900s. Under Charismatic Protestantism, Pentecostalism is the dominant denomination. As cited in the Time article, "The Latino Reformation," "Charismatic connotes a belief in miracles, healing, divine intervention, speaking in tongues and an active spirit world." In the 1900s, Charles Parham, an American evangelist and faith healer, began teaching that speaking in tongues is the biblical evidence of spiritual baptism. As described in "The Revival Legacy of Charles F. Parham," the three year long Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles, California resulted in the spread of Pentecostalism throughout the United States and globally (as cited in the Enrichment Journal).

In most of Latin America, Catholicism was more prevalent, with 81% of the population identifying as Catholic in 1996 (as cited in "The Latino Reformation," Time). Recently, there has been a noticeable shift to Evangelical Protestantism. Since 1996, Evangelical Christianity has tripled in growth, accounting for 13% of Latin America’s population in 2010; correlated with an 11% drop in Catholicism over that time period. As mentioned in the article, the Latino Charismatic Movement features a mixture of openness to ethnic diversity, and a shift in gender roles as women have taken on more leadership roles.

In terms of gender issues, why is it that the Latino evangelical community is more accepting of women in leadership roles, whilst the white evangelical community continues to restrict women to subordinate roles? At the focus of this theological discussion is one of social, economic, and ethnic diversity. Given the competition with the existing predominantly white evangelical community, the Latino charismatic movement has experienced forms of opposition and struggle in relation to integration, language, and immigration reform. With this experience, a more egalitarian mindset emerges. Many countries in Latin America continue to experience moderate to severe economic struggles affecting their psychological and physical well-being. The marginalization of social groups results in the exploration of alternative spaces that may help in enhancing many facets of their lives.

Time Magazine sheds light on how the Catholic Church's Renewal movement is looking to regain its numbers.

According to the U.S. Council of Catholic Bishops, up to half of Latino Catholics in America are expressing their faith much as the evangelical community does – praying with hands raised, speaking in tongues, expecting the miraculous. In the last few decades, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal movement has been on the rise, opening its congregation to the Latin community.

The Evangelical Latino Movement is booming in the U.S. with Pastor Wilfredo De Jesus, along with his wife as co-pastor, leading 17,000 people at New Life Covenant Church in Chicago. This is the largest Assemblies of God church in the U.S. as reported in Time Magazine.

Through the movement’s radical shift, it’s important to consider the foundational aspects of Charismatic Protestantism in relation to gender constructs. Ontologically, the bible promotes many patriarchal values and beliefs that have been upheld since its origin. Charismatic religions have doubled down on many biblically identified worldly sins such as drinking, drug use, and prostitution; whilst taking a progressive approach towards gender roles. However, oppressive gender constructs are very difficult, if not impossible, to fully eradicate without creating a new religious movement. While the Latino Reformation is open to gender equality, it will remain a fleeting battle as the movement exists within the constructs of Protestantism. According to the 2006 Pew U.S. Religion Survey, 76% of Hispanic Evangelical Christians take the Bible literally which is a direct contradiction to female leadership. In order for a movement to be truly transformative, religions must accept novelty and the globalized modern society we inhabit today.

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