As was the case for many professional conferences in the past year, the Society for Pentecostal Studies met online for its annual event. A few participants did make the trip to The King’s University in Southlake, Texas, but the vast majority of attendees participated virtually from the comfort and security of their own offices or homes. This year’s theme was, “This Is My Body”: Addressing Global Violence Against Women, which proved to be timely, given the reality of violence experienced in the United States over the past year. While the theme title was specific to violence against women, papers were presented on a wide array of topics.
It was also the case that this topic was a carryover from the 2019 event that was supposed to have been held at Vanguard but was canceled due to COVID-19. (The event will return to Vanguard in the Spring of 2022.) In preparation for the event, I had been asked to participate in a panel related to the presentation of a recently published book in which I have a chapter, “The Prosperity Gospel and the Option for the Poor.” The book is The Mighty Transformer: The Holy Spirit Advocates for Social Justice, edited by Antipas L. Harris. Texas: GIELD Academic Press, 2019.
While one might assume by the title of my chapter that it is unrelated to the topic of the conference, violence takes multiple forms. In this work I seek to address two theological approaches to the issue of poverty (which often gives birth to violence), comparing the so-called “Prosperity Gospel” with the “option for the poor”. The former is often associated with Pentecostalism while the latter is associated with the Theology of Liberation. Additionally, I chaired a session that included the presentation of three papers that addressed the topic of “Women, Violence, and Liberation”. The titles of these papers are as follows: 1) The Spirit-Filled Man Struggles for Woman’s Liberty: A Trinitarian Spirit Christology of Liberation., 2) Luke 4, Intersectionality and a Pneumatological Soteriology for Violence Against Women, 3) Movement Beyond Paralysis: A Theology of Women’s Self-Defense. Each of these papers was well-received, followed by a lengthy interaction.
While the online format of the conference offered challenges, it was rewarding nonetheless. It was a wonderful opportunity to hear presentations by Pentecostal scholars from around the world. The online format allowed for more international participation, only adding to the diversity of voices. Through the use of software such as Zoom for presentations and Slack for group discussion, the conference was quite successful.