Canisius College recently announced the John Templeton Foundation awarded a $1.8 million grant to its Institute for the Global Study of Religion (IGSOR). The grant will be used to conduct the first comprehensive, comparative and empirical study of megachurches in the global south.
The study, titled “Modernization, Mega Churches and the Urban Face of Christianity in the Global South,” will be conducted over the next three years and focus on 17 megachurches, each with congregations of more than 15,000 in 10 different countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea. Researchers will examine why and how these churches have become so large; how they differentiate themselves organizationally, theologically and spiritually; and how these megachurches shape and are shaped by the world.
“In seeking the answers to these questions, we will pay particular attention to the larger themes of modernization, Christianization and secularization,” said project director Timothy H. Wadkins, Ph.D.
Wadkins is a professor of religious studies and theology at Canisius, where he specializes in modern Christianity in the southern hemisphere. He is also director of the Canisius Institute for the Global Study of Religion, where the project will be housed.
“Our findings aim to enhance the study of Christianity outside of the Western Hemisphere and show that megachurches in the global south are primary incubators and indicators of religious innovation and change within the complex and fluctuating social contexts of emerging modernization. As a result, we believe scholars will come to consider megachurches as very important interpretive windows into the world of Christianity in the global south,” Wadkins said.
To complete the study, regional research teams in each of the 10 study locations will conduct historical research, surveys, and participant observation and interviews. Findings from the study will be released at regional symposiums in the global south and at a major conference to be held in January 2022 at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. The project will culminate at the end of 2022 with a documentary film about the project and the publication of a series of books by Wadkins and other researchers.
The John Templeton Foundation is named for the late Sir John Templeton, a pioneer in both financial investment and philanthropy. He established the foundation to serve as a global philanthropic catalyst for discoveries related to the “big questions” of life and the universe in the areas of science, theology, philosophy and human society, and to foster bold, ambitious thinking on diverse topics to stimulate humility, curiosity and enthusiasm for new discoveries.
The Institute for the Global Study of Religion is affiliated with the department of religious studies and theology at Canisius. Its programs and activities facilitate the academic study of religions across the world, promote the Catholic identity of Canisius College, and assist in the Jesuit pastoral mission to educate men and women for the service of faith and the promotion of justice.
One of 27 Jesuit universities, Canisius is a private university in Western New York. It celebrates its sesquicentennial anniversary during the 2019-20 academic year, marking 150 years of Jesuit education and leadership in the City of Buffalo and Western New York. Visit https://www.canisius.edu/150 for more information about Canisius’ milestones and celebratory events.