USC doles out grants for large-scale study

USC’s Center for Religion and Civic Culture recently announced the recipients of $3.5 million in grants for research on the growth of Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity.

The center, founded in 1996, has managed more than $25 million in grant-funded research from corporations, foundations and government agencies. Its mission is “to create, translate and disseminate scholarship on the civic role of religion in a globalizing world.”

The $3.5 million grant was divided among 16 individual scholars and five regional centers, which will research both the history and the current state of Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity. The research will be conducted in 23 different countries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Pentecostalism and charismatic Christianity are two terms often used interchangeably to describe a social movement within Protestant Christianity that emphasizes a personal connection with God through the Holy Spirit. They differ slightly in that Pentecostalism is most times regarded as a religion and charismatic Christianity as a movement.

Richard Flory, the senior research associate at the USC Center for Religion and Civic Culture, said this is an important time to be looking into the growth and effects of Pentecostalism.

“It’s a timely type of project and grant in the scheme of world religions because it is growing fast,” said Flory, who is currently researching Pentecostalism in the L.A. area.

The average size of the grant for individual researchers was between $80,000 and $100,000. Regional centers were given between $350,000 and $500,000.

Donald Miller, executive director of the center said it wanted to fund the study of Pentecostalism because it has had a large impact.

“It’s the fastest growing religious movement in the world, and it’s important to document why it’s growing and what its social and political impact is,” Miller said.

Miller said that although research on Pentecostalism in the United States and Europe has already been done, the center saw the opportunity to fund research in the Southern Hemisphere, specifically in developing countries.

“The location of Christianity is almost switching from the Northern Hemisphere to the Southern Hemisphere,” Miller said. “The focal point of Christianity is not so much the numbers, but it is increasing, particularly in Africa and Latin America.”

The research will focus first on defining Pentecostalism and the practices associated with it and second on discerning where it is growing most rapidly and what sort of social impact it might have.

To fund this research on Pentecostalism, the center submitted proposals to the John Templeton Foundation and received the research grants that it could then distribute to its researchers.

After receiving the grant from the John Templeton Foundation, the center released 40,000 brochures worldwide that attracted 450 letters of intent, submitted by researchers and research centers from all over the world. The letters went through a selective screening, and 100 of the 450 applicants were asked to write full proposals for the research they would like to do. A panel of experts then cut down the competition from 100 to the final 23 grant recipients.

Proposals were submitted by a variety of scholars, including anthropologists, sociologists, political scientists and economists. The researchers are from different universities all over the United States and centers from around the world. The recipients were notified of their grant April 1, but research will not officially begin until summer at the earliest.

“I feel really lucky after I saw the number of how many people applied and the actual people who received the grant and how amazing their project sounded,” said Febe Armanios, an assistant professor of history at Middlebury College and recipient of one of the 23 grants.

Chad Bauman, an associate professor of religion at Butler University and another recipient of the grant, said the money is very helpful. The grant will allow Bauman to work with sociologists, travel to India and go on a full-year sabbatical.

“I’m really excited, in my case, because the grant will allow me to have a full year instead of a half,” Bauman said. “It really makes a difference.”

Karen Brison, a professor of anthropology at Union College and a grant recipient, said she was excited to receive the funding, and she is glad to be a part of this project.

“The grants pay for all my travel, and I am delighted and very happy,” Brison said. “I’m really interested in the fact that there’s a big group of people who are interested in Pentecostalism. We can compare our research.”

According to Miller, the center has never funded any project so large.

“I think it’s fair to say that there’s never been any research project on Pentecostalism of the size and scope of this particular project,” he said.

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