The University of Southern California has received a $6.9 million grant to study the growth, reach, and impact of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity - one of the world's fastest growing religious movements.
The university's College of Letters, Arts & Sciences Center for Religion and Civic Culture has used the grant to establish the Pentecostal and Charismatic Research Initiative (PCRI), which will provide a scholarly framework to investigate Pentecostalism and the various renewal movements that have emerged in Roman Catholicism and mainline Protestantism.
Awarded by the John Templeton Foundation, the grant is the largest amount ever given toward the study of Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity.
Over 500 million Christians around the world claim to be spirit-filled. Both Pentecostals and charismatics share a commitment to the use of spiritual gifts and are distinguished by their powerful forms of worship, prayer, manifestation of the Spirit, and entrepreneurial drive, according to PCRI.
PCRI researchers want to uncover the what's fueling the growth and how the movement is impacting society in areas like civil society and the religious marketplace. They plan to use funding from the grant to support social science research in four regions: Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the former Soviet Union.
"Our goal is to inspire research partnerships around the globe and fund projects that will shape the discussion for years to come," said Donald Miller, executive director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture, and author of Global Pentecostalism: The New Face of Christian Social Engagement.
The PCRI will award a total of $3.5 million to a maximum of seven grants to regional centers and fifteen grants to individual scholars or small research teams. The initiative will also create scholarly resources and conduct research on Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity in Los Angeles, the birthplace of American Pentecostalism.
"We are interested in understanding why Pentecostalism is growing so rapidly, what impact it is having on society, and how it is different in various cultural settings," said Miller.
In addition to research on the charismatic-Pentecostal movement, those leading the initiative also welcome applications from comparative research projects that explore the connections between Western countries and at least one of the four regions.
"The growth of global Pentecostalism is one of the most remarkable religious transformations of the last century," said Dr. Kimon Sargeant, vice president of human sciences at the John Templeton Foundation.
"The goal of this project is to further better understanding of its significance in the social sciences in areas ranging from social capital to economic development and more."
According to a PCRI proposal brochure, grants will only be awarded to those who consider one or more of the following core research questions: 1) distinctive characteristics of spiritual experiences of spiritual practices and experiences of Pentecostal and charismatic Christians and how they vary across different cultural settings and differ from other religious traditions within Christianity; 2) the impact of the movement on civil society and its contribution to understanding role of religion in human society; and 3) where Pentecostal and charismatically-oriented churches growing or declining and what accounts for their growth or decline.
Letters of intent are due August 1. PCRI will announce on October 1 which applicants are invited to submit full proposals.
The Pentecostal and charismatic movement "has far-reaching implications for international politics and interactions among religious groups," said Brie Loskota, PCRI program officer and managing director of the Center for Religion and Civic Culture.
"Studying Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity is critical to understanding the ways in which religion shapes our world."