Bathi Azibuyele Emasisweni: Discourses, Theologies & Practices of Pentecostals Venerating Ancestors in South Africa

Author: Sphesihle Blessing Khanyile (Central University of Technology, Free State, South Africa)
Speaker: Sphesihle Blessing Khanyile
Topic: Discourse Analysis
The GLOCAL AFALA 2023 General Session


Prophet Magejageja, the strong plow, a once fiery South African Pentecostal evangelist has outrightly rescripted his homiletics and theology, rejecting theologies of salvation while recalibrating tropes towards African spirituality and ancestral veneration performed through Zulu customary ritual practices. Azibuyele Emasisweni, the Zulu proverb, animates returns to foundations and roots and poignantly characterises discourses in Magejageja’s congregation, the Arena of Liberty Synagogue, located in the KwaZulu Natal. Radical theologies of ancestral veneration and dismissals of Christocentric liturgies as colonial, oppressive and Afro-antagonistic make up the churches core form and discourse. Magejageja’s liturgical style mimics Pentecostal modes, in textual content, advancing syncretic forms, anti-Pentecostal. Overarchingly, Magejageja communicates strategic messages of decoloniality, breaks with commonplace Christianity, and intentional reconciliations with African cosmologies through robust teaching. Ancestral narratives are centred, Christ at the periphery. To Magejageja, the bible is not closed, but openly weaponised to appraise theologies endorsing ancestral veneration, an apparently emergent New Prophetic Church development in South Africa. The Pentecostal way has always called for breaks with the past, Magejageja calls for unapologetic reversions to the past. Ten video sermons of Magejageja are closely read to excavate discourse, theologies and practices of his church and his forthright syncretism. With robust vigour, a new ecclesiology of ancestral valorisation through strategic media use has created a new religious subject that unapologetically endorses (in speech and in praxis) African ways of being in the world.

Keywords: Syncretism, pentecostals, ancestors, ancestral veneration, media.