Context and Creativity in the Latinx Diaspora
Imprint: Baylor University Press
213 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: October 2021
Many scholars have documented how migration from Latin America to the United States shapes the interconnected spheres of religious participation, political engagement, and civic formation in host countries. What has largely gone unexplored is how the experiences of migration and adaptation to the host country also shape the ecclesiological arrangements, theological imagination, and communal strategies of immigrant religious networks. These communities maintain close ties with their home countries while simultaneously developing a religious life that distinguishes them both from their home countries and from faith communities of the dominant culture in their host countries.
João Chaves offers an account of the dynamics that shape the role of immigrant churches in the United States. Migrational Religion acts as a case study of a network formed by communities of Brazilian immigrants who, although affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention, formed a distinctive ethnic association. Their churches began to appear in the United States in the 1980s due to Brazilian Baptist missionary activity. As Brazilian migration increased in the last decades of the twentieth century, hundreds of Brazilian evangelical churches were founded to cater to first-generation immigrants. Initially their leaders conceived of these churches as extensions of their denomination in Brazil. However, these church communities were under constant pressure to adapt to their rapidly changing context, and the challenges of immigrant living pushed them in exciting new directions.
Brazilian churches in the United States faced a number of issues peculiar to their nature as diasporic communities: undocumented parishioners, membership fluctuation caused by national and international migration patterns, anti-immigrant prejudice, and more. Based on six years of ethnographic work in eleven congregations across the United States, dozens of interviews with Brazilian pastors, and extensive archival history in English and Portuguese, Migrational Religion documents how such churches adapted to unique challenges, and reveals how the diasporic experience fosters incipient theologies in churches of the Latinx diaspora.
1 Framing: Diasporic Networks and Immigrant Christianity
2 Reversing: The United States in the Latin American Evangelical Story
3 Growing: Histories of Immigrant Churches
4 Connecting: Unbelonging and the Creation of Ethnic Denominationalism
5 Wrestling: The Crisis of Undocumented Presence
6 Morphing: Pentecostalization and Women’s Leadership
7 Mapping: Migration Experiences and Incipient Immigrant Theologies
What happens when conservative evangelical Baptists from Rio, São Paulo, and elsewhere in Brazil find themselves in New York City, Washington, DC, and other American cities? They become dynamic Brazuca communities featuring Bapticostal tendencies, cultivating multidenominational networks and relationships, welcoming and developing women ministers, and caring for undocumented brothers and sisters moving north-and-south and west-and-east while crisscrossing the Western hemisphere. For those with ears to hear, João Chaves’ account helps us anticipate not just the ongoing ‘browning’ of the North American church but also its transnationalization, pentecostalization, and hybridization.~Amos Yong, Professor of Theology & Mission and Dean of the School of Mission & Theology, Fuller Seminary
Close study of a range of Brazilian Baptist churches in the United States has enabled João Chaves to demonstrate that the experience of immigration has shaped their identity. They wrestle with the problem of undocumented members being technically in breach of the law; and they accept charismatic practices and female ordination because of influences from Brazil. Chaves successfully shows that the Brazilian Baptists of America have created a form of ethnic denominationalism.~David Bebbington, Emeritus Professor of History, University of Stirling
Migrational Religion is an enlightening transnational religious history that, while focusing on the specific case of Brazilian Baptists in the United States, produces substantial implications for studying world Christianity and migration in various contexts. By interrogating multidirectional missional perspectives, this border-crossing narrative complexifies conversations about missionary transmission, indigenous agency, and identity formation in the context of migration. A migrant himself, with first-hand formative experience in migrant congregations, João Chaves understands his interlocutors as very few others do. He masterfully interweaves the stories of individuals, congregations, and transnational migrant networks, underscoring their impact across nations, cultures, and faith communities. Migrant Christians are portrayed through the liminality of a transient context, which is changed by their very presence, but which simultaneously changes them in the process. This book is, therefore, a welcome addition to the burgeoning literature on religion and migration. However, make no mistake. This volume is not just another study on global-South migratory religion. In fact, it shows the significance of faith in the experience of migration through new and provocative lenses, drawing attention in particular to the often-underestimated reach of transnational religious networks and the rise of influential transnational religious leaders who have become powerbrokers uniquely skilled to navigate a complex web that includes undocumented immigrants, educators, business owners, and politicians.~Raimundo C. Barreto, Associate Professor of World Christianity, Princeton Theological Seminary