Liberationist Icon or Conservative Leader? Ismael Mwai Mabiu's Afro-Pentecostalism and Ecclesiastical Leadership in Kenya
liberationist Afro-Pentecostal approach
Full Gospel Churches of Kenya (FGCK)
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AbstractThis article sets out to retrieve the oral histories of a pioneer African Christian at Kagumo Full Gospel Churches of Kenya (FGCK), namely Rev. Ismael Mwai-Mabiu. Mwai-Mabiu offered exceptional leadership as he sought to revive the Mount Kenya region and the entire Kenyan nation, particularly in the mid-1940s-1980s and 2000-2012, through his oral "liberation theological discourses." These efforts were well captured in his preaching as a roving pastor in mass seminars and in evangelism. His Afro-Pentecostal theology, which he propounded in the FGCK (a church he co-founded), provided the forum that he used as a platform to launch and advance his liberationist Afro-Pentecostal approach. Was Mwai-Mabiu a liberationist or a conservative ecclesiastical leader in his theo-social doctrinal matters; or was he seeking to indigenise theological discourses in his Afro-Pentecostal outfit? The concern of this article is to unearth the nature of leadership that Mwai-Mabiu employed and to describe the relevance of his Afro-Pentecostal oral and liberationist theologies. What were his fundamental concerns? Was his "ministry" evangelised in a cultural vacuum, rather than an inclusive environment that relied upon already existing networks of the host area of ecclesiastical operation? The methodology of this article comprises interviews conducted in four phases: 1) with Mwai-Mabiu himself; 2) with his wife; 3) with three focus discussion groups (FDGs) in interviews between 2016 and 2018; and 4) by the researcher with people closely related to him, namely Bishop Joshua Kiongo Kimani, assistant Bishop Rev. Joseph Muriithi Karugendo, elder Joseph Munene, elder Benson Ngiri, and the pioneers of the FGCK. Later, in May to October 2019, the researcher conducted further research to seek clarification on some areas that did not come out clearly during the first interviews. A review of the relevant literature was also conducted.