church / state

Thomas G. Kirsch 2003. Church, Bureaucracy, and the State. Bureaucratic Formaliza-tion in a Pentecostal Church of Zambia. Zeitschrift für Ethnologie 128 (2): 213-231.

“The article examines the role of formal organization in a prophet-healing church in the rural areas of southern Zambia. It is argued that the leadership of this church strives to attain a certain organizational compatibility with Zambian state agencies by adopting bureaucratic features. Such ‘mimetic isomorphism’ represents a self-protective measure of the church against the threat of being outlawed by the state. When being incorporated, however, the bureaucratic features become accommodated to local conceptions of religious power. Since positions of authority in the respective church depend on ascriptions of spiritual capability such as prophesying or healing, this accommodation creates a configuration where bureaucratic procedures are conflated with discourses and practices of a charismatic type. What emerges is a ‘charismatic bureaucracy’ that is oriented towards the state and simultaneously represents a withdrawal from its ambit.”