Ilana celebrates her book publication: “UCKG: A church of strangers”

19 May 2014
19 May 2014

Huma joins Ilana van Wyk in celebrating her recently published book by Cambridge University Press,  The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God: A Church  of strangers.

About the book

The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (UCKG), a church of Brazilian origin, has been enormously successful in establishing branches and attracting followers in post-apartheid South Africa. Unlike other Pentecostal Charismatic churches (PCCs), the UCKG insists that relationships with God be devoid of ‘emotions’, that socialisation between members be kept to a minimum and that charity and fellowship are ‘useless’ in materialising God’s blessings. Instead, the UCKG urges members to sacrifice large sums of money to God for delivering wealth, health, social harmony and happiness. While outsiders condemn these rituals as empty or manipulative, this book shows that they are locally meaningful, demand sincerity to work, have limits and are informed by local ideas about human bodies, agency and ontological balance. As an ethnography of people rather than of institutions, this book offers fresh insights into the mass PCC movement that has swept across Africa since the early 1990s.

The book forms part of the International African Library’s series of Cambridge University Press

Ilana van Wyk (2014). The Universal Church of the Kingdom of God: A church of strangersCambridge University Press, 300pp. ISBN: 978-1107057241


‘In what is by far the most profound and wide-ranging study of one of the world’s most challenging and disconcerting religious phenomena, Ilana van Wyk has produced a truly engrossing work of ethnography. In its triumphant march out of Brazil and across the globe, the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God attracts millions of followers, but also puzzlement, indignation and shock for its success in using methods which seem at first sight to be utterly out of keeping with contemporary cultures. This book covers the controversial aspects one by one: money, demonic possession and exorcism, unbearable family tensions amidst poverty and AIDS, and the mysteries of the church’s internal dynamics. Some of the case material is deeply distressing, but the analytical fruits will be with us for a long time to come.’ - David Lehmann, University of Cambridge

‘This excellent study offers not only a sound ethnography of the UCGK’s actual pragmatics of faith and its amazing capacity to appear “globally local”; it also challenges established analytical frameworks and moves the study of global Pentecostalism to a new level. A truly ground-breaking work that uses the case of an exceptional church to challenge long held assumptions in the study of religion in Africa at large.’ – Birgit Meyer, Utrecht University

‘Van Wyk superb analysis of a new kind of church teems with anthropological insight. Her monograph contributes significantly to the study of Christianity in South Africa, building upon classical works such as Bengt Sundkler’s Bantu Priests and Prophetsand Jean Comaroff’s Body of Power, Spirit of Resistance.’   - Isak Niehaus, Brunel University