Unisan shaping African Pentecostalism

Prof Solomon Kgatle of Unisa’s Christian Spirituality, Church History and Missiology Department clinched a VisionKeepers Programme (VKP) scholarship to explore current trends of global Pentecostalism. As the only recipient of a 2018 Research and Innovation award in the NRF-Y rating category, the emerging young, black and outstanding researcher is making waves and connecting with international experts in the field of Theology to feed his vision and purpose.

About VKP

Underpinned by open distance and e-learning (ODeL) principles, the VKP scholarship, which is a research excellence capacity development initiative managed by Unisa’s Research Department, contributes towards Unisa’s 2016 to 2030 strategic plan to advance niche-area research on the African continent and internationally.

This scholarship helps to facilitate knowledge transfer, to develop and maintain a network of external researchers, while stimulating research discourse and debate. Ultimately, it strengthens research competencies, outputs, and the quality and impact of the university and its researchers.

To qualify for admission to the programme, a candidate must have, among others, a doctoral degree, a plan to apply for National Research Foundation (NRF) rating or re-rating within five years of completion of the research visit, and must have a confirmed research mentor.

Passion, purpose and profession

The amazing part of this rare opportunity is that it will assist Kgatle to pursue research in his area of interest. It will also contribute towards producing high quality accredited research publications and external grant applications by working with experienced research mentors from other institutions for two years.

In Kgatle’s view, his NRF success rate will increase as he applies for re-rating in 2023. “VKP will also increase the success rate of my other external grant applications,” he reckons.

Great progress inspired by a great mentor

Currently Kgatle is happy about the mentor-mentee relationship he has with his official mentor for the VKP scholarship, Prof Wolfgang Vondey, who is an expert of Christian Theology and Pentecostal studies. Not only is Vondey an internationally distinguished scholar, but he is also the director of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at the University of Birmingham, United Kingdom, and plays a crucial role as the editor of the Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association.

Furthermore, their academic collaboration and mentorship connection is strong as they are both passionate about global Pentecostalism. Already Vondey as mentor has hosted his mentee as a visiting scholar at the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies. Kgatle attended a postdoctoral seminar and engaged in enriching conversations with scholars from Zimbabwe, China, South Korea, Brazil, Bulgaria and the UK. Hence, his mentor believes that the Unisa scholarship presents an outstanding opportunity for cross-cultural networking. “We have had very fruitful discussions on the nature of Pentecostal studies and the challenges of academic publications,” he reflects.

Extraordinary plans to transform Christianity

“The Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies at the University of Birmingham inspired me to propose having a centre and/or society for African Pentecostalism (AfroPent) at Unisa. The centre will serve as a platform for students to learn more about classical Pentecostal churches, African-initiated churches, charismatic movements and contemporary Pentecostal churches in South Africa. It will assist with the transformation of theological education, decolonisation and Africanisation of the curriculum at Unisa,” enthuses Kgatle.

“We benefit from mutual cooperation, and, especially in many African contexts, there is still a lot of work to be done to understand Pentecostalism more fully and Kgatle’s work contributes to this effort,” concurs Vondey.

According to Prof Vondey, “it is an essential part of our mission in the Centre to support the development of international scholarship on Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity.”

Individual contribution to accredited publications

At the same time, Kgatle appreciates the opportunity given to him by his mentor to meet the likes of Allan Anderson, an emeritus professor at the University of Birmingham who is a leading scholar of global Pentecostalism. Apparently, Anderson will serve as a co-editor of the book with which Kgatle is involved, Using and abusing the spirit in Pentecostalism: South African perspective.

Kgatle also met Prof Anthony Reddie, Unisa’s NRF A-rated professor extraordinarius who is a director of the Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture at the University of Oxford.

The contribution and support from Kgatle’s international mentors who are dedicated to the same field that stimulates his passions will add greater value to his work as an associate professor. “I am learning new theories and trends that enhance my scholarship in the context of global Pentecostalism to become a specialist in African Pentecostalism. I will further network and collaborate with leading scholars and publish in high-impact journals.”

In addition, Kgatle concludes: “I would like to thank the Unisa Research Administration Department for coming up with the scholarship that supports emerging scholars to become future leading scholars in their field. I want to take this opportunity to encourage other black emerging scholars to apply for the scholarship. Ka Sepedi bare Kgomo go tsoswa yeo e itekago.”

Source: University of South Africa