A tribute to Professor Allan Anderson at the occasion of his retirement
Professor Allan H. Anderson retired from the University of Birmingham after more than 20 years of service at the end of 2019.
He was born in London but raised in Zimbabwe, completing his higher education and first theological appointments in South Africa, and then serving as principal of Tshwane Theological College near Pretoria and part-time researcher at the University of South Africa. He joined Selly Oak Colleges as Director of the Centre for New Religious Movements in 1995 and became an honorary lecturer, and from 1999, a lecturer at the University of Birmingham. In 2005, he was awarded a Chair in Mission and Pentecostal Studies.
Prof. Anderson’s main interests have been in the areas of the history, mission and theology of Pentecostalism in Africa and Asia. He is the author of four books on South African Pentecostalism, one on African independent churches, and three books on global Pentecostalism that have received international acclaim. His Introduction to Pentecostalism has been translated and published in Spanish and Korean and is being translated into other languages. He is a founder-member of the European Research Network on Global Pentecostalism and was editor of its peer-reviewed journal PentecoStudies. He is also the author of many articles and has joint-edited four collections on Pentecostalism.
In 2019, he received the lifetime achievement award of the Society for Pentecostal Studies. At the reception he commented, “I can truly say I’ve learned more from my students than I have from books.” Professor Anderson supervised several dozen postgraduate researchers and served as co-supervisor and examiner to many, often holding the highest number of doctoral students in the department and, in some cases, supervising several generations of the same family. He is known as a committed supervisor who cares for his students both on and off campus, inviting them into his home, and serving as a role model for a shared academic life. The following comments reflect the high esteem in which his former postgraduate students still hold him.
Thank you for all your many years of tireless service in not only in bringing invaluable research to light concerning the global nature of Pentecostalism but also the patient, pastoral and relational way in which you have sought to express this much needed aspect of the Pentecostal narrative. I have benefitted greatly from your unique blend of acute insights, conviction of purpose and your resolute determination to speak with those whose voices have been overlooked and ignored. The manner in which you have conducted yourself with integrity, warmth, knowledge and a desire to share all people's voices serves as an inspiration, motivation and encouragement to us all. I wish you all the best now in this new phase of your life, knowing that whatever this may hold, you still have much to give and share to all those around you.
Dr Dik Allan
It has been my privilege and honour to be one of your many PhD students. I really miss the days when I was studying in Birmingham, the insightful supervision with you, interaction with other PhD students at the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies, fellowship and meals after the seminars, the time spent in the library. Now that you will enter another season in your life, I want to say a big thank you for all your help and investment in me and all other PhD students. I wish you all the best, and I am sure that you will still be a blessing in any people's life through different ways.
Dr Selena Allan
I congratulate Prof. Allan H. Anderson on his retirement. A scholar par excellence, Allan moved the study of world Pentecostalism several notches higher following the Walter J. Hollenweger tradition. We celebrate you, Allan, for mentoring scholars from virtually every continent of the world. In your own way, you have witnessed to the power of the Spirit from your Jerusalem in Birmingham to modern Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the world.
J. Kwabena Asamoah-Gyadu PhD., DD (HC)., FGA.
President, Trinity Theological Seminary, Legon, Ghana
One sometimes encounters people who have a significant influence at critical moments in one’s life. For me, Allan is one such person. I remember meeting him for the first time in 1997 to discuss my application for doctoral studies at Birmingham. I had recently returned from Nigeria where I was teaching in a theological seminary. He subsequently became my supervisor and introduced me to the academic field of Pentecostal studies. I vividly remember attending his lectures on global Pentecostalism which later formed the basis for his Introduction to Pentecostalism, published in 2004. Allan’s expertise in African Pentecostalism and his interest in my research contributed significantly to the successful completion of my PhD. The regular research seminars organised by Allan at the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies in Birmingham formed an important part of my doctoral experience. In 2004, I returned to Nigeria to resume my work as a theological educator. In 2007, Allan invited me to apply for a job as a post-doctoral research fellow at Birmingham. GloPent had recently been awarded a large grant to study transnational Nigerian Pentecostal churches in Europe. This invitation coincided with a difficult period in my missionary career. My decision to accept the offer of joining the GloPent research team changed the course of my life. For this, and for his continued friendship, I remain extremely grateful to Allan and wish him well in his retirement.
Dr Richard Burgess
Allan, in the acknowledgements of my doctoral thesis I mention that your advice and encouragement were not only indispensable for carrying my project to completion but also for beginning it in the first place. The roundabout way that I came upon the idea of doing a PhD in Pentecostal studies is something I can only describe as one of the most charismatic moments in my life story – and of course when the Spirit moves we can sometimes become disorientated. Your patience in guiding me through was a real Godsend. Thank you for believing in me!
Dr Nikolaj Christensen
Initially, I wanted to start in the PhD programme immediately but was wisely counselled by Professor Allan to work through the MA courses first. In the process, Allan came to oversee my dissertation. As I was finishing it up, Allan offered to supervise my PhD thesis as well. I recall him telling me: “I don’t know much about Coptic Orthodoxy, so let’s research it together.” And we did! It is what is below the surface of this short anecdote that I would like to highlight. First of all, Allan was proactive and encouraging; he saw potential in my work and supported it. Numerous times along the journey, he offered sage advice and observational wisdom. I felt like we were in it together. But most importantly was Allan’s humility. Many scholars as well-read, traveled, and published as Allan could (and some do) eschew supervising PhDs and teaching undergraduates— especially in topics outside of their specialties. Not so with Allan. He truly held the researcher-professor tension well and humbly admitted what he did not know. This only sharpened his curiosity and extended his generosity towards me and my work. Through his supervision and mentorship, I discovered that I would like to be a Professor Anderson to my students.
Dr Benjamin Crace
I am indebted to Allan not only as the supervisor of my PhD project but as someone who has been an academic inspiration and mentor.
Dr Clifton Clarke
My first encounter with Allan turned out very differently than I expected. My initial research interest was to investigate early Scandinavian Pentecostals’ understanding of sin, and Allan and I had arranged a meeting to discuss my proposal. To my great surprise, Allan dismissed my proposal almost right away and suggested that I should rather write a thesis about the Swedish Pentecostal Pioneer, Lewi Pethrus. Although coming from a Swedish Pentecostal background, my knowledge of Lewi Pethrus was very limited. Trusting Allan’s wisdom, we quickly agreed on a six-year plan with annual deadlines for chapter submissions. Only afterwards did it dawn on me what I had signed up for! Lewi Pethrus was an extremely prolific writer, and just to skim the surface of his publications took me most of the first year. If there were ever an academician looking for a good research question, it was me! With a lot of encouragement and personal support from Allan, I eventually found one, which was to research Pethrus’ ecclesiology. This is the aspect of Allan’s supervision that I appreciated the most, even after overcoming this initial hurdle. He was always encouraging, giving good feedback, and relating to me as a Ph.D. student in a friendly and personal way. Allan’s scholarship speaks for itself, but the man behind the pen deserves equal credit. I consider myself privileged to call him a friend.
Dr Tommy Davidsson
Allan’s contagious craving for knowledge on the history of Pentecostalism has been truly inspirational. He lit the blue touch paper for my work on W.F.P.Burton and the history of Congolese Pentecostalism. His compassion towards me personally, when I wasn’t at all sure what I was doing in the early years kept me motivated and believing I could carry on. Visits to his office over six years always left me feeling enthused. On the side of those who had been left out of the historiography of Congolese Pentecostalism, Allan made me feel as though my work was far more than the mere writing of a PhD thesis. It took on a spiritual dimension. Truth was no longer stumbling in the streets, justice was no longer being driven back. The many who had been photoshopped out of the historiography not only regained their place in the picture, but actually regained the title deeds to Congolese Pentecostalism. It was a privilege to contribute in a very small way to Allan’s global project. Thank you, Allan, for all your patience, belief in me, and for what you have contributed on a worldwide scale. I for one, could not have done what I did without you.
Dr Dave Emmett
Allan Anderson's vast knowledge of global Pentecostalism, and his years of experience as a PhD supervisor were of immense assistance in my pursuit of researching my chosen thesis, Spirit and Schism: A History of Oneness Pentecostalism in the Philippines. Indeed, I sought acceptance to the University of Birmingham based primarily on the fact that Allan was there and secondarily because of the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies, of which Allan was the director at the time. During our many Skype sessions and the times I sat with him in his office, I developed a genuine fondness for Allan. Most of what I learned about research I learned from him. As I started my program, I had much to learn, and Allan made sure I knew that!!! I still smile at his legendary use of exclamation marks in his corrections of my work and in our correspondence. I have great respect, appreciation, gratefulness, fond memories and best of wishes for Prof. Allan Anderson.
Dr. Johnny Loye King
Dr Dave Emmett
Allan loves hiking and cycling. He is an old school hiker who prefers to use a (paper) map instead of the online one. Sometimes he asked my wife and me to hike together around Birmingham. On one occasion he looked confident with the route and had checked the map at the car. But within the next two hours we got lost, and Allan still seemed sure that he knew the area quite well. Yet we ended somewhere behind someone’s farming house. The only way out was crossing the property, and the house seemed deserted. Since there was no other way, we decided to cross the large farm. When we found the main road again, he still insisted that we didn’t get lost! My study under Allan Anderson is a fond memory since it was not only an academic discussion but also a life sharing, including warm conversations during lunch or dinner, sometimes in our flat, his house or somewhere else. His wide knowledge on global Pentecostalism is combined with a passionate curiosity on the local expressions of the movement. His historical understanding is intertwined with his personal experience. And his critical assessment is integrated with his empathetic standpoint. Thanks for our friendship. Glad to be one of your students.
Dr Rony C. Kristanto
First of all, it was my biggest pleasure and honor having you as my professor and supervisor.
Although it's been a while, I still clearly remember your passion, energy, and outstanding teachings in classes, meetings, and conferences. I really enjoyed every moment that I spent with you, especially in supervision meetings. You definitely influenced and greatly contributed to my career and life. Today, as I look back at how my visions have become reality, you are clearly in my mind. You listened to my challenges, struggles, and problems while I carried out my journey to finish my PhD. Many things happened during my four years in England. My wife gave births to two children and she also finished her graduate studies at the University. In addition to that, I was ministering a church full time. In the midst of these situations, you encouraged me with positive words and showed endless support. I cannot forget your kind prayers and encouragements which made me to stand up and keep on moving forward. When you offered to have a meal with me after my final viva, that was also an unforgettable moment. Your caring meant so much. Thank you very much for that. Words cannot describe how blessed I am to be among those that were trained during the time of your teaching years. Thank you for all the years of service to plant godly servants worldwide. May you continue to find success wherever you may find yourself. Congratulations on your retirement!
Dr Sangyun Lee
Congratulations to Prof Allan Anderson for a job well done, and for leaving an incredible legacy for Pentecostal scholarship at the University of Birmingham. It was an honour to do my doctoral research under the supervision of Prof Allan Anderson. I had the privilege to be the first Indian who successfully completed a PhD under his supervision. Not only his efficient scholarship but also his pastoral care and constant support enabled me to achieve this target. The vast number of scholars from across the globe, including the majority world, who did doctoral research under the supervision of Allan evidently endorses his polycentric approach to global Pentecostalism. Allan’s “many-Jerusalems” theory drew many of us from the majority world to Birmingham University. It has become one of the most outstanding Universities to produce Pentecostal scholars as well as an excellent global hub for Pentecostal scholarship.
Dr Wessly Lukose
I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Alan Anderson for being such an amazing professor and supervisor. It was a great honour and privilege to be taught and supervised by a world-renowned professor in Pentecostal and Charismatic studies for both my Master’s and PhD. It was Professor Anderson who encouraged me to do my PhD on Pentecostalism in Zambia. One thing I remember him saying was ‘Naar, I am your midwife and I’m here to support you until you successfully deliver your PhD.’ And he did! Through the highs and lows of my PhD studies, he was there to guide me but was also very strict and gave me crazy deadlines to meet with no excuses. He certainly did not let me get away with anything. Even more humbling was that he believed in me and showed me great kindness. When I was at the brink of dropping out of my PhD programme due to lack of funding, he pointed me to an opportunity that would help fund my studies and I will forever be grateful for that. I would like to congratulate him on a job well done on his academic career and a happy retirement. I hear retirement is like a never-ending weekend party, so I hope he enjoys it!
Dr Naar M’fundisi-Holloway
I am so grateful for Allan Anderson who was my PhD supervisor during my time in England (2007-2011). It was through reading a small paragraph in one of his books that I first discovered Pentecostal pioneer and healing evangelist Carrie Judd Montgomery. I was so inspired by her story that I later decided to do my entire PhD on her life and theology. My life has been radically changed through this introduction by Allan. He is a true pioneer who has paved the way for many to come after him in uncovering hidden heroes and making sure their stories are not forgotten. He champions those who have been marginalized and empowers them to have a voice. His work and scholarship have been a huge platform for others to build upon and take even further. I’m so grateful for the gift that he’s been in my studies and I honor his contribution in Pentecostal history that he’s made around the world.
Dr Jennifer A. Miskov
Prof.Anderson has been a tremendous help and support in my academic life and work. I first heard of him when he was supervising my dad’s (Opoku Onyinah) doctoral thesis. Little did I know that 16 years or so after, I will also be graduating under his supervision. From a conversation at an Italian restaurant, Prof. Anderson advised that I pursue my doctoral studies, and under his supervision I found the experience exciting, challenging and engaging. Undoubtedly, the name Allan H. Anderson is etched in the annals of global Pentecostalism and his oeuvre will continue to live on as substantial and significant contribution to Missions and Pentecostalism. Thank you, Allan. Prof. Anderson, I salute you! All the best on your retirement and enjoy the next phase of your life.
Dr Caleb Nyanni
I consider my meeting with Professor Allan Anderson as divine providence. I happened to be the first student that he supervised from the beginning to the end, and he was exactly the type of supervisor I was looking for. The prayer and Bible study in his house were refreshing for students who were going through academic rigours. His candid remarks about Africans were those that impressed me about his genuine love for Africans and people from other races. He introduced me to academia. His friendliness, concern, and love for his students are always memorable. I believe that his legacy will continue in the students he supervised. Thank you, and congratulations, Allan!
Dr Opoku Onyinah
Congratulations dear Professor Allan Anderson on your retirement! God gave me the privilege to read, to think and to write under your supervision. Your motivation and scholarship played a very important role in the successful completion of my thesis. It was a pleasure to work under a world-renowned scholar and expert in Pentecostal and Charismatic studies. Your contribution towards the theological world will continue to be an inspiration at all times. God bless you with good health and I pray you will enjoy doing things you have missed in the busy schedule of life in the past. For your dedication and hard work, you deserve the best retirement ever!
Dr Joy T. Samuel
I am a huge admirer of Professor Allan Anderson. The department needed someone special to fill Walter Hollenweger’s shoes, and miraculously they found the perfect man in Allan. His books on the origin, growth and activities of Pentecostals all over the world have become set texts and remain the gold standard. My personal experience of Allan as a doctoral supervisor was transformative. I came to Birmingham with some very narrow-minded ideas about my research, and Allan helped me to see beyond some of those boundaries. It wasn’t always comfortable, but the most necessary changes are often hard. I lost my father during my doctoral studies, and Allan, as a former pastor, readily provided sensitive pastoral support. His interest in my research and development has continued long after my graduation and standing in for him on the Introduction to the History of Christianity module at Birmingham was one of the highlights of my academic career. He may be retiring, but I know Allan has much more to give. I look forward to continuing the journey with him as a personal friend.
Dr John Usher
Professor Allan Anderson tutored me during my post graduate studies and also supervised my PhD thesis. Having known him since 1999, Allan had become more or less a friend. Allan teaches with passion and shows in depth knowledge in issues regarding global Pentecostalism. He takes his time to impart knowledge and is ready to answer questions with humility. Even though he does not lead a parish, Allan is a pastor outside the classroom. Some of my memorable days in Birmingham were during devotional meetings at his residence. Allan invited his students to his house, and he and his wife served us tea, coffee and biscuits. After the snacks, he took his guitar and played some gospel songs as he sang along. One of his favorites was “Lord I lift your name on high”. He then exhorted us from the Scriptures. This really prepared us for the following week. Allan, as you retire, may God be your strength and help. I pray that even in your old age you will continue to be a blessing to those you share wisdom with. God bless you for a good work done.
Dr Daniel Walker
My first contact with Dr Anderson (pre-Professor days!) was very early one morning in 2002 when I sent an exploratory email enquiring about joining his teaching sessions in Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies. To my surprise Allan replied within 10 minutes - this was before 7am! I soon discovered this was typical of his efficient administration and contagious enthusiasm for growing the department. Events transpired that demonstrate Allan has been the gatekeeper for so much of my learning and subsequent academic journey. Allan’s knowledge, networks and perspectives were immensely important as the Centre for Pentecostal and Charismatic Studies developed under his leadership. Friendship and learning were the hallmark of many happy days we all spent together at Elmfield House and various SPS and GloPent conferences. Throughout that journey Allan was, in my estimation, a perfect supervisor. He gave me the creative blend of freedom and boundaries, of encouragement and wise correction. In essence, Allan recognised my own felt-inadequacy and steadily built my confidence so that I could excel far beyond my initial aspirations. Indeed, I would never have been able or qualified to move into the world of Higher Education if it was not for Allan’s impact in my life. The fact that I left school with two A Levels at grade E and was able to progress from a Master’s programme to completing a PhD in 2009 is something I will forever attribute to the skill and encouragement of Professor Allan Anderson. Allan, with deep gratitude for everything, and my prayerful good wishes as you retire from the University of Birmingham. May you continue to know much joy and the ongoing success of your faithful work in the service of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Rev Dr Tim Welch
(Collated by Wolfgang Vondey)