Although popularized in Africa by Western missionaries, the Christian faith as practiced by Africans has acquired unique traits over time. Some of the most radical reinterpretations of Christianity are offered by those churches known as “AICs” (variously, African Initiated, African Instituted, or African Independent Churches)—new denominations founded by Africans skeptical of dogma offered by mainstream churches with roots in European empires. As these churches spread throughout the African diaspora, they have brought with them distinct practices relating to gender. Such practices range from the expectation that women avoid holy objects and sites during menstruation to the maintenance of church structures in which both men and women may be ordained and assigned the same duties and responsibilities.
How does having a female body affect one’s experience of indigenized Christianity in Africa? Spirit, Structure, and Flesh addresses this question by exploring the ways ritual, symbol, and dogma circumscribe, constrain, and liberate women in AICs. Through detailed description of worship and doctrine, as well as careful analyses of church history and organizational processes, Deidre Helen Crumbley explores gendered experiences of faith and power in three Nigerian indigenous AICs, demonstrating the roles of women in the day-to-day life of these churches.