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The author of Latino Pentecostal Identity (Columbia, 2003), Arlene Sanchez Walsh is in the middle of a three-year Lilly Foundation study on U.S. Latino prosperity churches. CT associate editor Madison Trammel asked the Azusa Pacific University professor how such churches mirror—and differ from—their counterparts in Africa.

How widespread is the prosperity gospel among U.S. Latinos?
Latino prosperity denominations like Maranatha boast 400 churches worldwide. But prosperity might best be measured in terms of influence. I measure its significance by how many Latinos are influenced by prosperity teachings via the media, not only TBN, but also Almavision, which is based in Los Angeles and has more than 30 outlets in predominately Latino areas from New York to Charlotte to Washington state. People hear those teachings and incorporate them into their preexisting Pentecostal-charismatic theologies, creating a hybrid Pentecostalism that is typical in Latino churches.

In what ways are Latino prosperity churches different from their primarily white or black counterparts in the U.S.?
They have often been taught by white or black prosperity teachers. Those who are graduates of Kenneth Hagin's Rhema school are traditionalists: If you don't get healed, it's because you did not have enough faith, period. But the Maranatha denomination is similar to African churches. It does not like the prosperity label and will not acknowledge it is a prosperity church, even when pushed.

How else are Latino prosperity churches similar to African renewalists? Immigrant churches are especially similar, though few are as brazen as some of the African churches described in this article. Maranatha churches will pray for finances and for debt to be ...

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July 2007

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