Brazilian evangélicos in diaspora in South Florida: identity, ecclesiology and mission
Item statusRestricted Access
Embargo end date15/06/2023
Although there has been a rise in interest in the study of migrant churches in current World Christianity Scholarship, one of the gaps in scholarship today is Lusophone Christianity in the US. This is in part due to the fact that the latest in- depth studies of Latino Christianity in the US tend to overlook Brazilian congregations in their findings. In order to help address this gap in scholarship, this thesis explores the complex practical relationship between identity, ecclesial practices and mission among members of three Brazilian evangélico churches in South Florida. Its primary goal is to investigate the significance that Christianity has for Brazilian evangélicos living in diaspora in South Florida and the ways in which evangélico churches shape their mission and practices around this reality. It analyzes the variety of means employed within evangélico communities to aid Brazilian migrants from different generations in negotiating processes of reception, survival, and integration within the Florida context. South Florida was chosen for this study because it is home to the largest community of Brazilian migrants in the US, and Florida also has the third largest concentration of Latinos in the country. This thesis is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted primarily on three church sites located in two of Florida’s southernmost counties, namely Palm Beach and Broward. Although there is a historical element to this thesis, when it explores the history of the waves of Brazilian migration to the US (chapter 2) and the historical context of Brazilian Protestantism in Brazil (chapter 3), and of sociology of religion, when it investigates the socioeconomic context of Brazilian evangélicos, it is primarily a contemporary study of Brazilian Protestant Christianity in the US, illustrated by a number of case studies (chapters 3 through 6). This thesis found that these Brazilian evangélico churches aid their congregants in navigating life as immigrants in the US first and foremost through the leadership of pastors, who are also immigrants themselves. Given the undocumented status of most evangélico church members, pastors face the challenge of how to deal with undocumented parishioners from both a theological and a practical standpoint. Brazilian Protestant churches in South Florida form communities of support for evangélicos of different generations. These communities of support were explored through the theme of church as an extended family. The way in which the mission of these evangélico churches is both understood and practiced is the result of how a particular gathered church tradition, conservative in both theology and politics, is reinforced in both its strengths and its weaknesses by the collective experience of being a migrant minority in a kind of Promised Land that never quite fulfils its promise.