Tearfund and the Quest for Faith-Based Development: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Tearfund and the Quest for Faith-Based Development

1st Edition

By Dena Freeman


232 pages

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Hardback: 9780367360214
pub: 2019-09-16
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This book gives an in-depth analysis of the role of faith in the work of Tearfund, a leading evangelical relief and development NGO which works in over fifty countries worldwide.

The study traces the changing ways that faith has shaped and influenced Tearfund’s work over its 50-year history and shows how the organisation has consciously grappled with the role of faith in their work and has invested considerable time and energy in developing an intentionally faith-based approach to relief and development, which in several ways is quite different to the approaches of secular relief and development NGOs. The book charts the different perspectives and possibilities that were not taken and the internal discussions about theology, development practices and humanitarian standards that took place as Tearfund worked out for itself what it meant to be a faith-based relief and development organisation. There is a growing academic literature about religion and development and increasing interest from development ministries of many Northern governments in understanding the role of religion in development and the specific challenges and benefits in working with faith-based organisations. However, there are very few studies of actual faith-based organisations and no book-length detailed studies showing how a faith-based organisation operates in practice and how they integrate their faith into their work.

In documenting the story of Tearfund, the book provides important insights into the practice and ethos of faith-based organisations which will be of interest to other FBOs, and to researchers of religion and development.


"This highly significant book explores the work of Tearfund over its first 50 years, emerging in the 1960s as a ‘new kind of missionary organisation’, becoming a major development NGO during the 1990s and then reorienting itself as a faith-based development organisation (FBDO) from the mid-2000s onwards. The insightful analysis unpacks the story of where ‘faith’ sits in this history, telling us as much about shifting social attitudes towards the role of religion in the public sphere as the internal dynamics of this important evangelical relief and development organisation. Skilfully researched and highly readable, this book presents an essential addition to the growing literature on religion, development and humanitarianism, and is especially significant as it is one of the very first in-depth studies of an FBDO." -- Emma Tomalin, Professor of Religion and Public Life, University of Leeds, UK.

"Dena Freeman’s book about Tearfund, the UK’s largest evangelical development organization, is a path-breaking and timely contribution to the burgeoning field of global development studies and the prominent role religion plays in development today. Freeman’s privileged access enabled her to write a unique account, at once honest and empathetic, of Tearfund’s institutional history and the fierce debates that preoccupy staff as they seek to reconcile the antinomy of faith and secularism. More than just the history of an evangelical development organization, this book offers a window onto a history of the contemporary." -- Charles Piot, Professor of Cultural Anthropology, Duke University, USA.

"This is a gripping story of ‘development’ and its relationship to mission and evangelism. Through detailed interviews and in-depth archive research, Freeman critically analyses how a Non-Governmental Organisation has come to new understandings of ‘doing development’ over the course of its history, from giving grants to missionaries to carrying out development projects in the 1970s, to campaigning for structural policy change to address poverty and climate change today. The book’s historico-conceptual analysis is peppered with interesting anecdotes about why things happened the way they did, such as how the Jubilee 2000 debt cancellation campaign started and how the Evangelical Alliance embraced social action and care for creation as part of its mission. Freeman shows in a captivating narrative style the creative tension between evangelism and social action. Both are intimately connected but, she argues, have an ‘almost entropic tendency to come apart’. This book will be an invaluable resource for students, scholars and practitioners alike to better understand the connections between faith and development, and the role that faith plays in the work of a major faith-based development NGO." -- Séverine Deneulin, Associate Professor of International Development, University of Bath, UK.

"This book opens up fascinating insights about ‘development’ in the 20th century: the emergence of ‘faith-based’ approaches, the plural continuities of missionary interventions, and the mainstreaming of development values and processes in the religious and secular sectors alike. Tracing the story of Tearfund, and the many twists and turns in the understanding of its mandate, Freeman adds a brilliant chapter to the story of how the dividing line between religion and secularity has been negotiated within and through Christianity all along. As such, the book pioneers a much-needed connection between the study of World Christianity and the burgeoning field of religion and development." -- Jörg Haustein, Lecturer in World Christianities, Cambridge University, UK.

"Freeman has written one of the first books in what will hopefully become a trend - deep histories of faith-based humanitarian and development organizations that examine the role of faith in organizational culture. Faith-based organizations are not a neatly defined category and histories of this sort can demonstrate the internal debates and external pressures that lead organizations to define their own parameters. This book is significant not only for those interested in religion and development research (for whom it is a crucial read), but also for those wishing to understand more about non-profit organizations in general." -- Olivia Wilkinson, Director of Research, Joint Learning Initiative on Faith & Local Communities, Washington DC, USA.

"By carefully tracing the history of Tearfund and attending to its internal struggles to define what makes Evangelical Christian development interventions different from their secular counterparts, Freeman provides a rich account of the difference Evangelical identity makes for those invested in its meanings and worldviews. Perhaps most significantly, she shows through careful historical and ethnographic research that Evangelical identity does not just happen, but is actively constructed, often through processes of contestation. This is an important work for those wishing to understand how religious identity affects, or doesn’t, international development processes." -- Jill DeTemple, Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, Southern Methodist University, USA

Table of Contents


1. Introduction

2. Religious and Secular Actors in the Emergence of Humanitarianism and Development

Part 1: A New Kind of Missionary Organisation

3. Tearfund’s First Twenty-Five Years, 1968 – 1993

Part 2: Emerging as a Development NGO

4. Tearfund Joins the Mainstream, 1990-2005

5. The Religious Revitalists and the Quest for Transformation

6. The Globalists and the Localists: The Start of Campaigning and Advocacy

Part 3: Becoming an FBO

7.Trying to Institutionalise Faith-Based Approaches, 2005 – 2015

8. Mainstreaming Faith-Based Development, 2015 Onwards

Part 4: Paradoxes of Faith-Based Development


Appendix: Tearfund’s Work with Supporters in the UK

About the Author

Dena Freeman is a Senior Visiting Fellow in the Department of Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science, where she is also a member of the Laboratory for Advanced Research on the Global Economy and an Associate of the International Inequalities Institute. Her previous books include Pentecostalism and Development: Churches, NGOs and Social Change in Africa (2012), Peripheral People: The Excluded Minorities of Ethiopia (2003), and Initiating Change in Highland Ethiopia: Causes and Consequences of Cultural Transformation (2002).

About the Series

Routledge Research in Religion and Development

The Routledge Research in Religion and Development series focuses on the diverse ways in which religious values, teachings and practices interact with international development.

While religious traditions and faith-based movements have long served as forces for social innovation, it has only been within the last ten years that researchers have begun to seriously explore the religious dimensions of international development. However, recognising and analysing the role of religion in the development domain is vital for a nuanced understanding of this field. This interdisciplinary series examines the intersection between these two areas, focusing on a range of contexts and religious traditions.

We welcome book proposals on diverse themes such as faith-based development organisations; religious players in health programming; proselytization and development; religion and the environment; gender, religion and development; religion and post-colonialism; and indigenous communities and development.

To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd (Helena.Hurd@tandf.co.uk).

Series Editors:

Matthew Clarke, Deakin University, Australia

Emma Tomalin, University of Leeds, UK

Nathan Loewen, University of Alabama, USA

Editorial board:

Carole Rakodi, University of Birmingham, UK

Gurharpal Singh, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK

Jörg Haustein, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, UK

Christopher Duncanson-Hales, Laurentian University, Canada

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
RELIGION / Institutions & Organizations
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Developing Countries