Turner, Harold W.

Nigeria , Sierra Leone

Harold W Turner was a pioneer in the study of new religious movements (NRMs). Turner was born in Napier, New Zealand. After pastoral and university-related work in New Zealand and Great Britain, he encountered NRMs while teaching theology from 1955 at Fourah Bay College, Sierra Leone, and later at the University of Nigeria. Drawing on the work of phenomenologists, he defined NRMs as a field of study and developed a theoretical framework. His comprehensive two volume study of one of these movements, African Independent Church (1967), set a new standard. After 1970 he began documenting the phenomenon worldwide, producing a singular collection now located at Selly Oak Colleges, Birmingham, England) of source materials on NRMs, resulting in the publication of a sin-volume bibliography. His work demonstrated the importance of NRMs for the study of religion generally and for missiology. In 1989 Turner retired in Mt. Wellington, Auckland, New Zealand.

Wilbert R Shenk


Turner’s other major publications include “Tribal Religious Movements—New” Encylopaedia Britannica, vol. 18 (1974), pp. 697-705, Bibliography of New Religious Movements in Primal Societies, 6 vols. (1977-1992), Religious Innovation in Africa: Collected Essays on New Religious Movement, (1978), From Temple to Meeting House: The Phenomenology and Theology of Places of Worship (1979). and “My Pilgrimage in Mission,” IBMR 13 (1989): 71-74. See also A. F. Walls and W. R. Shenk, eds., Exploring New Religious Movement, Essays in Honour of Harold W. Turner (1990).

This article is reproduced, with permission, from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, copyright © 1998, by Gerald H. Anderson, W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.