This article uses the World Bank's engagement with religious actors to analyse their differentiated role in setting the development agenda raising three key issues. First, engagements between international financial institutions (IFIs) and religious actors are formalised thus excluding many of the actors embedded within communities in the South. Secondly, the varied politics of religious actors in development are rarely articulated and a single position is often presented. Thirdly, the potential for development alternatives from religious actors excluded from these engagements is overlooked, due in part to misrecognition of the mutually constitutive relationship between secular and sacral elements in local contexts. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.