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The Making of a Reflective Practitioner of Mission: What Shaped the Author of Christianity Rediscovered

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Abstract Vincent Donovan is best known for his best-selling Christianity Rediscovered (1978, 2003), frequently cited in discussions of the mission of the church in the post-Christendom West. His recently published letters from Tanzania between 1957 and 1973 shed new light on the man and his development. This article identifies some of the influences that shaped Donovan: firstly, the significance of the changing political face of Africa at that time, and how it led Donovan to question what this meant for the future of missions in Africa. Secondly, there were ecclesial influences. One was the character of his Order (the Spiritans) which found a fresh opportunity to experiment with enculturation when a new diocese was founded in Arusha in 1963, led by a Spiritan bishop. The other ecclesial influence was that of Vatican II, to which Spiritans contributed and which (they felt) affirmed their direction – though they also felt it did not go far enough. Thirdly, the letters show Donovan’s personal development from his arrival in Africa in 1957 as a naïve young missionary to the seasoned missiologist concerned “to fill the flesh and blood of Africa with the soul of Christianity” whose story is told in Christianity Rediscovered.

Affiliations: 1: Wycliffe College, University of Toronto


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