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Language and the Missionary Enterprise

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St. Paul's speech on the Areopagus, narrated by Luke in Acts 17, is a classical locus of good communication. While remaining faithful to the gospel message, Paul met the Athenians "where they were;" he "spoke their language." While such efforts at effective communication must certainly be seen as normative for missionaries, the sad fact is that missionaries have often approached other cultures with a tabula rasa mentality, disparaging local cultures and forcing the local people to learn the language of the missionaries (who were often of the same nationality as the colonizers). Canon Noel Titus traces the history of such cultural and linguistic insensitivity in the Caribbean through the indigenous people's first encounter with Europeans in Columbus, to missionary efforts in our own day. If the church is going to be faithful to its mission, it needs to attend to the culture and language of the Caribbean people.

Affiliations: 1: Codrington College, St. John, Barbados, West Indies


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