‘”What Happened Next?”: Vincent Donovan, Thirty-five Years On’

christianity-rediscoveredDear Bishop,

… Suddenly I feel the urgent need to cast aside all theories and discussions, all efforts at strategy, and simply go to these people and do the work among them for which I came to Africa. I would propose cutting myself off from the schools and the hospital and just go and talk to them about God and the Christian message. Outside of this, I have no theory, no plan, no strategy, no gimmick, no idea of what will come. I feel rather naked. I will begin as soon as possible … (Vincent J. Donovan)

I will always be grateful for my being introduced to Christianity Rediscovered: An Epistle to the Masai by Vincent J. Donovan, who I’ve posted on before. I can’t recall how many copies that I’ve given away over the years but it runs well into double figures (a wee plea: this is not a gloat but an indication of how highly I view this book). The book continues to have a profound influence on the way I think about Church, mission and the Gospel. Yet like many readers of this wonderful story, I was always left with a set of frustrating questions: ‘What happened next?’ ‘Did the Masai Donovan encountered go on to do the self-theologising and self-ecclesiologicalising that he (in the spirit of Roland Allen) had hoped that they would?’ ‘What happened to Donovan himself?’ etc. So I was absolutely thrilled yesterday to pick up the latest copy of the International Bulletin of Missionary Research (33/2 April 2009) and read John P. Bowen’s article entitled ‘”What Happened Next?”: Vincent Donovan, Thirty-five Years On’. The story is significantly sadder than I had hoped, but Bowen’s piece is no less important for that. Bowen also draws attention to his forthcoming edited book The Letters of Vincent Donovan, to be published by Orbis Books.

And while I’m drawing attention to newies, here’s two more to look out for:


  1. Hi Jason. Thanks for the links to Donovan. I don’t have access to a theological library and thus a copy of the article – Vincent Donovan 35 years on, Is there any chance you might be able to post me a photocopy? And if I could be a little cheeky, “David Bosch: South African Context, Universal Missiology—Ecclesiology in the Emerging Missionary Paradigm” by
    Timothy Yates sounds interesting too.

    No pressure, but if you’re able to assist I’d be very grateful.



  2. I agree about the book.

    As someone in the academic wilderness and hence no access to journals I’m kind of intriqued – what is the general gist of Bowen’s article?


  3. Hi, Jason, just came across this post which I realise is one of your older ones. I’m in the middle of reading Christianity Rediscovered and it comes across as a remarkably encouraging book. And then I read what’s available online of that 35 years on article and feel discouraged again. The organization refuses to give up its tight approach (let’s not talk about Presbyterians alone, of course!).
    I guess what was missing from Donovan’s method was ‘what happened next’ back in Paul’s days. How did those fledgling churches get on….what led them to ‘organize,’ which we know they did – or did they HAVE to? Did Paul himself find that things weren’t as easily allowed to go their own way as he’d expected? Some of the epistles might indicate that.
    If it’s still possible to get a copy of the full article by email, I’d appreciate it.


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