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Saturday, 10 January 2015

Evangelization

European Christians believed that the European discovery of the New World was divine intervention so that the American pagans could be converted and thereby complete the evangelization of the entire world in order that Christ could return. Even the corrupt Borgia Pope Alexander VI got caught up in this wave of evangelistic zeal and he assembled the ambassadors of Europe to exhort them to dispatch missionaries to the newly discovered continent of America. The proposed crusade petered out quietly but the Pope had helped determine the importance of evangelizing the American continent.

The Spanish conquerors of the New World defended their use of torture as part of their method for converting the native Indians by the Scripture “Go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in.” On one occasion the conquistadors were preparing to execute a rebel Carib leader, Hatvey. At the stake a priest tried to convert Hatvey to Christianity promising him that he would go to Heaven. Hatvey asked him if the conquistadors would go there too, saying that if this were true he would rather go to hell.

In 1531 an apparition of Mary appeared in front of a native American peasant Juan Diego at Guadalupe, Mexico. From then on Spanish missionaries utilized the story of Juan Diego's vision when attempting to convert the indigenous people of Mexico and today it is almost a totally Catholic country.

In the early 1600s the Tuscan Jesuit missionary, Roberto di Nobili (1577-1656), pioneered the concept of evangelization by inculturation. For years Jesuit efforts in the Southern Indian State of Tamil Nadu had not produced one convert. Di Nobili arrived and deciding that as only by converting the high-caste Brahmins could he win the state, he himself should become a Brahmin. He stopped eating meat, fish and eggs, cut himself off from other Europeans including his Jesuit colleagues and adopted the saffron robes and manner of a high caste Hindu. He was criticized by other Jesuits who accused him of converting to Hinduism but he achieved spectacular success in converting the high-caste Indians.

The Anglican vicar, the Reverend Thomas Bray, together with four layman formed the Protestant Missionary Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge Society in 1698. Its object was to encourage Christian education and literature in both Britain and America where Bray had some responsibilities for organizing the Anglican church in Maryland.

In 1701 the Reverend Thomas Bray founded the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts to provide a ministry to English settlers in North America after becoming aware, whilst touring Maryland, of the weakness of the Church of England in the American colonies.

In 1734 The pope banned di Nobili’s 130 year old inculturation evangelization method. Alone of the great Jesuit missionaries he has never been named a saint.

The British church moved into the space age in 1968 when Lord Alistair Graham suggested that the church should send up a Sputnik into outer space with a bishop inside it, to draw the attention of millions toward God. Unsurprisingly no bishop volunteered their services.

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