Christian Mission: How Christianity Became a World Religion

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Christian Mission: how Christianity became a world religion, by Dana L. Robert. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009. xi +214 pp. ISBN 978-0-631-236191, £45; paperback 978-0-631-23620-7, £14.99.

This volume is a masterpiece of compression and clarity. In just over 200 pages it covers twenty centuries and the whole globe. It engages with the latest scholarship (the Comaroffs, Said, Spivak) and yet it is hard to see any major theme in Christian history that has been neglected. Part I tells the story chronologically from the Resurrection and the Great Commission to the twenty first century. Part II picks up major themes in mission history: "the politics of missions: Empire, Human Rights and Land"; "women in world mission", taking in women as missionaries, ideas on gender, celibacy, marriage and motherhood, women's education and women's health issues; "conversion and Christian community" exploring ideas of conversion and identity.

Dana Roberts draws examples from literary and popular fiction, films and even computer games. Many examples are drawn from Africa but they are not the hackneyed or stereotypical illustrations one might expect. So the main example of a woman missionary is Annalena Tonelli, "the mother Theresa of Somaliland" (died 2003), an Italian laywoman who worked with TB and AIDS sufferers and against female genital cutting. She also draws attention to women evangelists and leaders in contemporary African churches. …