Contextualization is about language and not just waring Jeans

 

Rev. Griffith John (1831-1912) from Swansea, Wales who spent his life as a missionary in China. He translated the Bible into Mandarin Chinease. Respect.

Rev. Griffith John (1831-1912) from Swansea, Wales who spent his life as a missionary in China. He translated the Bible into Mandarin Chinease. Respect.

Little did I realize whilst writing my last post that I did two school-boy errors. I wrote a post that was (i.) too long and (ii.) that I also went all historical on you! Those are two mistakes I’m going to try and avoid in future for your sake and mine if this blog is going to be at all popular. In this blog post I hope to address the issue of bilingualism and why I think that it is not only common sense but also that it is Biblical for the Church to do mission and to preach in Welsh in addition to English in Wales. What prompted me to discuss this now is that I attended the so-called “bilingual” Carol Service arrange by the Christian Unions of my University here in Bangor earlier tonight.

 

 

There are two schools of thought regarding languages in the Christian missiology tradition. The two are as follows:

1. Colonial: it is believed that the best thing to do is use the most spoken language of any given nation or region so that you can reach the largest amount of people in the shortest amount of time. In many regions and nations the most commonly shared language amongst people might not be a local language or dialect at all and would perhaps be the colonialists tongue; most probably English or Spanish. Missiology therefore is conducted in the colonists language. With this approach the missiology is perhaps wide spread but shallow in depth.

2. Contextual: it is believed that the best thing to do is learn and immerse your self in the local culture, customs and language. In the short term this might put direct mission work on hold as the missionary learns the peoples language and gets to understand how the people think and feel. It might also mean having to learn more than one language and even give a go at translating Christian books and even the Bible itself into the local tongue. With this approach you might not have such a wide influence in the short term but the mission and the virtue of Christianity that will follow in the land will be much deeper in depth and have a longer lasting effect on the people and the nation.

Tonight, in Bangor, the “bilingual” Carol Service was not truly bilingual. It was an English service with tokenistic use of the Welsh language. There was one reading in Welsh and you had the option of singing the carols in Welsh but that was it. The narration of the service was all in English, the word of welcome was all in English, all the prayers were in English and the address by the speaker was in English. I found this particularly painful as I personally knew plenty of Welsh speakers in the congregation tonight and I know that it won’t have been the gospel itself that stirred them and tickled their deepest emotions tonight but rather the down trodden attitude shown towards their language and culture. This colonial approach to mission serves no purpose in Wales and it is a relic of a bygone age.

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