Roman North Africa was one of the major centres where ancient Christianity thrived, and there Donatism was the most prevalent form of Christianity. This neglected story from Late Antiquity is treated in a multi-disciplinary way in the current volume. The Uniquely African Controversy: Studies on Donatist Christianity seeks to uncover what the identity and historical context of Donatism was, and why it disappeared. What was Donatism's legacy? Who were its leaders and adherents? Why did Augustine of Hippo become so embroiled in controversy with the Donatist Church? The contributions in this volume come from scholars from North America, Europe, and Australia, and they cover topics including archaeology, Roman law, theology, martyrology, and ecclesiastical history.
I had the privilege to read a paper at the Leuven conference, which became chapter 14 of the book ("Augustine, missionary to heretics? An Appraisal of Augustine's Missional Engagement with the Donatists") with the following abstract:
Augustine is well remembered as a theologian, polemicist, and Church leader, especially in his dealings with the Donatists. In this chapter, my aim is to take an admittedly different approach and examine Augustine’s Donatist interactions afresh in the light of Christian mission. That is, as Augustine regarded the schismatic group as a heretical mission field – distinguished not by cultural or geographical barriers but through ideology – he deemed that they were in need of conversion to the true Church. In order to accomplish this, I will first propose a working definition of Christian mission that stems from the Scriptures, which reflects the activity of the Church. Second, I will briefly discuss Augustine’s heretical branding of the Donatists, which made them a focus of mission. Finally, I will build the case for Augustine’s missional engagement with the Donatists – even that which included the involvement of the state – by exploring his interactions with them over three periods between 391 and 419. From this narrative, an argument will be made for Augustine’s understanding of and approach to Christian mission.