God drive back the dark days of war, place your angels between innocent lives and the tread of advancing tanks, cool the political fires that burn for power and greed, let wisdom prevail and compassion increase….- Bishop Steven Charleston
Today Archbishop Desmond Tutu opened the reenactment of Truth and Reconciliation Commission conference in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University.
The core of his message was that God is still weeping over South Africa. Even though our people were promised freedom, they still struggle in poverty, face oppression and are not truly free.
God is still weeping - the Churches and faith communities still have a critical role to play In working for the liberation of South Africa's people. God is still weeping - the Churches and faith communities must hold the servants and leaders of the nation to account for their leadership and stewardship of power and resources.
I recorded the speech (the recording was interrupted so it is in two parts). Please copy each link into your browser and you should be able to download the two recordings and listen to the.
Archbishop Tutu opening speech part 1
Archbishop Tutu opening speech part 2
I would love to hear your ideas and feedback on Archbishop Tutu's opening address and the role of Christians, the Churches, faith communities and people of faith in the "re-humanization" of South African society?
I have the responsibility and privilege of representing the Methodist Church of SA at these hearings since our Presiding Bishop was unable to attend and asked me to participate on his behalf.
We spent a beautiful day visiting sights in São Paulo with our friend Elaine from UCT and Roberta her school friend from here in Brazil.
We went to Páteo do Collegio (where the first Jesuits arrived and the city of São Paulo began in the 1600's), then to the São Paulo Cathedral, and ended the day at the modern art museum Icentário Pinacoteca. Now, Starbucks!
Tomorrow I head home to my precious family! This has been an amazing trip. I am so grateful to have visited, but I am very happy to be going home!
In an earlier post I mentioned a research paper that I had worked on entitled "Mandela and the Methodists: Faith, fact or fallacy?" This paper was published at the beginning of this month in the academic journal Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae (40th Anniversary special edition). You can find out more about the journal here.
The paper was originally delivered as the closing plenary address at the Theological Society of South Africa, and today I presented it at the International conference on Religion and Media at Faculdades EST in Brazil. I still am not at liberty to make the full text of the paper available. However, here are my slides from today's presentation.
So, was Nelson Mandela a Methodist? Indeed, he self-identified as a member of the Church, and my interviews with Bishops and ministers of the denomination confirmed that he was a loyal member of the Church. See this quote from Presiding Bishop Zipho Siwa:
Madiba remained a committed Methodist throughout his life. As a church, we hail the qualities that confirmed him as a true son of Methodism - a life of faith in God lived in service to others.
Bishop Zipho Siwa
Here are Mr Mandela's own thoughts on the matter (just one quote of many from his writings, speeches and letters that I found).
The values I was taught at these institutions have served me well throughout my life. These values were strengthened during our years of incarceration when this church cared for us. Not only did you send chaplains to encourage us, but you also assisted us materially within your means. You helped our families at a time when we could not help them ourselves… I cannot over-emphasise the role that the Methodist Church has played in my own life
Was he a Christian? I would conclude that he was an African Christian Humanist. The paper describes the full detail of what that means. However, here are some reasons why I believe this to be true. The following list of descriptors of Christian Humanism come for John de Gruchy:
- Christian humanism is inclusive. “Being human” names our primary identity.
- Christian humanism affirms dignity and responsibility.
- Christian humanism is open to insight into our common human condition wherever it is to be found.
- Christian humanism claims that the love of God is inseparable from the love of others.
- Christian humanism heralds a justice that transcends material and sectional well-being.
- Christian humanism insists that goodness, truth, and beauty are inseparable.
Mr Mandela mentions in many speeches and his own writings (see for example his address to the Methodist conferences in 1994 and again in 1998, and of course his autobiography 'A long walk to freedom' (particularly the sections on his early life)) that he was deeply formed by two primary communities. First and most prominent was the African traditional (Xhosa) world view (which I cannot discuss in detail here). Second was the Christian faith and the institutions of the Christian Church. These shaped his identity in a profound way. There is little doubt that like all persons his faith identity shifted and changed at different stages in his life. Moreover, it would be dishonest to say that he was a Christian in the simple sense that this phrase is used in popular theology. But, he identified with the Christian faith and with the church.
The important point is to ask, of which “church” was Nelson Mandela a member?
We have already concluded that Nelson Mandela was a member of the MCSA (Methodist Church of Southern Africa). However, of which aspect or expression of church within the MCSA was he a member? The real question is what do we mean by the expression “church”? Dirkie Smit suggests (1) that there are three general forms of being “the church”. I shall briefly present these below.
The local congregation
For many Christians this is most likely to be their primary perspective of the church, a localised community of Christians, organised around regular common worship. Philander points out that this is the physical place, and social group, that people often think of when they answer the question of where they “go to church”, or what church they are members of. Certainly from what we have already established Nelson Mandela was a member of this form of church in his early life (up to 1958). However, we could not say that he remained a member of a local congregation in the years that followed that. As has already been suggested this would simply not have been possible, considering his imprisonment, and later public profile.
The institutional, denominational and ecumenical Church
Smit further points out that for many people the term “church” refers primarily to the organisational or institutional structures. When some people hear the word “church” they may think of the confessional community that they are a part of (e.g., Catholic, Orthodox or Methodist). Philander notes that often this expression of church is what people would point to in answer to the question “what does the church say about unemployment in South Africa”. It could also refer to collective groupings such as Evangelical Christians, or even more formal groupings such as ecumenical bodies (like the World Council of Churches, or the World Communion of Reformed Churches). From what was discussed above one could conclude that Nelson Mandela held his strongest link to this understanding of church – he was a member of a denomination. This type of understanding of the church is often the point at which members engage with issues of social concern and engage policy. Mandela certainly sought to identify with, and engage, the MCSA as a denomination (as was clearly shown in the 1994 and 1998 addresses he delivered to the Methodist Conference).
The church as believers, salt and light in the world
Smit points out that the third way in which people think of the church, is as individual believers who are salt and light in the world, each involved in living out their faith on a daily basis in their own particular ways. This is a very important way in which the church can participate in being an agent and bearer of hope in society. In reading Nelson Mandela’s speeches and writings one can credibly maintain that he saw himself as a person of faith who lived out his particular understanding of his task in the world in this manner. He often refers, as was shown above, to the fact that he “formed” for his work in early life (both through African culture and the ministry of the church).
Here are the references to the articles pointed to above:
1. Dirk Smit presented a more nuanced perspective on the Church sighting six variation forms, “gestaltes”, in Dirk J. Smit, “Oor Die Kerk as ’N Unieke Samelewingsverband,” Tydskrif Vir Geesteswetenskappe 2, no. 36 (1996): 119–29.
2. Dirk J. Smit, Essays in Public Theology: Collected Essays 1 (AFRICAN SUN MeDIA, 2007), 61–68.
This week I have been in Sao Leopoldo in Brazil at Faculdades EST for the bi-annual conference (this year focussing on religion and the media). It forms part of the South South partnership that exists between Faculdades EST and some Universities in South Africa (these include the University where I teach, Stellenbosch University, as well as UNISA, UKZN and even a colleauge from the University of Cape Town).
South Africa and Brazil share a number of similar aspects in our social, political and economic history and current reality. Both have suffered under oppressive regimes. In both instances the Church and religious organisations played a significant role in helping to end the oppression. Liberation theologies, public theologies and post colonial theologies are common discourses in both settings. Of course they are not the same - there are many obvious, and some less obvious, differences in the two contexts. However, there are great opportunities for mutual enrichment and support.
Thus far the partnership has involved the exchange of academic staff, exchange of Masters and PhD students, and projects which have resulted in publications (such as the book that will be launched tomorrow evening, and the set of publications in English that will go into the Journal of Theology for South Africa JTSA). Language is something of a barrier, since we only have one colleague from South Africa who speaks Portuguese, and only a few colleagues from Brazil that speak English. I have committed to try and learn Portuguese in the years ahead so that we can serve the partnership better from our side.
It has been wonderful to hear the debates and inputs on public theology, liberation theologies, and a variety of contextual and post-collonial theologies.
On Thursday evening for fly back to Sao Paulo to have a meeting with the Vice Rector of International Affairs at USP. USP and Stellenbosch have an institutional agreement that is now being developed into a South South partnership between the two Universities. USP is one of the largest, and most prestigious, Universities in South America.
This post contains a few photographs taken on the trip. One is of me and one of my former students, Ndikho Mtshiselwa. It was great to see him here. Among the other colleauges were Prof Nico Koopman, Prof Rothney Tshaka, Prof Rudolf von Sinner, Prof Reggie Nel, Dr Pieter Grove, and Dr Elaine Nogueira-Godsey.
This evening we launched the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Unit in the Beyers Naudé centre for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University.
In the front row of this picture are some of the most famous Bonhoeffer scholars (from left to right), John de Gruchy, Clifford Green, Wolfgang Huber, Dirkie Smit, Frits de Lange, and Wentzel Van Huyssteen next to Robert Vosloo.
I recorded John de Gruchy, Dirkie Smit, Nico Koopman and Robert Vosloo's short presentations at the launch. They were fascinating. I will upload that audio as soon as I have had a chance to edit it. So do look back - I found de Gruchy's section on Bonhoeffer reception in South Africa and Beyers Naudé fascinating. As was Dirkie Smit's talk on Russel Botman and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.
Tomorrow we will host a three day conference in honour of John de Gruchy. Many of these visitors are speakers at the conference. Others include Prof Graham Ward Regis Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Prof a Serene Jones (President of Union Theological seminary - where Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied before his return to Germany). The prominent ethicist Larry Rasmussen will also be a speaker, as will Prof Iain McGillchrist from Oxford.
I will be chairing the panel on science and theology.
Here's a peek at the program.
Wednesday 3 September 2014
Session 1: Engaging Dietrich Bonhoeffer [Chair: Robert Vosloo]
9h20-10h00: Wolfgang Huber: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's question: How a coming generation
is to go on living?
10h00 -10h40: Nico Koopman: Bonhoeffer and the Future of Public Theology in South
11h10-12h40: Panel Discussion: Clifford Green, Michael Phiri, Karola Radler, Frits de
Book launch: A Theological Odyssey: My Life in Writing (John de Gruchy) (Sun Media);
Chair: Len Hansen; Speakers: Keith Clements, Roderick Hewitt, Cas Wepener
Session 2: Theological Aesthetics [Chair: Lyn Holness]
14h00-14h40: Graham Ward: Sanctification: Towards a Pedagogy of Affect
14h40-15h20: Frank Burch Brown: The Aesthetics of Forgiveness: Representing
15h50-17h20: Panel Discussion: Janet Trisk, Marnus Havenga, Awet Andemicael, Johan
18h15-19h15: Welcoming function
19h15: Concert: Libertas Choir
Thursday 4 September 2014
9h00: Opening: Robert Steiner
Session 3: Christian Humanism [Chair: Elna Mouton]
9h10-9h50: Denise Ackermann: The Mystery of Hope
9h50-10h30: Jim Cochrane: The Spirit of Humanity: Contra Theologies of Death
11h00-12h30: Panel Discussion: Karin Sporre, Martin Prozesky, Nadia Marais
Book Launch: Denise Ackermann, Surprised by the Man on the Borrowed Donkey:
Ordinary Blessings (Lux Verbi)
Speaker: Dirkie Smit
Session 4: Theology and Science [Chair: Dion Forster]
14h00-14h40: Iain McGilchrist
14h40-15h20: J. Wentzel van Huyssteen: The Emergence of Personhood: Why the
Evolution of the Moral Sense and Symbolic Behavior defines the Human Self
15h50-17h20: Panel Discussion: Ernst Conradie, Gys Loubser, Larry Rasmussen, Rika
18h15: Evening reception: Clos Malverne wine estate
Friday 5 September
9h00: Opening: Bruce Theron
Session 5: The Struggle Continues [Chair: Edwin Arrison]
9h10-9h50: Serene Jones: Economic Freedom
9h50-10h30: Allan Boesak: 'A Hope Unprepared to Accept Things as They Are':
Reflections on John De Gruchy's Challenges for a Theology at the Edge
11h00-12h30: Panel Discussion: Rothney Tshaka, Christo Lombard, Helené van Tonder,
12h30-13h00: Conclusion: John de Gruchy
A good friend of mine, Fr Larry Kaufmann introduced me to Bishop David Russell in Grahamstown many years ago. I had the joy of visiting his residence, and praying in his chapel, in Grahamstown. It was at his home that I first saw the film Babette's feast - a profound moment that changed my understanding of hospitality, grace and the sacraments.
Bishop Russell was a great inspiration to many young clergy in South Africa, and across the world. He was deeply committed to the Gospel of Christ and God's Kingdom of justice, mercy, and grace. His life and ministry showed many of us what it meant to be welcoming, and to be welcomed, into loving fellowship with God in Christ and one another.
Bishop Russell passed away this week. I thank God for his life and ministry. He was a Public Theologian par excellance!
Here is a tribute to David Russell written by my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba:
"With David Russell's death, an era passes for the Church and its
prophetic and courageous ministry, especially to the poorest of the poor.
"From the earliest days of his ministry as a priest, he was radical in
his identification with the poor and oppressed. Steve Biko, with whom he
worked closely, called him 'a friend, an equal... a comrade.'
"In the Eastern Cape in the 1970s, he played an important role in drawing
attention to the plight of people who were forcibly removed from their
homes under apartheid and dumped to starve in areas, such as Dimbaza,
where they had no hope of making a living.
"Later, as a chaplain to migrant workers in Cape Town, he campaigned
against the cruel removals, in the middle of winter, of families who
defied the pass laws and came to Crossroads to live with their husbands
"When the apartheid government sent in bulldozers to destroy their
shacks, he was willing to put his life on the line - one admirer recalled
on Facebook this week: 'Will never forget the image of DR lying,
spreadeagled, in front of a bulldozer in Crossroads.'
"When the government imposed a banning order on him, he defied it,
breaking it in multiple ways to attend a meeting of the Church's
Provincial Synod and to motivate a resolution expressing the Church's
understanding of those who had resorted to armed struggle.
"After becoming Bishop of Grahamstown, he ordained the first woman priest
in Southern Africa and repeatedly challenged the Church on theological
grounds to reverse its opposition to blessing same-sex unions. He also
challenged the democratically-elected provincial government of the
Eastern Cape for its failures in areas such as health and education.
"As one who served as Bishop David's suffragan bishop in Grahamstown and
was mentored by him, I feel his loss keenly.
"Not only the Church but the nation - which honoured him for his service
with the Order of the Baobab in Silver - mourns this son of the soil.
"On behalf of my family, the Diocese of Cape Town, the Synod of Bishops
and the broader church, we send our condolences and prayers to his wife,
Dorothea and to his sons, Sipho and Thabo.
"May this pastor, prophet, theologian and fierce fighter against
injustice rest in peace until we meet again."
It is Sunday! In a little while I will be in worship with sisters and brothers, who I don't yet know, in a beautiful Catholic Church near where I am staying here in Holland.
When you are a theologian who spends all your time in the Text, in the confessions and beliefs of the Christian faith, every day can be filled with learning and deepening of the knowledge of your faith. However, that could never compensate for the kind of growth that comes from simply being with others in community - the mystery of the Trinity is that we are made for one another. Our truest identity, our deepest meaning, is not something that comes only from our heads, it is ignited in our hearts and finds full expression through the work of our hands. We are people, and God's work with us, and in us, is with us as whole people, connected to other whole people.
This kind of work is slow. It is slow and messy because people are not all the same. That is the gift of course. We are not robots that get taken in for a firmware update. No, we are people whose lives are shaped through joy, pain, and even 'ordinary-ness'. The longest season in the Christian liturgical calendar is called 'ordinary time'. It stretches from Ascension Sunday to the start of Advent (about 22 weeks if I remember well). That is where most of the Christian life is lived, in ordinary time, among ordinary people, with ordinary experiences. I don't think many of us like living there, it is just too ordinary. We want drama, excitement, pleasure, novelty. I think that is one of the reasons why churches with great worship and drama teams, and entertaining preachers, draw such crowds. But sadly we cannot live there.
Tomorrow we return to our work, to our waiting, to our 'dailyness'. Amazingly the sermon I listened to early this morning by Bishop Will Willimon that was preached at a Duke Chapel reminds us that God is active in ordinary time. He remarks that God is patient. That is where and how God works, in time. Often God's work is slower than we expect, out of step with our expectation for the instant miracle, the sudden flash of brilliance, the unexpected solution.
I think this is true, it is true because God is working with people, ordinary people in ordinary time. The miracles of whole bodied people, free from suffering and pain, takes care and commitment. In ordinary time it takes commitment to a better diet and some exercise, to limiting our intake of alcohol and sugars and all the other bad things we consume. In our relationships it takes commitment to service of those who we love and live amongst. It takes a willingness to compromise, to see the side of the other, to look at things from their perspective and give a little, perhaps even take on a little. God is busy working with people, and that is a slow and deliberate task that takes time.
So today I have been encouraged to grow in patience and to be thankful for the work of God in ordinary time. May God bless you in every part of your life.
Here is Bishop Willimon's sermon (from about minute 40 to more or less 1h05). He is a remarkable man. I had the joy of meeting him at Duke a decade or so ago, and also at a World Methodist gathering some time later.
Sunday Service - 4/6/14 - William Willimon - YouTube
I may have gotten a little lost on this afternoon's cycle from Nijmegen. I went out for a short ride (supposedly!) after a hard day of writing on my dissertation - it has been a productive week!
Alas, I ended up crossing the Rhine River deep into Germany! Past Kranenburg (with its beautiful Cathedral) and Kleve (with its Medieval old city center) to Emmerich am Rhein.
Because I was in Germany I had no cell reception with my Dutch SIM card (completely forgot about that). So, no google maps to get me home.
My rusty German, mixed with Afrikaans and a bit of English saved the day! Ha ha! It was awesome! 71km on my Doris my Brompton - such an awesome little bicycle!
Today is the 4th of July 2014 - it has been 4 years since I first wrote my short reflection on the ministry of a chaplain and St Martin of Tours. Today is the feast day of St Martin of Tours. My life has changed somewhat since I wrote that. I am sitting in Holland at the moment, working towards the completion of my second PhD atRadboud University in Nijmegen. I am no longer a workplace chaplain. Since January 2015 I am a full time academic - teaching Systematic Theology, Ethics and Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch. It is a wonderful privilege to serve the Church and the world in this way.
This year I had an article published in the academic journal, Koers, on ministry and faith in the world of work, and I am working on another article with my friend Dr Johan Oosterbrink for the journal 'In die skriflig' (a Festschrift for Prof Koos Lotter). This article also focusses on faith and work.
My prayer is that we will see many more people awaken to the high calling of work, and like St Martin of Tours, that they would follow the call of Christ and serve Him and the world with their talents, time and treasure so that God's Kingdom of justice, mercy and peace may be established for all.
Today's 'Common Prayer' has a focus on St Martin. The two quotes below were a great encouragement and blessing to me in devotions today.
Martin of Tours (d. 397)
Martin of Tours saw Christ in the face of the poor and in the commitment to nonviolence. He was born in what is now Hungary and as a young man was involuntarily enlisted in the Roman Army. Martin’s conversion to Christianity occurred after he met a beggar seeking alms. Without money to offer the man, Martin tore his own coat in half and gave one part to the beggar. The following night, Martin dreamed of Christ wearing half of his coat. Once Martin was baptized he resolved to leave the army because Christ called him to nonviolence. His superiors mistakenly saw his request as one of cowardice until Martin offered to face the front lines without weapons as a sign of Christian pacifism. Denied this offer, Martin spent time in prison. Afterward he joined the monastery at Solesmes and eventually served for ten years as bishop of Tours.
Here is the other quote from the end of the devotion:
Martin of Tours said, “I am a soldier of Christ; it is not lawful for me to fight.”
Prayers for Others
Almighty God, you are King of all creation. You created order out of chaos, and you call us to strive for the peace that is not like the peace empires bring. Teach us to drop the weapons we carry in our hands, in our hearts, and on our tongues. Enable us to be soldiers of yours who destroy the weapons of our oppressors with your grace. Amen.
With rich blessing in your work and ministry!
This week I had the joy of speaking at a number of sessions at the Alpha Workplace Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - as always it was wonderful to be with my friends here and such a great blessing to see how the Church sensitively operates in this context.
At today's session I was asked to post the slides from my talk to the internet. So, please find a copy of the slides (which are an 'un-formatted' copy, i.e., they do not have the Alpha branding and style sheet applied).
Then, for a description of the content here is part of a post from 2008 when I first developed this theology. You can also download a 30 minute Audio recording for Radio Pulpit that discusses these ideas here: '5 paradigms that could change your work into worship' here (6MB MP3). If you are interested here is a short preview of the book in which I wrote about the 5 paradigms - 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' (1MB PDF). If you are interested in buying a copy of the book you can get it on Amazon here. Finally, I have just recently been notified that an academic article that I wrote on research done among Christians in South Africa the world of work and Christian needs, is being published in the Journal 'Koers: Bulletin for Christian Scholarship' - if you are interested to read that article please drop me an email and I'll let you know when it is published.
Here is the little video clip that I used (which was recorded a few years ago with Graham Power).
My ministry changed radically about 9 years ago when a wealthy business person came to faith in Christ. He is a gifted and capable person who had made an incredible success of his companies. My first inclination, when he asked how he could serve the Lord, was to suggest that he get involved in the leadership of our Church, or perhaps run our Church's finance commission (clearly he was a gifted leader and a person who knew how to work with money). If I had suggested that to him the result may have been two things.
1) I may have helped one Methodist Church in a single city of South Africa to develop.
2) I'm fairly certain that in the process this new Christian would have become bored and frustrated with the task I had assigned him to and he would have moved on.
Thankfully I was dumb enough NOT to get him into that position - rather I invited him to join a small group that I was running specifically for business people. Here I knew his peers could start to disciple him on things like Christian worship, loving service, stewardship and the use of his influence and resources for Christ's Kingdom... The long and short of it is that the person I am talking about is Graham Power, who went on to start the Global Day of Prayer(which this year had between 300 and 400 million persons participating).
Graham has become a significant figure in world Christianity. God has used him to bring new excitement, passion, and drive to many Churches and denominations worldwide. Equally significant has been his influence among his peers (all leaders in their own right, either in business or politics) who have made some significant choices that have bettered the lives of many millions of persons in countries such as Ghana, Argentina, Kenya, the USA and a host of other nations.
I have come to consider this one fact: Graham was created by God to do business... It's what he does well, and he God blesses his efforts.
So, when Graham works to God's glory and towards the aims of achieving God's will for his companies, the industry in which he works, and the nation that he influences, then his work becomes worship!
So, here's a little audio recording that I did for my 'radio pulpit' show (The Ministry and Me), it was broadcast in the week of the 20th of August 2008, and you can order an audio copy of the CD from Radio Pulpit if you wish.
Download the '5 paradigms that could change your work into worship' here (6MB in MP3 format).
The show was broadcast in the week of the 6th of August and I have had many emails and calls about it.
Let me know what you think!
On the road again. Have Brompton bicycle will travel! Ha ha!
Dubai tonight, Kuala Lumpur for the #AWC2014 conference where I am delivering a plenary talk on business without corruption and a workshop on caring for Christians in the world of work. I can't wait to see my friends in Malaysia again - I am do close to them! It feels like a second home! I also have the joy of preaching at my friend Alvin Tan's Church in KL on Sunday.
Then it is off to Holland for further research on my second PhD at the end of the week. I hope to make a big dent in this project! Need to get it done!
Then on 22 July I head to Germany to speak at the ISTR conference on 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' as a 4th generation social movement (refer to Castells and David Korten). My colleague, Dr Nadine Bower-du Toit and I have worked on a paper together for that conference.
I head home on 29 July and start teaching a Master of Theology course on the ethics of care the next day.
I am missing my family already! This is the first big trip of 2014. Compared to last year my travel schedule has been light. But, it is never easy to leave home!
I am excited for the next few weeks! Blessed to have my Brompton with me! I am sure to get some good riding in while in Holland and Germany. Here is a picture of me with Doris the old Brompton in the Brompton B Bag (with all my clothes etc. in the bag as well). I use the Brompton T Bag as hand luggage, laptop bag etc. it all adds up to 30kg - the max allowable on Emirates.
I would appreciate your prayers for Megie, Courts and Liam. It is a long time to be away from home! Please also pray for the people I will serve, for my studies and for good health and safety! Thanks, Dion