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  • Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Restorative Readings: The Old Testament, Ethics, and Human Dignity
    Pickwick Publications

    Foreword by Walter Brueggemann, my chapter is entitled 'In conversation: The Old Testament, Ethics and Human Dignity'. A superb resource edited by Julie Claassens and Bruce Birch

  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.
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Tuesday
Aug142007

A few thoughts from the 12th Oxford Institute of World Methodist Scholarship

I arrived in a very hot Oxford on Sunday. I didn't realise that England could get quite as hot as it does! It has been lovely. Today, however, the "Queen's rain" (as I have jokingly been calling it) has started to fall. It is lovely, a bit cooler, and quite wet here in Oxford.

I am staying in Tom's Gate (off Tom's Quad) in Christ Church, Oxford. Here's a picture taken from just outside of staircase 5 where I go up to my rather extravagant parlour... It would seem that the title 'Dean' carries some weight here in merry old England. I am on the same floor as our Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, and a number of other dignitaries. If only they knew what a small fry I truly am!

Christ Church is a remarkable College, one of the early one's (starting in 1524!) Two of my colleagues studied here in previous years (Dr Neville Richardson did an MPhil, and Dr Donald Cragg did a DPhil). Those must have been glorious times! Of course there are many other notable figures that studied and lived in these hallowed walls. Among them are John and Charles Wesley (the founders of Methodism - and also the reason why we hold the Oxford Institute here at Oxford, since it is the home of the very first Methodist scholars), John Locke (the philosopher), Charles Dodgson (better know to most by his pseudonym, Lewis Caroll, who is the author of 'Alice's adventures in wonderland'). Albert Einstein even studied here in the 1930's! For more detailed (and accurate) information on Christ Church please check out their website here.

This picture was taken in the Christ Church dining hall. If it looks familiar don't be surprised! Take a closer look, indeed, this is the location where dining hall scenes from Harry Potter were filmed! I can assure you there are no candles floating in the air, or owls delivering messages!

The traditions are still very strongly adhered to. Guests go into the dining hall and are only seated once the dignitaries take their seats (although they are not sitting at the 'top table'), then we are served by 'Scouts' under the watchful eye of the 'Steward'. The gate and main door are guarded by 'Porters' to keep eager Harry Potter enthusiasts from barging in on the meals. You can see that the walls themselves are lined with the portraits of past students and lecturers of the College.

I am truly enjoying the hospitality and the tradition of being here. Of course, for an African, what makes this place most valuable is being part of the community. It has been wonderful to meet new friends (many of whom I have either only read about, or read their work), such as Randy Maddox, Douglas Meeks, Paul Chilcote, Neil Richardson, Brian Beck etc., and catch up with others who I have not seen in some years, such as my good friend Laceye Warner, the well known Geoffrey Wainwright, Ted Campbell, JC Park, and Dick Heitzenrater.

Each day starts with worship at 7am, then we have breakfast (in the Harry Potter dining hall!), after which we move to Wesley Memorial Methodist Church for the Plenary sessions, followed by our individual group meetings (I am in the Systematic Theology Group). In the group meetings the scholars present have a chance to speak to their paper, there is a respondent, and then general discussion. If you're interested to read some of the magnificent papers that are being, and have been, presented, then please download them from the Oxfrod institute website here.

I have only had limited Internet access in Oxford (I cannot believe how difficult it is to get online in the UK! I think as more and more people realise what a commodity communication is the wifi is shared less openly and is more often than not a service for which one is expected to pay). However, I shall be posting some reflections from the papers and groups, plus a number of audio recordings from the Plenary sessions, as I have a chance to do so.

I can't tell you how much I am missing my family!!!!! I miss Megie so much!!! Times away from her remind me just how desperately I am in love with her. I have also longed for Courtney and Liam. It has been very difficult to be away from them! Please do pray for them, and drop them a line or give them a call to let them know that we belong to a community of faith that cares for one another!

Here's a closing thought that came from Douglas Meeks in a discussion; we were talking about wealth and ownership of property (well, ownership in general) when Douglas reminded me that John Wesley's understanding of stewardship (how one uses one's money) was based upon that of the Patristics (the early Church parents). Wesley believed that whatever I do not need to survive today, or need in order to fulfill the mission to which God has called me, already belongs to the poor. And, as such, I should give it away! I was challenged by that!

Rich blessing to all! I miss you! Please check back for more news, thoughts and updates from Oxford.

Thursday
Aug092007

Happy Women's day from the Mecca of Mac in London!

If you were hoping to see some deep theological reflection as my first post from England you may be dissapointed! Here's a photo of me (taken in Photobooth on one of the Macs here in the Regent street Apple Store in London). Happy Women's day to all the significant women I have the joy of sharing my life with (Megie and Courts in particular).

I arrived yesterday after a 26 hour marathon trip via Dubai! Today I head out to Cambridge, spend the evening with some friends and colleagues, and then back to London on Friday to be with Richard and Michelle!

I am off to Oxford on Sunday.

Check back for more 'real' posts and updates on the Conference, papers, and other more scholarly things (I don't have wifi coverage currently... That accounts for this quick and nasty post from the Apple store).

I am MISSING Megie, Courts, and Liam... I'll post again as soon as I have wifi...

Sunday
Aug052007

I'm a black, African-Christian, social-activist, and proud of it!

Yep, that's right, I'm proud to be a black, African-Christian, social activist! If that doesn't make sense then please read my paper below. I prepared it for the Oxford Institute where I will deliver it in the Systematic Theology working group.

You can download the paper here:

Dr Dion Forster - Oxford Institute 2007.doc

Here's the real title and abstract.

Title: The appropriation of Wesleyan pragmatism and social holiness in Southern African Methodism. By Dr Dion Forster

Abstract: While Wesleyan theology shares many core elements throughout the world, there can be little doubt that it finds rich and diverse application and expression in the many varied contexts in which Methodism has taken root.

This paper will present an overview of the application, and unique expression, of Christian Perfection as it has taken shape within Methodism in Southern Africa. Christianity, and in particular Methodism, is a dominant faith perspective in Southern Africa. This phenomenon, it will be argued, is largely due to the pragmatic nature of Wesleyan theology, and its emphasis on social holiness. This research aims to add value to the corpus of global Methodist Theology that tends to be dominated by western theological perspectives. Thus a new perspective on Methodist theology will be given by means of articulating the unique tenets of Southern African Methodist Theology. Insights gained from this study may be of value in similar contexts where Methodist theology is seeking to find a unique, and contextually relevant, expression. Moreover, understanding how Methodist theology is being shaped in the two-thirds world, an area in which Methodism is growing, may give some valuable indicators for the formulation and expression of Methodist theology elsewhere in the world.

Thursday
Aug022007

General relativity and time travel, or should that read 'relatively little time, generally, before one travels'?

On Monday I will be making my way to Christ Church, Oxford University, with Prof Neville Richardson. and our Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, to attend a conference, do some teaching, and deliver a paper at the Oxford institute.

I shall also be visiting our friends at Wesley house in Cambridge (although don't mention either visit to the other party... I believe there has been a rather fierce rivalry since the 13th century!).

To read more about the Oxford Institute you can click here:

http://www.oxford-institute.org/

I return to South Africa for my daughter"s birthday and some important meetings, and then have a chance to speak at a Methodist conference in Malaysia, and to visit and teach at STM, the Malaysian seminary. You can read about that conference here.

These are all very exciting events! I certainly feel unworthy, yet truly honoured, to be a part of such august and distinguished events! I will, of course, miss my family (however, Skype video does help!)

As usual I'll post pictures, podcasts, and thoughts here. So please do check back if you're interested.

In all of my research and preparation for these trips I have rediscovered the truth of Albert Eienstein's theory of relativity - time is truly relative, mostly time is inversely proportionate to the number of tasks one has to do before international travel. Oh well, I'll sleep on the flight!

Be patient with me - I promise to post more content soon! As for the value of that content... Well that's relative i.e., my relatives think it's great everyone else is bored to tears ;-)

Loved and blessing,

Dion (Tshwane South Africa)

Wednesday
Jul252007

A Church that displays the hospitality, warmth, and welcome of Christ's Gospel.

Last week a number of Christian lay people and ministers met in Cape Town informed by the 115th Conference of the MCSA (PE-2001) that resolved that we (Methodists) would be "a community of love rather than rejection", and the practical enactment of this value that was resolved by the 117th Conference (Johannesburg-2005) which decided that safe places be formed "...for people of a same sex orientation to tell their stories. [where there can be]... healing and forgiveness for both the church and these members".

The purpose of this meeting in Cape Town was to consider how we could increase the witness, welcome, warmth and, hospitality of Christ's gospel for all persons (much like Jesus himself speaks of in John 3:16). The purpose was to seek to break down the 'dividing wall of hostility' between persons of different positions on the same sex matter in the Church (Ephesians 2.14), and that Jesus’ love is equally given for all people (John 3.16, Romans 3.23-24; Romans 6.23). A number of testimonies were shared by people of a same sex orientation, who love Christ, and yet have felt excluded from, and unwelcome in, Christ's Church. It was a challenging, and moving, meeting.

I recorded a number of these testimonies, devotions, and Bible studies. We have decided to make the report of the listening committee available (this report sums up the feelings, ideas, and experiences of the members of the meeting).

The report is in MP3 format, it is about 6MB in size, and is presetned by the Reverend Alan Storey.

You can download the report HERE (simply click on the link).

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this report does not represent the official views of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, or any of the local societies of this Christian denomination. Rather, it is a process report that resulted form the resolutions of Conference 2005. As a process report it is likely to change, adapt, and grow as it encounters persons and positions that represent different perspectives on this issue.

For an alternative perspective from within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa please download and read the following document:

An alternative position on persons with a same sex relationship. (Adobe PDF document).

So, please do pray that we will find a way forward that:

a. Is true to God's will and desire for God's Church and God's mission in the world.

b. The moral, ethical, justice, mercy, and grace filled principles of the Gospel are upheld for persons who hold very different, and often conflicting views, without denying each other's dignity, commitment to Christ, and without harming the mission and evangelical purpose of Christ's Church.

c. No person should ever feel that Christ does not love or accept them.

d. Our Churches would love the people that Jesus loves, and love doing the things that Jesus does, even if it is difficult and challenging to do so.

Please feel free to engage me on this issue!

With much love in Christ! Dion

Monday
Jul232007

Double speak...

Frere Maternity Ward report.....

Do a google search for the words above... You'll find a remarkable example of 'double speak'. In recent months 43 babies have died in the maternity ward. Our minister of health, the notorious Manto Tshabalala Msimang, suggests that while there are severe staff shortages (at the time of a recent visit, just one nurse and one nurse's assistant on duty to care for 32 babies), and outdated and poor equipment, these DID NOT lead to the deaths of the babies... I seem to remember someone saying, I have come to proclaim healing...

Yes, and Zimababwe has plenty of food, fuel, and the healthiest economy in the world! Who the heck are you fooling!? Whilst your words may say one thing, we can see the truth. Was it not the Christ who said: I have come to preach good news to the poor.

Kliptown... As I watched the news this evening it might as well have been 30 years ago!! What I saw were scenes that reminded me of the kind of oppression we faced under the Apartheid government. Scores of police officers firing tear gas and rubber bullets at civilians who are expressing their dismay at poor service delivery. How quickly the liberator is turning into an oppressor. We have much work to do, and sadly the voice of the Church is silent. Yes, that same Jesus said: I have come to proclaim freedom...

Let us never forget!

Today I also heard double speak from within the Church. A document arrived for me, sent by three of my Methodist colleagues, the document encourages Christians to sign their names in support a view that excludes persons from the hospitality and generosity of God's loving grace. This double speaking document encourages Christians to declare that the Church should choose whom the God of grace wishes to bless... It says that certain persons are not welcomed by the open arms of Christ, that they are not accepted unconditionally. This document encourages Christians to exclude people, and to withhold blessing, in the name of the Christ who died to welcome and bless all people! This is double speak. This kind of ungracious exclusion is just two steps from the hate that led to the rape, torture, and murder of Sizakele and Simone in Soweto, on a Sunday, just two weeks ago... After all, if the Church says they're an abomination, and God doesn't love them, why shouldn't we kill them? Thankfully there is a Lord who said: He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted...

Thankfully there is great hope! Today that hope came from a magnificent and challenging sermon delivered by one of the senior students at our seminary, the Rev Christian Mokone. He reminded us of God's desire for mercy, justice, grace, and our responsibility to honour God through social holiness, before we claim that God is honoured by personal piety... Let your holiness be reflected in the society in which you live. Don't say that you love God, but don't love those whom God loves - that is double speak! Jesus came to:

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners, [a]

2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,

3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness
instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
a planting of the LORD
for the display of his splendor. (Isa 61:1-3)

Surely a Christ follower should actually follow the way of Christ? I pray for US! We are a sinful people, and I am a sinful person who wants to honour God both in what I say, and in what I do, and in how what I say and do helps other to passionately do what Jesus did. I pray that we would have enough love to love the people that Jesus loves... I want to belong to a Church that would much rather bless people, than bless their pets, that would much rather live the values of God's Kingdom than engage in empty words that try to draw lines, exclude, condemn, and limit God's grace.

Could God ever find glory in double speak? Hear what Amos had to say (Amos 8:4-12)

4 Hear this, you who trample the needy
and do away with the poor of the land,

5 saying,
"When will the New Moon be over
that we may sell grain,
and the Sabbath be ended
that we may market wheat?"—
skimping the measure,
boosting the price
and cheating with dishonest scales,

6 buying the poor with silver
and the needy for a pair of sandals,
selling even the sweepings with the wheat.

7 The LORD has sworn by the Pride of Jacob: "I will never forget anything they have done.

8 "Will not the land tremble for this,
and all who live in it mourn?
The whole land will rise like the Nile;
it will be stirred up and then sink
like the river of Egypt.

9 "In that day," declares the Sovereign LORD,
"I will make the sun go down at noon
and darken the earth in broad daylight.

10 I will turn your religious feasts into mourning
and all your singing into weeping.
I will make all of you wear sackcloth
and shave your heads.
I will make that time like mourning for an only son
and the end of it like a bitter day.

11 "The days are coming," declares the Sovereign LORD,
"when I will send a famine through the land—
not a famine of food or a thirst for water,
but a famine of hearing the words of the LORD.

12 Men will stagger from sea to sea
and wander from north to east,
searching for the word of the LORD,
but they will not find it.

Pray, work, love, and have the courage to live as Jesus did. My friends, there can be no greater passion, no greater sacrifice, no witness greater, than living as Jesus did... That's what is means to be a Christ follower!

Thursday
Jul122007

President George W Bush sings U2!

This is one of the best made, and funniest, videos that I have seen in ages!!!

Here goes - President George W Bush sings the U2 song "Sunday, bloody Sunday"

Amazing what you can do with iMovie and other important work waiting to be done! I imagine that this was done by some doctoral student who has a chapter of his / her thesis due in a day or two....

By they way, I watched Michael Moore's new movie "Sicko" last night... Whilst I'm sure we all agree that Mr Moore is not exactly what one would call an unbiased journalist who upholds the sanctity of journalistic integrity (if there is such a lofty ideal in contemporary news), the movie is challenging and thought provoking.

The question I have, is why does one of the world's richest countries make health care so inaccessible? Perhaps Capitalism, and greed, have so run through the America psyche that it is impossible to think about anyone but one's self! I fear that South Africa is only a few years behind... We are no better than the televangelists who make money from the pain and suffering of others if we allow such principles to permeate our society. I certainly see very little of the Kingdom of God present where the needy don't have enough, and the rich have more than they need!

Pray, work, there is a lot to be done. Faith is politics - we can change the world!

Tuesday
Jul102007

iHype over the iPhone...

So, the iPhone was released last week on Friday (well just over a week ago in fact). And, true to the Apple marketing strategy it was HUGE (the phone is quite small, but the release was huge). However, reviews have not been all that kind to the iPhone. It lacks some fairly important functionality (like a usable keyboard, the ability to take video clips (even though it has a camera and can take stills), marginal synchronisation with Microsoft outlook, and of course worst of all, it is locked to the American Cellular carrier AT&T! So, there's no chance that it will work here in South Africa...)

My friend Gus sent me this wonderful cartoon.... (Click on it to enlarge the picture).

I think it sums things up nicely. I guess, for now, I'll stick to my Treo 750... Sure, I need to reset it every time I want to use the Bible, it looses information, and Windows Mobile is cumbersome and slower than my late gran.... But, at least it works....

Come on Apple, help a brother.com!

Wednesday
Jul042007

Getting into the theological journey of a lifetime! You could never be the same again.

A friend of mine (zoob) emailed me this morning to ask for some advice about getting into Stanley Hauerwas. I thought I would post my response here. Once again, I would suggest that you cannot be a serious contemporary theologian without reading some Hauerwas! Come on, engage me on this!

Thanks for the mail. Wow, you are in for a spectacular ride!!! I would suggest that you simply cannot get by without getting yourself a copy of the 'Hauerwas Reader' Check out Angus' review here There is also a direct link from his post to order it from Kalahari. This book has a representative selection of his own essays and chapters from books, so it will give you a superb insight into his theology... In particular you should read the chapter in it which is entitled something like "Why gays (as a group) are morally superior to Christians (as a group)"... I don't have my book here with me in the office to give you the exact title. However he makes an incredibly creative argument for pacifism based on sexual orientation and US's hunger for war! Incredible!!!

Hauerwas is a MIND BEND! He will revolutionize your theology in a way you have not yet thought possible.

Another exceptional read is his Gifford lecture series called "With the grain of the Universe" (SCM Press, 2001). I would also suggest some reading for Easter, "The cross shattered Christ" (2007).

A fourth book to read is his 'festschrift' called "God truth and witness: Engaging Stanley Hauerwas" - Neville wrote a chapter in the book!!! How incredle is that!? In this chapter he relates Hauerwas ethics (and his notion of community and expression of his eclessiology) to what is happening in the Church in South Africa. An incredible read - it was the first time that I actually began to want to Barth by the way! Up to this point I had been a firm Kung and Rahner person.

If anyone else has some suggestions to make here (Wessel, Angus, Neville?) please post a comment. Blessings, D.

Tuesday
Jul032007

Two of my favourite doctorates!

On the left is my friend Wessel Bentley's Doctorate (received just a few days ago), on the right is mine (a year old now, so getting a bit stale! I need to get a new one....)


Well done Wes! I'm inspired, proud and encouraged! Have a good holiday!

Monday
Jul022007

The Pirillo effect!?

Have you ever heard of this guy Chris Pirillo? Apparently there is an effect called the 'Pirillo effect' which says that if you use Chris Pirillo's name more than three times in your blog post he will show up and post a comment. So, let's see if Chris Pirillo will do that for me!

By the way, for anyone who has iPhone lust and is looking for a few good reasons NOT to buy one then watch this video of Christ Pirillo 'ranting' about the iphone...(the best reason I have so far is that they are not sold in South Africa, and even if they were, they only run on AT&T, so there is no way we could use them here)

If you watch the video let me know what you think. Doesn't he remind you of a young Woody Allen!? Thanks Chris! Now post a comment on my blog please!

Sunday
Jul012007

the eternal question


I love this photo! Good question. What do you think?