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  • 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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Saturday
May122007

Objectionable... Thanks for the prayers... Keep praying!

Update 7 October 2009

Today I was contacted by two readers of my blog who sent me an email raising concern about a picture that was taken of a statue of Paul Kruger ('Oom Paul') in Rustenberg some years ago (May 2007).  The statue of Oom Paul had a bottle of alcohol which some passer by had obviously placed in his hand during the previous night.  One of the commentators asked why I did not remove the bottle instead of taking a picture.  I'm afraid that was not possible since the statue is behind a barred fence and is raised.  I would not have been able to reach it.

Notwithstanding, I concede that I made an inappropriate remark by suggesting that the statue, with bottle in hand, made 'Oom Paul' appear intoxicated.  In my desire to be Christlike, as a peace-maker, I have removed both the image and the comment from this post and I apologize to the two gentlemen who contacted me to request that I remove the remark and picture (I have not named them here since their requests to me were not public but sent via email - if they give their permission I will gladly publish their names).  I also apologize to anyone else who may have been offended by my remark.

The original post of 12 May 2007 continues below.

Right, now back to SYNOD. Thank you for your prayers for our meetings this week. I am pleased to say, that whilst they were not easy, I do feel that they turned out very well in the end. Of course, victory seldom comes without cost.

Firstly, 19 of our ministers were suspended for some part of their SYNOD in Cape Town for taking a stand on the issue of officiating at same sex unions. You can read the official SABC news release here.

My friend Wessel also has some news on the events in our SYNOD. I would encourage you to read his blog as well.

As many of you know, I am an inclusive and affirming Christian. In short, I believe that scripture says much more about justice, love, and grace, than it does about sexuality. Moreover, Jesus clearly shows that we as Christians need to reach to those who are marginalized, rejected, and on the fringes of society. Moreover, Megan and I have come to know and love many friends, and some family, who have a same sex orientation and are deeply committed to Christ. For some years now I have been part of a group within our denomination that has been trying to encourage the Church to have a far more open and affirming stance towards persons of a same sex orientation. I do sincerely believe that Christ would want all persons to be part of the body of Christ. It is a sad indictment upon the Gospel when we exclude anyone from Christ's love and grace! I do not expect every other Christian to feel the same as I do. However, I certainly would want to have the freedom and privilege of extending Christ's grace to, and not be curtailed or stopped from doing so by the Church itself.

Moreover, I have served on Methodist Church's 'doctrine ethics and worship commission' (DEWCOM) which is charged with helping the Church to formulate it's doctrine and beliefs. (You can read some of the papers and working documents that we have produced here) In particular, Wessel and I were the authors of our Church's current position of 'ecclesiastical unity in Christ', that affirms that even though there are persons with different viewpoints about sexuality, we have faith in one and the same Lord, and so we choose to 'sit with one another around the table of Christ'. In short we compiled the responses we received from a discussion document, did the theology, and then wrote the following report for Conference.

I would sincerely encourage that you read this report before making up your mind about either this issue in relation to our Church, or my stance on it.

Same sex response MCSA Conference 2005.doc

In short, as a result of this position, I (together with clergy throughout the country, including the 19 in Cape Town) tabled a resolution asking that the Church allow those of us who feel compelled to offer ministry to, and in particular seek God's blessing for, same sex couples to be allowed to do so. The motion was defeated.

However, I was so encouraged by the nature and spirit of the debate that took place around the issue. One of the saddest things for me is when Christians attack one another over issues such as this. This was not the case in our SYNOD, however, the outcome is that I have an objection against my name on the matter of our Church's discipline and doctrine (in other words, I had to register a qualified acceptance of the 'questions of discipline' - indicating that I believe, teach, and uphold our Church's doctrine with some qualifications). This position arises from a complex and conflicted process. In short whilst our Conference has allowed us to act in accordance with our conscience, a 'lower decision making body' of the Church (the Connexional executive) tried to override the decision of the 'higher body', Conference, and forbid us to conduct blessings for same sex couples. Whilst I don't want to debate the issue of blessing same sex couples, I did make the point that a lower body of the Church cannot override a higher body. However, the argument was not carried, and so as a matter of conscience I had to give a qualified response to 'the questions'.

Unlike our colleagues in the Cape of Good Hope District, I was however not suspended. Bishop Taylor (who is the chair of the Limpopo District SYNOD in which I was for most of this week) was both wise and gracious in dealing with this matter, and asked that the SYNOD not make any ruling, or request any discipline, until a higher body that the SYNOD (in this case that would be Connexional Executive, or the Conference of the MCSA that meets in August) has ruled on the matter. However, being weary of the unpredictability of our Church's leadership (which I believe was the reason why the 19 ministers in the Cape were so quickly recused from SYNOD), and being the only minister who took this stance in our SYNOD, I fear that I may still face some measure of discipline in the next few days or weeks. So please do be pray for all of the ministers in the MCSA who will face objections as a result of their conscience, believing that Christ loves all persons regardless of sexual orientation. Please also pray for our Church as we seek to find Christ's will in this regard and at the same time remain in loving fellowship with one another.

In particular I want to applaud some colleauges, who at this stage, have made a significant contribution to helping the Church understand the importance of this issue. They are,

Rev Paul Oosthuizen (a first year student minister), Rev Angus Kelly (a third year student minister), Reverends Brian and Dianne Moodie (the only two persons who took a stand in their SYNOD), Rev Wessel Bentley, Rev Mike Durrant, Rev Dr Neville Richardson, Rev Sifiso Khuzwayo, Rev Lynn Walter, Rev Sidwell Mokgothu, and Rev Rudyard Harrison (members of the Limpopo SYNOD who supported the resolution). And then I also want to honour the Rev Dave Morgan, who affirmed and encouraged me, even though he is a proponent of the opposite view to which I subscribe. He truly encouraged me by displaying grace, and Christian love.

We still have a number of SYNODs meeting in the next two weeks. Please continue to pray about this matter!

Lastly, I had the privilege of going from the Limpopo District SYNOD in Rustenburg, to preach at the Highveld and Swaziland District SYNOD meeting in Brakpan this morning. Let me just say, that it was a wonderful honour and joy to share with this SYNOD, however, the greatest joy was the fact that my friend Juan Smith, was accepted for Ordination to the Ministry of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Well done Juan! It has been many long years of hard work, dedicated training, and love for Christ and his Church!

Here is the sermon I preached as a charge to the Ordinands and SYNOD, if anyone is interested to read it:

Forget what is behind strain for what is ahead May 2007 Highveld and Swaziland SYNOD 2007.doc

Wednesday
May092007

Please pray!

This week the SYNOD's of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa begin to meet in venues throughout the country.

There are many very important issues that will be presented, discussed, debated, and decided. Please pray for our students who will do oral examinations (particularly the Ordinands who will give their testimony and progress towards ordination, and the Candidates who will give their testimony and begin their training towards the ordained ministry).

Please pray for the Bishops who will lead us. Please pray for the faithful people who will come. And, please pray in particular for those who think that they cannot be one with those who do not agree with them. Please pray that we will be one, and remain one, so that the world may believe.

Please pray for me, I need the love of Christ, and His grace, to always consider others better than myself (Phil 2:3) and to grow toward having the same mind as that of Christ (Rom 2:5).

Please pray...

Sunday
May062007

So, how do you rate!?

According to the intraweb (available soon on a stiffy disk at a store near you) I am this clever:

How smart are you?

AND worth this much:

How much are you worth?

Any offers!? I wonder how many people actually base their true worth, or rate their intellect, by such tests? Scary!

I found these tests when I saw a project movie of a guy who took a photograph of himself every day for 6 years! You can check out his site here: http://www.c71123.com/

Here's the Video from Youtube:

Check out your scores and let me know... perhaps we could trade a few brain cells to pay towards my motorcycle fund!?

Friday
May042007

The weekend and shaving... The picture says it all!


Give me 5 minutes, my Apple Macbook, Comiclife (and NO razor blades) and this is what you get...

All is well with the world! Megie is flying back from Cape Town, Liam and Courts are well taken care of (when Megie left for Cape Town this morning Courtney and I tossed a coin to see who would get to care for the top part of Liam (feeding) and who would care for the bottom part (... Nappies...) She drew the short straw, yet somehow I still ended up caring for both ends)! Ha ha! It's enough to put hair on your chin!

Tuesday
May012007

Me on my the 'Orange bomber', my 1968 Orange VLB Vespa Sprint


Here is a picture of me on my 1968 Vespa VLB 150cc. I think she is looking great, and she sure is running great! (Click on the image to enlarge it).

The photo was taken by Professor Jan van der Watt, a very famous New Testament scholar with a speciality in Johannine literature (particularly John's Gospel). I edit all of his manuscripts for publication. We also share in a radio program on 'Radio Pulpit', a Christian radio station that broadcasts in South Africa.

He is the REAL scholar on the show - I think they asked me to come on because I am English speaking (whilst Prof van der Watt is Afrikaans speaking), and I have a doctorate.... Sure, I know a few things about the Bible. However, I always have to take my laptop with me and access the Libronix software (Logos) for the finer etymology of the Greek and Hebrew words, and some of the socio-cultural, socio-historical, and syntactical intricacies of the text.

Our program is intended to help people read and use the bible responsibly (i.e., to avoid fundamentalism and literalism that often causes religious bigotary, abuse, and struggle). The program is called 'Do you understand what you're reading?' (Verstaan jy wat jy lees?) People get to phone in and ask questions about the socio-cultural background to texts, the original Hebrew or Greek translations, and some of the theological issues that are presented and dealt with in different books and texts.

Anyway, back to the Vespa, I ride her just about everywhere in Pretoria! I ride between my seminary campus and the two other Universities where I teach (the University of Pretoria, where I teach New Testament, and the University of South Africa, where I teach Systematic Theology and Ethics). She (that is my Vespa, fondly known as the 'Orange bomber') is SUCH A STUNNER! She always starts on the first kick (when it is cold) and NEVER starts with the kick start when she is warm - I'm not sure why... These, my friends, are the mysteries of the faith.... ;-) Hey, but it is always fun watching this doctor pushing her down the tarmac to get her up and running! Truly dignified... It is so great to drive her through the city, there are no traffic worries, and parking on campus is also never a problem.

Wednesday
Apr252007

What is the 'emerging church'?

My friend Arthur, who is the Children's Pastor at Bryanston Methodist Church, sent me an email about the emerging Church. WOW Art, this blows my mind! AND...., your blog needs updating.....

What is the emerging Church? Here's a quote from the paper you can download below:

Perhaps a little Mark Twain tomfoolery will give us a fresh start. Here's the urban legend: The emerging movement talks like Lutherans - which means they cuss and use naughty words; they evangelize and theologize like the Reformed - which means, in the first case, they don't do much of it, and in the second, they do it all the time; they confess their faith like the mainliners - which means they say things publicly they don't really believe in their hearts; they drink like Episcopalians - which means - to steal some words from Mark Twain - they are teetotalers sometimes - when it is judicious to be one; they worship like the charismatics - which means with each part of the body, some parts of which have tattoos; they vote liberal - which means they all move to Massachusetts come election time; they deny truth - which means Derrida is carried in their backpacks.


Ha! Isn't that GREAT! I loved the bit about worshiping with every part of the body, "some of which have tattoos"!

Download Scot McKnight's address to the Westminster Theological Seminary on the emerging Church here. (Gus, you and I will enjoy this guy, he is a progressive New Testament scholar! Very few of those around! Except you and I of course ;-)

Wes, I would love to hear your learned thoughts (being a Doctor of the ecclesiological arts yourself).

The article is a GREAT read, and certainly resonates with my idea of what the Church should be! I will be using some of this when I preach at the Highveld and Swaziland SYNOD of the Methodist Church in a few weeks!

Wednesday
Apr252007

Some Vespa porn!

For those who love style, reliability, the ability to carry a backpack, a laptop, a dataprojector, a Greek New Testament, an analytical Greek Lexicon with semantic domains, a Greek dictionary, a few Biblical commentaries, classwork handouts, and student marking, all on a motorbike that you can ride without messing up your shoes! (How's that for a sentence! It is almost Barthian, or Rahnerian!)....

Here are one or two pictures of my babies... Well one of them is still mine.

In this picture you can see my VW Polo as well! The amazing thing about her (the VW) is that she is almost as economical as the Vespa's! Diesel is the only way to go. When, oh when, will they make a diesel Vespa!? Or an orange VW Polo (just kidding)!
Oh, and did I mention that it is a sin to covet?! My students love my Orange Vespa! I ride the one in the picture above (on the right) to College every day! Even when I am preaching in Chapel, I will ride up to chapel on it, often with my guitar, books and marking for the day, dressed in a clerical collar and jacket! It is quite a sight. I have joked with them, saying that we need to petition the Presiding Bishop to make in mandatory for ALL Methodist clergy to drive ONLY Vespas! Hey Pete and Greg, what do you guys think? Pete, I have managed to convince Wessel, how about it, are you willing to give up the TAAAAIIIIIGGGGGRRRRRR for a Vespa?

I also think that Gus should get one (I used to ride my black 1972 VBB all over Fraschhoek and Stellenbosch), so should Murray (fuel prices are too high in England! Oh, and I couldn't find my link to your blog, would you mind posting it in the comments if you get a chance?), and of course Sharky Buttner.... If you live in Cape Town, you NEED a Vespa!!!

PS. If you want to follow a recent convert to Vespaism, check out Wessel's Vespa restoration page.

Tuesday
Apr242007

A biased perspective... An attempt at reading the scritupres through a women's eyes - Women and ministry.

I am seldom without an opinion... Or at least that's what Megie tells me! Ha ha.

Last week on Friday I combined my New Testament 2 class (with whom I am currently doing an introduction to the Pauline and pseudo-Pauline epistles and letters), and my Systematic Theology 1 class (with whom I am currently doing contextual theologies, such a liberation theology, feminist theology, and black theology).

We got together to study the topic of 'women in the ministry'. For those who are not familiar with the debate - two thirds of the Christians (that is Roman Catholic Christians) do not accept the ordination of women to presbuteral ministry i.e., they will not ordain women as priests. Moreover, for those who know anything about African culture, you will know that African men (particularly Xhosa and Zulu men) who hold to their ancient traditions are very patriarchal. This often means that women have a great deal to contend with when they enter the ministry in South Africa, not only do they have to face opposition from other Christian denominations, they also face cultural opposition.

So, here's what I did. I brought my two classes together. Just less than half of the students in these two classes are women. I then gave them an opportunity to prepare a debate on women in the ministry. However, I got the women to argue that women SHOULD NOT be allowed to be ordained, and the men to argue that WOMEN MUST be ordained to ministry. It was a lively and creative interaction!

Here is a little paper that I wrote to hand out to the students.

Women in Ministry 2007.doc (it is a small document in MS Word format).

It is an attempt at approaching the scriptures from a womanist perspective (in other words, I attempt to read the scriptures with the perspective of women who are called to ministry in mind).

Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject, and on the paper!

Blessings,

Dion

Tuesday
Apr242007

Liam the GREAT has a bath!

I uploaded the Video below onto youtube this evening. It is a video of Liam the great having a bath! So, for the more sensitive, and prudish, not that this video contains nudity (you'll see a naked 5 month old guy! Oh the shame!!!) Ha ha.

Take a look at how fat his little tummy is getting, and you'll even get a glimpse of Liam's little smile!

(PS. since this is a youtube video it does not need to load completely to play... So if you are on narrowband internet, just set it started and come back in a few minutes, move the slider to the start of the movie and you should be able to watch it without any problems).

As mentioned in the previous post, little Liam now weighs just over 5 kilograms (that's 5 times his birth weight). And he is perfect in every possible way!

Have a great week!

Wednesday
Apr182007

MAD dash!! But a happy dash!

Cape Town, JHB, Pretoria, East Rand, Soweto, Kempton Park, Durban, Boksburg, Bryanston, Soweto, JHB Central, PTA Central.... A total of 8 hours stuck in traffic in two days, about 16 hours just this week (between JHB and PTA - only 50km's!) A total of 11 hours waiting at airports.... AND, all this in just one week! Luckily I can send email, and make phone calls from my car.

Sometimes my life feels like a 'merry go round', lots of action, a fair bit of movement, but at the end of day I seem to get off in the same place I got on! I got back from the Airport late last night, was up early this morning to try and get a headstart on the day. The week is not over yet! It is off to Kempton this afternoon for ANOTHER meeting (after two meetings this morning), then a few hours in the traffic on the way home. Then once Megie, Courts and Liam are sleeping it is prep for tomorrow, catch up on some marking...

The weekend looks pretty much the same, Class groups at 7am, staff meeting at 9am, teach at 11am, wedding rehearsal in JHB at 3pm on Friday, Graduation in JHB on Saturday morning, Wedding at 3pm, wedding reception, then home to sleep at 11pm ish, sleep from 12 - 4am to get back to JHB to preach at Bryanston at just before 7am, then again at 8.30am, and again at 10.15am, back to Pretoria to change, back to JHB to preach at the evening service at 6.30 pm (just over 4 hours in the car in one day. That is of course if the traffic flows, which it does most Sundays), home by 10pm, sleep, wake up to get to Chapel on Monday morning by 6.45am...

Another week begins!

HOWEVER, on Thursday I leave the office (with the customary marking, some reading, and a small tad of writing), and drive to Durban for the long weekend with my fantastic family! Bliss, glorious bliss!

I often pray "Lord, I give my WHOLE life as a gift to you. Spend me generously and lavishly for the sake of your Kingdom". I don't mind being busy... It keeps me from distraction, it helps me feel that I am adding value somewhere, that I am helping to establish God's Kingdom in some places.

Of course I do jealously guard time with my family! Even if I travel somewhere in the Country, I always try to be home before Courtney goes to bed (even if it means that I must wake up at earlier to get to my destination earlier, in order to fly back earlier). I am also pleased to say that no matter how busy my day is, I still pray, read the scriptures, and spend some time in quiet (my friends Peter Woods, Peter Grassow, and Kevin Needham have taught me those disciplines). AND, whenever I can, I find the most creative and enjoyable way of getting to and from meetings - whether it means sadling up my Vespa steed, or listening to Top of the Pods (the VERY best podcast on the intraweb) on my iPod!

So, I am busy, but I am happy! It's the way I like it. If only I could do something about the TRAFFIC!!!

Monday
Apr092007

Easter MIRACLES!!! This one's for you Janet!

Happy Easter everyone! I pray that it was a time of renewal and rediscovery for you.

I had the great honour of preaching an Easter Mission entitled 'The week that changed the world could change your life'. I preached the following messages from Palm Sunday to Wednesday (and I've thrown in my Easter Sunday message from Bryanston Methodist Church for good measure):

1. Sunday morning services Growing like Christ: God's unexpected tools for maturing people.
2. Sunday evening Christ the King: Is God ever satisfied?
3. Monday evening Easter's empty promises.
4. Tuesday evening Judas Christ's most honest and successful disciple! Coping with failure and living without regret.
5. Wednesday Evening Prayer under pressure: There's a lesson in the tone of Christ's voice.
6. Easter Sunday The hope of Victory: More certain than death and taxes!

We had an incredible response to the mission! It was such a joy to be with Les Green and his wonderful people. I am always overwhelmed by the generosity and grace of God's people. I was so lovingly received and richly affirmed by them.

OK, now onto our little Miracle! Janet gently reminded me just recently in a comment on this blog that I haven't given an update on little Liam in a while. Well, he is doing so well!!!!! He now weights just under 5kg's and is 5 months old. He has had 3 of his synergis injections (so one leg is worth R20 000 and the other is worth R10 000!) So, 3 more to go! He has responded well to the injections and has been infection free. Thank you so much to all those who have prayed for us, offered us support, and donated towards the cost of these life saving injections. We appreciate it all so much. You may never know how much! Hey Wes!!! What can I say? You're a gift and a miracle of God's grace to us!

Sometimes we forget just how far we have come over the last 5 months. Take a look at this photo that was taken just after his birth.


Look how little and frail he was!

The picture on the right was taken just after his birth. He was so tiny! Now, however, he looks like a REAL baby!!! He is quite heavy to hold and such a strong and robust little guy.

What is even more wonderful is that he has started to SMILE!! All parents will remember those first smiles from their kids. Liam has been a little late in getting to his smiles, but when he finally got there it was the most incredible and wonderful sight in the world! It melts my heart (and my brain! Dr Dad goes 'goo goo, gaa gaa, choo' all day long, just in the hope of getting him to smile).

How COOL is this!? Look at that smile. Isn't Liam looking great? Not only does he smile like this, he has also started to 'churtle' a bit. It sounds fantastic and it just blesses us so much to get this type of response out of him.

Megie, Courtney, and Liam spent the Easter Weekend with Megie's folks, Brian and Brenda, who have moved to Hilcrest in Kwazulu Natal (I on the other hand had a bit of work to do, but was also ill, so it was just as well that I couldn't go with them). This photo was taken at their new place (Megie went down with her mom to help her to unpack and visit with them in their new home). So, this was Liam's first trip to the coast. He LOVED the sea. Megie put his feet in the water and he couldn't get enough! A water baby!

Courtney also loved it at the sea! She is constantly nagging Megie and I to 'move back' to our home in Cape Town! Wouldn't that be great!? Here's a picture Courts sitting on the beach (she is growing up FAR too quickly!!! Just look at this pose! Even though I am a 'Gun Free' campaigner I need to start saving for a shotgun!)


I am so blessed with these wonderful people that God allows me the joy of sharing my life with. Megie is a wonder. I am more in love with her day after day! Please pray for her as she prepares to go back to work full time at the end of this month (she has been back in the office a few times a week already for the past few weeks, but I know it is going to be heart wrenching when the time comes for her to go back full time. So please do pray for her!) Courts goes back to school on Tuesday after her Easter break. So it will be morning rides on the Vespa! Yipee. Although it is starting to get a bit colder now, so we will have to wrap up to stay warm.

Some personal news from me is that I am starting my second Doctorate in the coming weeks. I have been toying with the idea for a few months now, spoken to a few friends, colleagues and advisors, and have decided to get going rather than waste anymore time thinking about it. Yup, you read correctly, I am starting a second Doctorate. I will share some of the reasons and motivation behind this as it unfolds. For now I simply need to say, I cannot cope without studying! I need to read, I need to be challenged to think beyond what is commonplace, and I need a bit of extra pressure to write! Plus I still don't sleep all that well and I need something more worthwhile and stimulating to do with late nights and early mornings! I also love reading the Bible and have been wanting to take my New Testament studies further at a more critical level. So, this one's going to be in New Testament (at this stage anyway).

Well, there you go. That's the news Forsterdom!

Saturday
Mar312007

Gunze screen driver for the Sony Vaio U70p

For all my friends on the Sony Vaio U group, here is the link to the GUNZE screen driver for the U750 (as posted to the group).

Click HERE to download.

Let me know if it doesn't work.

Here are some other drivers I managed to find. I think they are all of the U50 and U70, so they may work on the U70p. I have never had to use them so I am not sure what they do, or even if they work! I noticed that the site from which I originally got them has pulled the drivers. So, if they don't work I'm afraid I can't offer any further help!

Click HERE for the U50 / U70 drivers.