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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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Tuesday
Aug152006

I don't want to make light of a serious situation, but......

Yesterday we bid farewell to the last of our three guests from Cambridge. They were in the uncomfortable position of having to travel home with no carry on hand luggage! Can you imagine!? At least their flight was not cancelled (unlike our American visitors from Duke who were caught in the SAA strike this time last year and had a two week delay).

It seems BA's got problems! Here's why -

I thought it was funny...

Monday
Aug142006

The game is called 'Name that monument'....

Yup, today I went to this mysterious monument... I affectionately call it the world's largest jelly mold.

So Murray and Gina, Richard and Michelle (UK), Ross and Shayne (US), and all the other folks from foreign lands. Can you name the monument?

I took our Cambridge visitors to show them what just the right amount of religion and the wrong amount of social ideology can get people to do. It is fascinating really. I wonder how many kids have 'hocked a loogie' from the top of this one? Kinda makes you think!?

PS. please excuse the quality of the photo... It was taken on my cell phone.

Saturday
Aug122006

MAC vs PC (Viruses)

Ha ha! This Video is GREAT! As many of you would know, Professor Bentley (for whom we have endowed a chair - sure it is only a plastic garden chair, but we feel he is worth it!) and I are Mac evangelists... I can say that we are 'Evangelists', because, of course God does uses a Mac. Just like God supports the Stormers! Anyway, I digress.

I do pray for PC users.... The theodicy of it will become much clearer once you have watched this clip!

Come one, let's start a flame war!!! (Google it if you're not sure what a flame war is)!

Many Mac blessings to you and yours,

Dion

Friday
Aug112006

Did God create THE world? Or, does God create YOUR world?

I call this debate 'majoring in minors'... Again today I was confronted by someone who is so committed to creation theory that he is missing God at work in the rest of his life.

He believes fundamentally that Genesis chapter 1 gives the account of God's creation (past tense) of the world. Hence, the purpose of this passage of scripture for him had to do with an act of God in history... It is a record of a fact that took place somewhere in the past.

Wouldn't it be so sad if that was all that this text could have to say, a dry dead fact about an unchanging historical event that took place very long ago?

Of course he knew nothing about the context of Genesis 1 (never mind the fact that the same Bible - if read in the way he insisted on reading it - contained a contradictory account of creation just one chapter later in Genesis 2). He had not bothered to actually READ the text, rather he wanted to tell it what to say! It HAD to fit his modern view of scientific creation theory, it didn't matter that it was written for a group of people in exile, in a strange land, living in slavery and chaos. No, he wanted it to be about history and science! What good would this text be to suffering people who are doubting their faith?

For those who have not yet heard about the real context of Genesis 1, please go and read about the context in which it was written by reading Psalm 137 (this was written at the same time, in the same exilic context as the creation Narative of Genesis 1). Here you have a group of people, confused, lives in chaos, struggling to find and see God, or God's hand, struggling to hear God's voice! And so they say "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?"

It is in answer to this question, over and against their context of exile and slavery, being polluted by the Babylonian creation myths of Marduch (yup google Marduch), the author of Genesis 1 preaches this GREAT sermon about God's power, God's order in chaos, God's powerful voice to speak life out of nothingness! Isn't that a great message? Doesn't that sound so much more like God? God is much more interested in creating truth, meaning and real living IN YOUR LIFE, rather than giving a book of history about the events of the creation of THE world.

Sure, God is interested in THE world... However, I can assure you God is SO much more interested in YOUR world!

Oh, how I wish we would stop majoring in minors! It is time that we stop just reading the bible (telling it what we want to hear), perhaps we should allow the text to read us!

Let's hear some comment, is Genesis 1 about history, God's creation of THE world? Or, is it about God reaching into your life, a place where you may feel like a stranger, exiled in a strange and unfamiliar land; maybe you are enslaved, empty, no longer able to sing the Lord's song in a "strange land"? Perhaps, it is more about God's creation of YOUR world, rather than just THE world....

It kind of makes me think. How about you?

Oh, and yes Gus, this was typed in Dr Jennings' last lecture. Wasn't it GREAT?!

Monday
Aug072006

Praise and worship! Who needs it!?

G.K. Chesterton once said,

"Trying to glorify God is like lighting a candle to glorify the sun. The candle's nice, but the sun doesn't need it."

Have you ever thought why we praise God? Some Christians treat praise as if God needs a 'weekly ego boost', something akin to saying "Who's da man? You da man!" How condescending!

God loves praise! But, I think the reason why God loves praise is not because God needs an ego boost. Rather, it is because true praise is an encounter with truth!

I have come to discover that praise is much less about God, and much more about me - it is God's gift to me. When we praise God we are simply declaring a truth about who God is - powerful, creative, actively engaged, and of course loving! This proclamation of truth is intended to change you (and me of course)!

When we truly believe the praises we declare, it reminds us who God is, and of course what that truth means for the one who is 'truly' praising.

I am often confused by the kind intellectualal snobbery that becries the shallowness of contemporary worship - as if the eloquencece of liturgy, or the rich imaginative engagement of contemplation, are the only creative ways of being encountered by God. Somehow I think such snobbery misses the point of praise. We don't need to flatter God, we need to find creative ways of actively engaging people with the truth, more expressly with the one true God. This will mean different things for different people.

I love contemporary worship - sometimes the theology is not so hot... But, then I seldom approach worship in the same way that I approach marking a Doctoral Thesis. They are different things, they have different purposes.

Worship, particularly extatic, emotive, engaging worship (in whatever form it takes) is intended to move the truth of who God is from the mind to the heart. Sometimes it won't be entirely sensible, but the emotive experience and discovery of the truth of who God is reminds me just how wonderful God is. I approach God to declare God's goodness, and in return God helps me - not just to know it, but to feel it.

Isn't praise a wonderful gift!? The next time you feel the need to diminish someone else's experience of worship, take a few moments to think what truth they may be encountering, and ask God to give you a glimpse of that. Who knows you may just receive a fresh measure of grace... you may just be challenged to realise that praise may just has something to do with your further discovery of truth!?

Friday
Aug042006

Optometrics revisited

Doctor, I have a problem, my left eye sees 5 Megapixels, while my right eye only sees VGA!?

From time to time one realises that the points of reference that we have held to be certain for some time are in need of an update (much like how we use and interpret scripture - e.g., very few Christians would accept that the ownership of slaves is acceptable, even though the notion is supported in certain texts in the New and Old Testaments).

The cartoon above illustrated just how this shift needs to take place from time to time - it is an update to optometric science!

Friday
Aug042006

The power of religion... Sometimes good, sometimes bad.

Today I was back at the Apartheid Museum in South Africa with some visitors that are teaching at John Wesley College (from Left to Right are Dr Willie Jennings (Academic Dean of Duke Divinity School, Professor of Theology), the Revd Joanne Brown-Jennings (to whom Willie is married), myself (in my Duke sweat-shirt), and Dr Jane Leach (Director of Pastoral Theology at Wesley House, Cambridge University).

Each time that I go I am struck by something different. This time I was struck by the image below. It shows so clearly the power of religion. At times faith can be a source of great hope and comfort (as it is for millions of people in South Africa). At other times it is the source of enslavement and oppression. The caption on this image (a display in the Apartheid Museum) is:

Piet falls asleep with Bible on his face. Africans say: "When the Europeans came, they had the Bible and we had the land. Now we have the Bible and they have our land".

Makes one think. We have so much to repent of. As I think about it the faith is so often abused to enslave and abuse people (to judge, to exclude, to dissempower, to impoverish). In some ways Christianity has been quite vulnerable to the forces of power and abuse. However, there is something in that vulnerability that makes it so powerful to change. It is a faith that can identify with the powerless and the needy, a faith that can understand what it is to be misunderstood and misrepresented. It is a powerful faith that is born out of weakness.

This is why I love Christ. I am loved not because I am in any way worthy, or because I have status, or because I have power over others. No, I am loved because I am weak, I am fragile, I am open to being abused; and even more so because I am open to the sin of abusing others. I am human, and Christ is humane.

As Gregory of Nazianzus, the Eastern Parent of our faith once wrote against the Apollinarians:

That which is not assumed is not redeemed.

The word 'assumed' is similar to the Greek word used in Ephesians 1:10, the word that Irenaeus used in the formulation of the Doctrine of recapitulation (anakephalaiosis[GR]). It means to take in, to consume, to share in, to incarnate, to enter into...

Athanasius wrote in a similar vein that,

God became human so that we might become God.

(for those who have not YET done Systematic Theology 1, this process is known as 'divinisation' or 'theosis' - and NO, it is not a heresy! God longs for us to become more like God). As we become more deeply committed to God in Christ, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we come to resemble God more fully. But it also means that as God enters into our world (to draw us onto God's self), Christ takes on all of our sin and brokenness. This is a huge risk!

God loves us as much as we need Christ. Isn't that amazing? A vulnerable God, caring for us through a vulnerable faith. I love loving Christ! Even more than that, I love being loved by a loving Christ!

Saturday
Jul292006

Ever wonder how the internet works?

Some of you may have been aware that the US Senate House Committee on Internet Regulation has been debating a bill called 'Net Nuetrality'.

In short, the bill aims to allow internet service providers to charge a higher rate for certain content downloads (like Video on demand). The reasoning behind it is that certain larger companies are clogging up the internet by sending huge video files to users, thus preventing normal traffic (such as email and regular web browsing) to take place.

Sounds sensible...

But then, in true Republican style, they put a an ancient old man who has probably never even SEEN a computer, let alone used the internet, in charge of investigating this bill.

Here is the result. It is hilarious!

Check out www.savetheinternet.com if you're passionate about a free internet!

Sunday
Jul232006

Mvume Dandala - World Methodist Council keynote address on Reconciliation

Dr Mvume Dandala, a past Presiding Bishop of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, now the President of the All Africa Council of Churches, delivered an extremely challenging keynote address.

He pulled no punches, addressing issues such as exploitation of Africa by rich and powerful nations, the pandemic of HIV / AIDS and the Church's lack of concern for true unity and reconciliation.

You can download the address here: Mvume Dandala's Keynote address (22.5MB's).

Saturday
Jul222006

What more can be said?

This morning we had a plenery session in which Archbishop Elias Chacour was to be the speaker. However, the Archbishop, who lives in Galilee, has decided not to come to Korea since he feels compelled to remain with his congregation.

A missile exploded less than 100m from his car. Yesterday 28 people in his Church died during bombing. What a sad and senseless war!
My friend Angus sent me the following cartoon - it says so much.

Please pray for both Israel and Lebanon.

Here is some information about Fr Chacour.

The Rev. Elias Chacour, a Palestinian-born Israeli citizen and priest in the Melkite Catholic Church.... Chacour, who has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize three times (1986, 1989 and 1994), has been an international ambassador for Middle East peace through non-violence for more than 30 years. He is president and founder of Mar Elias Educational Institutions, a school for young people from a variety of faith traditions in Ibillin, a small Arab village in the Galilee region of Israel.

Born in Arab Palestine in 1939, Chacour became a deportee and refugee at the age of 8 when his entire village was evicted by Israeli authorities. He was granted Israeli citizenship in 1948. He, along with his Palestinian Christian family, was a member of the Melkite Catholic Church, an Eastern Byzantine Church in communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1965, Chacour was appointed priest of the village church, the Church of St. Joseph, in Ibillan. At the time, there were few educational opportunities for Palestinian youth beyond the eighth grade. Chacour responded to this need by creating Mar Elias Educational Institutions in the early 1980s.

He earned a Bachelor of Arts in theology and Bible studies at Saint Sulpice and the Sorbonne University in Paris. In 1968, Chacour became the first Arab to study Bible and Talmud at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He earned a doctorate in Ecumenical Theology at the University of Geneva in 1971 and has received a number of honorary degrees from several prestigious universities.

Chacour has received many international peace awards for his work, including the prestigious World Methodist Peace Award in 1994; the Niwano Peace Award from Japan in 2001; the Italian Dante Alighieri Human Rights Award in 2002; and the First Mediterranean Peace Award from the Fondazione Laboratorio Mediterraneo in Naples in 2003.

He is the author of two books, "Blood Brothers" and "We Belong to the Land." "Blood Brothers" has been translated into more than 20 different languages.

Taken from http://www.wfu.edu/wfunews/2005/010705f.html

Friday
Jul212006

Trevor Hudson - World Methodist Council, Seoul Bible Study 'Listening for the groans'


Here is a superb Bible study presented by the Revd Trevor Hudson of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.

It is inspiring, challenging, and a wonderful word for the Churches. The chosen text is Romans 8:22-27.

Trevor Hudson's Bible study (15MB's).

Thursday
Jul202006

Can you guess what the great news is?

Hey friends, here is a picture to take a look at. Can you guess what the great news is?

Praise God! Megie and I are going to be having another baby!!! Well, in fact only Megie will be having the baby - I'll be the one beaming from ear to ear holding her hand!

This scan was taken today. The baby is healthy and growing. Megie, on the other hand, is a bit green in the gills in the mornings and evenings. Please pray for her.

We found out about a month ago that she is pregnant. Megie is now just short of 12 weeks along! Please be praying for us all (3 and a quarter).