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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
Jun122007

A fun little Bible Quiz!


Think you've got more brains than Homer!? I was sent the little Bible Quiz below by my good wife Megan!

It is a tiny little Java application, so simply click on the link below, it will open in a new page, follow the instructions, then come back to let us all know how well you know the Bible!

If you ask REALLY nicely I'll tell you how I scored (let's just say for the more Theologically astute among us, my Marcionite leanings were exposed).

Click HERE to start the Quiz.

Blessings,

D

Tuesday
Jun122007

A resource for Society Stewards and Circuit Stewards (sometimes called Elders) in Methodist Churches

I have just completed writing up a little resource for Society Stewards and Circuit Stewards (sometimes called Elders) in Methodist Churches.

This document is an attempt at laying a foundational theology for the ministry of these important lay persons in our Methodist Churches. My document draws on four primary sources (all listed of course):

1. Tim Attwell's ecclesiology paper for DEWCOM.

2. My document that discusses orders of ministry (with particular reference to Ordained Deacons in the MCSA), also prepared for DEWCOM.

3. A superb little booklet written by Ken Leverton (from which almost the entire last point comes) - "Your ministry as a Steward" Leverton, K, 1996:21. Methodist Publishing House. Cape Town. Sadly this little booklet is currently out of print (hence the need for my little document).

4. The Laws and Discipline of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (10th Edition! Note the edition number please, I did not have the 11th edition at the time of writing. As soon as I get a copy, I'll update the references).

So, here's the document entitled:

Your ministry as a Steward in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.doc

Tuesday
Jun122007

The Theological Society of South Africa

For those who are budding theologians, and those who have already blossomed, the Theological Society of South Africa (this is the South African society for professional theologians, much like the board of chartered accountants is for accountants, in South Africa) will be meeting at our humble seminary from Wednesday to Friday next week. One can be nominated to membership of the society once you have a Masters degree in Theology, and then once a member, one is expected to conduct research and present it at future gatherings.

The theme for this year's conference is:

Saints, martyrs and ancestors: Theological reflections on prophetic witness

Clearly, this is a very topical issue for consideration among African theologians! I am very proud to say that the Methodist Church of Southern Africa is extremely well represented on the program. And, that we have four scholars from our faculty at John Wesley College presenting papers (Dr Joan Jackson (formerly Millard)- who teaches Church history, Dr Neville Richardson -our principal and lecturer in theological ethics and Wesley studies, the ALMOST Dr Wessel Bentley (his doctorate is in, being marked as we breath!) - who teaches Systematic Theology, and yours truly, uQira Mfundisi uDokotela Dion Forster - lecturer in Systematic Theology and New Testament).

I have included, for anyone who is interested, the program with the list of sessions, and a document that contains the abstracts for each of the papers that will be presented. I, personally, cannot wait to hear Wessel, Neville, Joan, and of course Klaus Nurnberger (on Richard Dawkins' God delusion).

TSSA07 Final Programme.doc

TSSA07-Proposals2.doc

Tuesday
Jun122007

iPhone.... STILL want one! Why?! Because iLike!

Yesterday Pete Kropman poked me on facebook (no, that's not rude... If you don't understand it you're starting to get old!) and wrote on my wall (no that's not illegal in facebook) to ask if I had been watching the Apple WWDC (that's the Apple World Wide Developers Conference) keynote.

I had not... I have been marking (that's 'grading' for the yanks) first year ethics scripts... About 200 of them.

However, this morning my friend Arthur sent me a link to this youtube video about the iPhone....

Art! Impersonation is the sincerest form of flattery!!!! I still want an iPhone... Mainly to use as sideburns and a cheese grater (watch . Heck if I wanted to make phone calls I would use a land line... Remember those!?

So, the moral of the story is: Save your shekels for an iPhone, Oh, and look me up on facebook. Surprisingly, my name is Dion Forster... And I'm too old to be on facebook....

NOW, just a quick note to say that I am preparing a post on little Liam's baptism that took place this last Sunday. It was a truly special evening. We were able to give thanks to God for his miraculous life, and dedicate ourselves to caring for him and raising him in a manner fitting of a Christian family.

I'll post some thoughts, photos, and a reflection in the next couple of days.

Some of you already know that I am facing a bit of uncertainty this week. I go under the knife, so to speak, on Thursday for surgery and a few tests. Please pray for me even if you don't know what it is about. News will follow.

Friday
Jun082007

So, Wessel, when is yours happening!?



Can anyone figure out what the image in this picture is saying!? It is something that my friend Wessel will have to do in the next month or so... It is an integral part of getting one's doctorate!

So, come on, who's going to get it right? What are they saying?

Wednesday
May302007

Our darling girl and the miracle kid

Yesterday the miracle kid, AKA Liam the Great, went for his checkup with all of his doctors (trust me there are many of them!) and also went to be weighed (not as traumatic for men as for women, also at this stage of life it is a good thing to pick up weight!), and of course to spend a couple of thousand rand on injections (to our medical aid, thanks for nothing... Well, not quite nothing... R3000 out of R60 000 is something, I guess! That's why we pay them the big money! They're smarter than we are).

Here's a picture of little Liam doing during the day what he should be doing at night. It's called sleep, other people have told us about it. One day we will re-discover what it is like ;-)


Doesn't he look all grown up? He is so peaceful. Friends, you may never be able to understand what an incredible joy and blessing it is for Megie, Courtney, and I to see our little miracle boy like this. He is free from machines, he looks chubby, and with the exception of
a few little niggles with his left limbs he is perfect in every possible way. I don't know how anyone cannot believe that God is not active, engaged, compassionate and loving? By the way, for the those who are interested in a creative and novel approach to the the theology of providence, check out Rob Bell's DVD 011 called 'Rhythm', it's in the nooma series.

Here's a picture of Courtney and Liam together watching a bit of TV on the couch! Courts is such a gift to Liam, and of course an incredible gift to us. She has been so wonderful throughout the last six months. In her I have seen a compassion, maturity, and child-like faith that I wish I could rediscover! We give thanks for both of our children.


So, I am reminded that in the midst of all of the things that matter, there are some things that matter more. Worship is about discovering truth, declaring it as truth, and then making that truth become more and more real in one's daily life. Today I worship the God of all creation for the miracle of life, for the safety of living within God's faithfulness, and for the joy of knowing that I receive undeserved grace...

Thank you for your continuing prayers for us. We cherish the thought of knowing that there are people who remember us in the intimacy of God's presence. Just as an aside, quite a few of you have contacted me to say that you take up the discipline of fasting during of the week (quite a few of you join me on a Friday). I still engage in that simple act - it reminds me just how much I need God. It creates a realisation in me that in my world of privelage I am still the same as every other person who must eat to survive, and so my ministry must bring food to the hungry. It also reminds me that I am often more hungry for physical food than I am for the true bread of life, Jesus. For those who have not done so for a long time, why not consider giving up just one meal? Give that food to someone who needs it more than you do, and give the time to God, the one who sends the bread of life, like manna in the desert, that will take away your hunger for all eternity....

Anyway, here endeth today's sermon ;-)

Sunday
May272007

Let's talk! Homosexuality and the Bible.

This evening I met with some of the senior members of our congregation to give an account of my stance on the same sex issue.

They were wonderfully gracious, incredibly understanding, and treated the subject, and me, with earnest and sincere integrity, seeking to understand, yet at the same time having the freedom to disagree when feeling inclined to do so. Thank you for your grace and understanding. Whilst we are not all on the same page with regards to an appropriate Christian response to persons of a same sex orientation, we are on the same page with regards to our love for Christ, our desire to see the Church remain one and undivided, and the fact that Christian scripture is authoritative and is the primary source of God's revelation.

Of course, each one of us approaches that same sacred text from very different perspectives, with a different life's history, differing experiences of the same God, and so also with different 'interpretive lenses' that shape what we read, and how we read and apply the text in our lives. This is often the source of misunderstanding. So let me say a few things about the lenses that inform my approach to God's Word.

I for one accept that all of scripture is God breathed (or God inspired), as the Word of God, however, I know that I have come to understand certain texts as being fundamentally culturally and contextually bound and so such texts are in need of some interpretation (for example those texts that suggest that women should not speak in Church, or that Christians may own slaves and still honour God in doing so, or some of the Old Testament dietary laws relating to pork etc.). I accept, without too much effort, that these elements of the Bible need to be understood as addressing particular cultural and social issues (for example dietary laws helped to keep people healthy - however, pork is no longer dangerous to eat (except of course of your cholesterol is as high as mine is!), injunctions about what is socially acceptable for women to do in the ancient near-east were about maintaining order in worship in a culture that frowned upon women taking a lead when men where present - most of us would certainly agree that society has changed significantly and that very few persons would find a woman in leadership offensive to their faith. And what about ethical statements made to Christian slave owners? These statements were clearly made in a context where ownership of slaves went unquestioned, so the issue is about being humane to those in one's service, not about ownership of others persons.

There are other even clearer examples of Biblical injunctions that many of us would not hesitate to 'interpret' through our 'modern lenses' as being so context bound that God would certainly not expect that we apply them unquestioningly. Let me list a few examples of texts in the Bible that I choose some interpretive license with - for example the expectation that I am entitled to sell my lazy daughter into slavery [Ex 21:9] (after all at what age does she become productive? How should I measure her productivity in this day and age? Would I not be transgressing Paul's injunction in Romans 13 to obey government laws by putting a child to work in this day and age? If so, which law do I obey, Exodus or Romans?), or what about my neighbour who works on the Sabbath, she is a nurse, Ex 35:20 says that she should be put to death for doing so. Does God really still expect me to do this? If so, what would you suggest is the best possible way to do it? Or what about the fact that the senior pastor of my Church should not be allowed to go near the altar, or even enter the temple, since he does not have perfect 20/20 vision (he wears glasses as proof of that fact) which is clearly prohibited by Lev 21:20.... and the list goes on. These examples, however, help to make my point. I hope that you will agree that we all choose some measure of interpretation when it comes to the Bible. Consistency in interpretation would thus seem to be the only integral approach in such a reality.

Now please hear me, that this does not mean that we must throw such texts out of the Canon of scripture, or that the Bible does not still maintain its authority! No, rather it means that we MUST always approach the text with a great deal of humility, sensitivity, and rigor, being constantly dependent upon the God who breathes authority into the text, and Christ who is the true Word, to help us understand God's will and desire through the texts that we read.

Please could I encourage those who wish to understand why I hold the views that I do, particularly in relation to sacred Scripture, to read the article below? It is not very long, but it will help you to understand the 'lens' that shapes my reading of the 5 texts that are usually associated with homosexuality and the Bible.

I am not asking that you change your mind, but simply that you understand that my position is based upon a deep conviction that has been shaped by much searching, committed prayer, and what I believe to be a far more responsible approach to scripture - letting the text tell me things, rather than trying to tell scripture what I want it to say to support my individual, or society's, prejudice.

Of course there are many other things, and people, who have helped me to understand that God loves gay people. However, that is the content of another post.

Here's the article: Walter Wink homosexuality and the Bible.rtf. It is in Rich Text Font (RTF) format. You should be able to open it in MS Word.

Once you've read it, let's talk! My great desire is to be obedient to God, and to be effectively used by God, to share grace and love in God's world. Please feel free to post comments. I promise to hear you with the same integrity and respect that I ask from you. However, please do read the article before posting.

Together with you in Christ,

Dion

PS. Please excuse the poor formatting in the Walter Wink article. I scanned it from a paper copy I got some years ago.

Friday
May252007

An anonymous encouragement... Who we stood for.

The following email came to my 'inbox' this morning.  It reminded, once again, just how worthy this cause is, that it is a cause to be with people who love Jesus, and not an issue about someone's sexual orientation.


I don't know who the email came from.  However, I can tell you that it will sustain me for a long time to come!

Much blessing and thanks to the anonymous mailer!

Here's the email:

Recently our minister announced in church that a pro-gay lobby amongst the ministers had disrupted the synod by asking for the right to marry homosexuals. While drinking tea after church there was a heated debate as to why Christians would even entertain such ideas and particularly why Methodist ministers would risk their futures "after all there are no gay Methodists" "who did they think they were standing for". Perhaps you are wondering who you were standing for -- you were standing for me. I thank you for your courage. I am a leader in the Methodist Church (no stranger to synods) known to many as a friendly single person who just hasn't found the right one. Only the very astute are aware of the truth, the very different truth. I came to love Jesus as a teenager, around that time I realised I was attracted to boys and youth was the place to be - there was a never ending supply of boys who loved each other "in the Lord". Being gay was no problem because I was indoctrinated to believe that sex belonged in marriage and as there was no way boys could get married and so there was no way that I get to do the wicked thing of sleeping with another man. So I became over committed to the Church, diverted my sexual energies, hung on to the fact that St Paul seemed to think that it was best not to marry and in strange way my flaw had made me holy. The constant condemnation of homosexual acts by the church and her leaders taught me never to mention the subject and change subject when ever it was brought up.
Amongst the pagans I found those who were gay and proud, those who left the Christian way because their sin was so gross. Those who still loved Jesus although they had been thrown out of the church, by ministers, leader's meetings and formal courts of the church as well as those who knew they were not welcome and left before the pain.
I also found the invisible group of us who are still there in your pews, teaching your children giving our money. For those who know, or suspect there is a reverent silent. A unspoken conspiracy.
I still believe that the place of sex is in marriage and yearn to be married. My "strange" conviction and the realisation that marriage is impossible has kept me from relationships (why go there if it can never be fulfilled). Sadly it hasn't kept me from anonymous sex.
Because of the constitutional Court I am shifting, but am so deeply entrenched in church that I doubt I will ever fulfill my yearning if the church can't recognise my relationship.
You stood for me, that I might one day be able to be fully human and truly holy.
We will continue to interact if miracles do happen one I may get married in your church and then you will put face this message but till then in the word of John Donne.
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
Thank you my friends...

Saturday
May192007

Take a look at this classic Vespa advert!

I love my Vespa!

She still gets driven almost every day! It is great to live in Africa, where the weather is good, the scenery is breathtaking, the rides are fine, the taxis are life threatening, and Vespa's are admired!!

Here's a short clip from the TV series 'Top 10 motorcycles'...

The Vespa was number 3!!! It should be number 1 in my mind!!

PS. Both of these are youtube videos so just start them running and come back in a few minutes to watch them in without getting stuck.

Friday
May182007

U2charist... Have U2 songs become the new songbook of the emerging Church?

I have been preparing for an address that I will be giving at a conference in two weeks time (here's a link that will give you some details on the conference).

One of the talks that I will be doing is on the future of worship... I have been praying, pondering, reading, and thinking about the topic. In my search I came across a remarkable article on the 'Preaching Today' blog, called 'Mixing Pop Culture, Video, and Church'.

Of course there are many of us who have already begun to create multi-sensory worship experiences (through the use of sounds, video, drama, interaction, and of course silence [by the way, watch nooma 005 | Rob Bell silence, it's a superb challenge to contemporary Church!). However, at the end of the article the author, Ray Hamm, makes the following interesting comment, and asks a few pertinent questions:

One of the things they did was to play lots of U2 songs. Each Sunday had a separate focus centered around a U2 song: "Mysterious Ways," "In the Name of Love," "City of Blinding Lights," and "Beautiful Day." The band played covers of each song almost note for note, and produced great versions.

They said that some people in the church community were upset by their initial mailer, but the director of creative arts here at Daybreak said there were more concerned with attracting non-Christians than offending people [emphasis mine, I like this approach to Church!].

So what do you think about this? Are these sorts of services (that mix pop culture and church) a good way to reach people or a way of "selling out" to the culture? And, between this and the U2Charist, are U2 songs the new prayer book of choice?

Would you be brave enough to have a Eucharistic service and use U2 songs instead of hymns and worship songs? Perhaps that's just exactly what we should be doing to attract a new generation of 'seeker'....

Check out the following link for more on the U2charist (it even gives an order of service outlining which songs can be used).

What is the future of worship? Leave me a comment, I'd love to include your thoughts (properly referenced of course!) in my presentation.

Thursday
May172007

Update on Church's response to ministers who registered a 'qualified yes' to the questions of discipline and doctrine.

Well, it has been an interesting week with a lot to and fro between various persons in positions of authority (or lack thereof) in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa in relation to the ministers who gave a qualified yes response to the questions of discipline because of the civil union bill / same sex marriage issue.

Today, Greg Andrews, gave a detailed account of how the events unfolded in the Cape of Good Hope District. You can read his post on his blog HERE.

Then, this morning a letter was circulated (a week late in my estimation) from the office of the Presiding Bishop to comment on this issue and the 22 of us who registered the qualified response. One colleague asked why this letter had not been drafted a week earlier, it could have avoided a fair amount of struggle, embarrassment, and upheaval!

Here's the letter. I would love to hear what you comments are.

Statement by Bishops on the Same Sex Debate.doc

Saturday
May122007

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

 

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