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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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Wednesday
Sep102014

South South partnership - Brazil and South Africa / Public Theology

This week I have been in Sao Leopoldo in Brazil at Faculdades EST for the bi-annual conference (this year focussing on religion and the media).  It forms part of the South South partnership that exists between Faculdades EST and some Universities in South Africa (these include the University where I teach, Stellenbosch University, as well as UNISA, UKZN and even a colleauge from the University of Cape Town).

South Africa and Brazil share a number of similar aspects in our social, political and economic history and current reality.  Both have suffered under oppressive regimes.  In both instances the Church and religious organisations played a significant role in helping to end the oppression.  Liberation theologies, public theologies and post colonial theologies are common discourses in both settings.  Of course they are not the same - there are many obvious, and some less obvious, differences in the two contexts.  However, there are great opportunities for mutual enrichment and support.

Thus far the partnership has involved the exchange of academic staff, exchange of Masters and PhD students, and projects which have resulted in publications (such as the book that will be launched tomorrow evening, and the set of publications in English that will go into the Journal of Theology for South Africa JTSA).  Language is something of a barrier, since we only have one colleague from South Africa who speaks Portuguese, and only a few colleagues from Brazil that speak English.  I have committed to try and learn Portuguese in the years ahead so that we can serve the partnership better from our side.

It has been wonderful to hear the debates and inputs on public theology, liberation theologies, and a variety of contextual and post-collonial theologies.

On Thursday evening for fly back to Sao Paulo to have a meeting with the Vice Rector of International Affairs at USP.  USP and Stellenbosch have an institutional agreement that is now being developed into a South South partnership between the two Universities.  USP is one of the largest, and most prestigious, Universities in South America.

This post contains a few photographs taken on the trip.  One is of me and one of my former students, Ndikho Mtshiselwa.  It was great to see him here.  Among the other colleauges were Prof Nico Koopman, Prof Rothney Tshaka, Prof Rudolf von Sinner, Prof Reggie Nel, Dr Pieter Grove, and Dr Elaine Nogueira-Godsey.

Tuesday
Sep022014

Launch of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Unit, John de Gruchy conference

This evening we launched the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Unit in the Beyers Naudé centre for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University.

In the front row of this picture are some of the most famous Bonhoeffer scholars (from left to right), John de Gruchy, Clifford Green, Wolfgang Huber, Dirkie Smit, Frits de Lange, and Wentzel Van Huyssteen next to Robert Vosloo.

I recorded John de Gruchy, Dirkie Smit, Nico Koopman and Robert Vosloo's short presentations at the launch. They were fascinating. I will upload that audio as soon as I have had a chance to edit it. So do look back - I found de Gruchy's section on Bonhoeffer reception in South Africa and Beyers Naudé fascinating. As was Dirkie Smit's talk on Russel Botman and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Tomorrow we will host a three day conference in honour of John de Gruchy. Many of these visitors are speakers at the conference. Others include Prof Graham Ward Regis Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Prof a Serene Jones (President of Union Theological seminary - where Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied before his return to Germany). The prominent ethicist Larry Rasmussen will also be a speaker, as will Prof Iain McGillchrist from Oxford.

I will be chairing the panel on science and theology.

Here's a peek at the program.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

9h00: Opening

Session 1: Engaging Dietrich Bonhoeffer [Chair: Robert Vosloo]
9h20-10h00: Wolfgang Huber: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's question: How a coming generation
is to go on living?
10h00 -10h40: Nico Koopman: Bonhoeffer and the Future of Public Theology in South
Africa
10h40-11h10: Tea:
11h10-12h40: Panel Discussion: Clifford Green, Michael Phiri, Karola Radler, Frits de
Lange
12h40-14h00: Lunch
Book launch: A Theological Odyssey: My Life in Writing (John de Gruchy) (Sun Media);
Chair: Len Hansen; Speakers: Keith Clements, Roderick Hewitt, Cas Wepener
Session 2: Theological Aesthetics [Chair: Lyn Holness]

14h00-14h40: Graham Ward: Sanctification: Towards a Pedagogy of Affect
14h40-15h20: Frank Burch Brown: The Aesthetics of Forgiveness: Representing
Forgiveness Artistically.

15h20-15h50: Tea
15h50-17h20: Panel Discussion: Janet Trisk, Marnus Havenga, Awet Andemicael, Johan
Cilliers
18h15-19h15: Welcoming function
19h15: Concert: Libertas Choir

Thursday 4 September 2014
9h00: Opening: Robert Steiner
Session 3: Christian Humanism [Chair: Elna Mouton]

9h10-9h50: Denise Ackermann: The Mystery of Hope
9h50-10h30: Jim Cochrane: The Spirit of Humanity: Contra Theologies of Death

10h30-11h00: Tea
11h00-12h30: Panel Discussion: Karin Sporre, Martin Prozesky, Nadia Marais

12h30-14h00: Lunch
Book Launch: Denise Ackermann, Surprised by the Man on the Borrowed Donkey:
Ordinary Blessings (Lux Verbi)
Speaker: Dirkie Smit
Session 4: Theology and Science [Chair: Dion Forster]
14h00-14h40: Iain McGilchrist
14h40-15h20: J. Wentzel van Huyssteen: The Emergence of Personhood: Why the
Evolution of the Moral Sense and Symbolic Behavior defines the Human Self
15h20-15h50: Tea
15h50-17h20: Panel Discussion: Ernst Conradie, Gys Loubser, Larry Rasmussen, Rika
Preiser

18h15: Evening reception: Clos Malverne wine estate

Friday 5 September

9h00: Opening: Bruce Theron
Session 5: The Struggle Continues [Chair: Edwin Arrison]
9h10-9h50: Serene Jones: Economic Freedom
9h50-10h30: Allan Boesak: 'A Hope Unprepared to Accept Things as They Are':
Reflections on John De Gruchy's Challenges for a Theology at the Edge

10h30-11h00: Tea
11h00-12h30: Panel Discussion: Rothney Tshaka, Christo Lombard, Helené van Tonder,
Deon Snyman
12h30-13h00: Conclusion: John de Gruchy

Wednesday
Aug202014

A tribute to Bishop David Russell - Grahamstown

A good friend of mine, Fr Larry Kaufmann introduced me to Bishop David Russell in Grahamstown many years ago. I had the joy of visiting his residence, and praying in his chapel, in Grahamstown. It was at his home that I first saw the film Babette's feast - a profound moment that changed my understanding of hospitality, grace and the sacraments.

Bishop Russell was a great inspiration to many young clergy in South Africa, and across the world. He was deeply committed to the Gospel of Christ and God's Kingdom of justice, mercy, and grace. His life and ministry showed many of us what it meant to be welcoming, and to be welcomed, into loving fellowship with God in Christ and one another.

Bishop Russell passed away this week. I thank God for his life and ministry. He was a Public Theologian par excellance!

Here is a tribute to David Russell written by my friend Archbishop Thabo Makgoba:


"With David Russell's death, an era passes for the Church and its
prophetic and courageous ministry, especially to the poorest of the poor.

"From the earliest days of his ministry as a priest, he was radical in
his identification with the poor and oppressed. Steve Biko, with whom he
worked closely, called him 'a friend, an equal... a comrade.'

"In the Eastern Cape in the 1970s, he played an important role in drawing
attention to the plight of people who were forcibly removed from their
homes under apartheid and dumped to starve in areas, such as Dimbaza,
where they had no hope of making a living.

"Later, as a chaplain to migrant workers in Cape Town, he campaigned
against the cruel removals, in the middle of winter, of families who
defied the pass laws and came to Crossroads to live with their husbands
and fathers.

"When the apartheid government sent in bulldozers to destroy their
shacks, he was willing to put his life on the line - one admirer recalled
on Facebook this week: 'Will never forget the image of DR lying,
spreadeagled, in front of a bulldozer in Crossroads.'

"When the government imposed a banning order on him, he defied it,
breaking it in multiple ways to attend a meeting of the Church's
Provincial Synod and to motivate a resolution expressing the Church's
understanding of those who had resorted to armed struggle.

"After becoming Bishop of Grahamstown, he ordained the first woman priest
in Southern Africa and repeatedly challenged the Church on theological
grounds to reverse its opposition to blessing same-sex unions. He also
challenged the democratically-elected provincial government of the
Eastern Cape for its failures in areas such as health and education.

"As one who served as Bishop David's suffragan bishop in Grahamstown and
was mentored by him, I feel his loss keenly.

"Not only the Church but the nation - which honoured him for his service
with the Order of the Baobab in Silver - mourns this son of the soil.

"On behalf of my family, the Diocese of Cape Town, the Synod of Bishops
and the broader church, we send our condolences and prayers to his wife,
Dorothea and to his sons, Sipho and Thabo.

"May this pastor, prophet, theologian and fierce fighter against
injustice rest in peace until we meet again."


Sunday
Jul132014

Today's sermon - Bishop Will Willimon from Duke Chapel on God and patience

It is Sunday! In a little while I will be in worship with sisters and brothers, who I don't yet know, in a beautiful Catholic Church near where I am staying here in Holland.

When you are a theologian who spends all your time in the Text, in the confessions and beliefs of the Christian faith, every day can be filled with learning and deepening of the knowledge of your faith. However, that could never compensate for the kind of growth that comes from simply being with others in community - the mystery of the Trinity is that we are made for one another. Our truest identity, our deepest meaning, is not something that comes only from our heads, it is ignited in our hearts and finds full expression through the work of our hands. We are people, and God's work with us, and in us, is with us as whole people, connected to other whole people.

This kind of work is slow. It is slow and messy because people are not all the same. That is the gift of course. We are not robots that get taken in for a firmware update. No, we are people whose lives are shaped through joy, pain, and even 'ordinary-ness'. The longest season in the Christian liturgical calendar is called 'ordinary time'. It stretches from Ascension Sunday to the start of Advent (about 22 weeks if I remember well). That is where most of the Christian life is lived, in ordinary time, among ordinary people, with ordinary experiences. I don't think many of us like living there, it is just too ordinary. We want drama, excitement, pleasure, novelty. I think that is one of the reasons why churches with great worship and drama teams, and entertaining preachers, draw such crowds. But sadly we cannot live there.

Tomorrow we return to our work, to our waiting, to our 'dailyness'. Amazingly the sermon I listened to early this morning by Bishop Will Willimon that was preached at a Duke Chapel reminds us that God is active in ordinary time. He remarks that God is patient. That is where and how God works, in time. Often God's work is slower than we expect, out of step with our expectation for the instant miracle, the sudden flash of brilliance, the unexpected solution.

I think this is true, it is true because God is working with people, ordinary people in ordinary time. The miracles of whole bodied people, free from suffering and pain, takes care and commitment. In ordinary time it takes commitment to a better diet and some exercise, to limiting our intake of alcohol and sugars and all the other bad things we consume. In our relationships it takes commitment to service of those who we love and live amongst. It takes a willingness to compromise, to see the side of the other, to look at things from their perspective and give a little, perhaps even take on a little. God is busy working with people, and that is a slow and deliberate task that takes time.

So today I have been encouraged to grow in patience and to be thankful for the work of God in ordinary time. May God bless you in every part of your life.

Here is Bishop Willimon's sermon (from about minute 40 to more or less 1h05). He is a remarkable man. I had the joy of meeting him at Duke a decade or so ago, and also at a World Methodist gathering some time later.

Sunday Service - 4/6/14 - William Willimon - YouTube

Thursday
Jul102014

A Brompton cycle from Nijmegen (Holland) to Kleve in Germany

I may have gotten a little lost on this afternoon's cycle from Nijmegen. I went out for a short ride (supposedly!) after a hard day of writing on my dissertation - it has been a productive week!

Alas, I ended up crossing the Rhine River deep into Germany! Past Kranenburg (with its beautiful Cathedral) and Kleve (with its Medieval old city center) to Emmerich am Rhein.

Because I was in Germany I had no cell reception with my Dutch SIM card (completely forgot about that). So, no google maps to get me home.

My rusty German, mixed with Afrikaans and a bit of English saved the day! Ha ha! It was awesome! 71km on my Doris my Brompton - such an awesome little bicycle!

Friday
Jul042014

St Martin of Tours and Chaplaincy, 4 years later

Today is the 4th of July 2014 - it has been 4 years since I first wrote my short reflection on the ministry of a chaplain and St Martin of Tours.  Today is the feast day of St Martin of Tours.  My life has changed somewhat since I wrote that.  I am sitting in Holland at the moment, working towards the completion of my second PhD atRadboud University in Nijmegen.  I am no longer a workplace chaplain.  Since January 2015 I am a full time academic - teaching Systematic Theology, Ethics and Public Theology at the University of Stellenbosch.  It is a wonderful privilege to serve the Church and the world in this way.

This year I had an article published in the academic journal, Koers, on ministry and faith in the world of work, and I am working on another article with my friend Dr Johan Oosterbrink for the journal 'In die skriflig' (a Festschrift for Prof Koos Lotter).  This article also focusses on faith and work.

My prayer is that we will see many more people awaken to the high calling of work, and like St Martin of Tours, that they would follow the call of Christ and serve Him and the world with their talents, time and treasure so that God's Kingdom of justice, mercy and peace may be established for all.

Today's 'Common Prayer' has a focus on St Martin.  The two quotes below were a great encouragement and blessing to me in devotions today.

Martin of Tours (d. 397)

Martin of Tours saw Christ in the face of the poor and in the commitment to nonviolence. He was born in what is now Hungary and as a young man was involuntarily enlisted in the Roman Army. Martin’s conversion to Christianity occurred after he met a beggar seeking alms. Without money to offer the man, Martin tore his own coat in half and gave one part to the beggar. The following night, Martin dreamed of Christ wearing half of his coat. Once Martin was baptized he resolved to leave the army because Christ called him to nonviolence. His superiors mistakenly saw his request as one of cowardice until Martin offered to face the front lines without weapons as a sign of Christian pacifism. Denied this offer, Martin spent time in prison. Afterward he joined the monastery at Solesmes and eventually served for ten years as bishop of Tours.

 

Here is the other quote from the end of the devotion:

Martin of Tours said, “I am a soldier of Christ; it is not lawful for me to fight.”

Prayers for Others

Almighty God, you are King of all creation. You created order out of chaos, and you call us to strive for the peace that is not like the peace empires bring. Teach us to drop the weapons we carry in our hands, in our hearts, and on our tongues. Enable us to be soldiers of yours who destroy the weapons of our oppressors with your grace. Amen.

With rich blessing in your work and ministry!

Saturday
Jun282014

Pastoral care to Christians in the World of Work

This week I had the joy of speaking at a number of sessions at the Alpha Workplace Conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - as always it was wonderful to be with my friends here and such a great blessing to see how the Church sensitively operates in this context.

At today's session I was asked to post the slides from my talk to the internet.  So, please find a copy of the slides (which are an 'un-formatted' copy, i.e., they do not have the Alpha branding and style sheet applied).

Then, for a description of the content here is part of a post from 2008 when I first developed this theology.  You can also download a 30 minute Audio recording for Radio Pulpit that discusses these ideas here: '5 paradigms that could change your work into worship' here (6MB MP3).  If you are interested here is a short preview of the book in which I wrote about the 5 paradigms - 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' (1MB PDF).  If you are interested in buying a copy of the book you can get it on Amazon here.  Finally, I have just recently been notified that an academic article that I wrote on research done among Christians in South Africa the world of work and Christian needs, is being published in the Journal 'Koers: Bulletin for Christian Scholarship' - if you are interested to read that article please drop me an email and I'll let you know when it is published.

Here is the little video clip that I used (which was recorded a few years ago with Graham Power).

My ministry changed radically about 9 years ago when a wealthy business person came to faith in Christ. He is a gifted and capable person who had made an incredible success of his companies. My first inclination, when he asked how he could serve the Lord, was to suggest that he get involved in the leadership of our Church, or perhaps run our Church's finance commission (clearly he was a gifted leader and a person who knew how to work with money). If I had suggested that to him the result may have been two things.

1) I may have helped one Methodist Church in a single city of South Africa to develop.
2) I'm fairly certain that in the process this new Christian would have become bored and frustrated with the task I had assigned him to and he would have moved on.

Thankfully I was dumb enough NOT to get him into that position - rather I invited him to join a small group that I was running specifically for business people. Here I knew his peers could start to disciple him on things like Christian worship, loving service, stewardship and the use of his influence and resources for Christ's Kingdom... The long and short of it is that the person I am talking about is Graham Power, who went on to start the Global Day of Prayer(which this year had between 300 and 400 million persons participating).

Graham has become a significant figure in world Christianity. God has used him to bring new excitement, passion, and drive to many Churches and denominations worldwide. Equally significant has been his influence among his peers (all leaders in their own right, either in business or politics) who have made some significant choices that have bettered the lives of many millions of persons in countries such as Ghana, Argentina, Kenya, the USA and a host of other nations.

I have come to consider this one fact: Graham was created by God to do business... It's what he does well, and he God blesses his efforts.

So, when Graham works to God's glory and towards the aims of achieving God's will for his companies, the industry in which he works, and the nation that he influences, then his work becomes worship!

So, here's a little audio recording that I did for my 'radio pulpit' show (The Ministry and Me), it was broadcast in the week of the 20th of August 2008, and you can order an audio copy of the CD from Radio Pulpit if you wish.

Download the '5 paradigms that could change your work into worship' here (6MB in MP3 format).

The show was broadcast in the week of the 6th of August and I have had many emails and calls about it. 

Let me know what you think!

 

Tuesday
Jun242014

Have Brompton will travel! On my way to Malaysia, Holland and Germany

On the road again. Have Brompton bicycle will travel! Ha ha!

Dubai tonight, Kuala Lumpur for the #AWC2014 conference where I am delivering a plenary talk on business without corruption and a workshop on caring for Christians in the world of work. I can't wait to see my friends in Malaysia again - I am do close to them! It feels like a second home! I also have the joy of preaching at my friend Alvin Tan's Church in KL on Sunday.

Then it is off to Holland for further research on my second PhD at the end of the week. I hope to make a big dent in this project! Need to get it done!

Then on 22 July I head to Germany to speak at the ISTR conference on 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' as a 4th generation social movement (refer to Castells and David Korten). My colleague, Dr Nadine Bower-du Toit and I have worked on a paper together for that conference.

I head home on 29 July and start teaching a Master of Theology course on the ethics of care the next day.

I am missing my family already! This is the first big trip of 2014. Compared to last year my travel schedule has been light. But, it is never easy to leave home!

I am excited for the next few weeks! Blessed to have my Brompton with me! I am sure to get some good riding in while in Holland and Germany. Here is a picture of me with Doris the old Brompton in the Brompton B Bag (with all my clothes etc. in the bag as well). I use the Brompton T Bag as hand luggage, laptop bag etc. it all adds up to 30kg - the max allowable on Emirates.

I would appreciate your prayers for Megie, Courts and Liam. It is a long time to be away from home! Please also pray for the people I will serve, for my studies and for good health and safety! Thanks, Dion

Sunday
Jun152014

Hope for the future and being a community of hope

This past week I had the privilege of doing the closing plenary address at the Stellenbosch University Winter School. The theme of the conference was hope. The quote below sums up what I tried to say.
“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”
Reinhold Niebuhr. In short, we act today for what we hope for and anticipate tomorrow. Moreover, everything worth doing is best done in community and partnership. Finally, we are all embraced in grace and love - the is the reason for hope! In this picture are the three keynote speakers (see *) and some of the other speakers and organizers of the great event (left to right) Prof Aben from Jos Nigeria (a visiting scholar), *Mrs Marlene le Roux, (back) Dr Danie O'Kennedy, (front) Dr Bruce Theron, (back) *Dr Mvume Dandala, *Dr Dion Forster.
Wednesday
Jun112014

Nelson Mandela and the Methodists, a little preview

Next week on Thursday I will be presenting an academic paper on Nelson Mandela and the Methodists (particularly the Methodist Church of Southern Africa).

I have done lots of interviews, read so much, and even found a few interesting documents (like his Class / Membership card pictured here). He was a remarkable man, was formed by his African Wesleyan roots, but did move beyond 'conventional Christianity' in his later life. Will post more once the paper has been delivered.

UPDATE:

The paper was delivered and has been published in the academic journal Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae here.

Tuesday
Jun102014

Rev Dr Mvume Dandala on the Church as the hope for South Africa in the next decades

This year, 2014, marks 20 years since the dawn of participative democracy in South Africa.  There is little doubt that 1994 heralded the dawning of a new era in South Africa. We are better off in so many ways - all of our citizens have equal status before the law. We have made positive gains in health care for all, education for all, and in general South Africans have a higher life expectancy and even have better economic prospects.  See the OECD Better Life Index report for more details [1].

The reality is, however, that even though we are doing better, we are not nearly where we should be as a nation.  We have some serious problems - HIV and TB continue to have a huge impact on the average South African.  Moreover, South Africa has the highest GINI coefficient (we have the highest rate of inequality between the rich and the poor) in the world.  This means that unemployemt remains a problem, crime is difficult to manage and the majority of South Africans are still living in poverty [2].

All of this is compounded by ongoing human rights abuses and continuing corruption in government and the private sector.

My paper on Thursday will discuss these issues in detail using some of the most recent statistics from early 2014.

I will, however, also focus on the role of the Church in addressing these economic, social and political issues. South Africa remains a largely religious society, if the Church is doing its work we should be engaging the moral character of our citizens, and positively engaging issues justice.  I will post my talk once it has been delivered and published.

Dr Dandala did an excellent plenary talk this morning.  He spoke very strongly about the African nature and character that is required of the Church in South African society.  His talk was an acceptable challenge.  I recorded it and got his permission to post it here.

You can download Rev Dr Mvume Dandala's talk at the Stellenbosch University, Ekklesia / Beyers Naude Winter School on 10 June 2014 here (45MB MP3).

If you use or distribute the talk would you mind please referencing Dr Dandala and linking back here to www.dionforster.com?

_____

[1] OECD, OECD Economic Surveys: South Africa 2013 (OECD Publishing, 2013); OECD, How’s Life? 2013, How’s Life? (OECD Publishing, 2013), 17–31, http://www.keepeek.com/Digital-Asset-Management/oecd/economics/how-s-life-2013_9789264201392-en#page1.

[2] Please see the World Bank report on global inequality here:  http://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SI.POV.GINI South Africa has a GINI coefficient of 63.1, which was the highest in the world at the time of the report in 2009.

Tuesday
Jun032014

Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better?

There is a well known saying among academics the world over, Publish or Perish.

It is true! In the academic world the publication of research is critical to one's career - I like to see it in a less 'survival' directed framework.  Namely, that I want to publish my research because I believe it serves the world and helps the Church and Christians in their task of making the world more just, beautiful and blessed.  Perhaps I am being a little idealistic?

Regardless, I try to publish a book over other year or so, and I also try to get about three scholarly articles in peer reviewed journals each year.  When you consider the work that it takes to do that while still teaching undergraduate and postgraduate classes, as well as supervising multiple Masters and PhD students, you can imagine that I need a pretty efficient system to keep a record of what I am reading, and easily get that information into my books and academic articles.

For some years I have been using Zotero as a citation manager.  It is a great tool since it is open source, it works really well on the Mac and PC, and it stores your reference database (books, articles, documents, web pages, videos, interviews etc.) in the 'cloud'.  It also has plug ins for Microsoft Word (on the PC and the Mac), and also for open source word processing software.  It is really easy to use!

However, I have been frustrated by two things.  First, it does not have an iOS client for use on my iPhone and iPad.  I often only travel with my iPad and when I have a few spare moments it would be great to be able to catch up on the latest journal articles and books and add them to my citation index for later use.  Alas, that cannot be done.  I have to wait until I am back at my Mac, fire up my web browser, either find the article or book on Google Scholar, Amazon, or Google books, and then add the source automatically.  Or worse still, if it is an older or lesser known source I have to add it manually.

My second frustration is that Zotero is not supported by the University of Stellenbosch Library system (I am a faculty member at Stellenbosch University).  This means I often search for titles in the library, and once I have found them there I have to search for them a second time (on Amazon, Google Books, Google Scholar, Gale etc.) to be add the reference to my library.

One of our library staff suggested I try Mendeley.  It is also a free piece of citation management software.  It also works on the Mac and PC (and Linux), and as a bonus it also has an iOS client! So that is great.  However, it is not opensource - that always worries me a little.  Often it means that if there is a problem, or the owners no longer make money from the software or loose interest in it your data could get 'stuck' in an outdated piece of software.  Opensource solutions tend to updated more quickly and over a longer period of time since it is the users who drive that process.

Still, it is worth checking out since it is tied into our University library system (a huge bonus that will cut at least one significant step out of my Zotero workflow).  Moreover, the University has some sort of agreement with Mendeley that allows faculty to have more space for storing references on online copies of PDF's and articles (Zotero charges for extra space).  It also works well with the Mac and has a lovely interface, and as I mentioned above it also has an iOS client.

Here is a little video from Portland State University that does a good job of comparing Zotero and Mendeley

Do you use citation management software?  I know many folks find the learning curve too steep and have stuck to manually entering every citation! My goodness, I simply don't have time or patience (or enough of an eye for detail) to do that well.

If you do use citation software what do you use and why?  If you use either Zotero or Mendeley I would love to hear your reasons for choosing one over the other, and any tips you may have to help me maximise my use of the software.