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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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Join 100 Million Christians in taking a stand on Corruption and Poverty! Click here for more information.  Follow @EXPOSEDCAMPAIGN on twitter, like EXPOSED on Facebook - visit the EXPOSED website.

Sunday
Sep292013

Heading home from Malaysia 

Megan and I have had a wonderful week together in Kuala Lumpur and Penang. Tonight we head home to Cape Town via KL, Doha and Johannesburg.

We were brought here by our wonderful friends from Alpha Malaysia. This week we had a wonderful conference encouraging Christians to discover and live out their faith life in the world of work. In part this was based on my book 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling'. We also have a strong partnership between Alpha Malaysia and Unashamedly Ethical http://www.unashamedlyethical.com and 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' http://www.exposed2013.com

This was a wonderful week. We had many chances to engage with Christians in the world of work and ministers / pastors about developing a public theology and living out their faith for the sake of transformation and renewal of society so that justice and grace may prevail.

We have many wonderful friends here, so it is always a joy to visit! I was so thankful that Megie could join me on this trip. It was such a blessing to have this precious time with her! The punishing travel and work schedule of the last two years does take its toll. It is so wonderful to be together and experience new and wonderful people and places as a couple.

Of course we cannot wait to get back home to our children who have been with their aunt and my mom! We've missed them so much!

There is a busy time ahead with EXPOSED reaching its climax from 14-20 October across the world. We already have 137 countries involved and millions of Christians.

Here is how you can get involved:

1. Please watch this short video (2 minutes) about the EXPOSED Vigils http://t.co/i9EK7QqqjK
2. Simply invite a few friends, set a venue, and download prayers, scripture readings and the video from here http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/33-organise-a-vigil
3. Please register your Global Vigil on the map here, so that others can see it (shine a light!) or join you if it is an open meeting or service! http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/78-register-your-vigil
4. Post some pictures, video, or a short report on your website, facebook and twitter. Please use the hashtag #ShineALight
5. At your Vigil, and during the week, please get as many people as you can to sign the Global Call to end corruption. Simply go here on your computer, cellphone or tablet http://bit.ly/signGC or visit the website and sign up there, or download and print a sign up sheet to gather signatures automatically http://www.exposed2013.com

Thanks so much for your prayers and solidarity in this work! Rich blessing, Dion

 

Thursday
Sep192013

On our way to Malaysia!

What a blessing it was to board our flight to Malaysia (via Johannesburg and Doha) in a very wet Cape Town this evening!

What makes it such a blessing is that Megan is traveling with me to beautiful Malaysia. I am so thankful! I will be speaking at the Alpha Workplace conference in Penang and have some meetings for Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED in Kuala Lumpur.

I love this beautiful nation a great deal! It is a very special place and such wonderful people. I look forward to introducing Megan to Durien fruit and the warm hospitality and weather!

I will also have the joy of preaching at my friend Alvin Tan's Church this Sunday.

So keep an eye on this blog and my tumblr feed (on the left of this page or at http://digitaldion.tumblr.com for the site). I will post updates in both places.

We would appreciate your prayers for our service here! Please pray that Christ's love encounters us and our friends, that we are humble and receptive to God's leading and that our work here brings wholeness and transformation for the sake of God's Kingdom.

Tuesday
Sep032013

Good news to the poor

Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche communities said:

Jesus came to bring good news to the poor, not those who serve the poor...

This is a subtle distinction. Yet, when taken seriously it is a major challenge to contemporary theology. Many Christian Churches teach, overtly or by subtle suggestion, that service of the poor brings blessing. Of course it should. Yet the emphasis is often that it should bring God's blessing to the person who serves. The truth is that the blessing should be brought to the ones who are served.

Hedonism has even taken hold of service and ministry. I call it altruistic hedonism. It is for that reason that many people mistakenly stop serving a cause, or some people, when it no longer 'feels good', or 'feels right'. Can you imagine what would have happened if Jesus adopted this perspective and decided not to be crucified because it didn't feel good?

Sometimes service is tough. It has little or no reward. Of course we shouldn't be serving for a reward. We serve because God requires it and there are many in the world who need it. It is not duty, or reward, but love that should motivate our sacrifice and charity.

I find this thought quite challenging. What do you think? Am I missing the point?

Monday
Sep022013

Giraffe chases Mountainbike cyclist in South Africa

I know that mountain biking is a dangerous sport! I currently have a friend with two broken elbows and another with broken ribs from falling.

However, this is a different kind of crazy! A friend of mine, Jimmy Ramage, was cycling with some friends in Groenkloof nature reserve when a giraffe chased down this cyclist. An animal of that size could do some serious damage!

This was a close shave! Certainly a story to tell your grand children.

Wednesday
Aug212013

Reflecting on London and Oxford - so thankful!

As I write this I am on a coach (bus for us South Africans!) from Oxford to Heathrow.  I will be visiting with Craig and Kath, my brother and sister in law, before flying home this evening. I am looking forward to having some time with them! I am so aware of the blessing that it is to see them so frequently when Megie would love to have these opportunities to visit with her brother and sister in law.

I arrived in London just over a week ago.  It seems like a lifetime ago! Shortly after my arrival I began a series of meetings that classify the various aspects of my ministry / working life. First I met with the team from 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption'. That very important project is coming to an end fairly soon - the end of October. We still have many things that we wish to do in order to mobilise Christians and churches across the world to take a stand against global corruption for the sake of the poor.  From that meeting cycled back to Kensington where I met with Tricia Neill - the international director of the Alpha course.  I love those people, and that movement, so much. It was wonderful to meet with Tricia and talk about the priorities for Alpha on the African continent. Great things lie ahead!
Then, on Saturday I had one lunch meeting and then went cycling out to Richmond - that was just wonderful, even though I was struggling with a head and chest cold. I'm pleased to say that the cold has passed now! I did quite a few rides on Doris my Brompton during the week (some in the morning before breakfast, and some during the 2 hours of free time after lunch - I think I did about 5 x 30km to 40km).

On Sunday I was at Holy Trinity Brompton and then met my friend Dr Wessel Bentley who arrived from South Africa.  He rented a Boris bike and I had Doris my Brompton and we did a good 30km cycle through London seeing just about every sight a tourist could cover in half a day!

On Monday we moved across to Oxford where we spent the week at Oxford University (Christ Church) for the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological studies

I was honoured to be the co-chair, along with Dr Sergei Nicolaev, of the Theology and Ethics working group.  It was both an honour and a joy to be part of the planning of the institute, the selection of the members, and of course the task of chairing the presentations. I was also honoured to chair a plenary lecture given by Dr Rui Da Silva Josgrilberg.

In addition to the plenary sessions each of the working groups (of which we were one of five) presented their articles and engaged in discussion around the topic of the Institute. It was wonderful to be engaged in rigorous academic discussion and debate once again.  Our group was blessed with a number of senior scholars (Douglas Meeks, JC Park from Korea, Sondra Wheeler, Michael Nosner from Germany, and Rui from Brazil).  The group is making an exceptional contribution to scholarship across the world (Africa, Asia, the America's, Europe and the East). We also had some emerging scholars in our group - PhD students or recent PhD graduates.  I was deeply impressed by their fresh academic knowledge, the magnificent intellect and the capacity to engage on a relatively equal footing with some of the more senior scholars in the group.

I leave England looking forward to being home with Megie, Courtney and Liam who I miss so very much! I shall be home for just short of 4 weeks before departing for Malaysia (Megie is coming on that trip with me!)

The experience this week has reminded me that I do have a contribution to make in the academy. My teaching post at Stellenbosch University is important to me.  I also realise that I am a theologian for the Church.  My primary focus seems to revolve around a central Christology to which every is a missional response.

I am grateful for this week! In my younger life I could never have imagined the privilege that I am currently experiencing.  It is humbling, but it also comes with important responsibilities.

Saturday
Aug172013

A ride to Oakley and Worminghall on my Brompton

I took a lovely 40km cycle from Christ Church at Oxford University to Oakley and Worminghall today.

The countryside is just amazing!

I am so glad that I brought my Brompton with me to London and Oxford.

Doris has been a great means of transport and a super form or 'otium sanctum' (Holy leisure). As I have ridden this week I have relaxed, reflected, prayed and of course exercised!

Tomorrow I head back to Cape Town from - I will miss Oxford University. But I'll be back. I can't wait to be home with my family again!

Saturday
Aug172013

Interstitial identity

Dr HirHo Park gave a wonderful presentation in our Theology and Ethics group at the Oxford Institute today. She is a Korean American scholar who spoke about MinJun theology.

It was a challenging and moving presentation that spoke powerfully of a theology of liberation that can serve people across the world who encounter suffering and hardship.

Among the many things that stuck with me she coined a phrase - 'interstitial integrity'.

Interstitial cells are the biological cells that join the different cells of the body together - as far as I understand it, they are either cells or spaces that join different structures together in the one being.

I resonate with the concept of an interstitial identity - there are many elements to my identity. If one wanted to one could 'separate' them out and attempt to classify one's self according to each of these. I am male, I am African, I am English speaking, I am Christian, I am educated… These are just a few of the many elements to my identity. Yet, the reality is that they are all held together in my 'Dion-ness'.

Who I am, and as a result of that 'how' I am, is as a result of the intersection of many different aspects of being that are all knit together to form me. At the same time each of these elements is enriched, sharpened, nuanced, and informed by the other elements of my identity that relate to it.

Perhaps that is the grace of interstitial identity?

It could even be broadened to a communal understanding. Who others are, and who I am, work together to form larger interstitial identities (maleness, African-ness, Christian-ness etc.) I like this image.

I would like to believe that it is the creative and unifying work of the Holy Spirit (what Peackock calls 'active intelligence', or Bohm calls the 'implicate order', or Sheldrake calls a 'morphogenetic field').

I need to start paying attention to the Spirit of God connecting me to parts of myself, and parts of the world, in order to form and shape my identity in Him.

Friday
Aug162013

Giving thanks for the life of Brother Roger - Taizé Community

Today I give thanks for the life and ministry of Brother Roger today. The establishment of the Taizé community is a continuing gift of renewal and missional blessing to the Church across the world.

It reminds me that simple courage and constant obedience can often be used by God to bring about transformation, healing and renewal.

 

In 1940, despite the spread of war in Europe, Roger Schütz crossed the border from Switzerland into France to pursue a community life characterized by simplicity and the fellowship described in the gospels. From early on in his life, Brother Roger knew that such a life together could be a sign of reconciliation for Christians from different denominations.
After settling in a French village called Taizé, Brother Roger was caught for hiding Jewish refugees and had to leave France after two years. When he returned after World War II had ended, he was accompanied by a few men who became the first brothers of the Taize community, which grew into an ecumenical community with brothers on all continents, bearing witness to what brother Roger came to talk about as a “parable of community.”
On August 16 2005, during evening prayer in the Church of reconciliation at Taizé, Brother Roger was stabbed to death by a mentally ill woman.
- Common prayer (16 August 2013) -  http://commonprayer.net

 

Monday
Aug122013

On my way Oxford - so blessed!


As I write this I am sitting on the Oxford Tube (which is actually a bus service (called a 'coach' service in the UK) between London's Victoria station and Oxford).

My time in London was both productive and fun. I had the privilege of staying in a friend's flat which was very central. On Friday when I arrived. I had three meetings to go to - I cycled to all of them, and to dinner with my sister in law, on Doris the Brompton. It was super!

Saturday was a free day (except for one short informal meeting with a friend from a local Church). I was still struggling with a head and chest cold so I took it easy in the morning, met my friend, and then too a long slow ride out to Richmond. On Saturday evening I came back and caught up on email, administration and did some preparation for the Oxford Institute and a few other calls and meetings I have lined up for this week.

Each day I have also spent an hour or so on Skype or FaceTime with Megie, Courtney and Liam. I cannot tell you how thankful I am for that technology that allows me to stay in touch when them. While I was out cycling I even called them using Viber - it was like having a normal cell phone conversation! All of this was possible because I bought a Vodafone SIM card a few trips ago and loaded that into my iPhone again with a web and SMS plan. I get 500mb of data for the 10 days. It is so useful - I don't think I would have been able to cycle around London with google maps! And of course being able to Skype, Viber and have access to my emails is a massive help!

Yesterday (Sunday) I attended the 9.30 communion service at Holy Trinity Brompton. It was a wonderful service. I have worshiped there many times over the years I have been coming to London. The first time was in 2005 when Sandy Millar was still the Vicar. This Sunday's service was marvelous. They had planned for children and families, there was great worship, a superb message, and enough liturgy and the sacrament to satisfy my 'high(er-ish) church' inclinations. I felt renewed and blessed after the service.

While I am an extrovert, I find that as I grow older I have needed more silence, solitude and reflective time. My life is so busy, I need time to pray, to think and just to be still on God's presence. Sunday gave me that opportunity.

My friend, Wessel Bentley, arrived in London at around 5pm and we took the rest of the day to cycle through London and show him the sights. He hired a Boris bike while I rode Doris the Brompton. We did 28 km and saw Hyde Park, the Royal Albert Hall, Kensington Gardens, Marble Arch, Buckingham Palace, the Mall, Trafalgar Square (South Africa House), Scotland Yard, Methodist Central Hall, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Lambeth Palace, the South Bank of the Thames, the London Eye, the Tate modern (and Founders Arms pub for a Guinness), the Millennium Bridge, St Paul's, the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, Burger King in Gloucester street, and Harrods before hitting home! So awesome!

This is an important week. It is the 13th Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies at Oxford University. I have three tasks, first I am charging one of the plenary sessions at which Prof Rui de Souza Josgrilberg is the plenary speaker. Then I am co-chair of the Theology and Ethics working group with Prof Sergei Nikolaev. I will also be presenting my paper on Church and state in that group (please see my earlier post on this blog for details of that).

During the week I will also be doing a webinar on faith and the workplace for Call42 - I am excited about that! People will link in from all over and I will do a presentation and have a Q and A session on my experience of faith in the world of work (some of which is based on my work in the Corporate world, some from my book 'Transform your work life' and some from ore recent research and reading).

I will also be meeting my friend and fellow Methodist, Len Sweet, who is teaching in Oxford this week.

Lastly, our EXPOSED - shining a light on corruption campaign is launching in Nigeria on Tuesday! I pre recorded a video message for their launch and will be watching the event with great excitement and interest. Nigeria is critical to the continent of Africa, and even the Church across the world! Some of the largest, most vibrant and most influential Christian movements of our time come from that nation of 170 million people who are active in their country and spread throughout the world.

Together with these activities I have a few conference calls for Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED to be on during the week, and need to stay on top of email and office work.

As always, I am missing Megie, Courtney and Liam terribly! I cannot wait to be home with them!

I would appreciate your prayers for my wonderful family, and for the activities that will take place this week.

Wessel and I were saying last night as we sat chatting along the Thames just how fortunate and blessed we are! I am so aware of that blessing, and so thankful to God! It is truly unmerited. But, I am grateful each and every day for the opportunities I have been given by God, and the grace of others!

Saturday
Aug102013

A Brompton ride the Richmond and back

I arrived in London safe and sound just around 7am on Friday the 9th of August. After collecting my luggage and clearing customs (where I had to have the Brompton B bag scanned twice to convince the customs officer that there was nothing untoward in the bag!) I made my way to the lovely flat that I am staying in near Harrods in Kensington.

I unpacked my Brompton and found that it was in perfect condition.  The only little bit of 'repair' that was needed was to bend the front and back mudguards back into their proper place again (obviously when the bag was put in the hold it got a little squashed under some other luggage). I put the clamps back in the bike, pumped the wheels, had a shower and a shave and headed to my first meeting at Elephant and Castle - it was awesome! A quick 7km ride.  See the Endomondo track below.

I had two other meetings on Friday, and cycled to both, and then met my sister in law and a friend in Covent Garden for dinner.  All of the rides were great - although I am still struggling with a bit of a head and chest cold.

This morning I woke up a little later (a good night's sleep after a long flight and a busy day is always welcome). Then I cycled to Hammersmith and back to get some stuff sorted out for my luggage. After that I went for a lovely long ride to Richmond from Kensington (with a bit of Hyde Park at the start), ate a lovely lunch at the Orange pub in Richmond and then cycled back to Kensington (41km - slow, but fun).

Here is the Endomondo track for that ride.

Here are a few pictures from the ride. The Tow Paths along the Thames were not all smooth riding - in some places they were not paved at all.  Then I found few KM's of cobble stone - Paris Roubaix on a Brompton!

Here is a lovely picture of my Black Brooks leather saddle.  They are very comfortable and durable. I have this black one on my M3L and a brown one on my M6L.

One of the great things about a Brompton is that you are allowed to take it to places where most other bicycles would not be allowed! Here's Doris in the 'Orange' pub in Richmond where I stopped for lunch.


This is the business end of my Brompton! I love my little brass bell (helpful when riding in the city - pedestrians seldom look where they are going. A little ring of the bell alerts them that I am coming and keeps them, and me, safe).

A Brompton and some House Boats along the Thames.

This evening I got back to my accomodation and spent a few hours doing some administration, catching up on emails, and doing some preperation for this week's conference at Oxford University. It was wonderful doing a bit of admin knowing that I had just had a lovely day of cycling.

My cold even feels a bit better!

Thursday
Aug082013

Packing my Brompton M3L bicycle for a trip to London and Oxford

Last night I packed my beloved Bromtpon M3L folding bicycle into a Brompton B bag so that I can have a bicycle with me in the UK while I am there for 10 days. I am training for a 200km mountainbike ride in November (the Wines2Whales) and I can't allow travel to drop my fitness! So, Doris the Brompton is coming along. Not to mention that it saves lots of money and time to ride around London and Oxford on a Bromtpon instead of using the tube and buses.

There are many posts about flying with a Brompton. My biggest issues were bike safety and weight. I needed to ensure that the bike doesn't get damaged in transit, but also that it doesn't exceed the 30kg weight limit when I add clothes and toiletries in the bag with the bike. I use the Brompton B Bag since it is quite large (I can pack the bike and my clothes / toiletries into the bag), and it has wheels and a few handles. I am fortunate to have Voyager status on Star Alliance airlines and that allows me to take 30 kg of luggage, as opposed to the regular 20 kg that other passengers can take.

Here are a few pictures of my packing.

1. First I removed the clamps from the steering column and the frame and put those into a small bag (they can very easily get bent or broken), then I put some clothing over the extruding parts (saddle and the front fold, and a scarf over the left folded pedal).


2. Next I put the Brompton cover over the bicycle since I will be packing clothes around it and don't want to get grease or oil on my clothing.

3. Next I put the Brompton with its cover into the Brompton B Bag.

4. Then, I packed my clothes around the sides of the Brompton - notice that I put my shirts and jackets into a suit bag to protect them and folder them over the top bar of the bike. The rest of my clothes were then put into the open spaces in the bag. There are lots of those!

5. When I got to the airport I had the bag wrapped in plastic to protect it (notice that I had the center and front handles exposed so that I can still lift and drag the bag). You'll also see that the bag, with my clothes for 10 days, weighs in at 27kg. The bike and bag actually weigh around 15kg. So, I have 12kg of 'stuff'. Since I have some meetings and will be presenting a paper at an academic conference in Oxford I had to take smart shirts, jackets, ties and the like.

So, let's hope and pray that it arrives safely at Heathrow and I can ride it! By the way, I let the air out of the tyres (important!) so that the added pressure during the flight doesn't pop the tubes. I also put a pump, spare tube, lights and a puncture repair kit in the bag.

Check back to see how I get along once I am in London!

Wednesday
Aug072013

Leaving for London and Oxford tomorrow

Seven years ago I had the privilege going to Oxford University for the first time.  I was fortunate to be selected as a member of the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies at Christ Church in Oxford.

You can read about that visit in these posts on my blog.

Tomorrow I will be heading to England once again.  I have some meetings with our London team for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and will also be visiting my friend Tricia Neil at the Alpha International offices - they are doing such amazing work.

My very good friend, Dr Wessel Bentley (the Chief Researcher from the Unit for the study of religion at the University of South Africa) will be coming to Oxford as well.  Wessel and I have written a number of books together and have been friends for most of my ministry. I am so blessed to be able to share this trip with him!

Our most recent book is entitled 'Between Capiltal and Cathedral: Essays on Church and State relationships' - you can order it on kindle here and a paper copy here.

I will be presenting a paper at the Oxford Institute in which I argue for the importance of having a secular state.  I have often encountered a mistaken understanding in popular Christianity which assumes that if one has a Christian state (or head of state in some variations of that theme) then the nation will be better.  Sadly, research has shown that Christian political parties and Christian politicians often fair no better (and sometimes thankfully no worse) than their secular or 'other faith' counterparts.

In my paper I argue that what we need is a robust democracy with a just, secular, state that protects the rights of all of its citizens, regardless of their faith persuasion.

Think about this - there are three possible faith orientations in the modern state.

Religious state (such as in Iran, and currently in Egypt).  This is not helpful if you do not belong to that particular religion, or even to the variation of that particular religion that is the same as the persons who hold power (as we saw in Iraq under Sudam Hussein).

The anti-religious state - this is probably akin to what we saw in the former Soviet Union, Cambodia and China.  In this state religion and religious persons are persecuted.  Naturally I am not in favour of this approach since I believe that religious freedom and religious belief are central aspects to human flourishing.  Some of the modern anti religious fundamentalists (such as Richard Dawkins and the late Christopher Hitchens) tend towards this approach - not only do they purport not to hold a faith position (which is utter nonsense! Of course they have a faith position, it is a form of secular humanism or scientism), but they wish to persecute and ridicule persons who do not hold their supposed 'no faith' position.  This form of fundamentalism is as dangerous as that of the fundamentalist religious state.

Neither of the two approaches above are Biblical or in keeping with the values of God's Kingdom.

My chosen view is that we should have a secular democratic state - this would seem to make the most sense to me.  In this state the rights of all the citizens are considered and advanced.  There should be no persecution of any sensible religious movement, and at the same time no privileged status accorded to any faith movement.

What makes this even more appealing for me is that I believe it leaves room for the 'Church to be Church' - evangelism, religious education, discipleship, mission, moral formation and the like are all functions of a healthy and effective Church.  I believe that the nation requires a strong, healthy, Kingdom minded Church.

Well, do let me know your thoughts on the above! Once my paper has been delivered I will post a copy here (it has already been published and so I will just need to get permission to share it).

I would appreciate your prayers for me and my family as always!

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