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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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Entries in academic (12)

Thursday
Oct122017

So grateful! A celebration! Defending my PHD - sharing the experience with Megie!

Yesterday was a truly amazing day! At exactly 16.30 (11 October 2017) I defended my PHD (which you can read about here) at Radboud University, Nijmegen. It was a wonderful joy to share it with my wife Megan. At Dutch Universities the defence and graduation takes place at the same time. Your dissertation (once completed) gets examined, and then you have to publish it as a book (which I did - see the previous link for details). Then you defend it in public, and the degree gets awarded at the same event! It was exciting, but also rather scary at the same time! I am so grateful that it is done and the degree of ‘Doctor’ has been awarded (which means that I now hold two PHD’s, one in Systematic Theology and one in New Testament studies).

You can watch a little video about the build up to the defence below. And here are a few pictures from the event (with the ‘pedel’ / ‘beadle’) who was a great sport! My thanks to Radboud University, my supervisors, Prof Jan van der Watt and Prof Chris Hermans, to the communities that participated in the research (they matter most in this project!) and to my wonderful family for their love and support.

 

Tuesday
Dec222015

Recreational reading for 2015 – some of my favourite (fun) books

I am an avid reader – naturally I have to read for my work. When I say that I ‘have’ to read, I mean that I love to read. I read as much as I can, as often as I can. I have an insatiable thirst for knowledge!

That being said, not everything that I read is of an academic nature. I particularly enjoy reading outside of my field of study in popular philosophy, science (especially neuroscience), economics, biography and fiction.

I own too many books. Megan is constantly trying to get me to take my books to my office at the University. Indeed, I do have three walls full of books in my office (my most used academic books are there). At home we have a few more book shelves with a far wider variety of subjects outside of theology. In recent years, however, since I received an iPad for work in April 2012 I have mostly bought my books in Kindle format. Amazingly I still have that same iPad and I have read hundreds of books on it. It took a little time to get used to the Kindle format (I still like paper, the feel and smell of it, its texture, and the ability to use a pencil to mark a page, underline a sentence or write a comment in the margin of a book). However, when I was traveling like crazy in 2012 and 2013 it was wonderful to have my library with me on a single device!

These days if I buy a very important book (like Charles Taylor’s A secular age or David Ford’s The modern theologians) I will get a copy on Kindle, and if my research funds allow it I will purchase a paper copy for my office to share with colleagues and students.

For books that are really just being read for fun, I may even get a copy on Audible. I don’t often drive my car to work (most days I commute on my Vespa), but when I am driving, or flying, somewhere it is great to have a book to listen to. I also listen when I cycle on my own. It is a great way to get two things done at once. The first every audiobook that I listened to was Umberto Ecko’s The name of the rose – after that I was hooked and have listened to many more.

So, here are a few books that I read or listened to in 2016 (this does not include the academic books that I have read this year – perhaps I will do a separate list on that at some point).

These books are not listed in any order other than my purchasing history on Amazon! My favorites for 2015 are Ben Lovejoy's 11/9 and Simon Winchester's three great books.

Dan Brown Inferno

Inferno

I love the way Dan Brown writes. In particular I love reading how he describes the places his characters visit since I have been to many of these places. This was a great thriller - not as entertaining as entertaining as The Davinci Code or Angels and Demons, but a great suspense novel for anyone who likes to solve puzzles and riddles with a bit of history thrown in for good measure.

Max Barry Lexicon

 

This was a wonderful piece of science fiction. It is well written, has lots of twists and turns, and is very well researched (particularly if one has an interest in language, language theory, philosophy of language and the neuroscience of communication).

Kevin Mitnick and Steve Wozniak Ghost in the wires: My adventures as the world's most wanted hacker

I don't think this book will appeal to everyone's tastes. I have read one or two of Wozniak's books in the past and sadly he doesn't write well. Mitnick is a very interesting 'proto-hacker'. I read a lot about him when he was first arrested in alt.2600 and elsewhere. I also read his The art of deception many years ago. He is an interesting fellow and the pursuits of his hacking career are interesting and filled with adventure.

Mark Owen No Hero and No Easy day

I am certain that these two books will not appeal to a wide audience. Mark Owen is a former Navy Seal who was part of the team that apprehended (and killed) Osama Bin Laden. Since I had some specialist training during my national service I am always interested to read about the training of others, and also find it fascinating to see to what extremes people will push their bodies and minds. Most interesting for me is gaining some insight into the ethical decision making processes that go into war and warfare. I find it fascinating to see the conflict of values, and how ethical dilemma's are engaged and resolved in such settings. These books are full of bravado and are certainly not literary masterpieces. However, they were insightful.

Neal Stephenson Cryptonomicon

Cryptonomicon

This is another exceptionally well researched and beautifully written action adventure. It spanned a few historical periods and geographical locations. I learnt quite a bit about cryptography (both contemporary and historically) and found the combination of espionage, mathematics and action so entertaining.

Clive Cussler The assassin

I am not a fan of westerns. I can't even remember how I came to read this book. I think it may have been recommended on Mac Break Weekly. It was interesting, but I don't think I will read any more in this series. If you like Westerns and period Americana this may appeal to you.

Simon Winchester The Professor and the Madman and The man who loved China and The men who united the states.

The Professor and the madman

Simon Winchester is my favorite author at the moment. I suppose he can be related in some way to Bill Bryson's genre of historical biography. He writes beautifully. Every detail in his books is carefully researched and he uses impeccable English grammar to construct his narratives. Every time I read one of his books I feel emotionally and intellectually enriched. They are wonderful! The Professor and the Madman is about the writing of the Oxford English Dictionary. That was my favorite 'fun book' in 2015.

Neal Stephenson Seveneaves

Seveneves

This was my second favorite book for 2015. It is science fiction at its best. Stephenson has a wonderful knack for telling stories. He clearly spends a great deal of time researching his subject and write beautifully. This book taught me all about the engineering of space flight. What it would take to survive in space if the earth were doomed, and the concept of genetic zygosity. Fascinating!

Ray Bradbury Fahrenheit 451

This book is a classic of science fiction. It sketches a picture of a world that attempts to reshape history through the destruction of knowledge and books. I read this during the time of the #Rhodesmustfall movement where statues were being removed in South Africa. It made me think a great deal about the totalitarian tendency to want to revise and sanitize history (not allowing memory a just and ethical allotment of the truth upon which to be judged). This is a must read!

Ben Lovejoy 11/9

This is an excellent cyber thriller. I was riveted from the first page to the last! It is another one of those books that is so well researched that one learns as you are entertained. I discovered so many things about the aviation industry, flight security and anti-terrorist initiatives through this wonderful thriller. This book is particularly special since Ben Lovejoy is a friend of mine who lives in the UK! I highly recommend this book!

Dave Eggers The Circle

Amazon voted this one of the best books of 2015. I agree. It is a very contemporary story about the power and influence of global surveillance and social networking (capitalist) enterprises like facebook and google. It reminded me a lot of Fahrenheit 451 (except for our time). It is a warning about privacy and greed and egotism. This is well worth reading!

Nicholas Nassim Taleb Antifragile

Taleb is one of my favorite authors. He is super smart. His books are always deeply challenging and creative. It is little wonder that The black swan is already a classic. Antifragile is sure to achieve the same hallowed status. It is philosophically sound and deeply challenging, even inspiring. It asks and answer the basic question 'what is the opposite of being fragile?' It is not being robust (i.e., mere surviving) it is being antifragile - that is learning to thrive in chaos and uncertainty, not just to weather the storm. This has been such a helpful book for me this year as so many things are changing rapidly in South Africa. It helps to offer a bit of perspective in uncertain times.

So, these are some of the fun books that I read this year. What have you been reading? I'd love your feedback on your favorite books of 2015, or comments on any of the books above! Please leave me a comment in the comments section below.

Wednesday
Jun032015

World Economic Forum 2015 - day 1

I have just registered for the 2015 World Economic Forum meeting that is taking place in Cape Town.

I am honoured and excited to have been selected to be one of the 150 or so persons from civil society to participate.

I am looking forward to 3 days of learning and participating in the various sessions.

I have joined sessions on ethics and governance, economic stability and poverty, and the role of civil society as my primary points of participation. It is very exciting!

Security is super tight! I had to park about 2km from the CTICC and walk down. Registration was very efficient and simple.

I will tweet on @digitaldion and post some comments and reflections here throughout the next three days. So please do check back from time to time if you are interested.

Sunday
Nov232014

Faith and work in South Africa - Do Churches adequately care for their members?

Does the Church in South Africa adequately support members for their daily work life?

My most recently published research discusses this question and shares some statistical data gained from the broadest and most recent empirical research on faith and work in South Africa.

The article is entities 'Called to work: A descriptive analysis of Call42's research on faith and work in South Africa'. You can read, or download, a copy of the research article here: http://koersjournal.org.za/index.php/koers/article/view/2143

Here is the abstract for the article:

Very little empirical research has been conducted into faith and work, particularly as it relates to the experience and expectations of Christians in the world of work in South Africa. This article discusses the most recent research of this kind that was conducted by Call42. Call42 conducted an empirical research project on faith, calling, and the world of work between 2011 and 2012. The findings were released to the public after July 2012. Not only is this the most up to date data on this subject at present; the research findings and research process are also worthy of academic consideration. The Call42 research was initiated and commissioned by a group of young Christian professionals (mainly engineers) and as such it brings a perspective on faith and work from within the primary context of the world of work, rather than the theological academy or the church. The findings of the research have implications for the church and its officers (priests, pastors and leaders). It also arrives at some conclusions for Christians in the world of work, students who are contemplating a vocation or career path, and companies and organisations that have an explicit or implicit Christian orientation.
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.

Thursday
Jan022014

The dawning of a new era - Stellenbosch University

Today a new era dawned in my ministry and working life - on the 2nd of January 2014 I arrived at Stellenbosch University at around 7.50am to move into my new office in the Faculty of Theology.  

Yesterday my appointment as Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Ethics (with a focus on Public Theology) came into effect! I am truly grateful for this magnificent opportunity to serve the Church and society in the academy!

I am so excited about what the future holds in this new post! For some years I have been attached to the faculty as a staff member in Ekklesia (the Center for Leadership and Congregational) - however, this new post is as a full time academic with both undergraduate and post graduate teaching and research responsibilities.

I will be teaching Ethics and Systematic Theology and will have a particular focus on the Church's role in the various 'public' spaces of society (politics, economics, health care, education, the arts and many others).  This is where most of my attention and energy has been focussed in the last decades.  The Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED 'Shining a light on corruption' campaigns have aimed at precisely this, to support and empower the Church for making a positive contribution to the transformation of the nation and the world.

So, today I moved my stuff from my 'old office' in the Ekklesia side of the faculty building into the 'faculty' side of the building (which is pictured above - I took this photo about three years ago.  Isn't it a beautiful building?) Each of the departments are clustered together, and I am in the section for Systematic Theology, Church History, Ethics and Ecclesiology. It is a beautiful sunny office with rows and rows of book shelves and lots of wood - befitting the historical look of the Kweekskool buildings.

My prayer for this new sesion in my ministry is that I will have an opportunity to serve both the Church and the nation in developing critical though and ideas, useful tools, and well trained people who can bring about transformation and the renewal of society for the sake of justice and grace.

I am inspired by the following quote from a speech that former President Nelson Mandela gave at the Methodist Conference in Umtata on 18 September 1994:

One cannot over-emphasise the contribution that the religious community made particularly in ensuring that our transition achieves the desired result. The spirit of reconciliation and the goodwill within the nation can, to a great measure, be attributed to the moral and spiritual interventions of the religious community.

Now that a major part of the journey towards democracy has been traversed, new and more difficult tasks lie ahead of us. For, political democracy will be empty and meaningless, if the misery of the majority of the people is not addressed.

The Church, like all other institutions of civil society, must help all South Africans to rise to the challenge of freedom. As South Africa moves from resistance to reconstruction and from confrontation to reconciliation, the energy that was once dedicated to breaking apartheid must be harnessed to the task of building the nation.

I would appreciate your prayers for me, and of course also for Megie, Courtney and Liam, as this new phase in our lives takes shape.

I will remain the Chairman of the Board of 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' as our team works towards the G20 meetings in Australia in November 2014.  In addition to that I will also serve on one or two other boards (Unashamedly Ethical, the Power Group Charitable Trust, Half Time and Alpha).

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!

Sunday
Sep092012

Our new book on Church and State relationships has just been published - Between Capital and Cathedral

I am so pleased to share the news that my friend Dr Wessel Bentley and I have just had a new book published.  It is entitled 'Between Capital and Cathedral: Essays on Church State relationships'.  

What is clear is that God desires that the Church should be an agent of God's will on all spheres of society, including the State.  We are called to pray, to advocate, to act, to support, and to be prophetically critical of the work of the state.  

This book contains some exceptional theological and social insights from persons such as Joerg Rieger (Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University), Prof Peter Storey (South African Methodist anti-apartheid Activist, Professor at Duke Divinity school), Prof Klaus Nurnberger (a Lutheran missionary, anti apartheid Activist and professor of Systematic Theology at both the University of South Africa and the University of KwaZulu Natal), Professor Liouse Kretzschmar (Professor of Systematic theology and ethics at the University of South Africa), Dr Clint le Bruyns (senior lecturer in public theology at the University of KwaZulu Natal), Revd Sifiso Khuswayo (Duke University Graduate, minister of the Methodist Church and lecturer at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary), Dr Wessel Bentley (senior reasearcher at the Institute for the Study of Religion at the University of South Africa), and myself (lecturer at Stellenbosch University, Ekklesia, Faculty of Theology).

Here is some information on the book:

Cost: R120
Order here or Kindle


South Africa has a rich and complex history of Church-State relations. It is diverse, telling a story of how the Church was used as an instrument of colonisation, how sections of the Church endorsed policies of segregation, but also how other parts of the Church fought a long and brave battle to see the Apartheid regime toppled. It has been almost two decades since the end of Apartheid and as change is ringing in the social, political and ecclesiastical spheres of South Africa, it is necessary to revisit the notion of Church-State relations in this country. Coming from a past where the Church held a dominant position in society - both in the promotion of, and in the resistance to, the Apartheid system - the Church now finds itself in a new context; namely a Constitutional Democracy. In this setting its voice has to compete with other voices, its power is limited since it is merely one role-player in a society which is trying to find its feet. What does this mean for the identity, place and role of the Christian Church? What is the responsibility of the State to the society which it serves? This collection of essays seeks to address these questions. It does so by listening to prominent voices which have spoken, and still speak boldly on this topic, voices reflecting how Church- State relationships have influenced the social structures and systems across the globe. It offers some suggestions for a prudent Church-State relationship in South Africa, which will enable the formation of a society which can enjoy its freedoms in the context of justice, selflessness and hope. In these pages the reader will discover that the State has a greater responsibility than simply overseeing the implementation of government policies. Moreover, the Church has a greater role to play than merely being concerned with spiritual matters. It is argued that the Church and State cannot be the same entity, nor should the lines between Church and State be blurred, for this will lead to the distortion of both the Church and State thereby diminishing their primary functions. At the same time, social justice, the dignity of all
people and the moral formation of a nation depend on a Church-State relationship that is critical, honest, transparent and which will not shy away from collaborating when such work is clearly for the benefit of society as a whole. This book is not the final word on Church- State relationships, but aims to encourage new discoveries and continued conversations on what it means for the Church and the State to be effective and relevant in the South African context. The essays offer a diverse range of perspectives, and although these are not the only voices to be heard, they will stimulate conversation, benefiting society at large.

Here are the titles of the chapters in the book.

Essay 1
Banning the flag from our churches: Learning from the Church-State struggle in South Africa
Peter Storey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1-20

Essay 2
Being a Christian in a “Christian country”: theological reflections
Joerg Rieger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21-39

Essay 3
The reluctant insight: Protestantism and democracy
Klaus Nürnberger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41-57

Essay 4
The Church, democracy and responsible citizenship
Clint Le Bruyns . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 59-71

Essay 5
God’s Kingdom and the transformation of society
Dion A Forster . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 73-88

Essay 6
The place of the Church in the new South Africa
Wessel Bentley . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 89-103

Essay 7
Un-mining the undermined history: the historical role of education
in transforming a nation
Sifiso Khuzwayo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105-129

Essay 8
The Christian formation of South African believers for engagement
with State and society
Louise Kretzschmar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131-163

Cost: R120
Order here or purchase it on Kindle (or download the first chapter for free).

Sunday
Sep092012

Let the journey(s) begin - packing my bags again. Johannesburg, Malaysia, Holland and England.

It is that time again.  I am starting to get my bags and get ready for some travel over the next month and a bit.

Tomorrow I shall be in Johannesburg for the Alpha South Africa board meetings.  Alpha does the most amazing work in Churches across the world.  I know so many people in many of the almost 100 countries that I have visited who have come to discover (or rediscover) faith in Christ through an Alpha course, a Marriage Course or a Parenting Course.

On Thursday and Friday I will be helping to lead the strategic reflection process for the Southern African community coordinators from across Southern Africa.  Unashamedly Ethical is doing such great work across the world.  It is so necessary in South Africa at this point in our history.  Corruption is a significant problem in South Africa, and it is particularly important for the Christians, and the Church, to take a stand against corruption, the abuse of power, and inept functionaries in government and business.

The following week I leave for Malaysia! I am so thankful to be able to speak at the Alpha Malaysia Workplace Conference.  I will speak on the relationship between ordained clergy (pastors, priests and ministers) and ministers in other areas of life (Christians in the world of work, education, arts and culture, politics, media etc.)  In our book 'Transform your work life:  Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' I devoted a chapter to discussing a theology of work.  I am convinced of a few key points:

  • Work is not intended to be a curse.  God gives us he ability to apply our gifts, abilities, strength, relationships and creativity to both provide for our needs (and those of our loved ones), as well as making a contribution to society.
  • Every person is a minister!  Some ministers are paid by Churches or ministry organisations.  Others are paid through rendering a service or developing a product in the wider world.  However, every person who knows Christ is called to live under his direction and according to His will.  That is ministry.  So, every person is a minister.  See Col 3.23 for example.
  • God's plan for the transformation is to be realised through the Church.  Ministers in the Church, and Ministers in the world of work have missunderstood this statement.  Basically, our theology of Church needs re-formation.  Christians are as much the Church when we gather (for worship, fellowship, teaching and service), as we are the Church when we scatter (going to our homes, our communities, to work, to study, to play).  It is one Church!  The Church has a common mission in the world, that is the missio Dei (the work of God in the world).  The local congregation cannot achieve this without Christians in every sphere of society, and Christians scattered into every sphere of society cannot achieve it without gathering for growth, encouragement, healing, renewal, and encounter with God.

I will also have a workshop at the conference where I will speak about the work of Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption.  The Malaysian Church is such a wonderful example to the rest of the world.  Christians are so engaged in social issues!  There is a wonderful balance between sharing the good news (evangelism) and being the good news (mission). 

While in Malaysia I will also have a chance to preach at my friend Alvin Tan's Church, spend some time sharing with the 'Citizens Network for a better Malaysia', and having some meetings around corruption, ethics and advocacy in society.

I then return back to Cape Town for a just over a week.  At the start of October I will be heading to Holland for a few weeks.  Part of my time in Europe will be spend working on my second PhD.  I was privileged to get a scholarship to do some post doctoral research, in the form of a second PhD, in New Testament at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Holland.  I am working with Professor Jan van der Watt and Prof Chris Hermans.  They are both leaders in their fields.  I am trying to do something fairly novel in bringing together some of the research from my previous doctoral work in neuroscience and identity, and merging that with narratology in New Testament studies.  The project will apply an action oriented research model, and so I will be doing some qualitative research in a few different cultures, communities with differing economic levels, and differing theological approaches.

I will also be having some meetings with colleauges and interested parties on Unashamedly Ethical, EXPOSED and the Global Day of Prayer while I am there.

on the 11th of October I will be in London for a very significant press event for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' around the Houses of Parliament.  This press event will mark the official public launch of EXPOSED, a number of significant Christian Church leaders, Political figures and Business persons will be present to Shine their light in the areas of dealing with corruption and poverty.

I return to Holland for just short of of two weeks after the press event before going back to Cape Town at the end of October.

As always I would like to ask for your prayers:

  • Please pray for my family - it is never nice to be away from them for extended periods of time.
  • Please pray for me and the work that I will be doing.  Please pray that God will guide me, give me great wisdom and clarity about my task, and that I will be humble, gracious and loving in every interaction.
  • Please pray for the various events and engagements that we will be a part of.  Please pray that God is glorified and that God's will is achieved through our work.
  • Please pray that we, our teams, our families, our equipment, and every aspect of our work receives God's protection and grace.

Thanks so much!

Sunday
Aug052007

I'm a black, African-Christian, social-activist, and proud of it!

Yep, that's right, I'm proud to be a black, African-Christian, social activist! If that doesn't make sense then please read my paper below. I prepared it for the Oxford Institute where I will deliver it in the Systematic Theology working group.

You can download the paper here:

Dr Dion Forster - Oxford Institute 2007.doc

Here's the real title and abstract.

Title: The appropriation of Wesleyan pragmatism and social holiness in Southern African Methodism. By Dr Dion Forster

Abstract: While Wesleyan theology shares many core elements throughout the world, there can be little doubt that it finds rich and diverse application and expression in the many varied contexts in which Methodism has taken root.

This paper will present an overview of the application, and unique expression, of Christian Perfection as it has taken shape within Methodism in Southern Africa. Christianity, and in particular Methodism, is a dominant faith perspective in Southern Africa. This phenomenon, it will be argued, is largely due to the pragmatic nature of Wesleyan theology, and its emphasis on social holiness. This research aims to add value to the corpus of global Methodist Theology that tends to be dominated by western theological perspectives. Thus a new perspective on Methodist theology will be given by means of articulating the unique tenets of Southern African Methodist Theology. Insights gained from this study may be of value in similar contexts where Methodist theology is seeking to find a unique, and contextually relevant, expression. Moreover, understanding how Methodist theology is being shaped in the two-thirds world, an area in which Methodism is growing, may give some valuable indicators for the formulation and expression of Methodist theology elsewhere in the world.

Thursday
Aug022007

General relativity and time travel, or should that read 'relatively little time, generally, before one travels'?

On Monday I will be making my way to Christ Church, Oxford University, with Prof Neville Richardson. and our Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, to attend a conference, do some teaching, and deliver a paper at the Oxford institute.

I shall also be visiting our friends at Wesley house in Cambridge (although don't mention either visit to the other party... I believe there has been a rather fierce rivalry since the 13th century!).

To read more about the Oxford Institute you can click here:

http://www.oxford-institute.org/

I return to South Africa for my daughter"s birthday and some important meetings, and then have a chance to speak at a Methodist conference in Malaysia, and to visit and teach at STM, the Malaysian seminary. You can read about that conference here.

These are all very exciting events! I certainly feel unworthy, yet truly honoured, to be a part of such august and distinguished events! I will, of course, miss my family (however, Skype video does help!)

As usual I'll post pictures, podcasts, and thoughts here. So please do check back if you're interested.

In all of my research and preparation for these trips I have rediscovered the truth of Albert Eienstein's theory of relativity - time is truly relative, mostly time is inversely proportionate to the number of tasks one has to do before international travel. Oh well, I'll sleep on the flight!

Be patient with me - I promise to post more content soon! As for the value of that content... Well that's relative i.e., my relatives think it's great everyone else is bored to tears ;-)

Loved and blessing,

Dion (Tshwane South Africa)

Monday
Jun252007

Take a look at this....

This book arrived in my post on Friday... What's so special about it!? Well, isn't it a nice cover?


Check out the last name and title of the chapter on the left hand side page (you may have to click on the image to enlarge it), and the fourth name and description on the right hand side page! ha ha, that's the great thing about this book with the rather 'generic' cover... I have a chapter published in it! I presented a paper on consciousness, identity, and Africa Theology (particularly the ethics of ubuntu) and it was published in the book. It is wonderful (and vain - Lord forgive me) to see one's name in print!

So, there we go! Have a blessed week!