• 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.
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Entries in African leadership (4)


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."


The Church in South Africa calls for prayer and engages the African National Congress

ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe (PHOTO: Martin Rhodes)Today GateWay News posted an article in which it quotes the African National Congress' (ANC) Secretary General, Gwede Mantashe, who has 'warned' ministers and Church leaders 'to back off'

It is wonderful to see that our letter to the African National Congress has touched a nerve.  

We want those elected to serve the people to remember that we pray for them, but that we also hold them accountable for their actions and decisions.  As citizens of South Africa we have not only a right, but also a responsibility, to pray for elected officials and ensure that they discharge their responsibilities in a just and responsible manner for the sake of the people who they serve.

I was fortunate to be among the 33 leaders who met in Stellenbosch to draft this statement to the ANC ahead of its elective congress in Mangaung (I was representing Unashamedly Ethical and 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' at these meetings).  Our intention was absolutely clear and honourable - we seek just and selfless leadership for the good of our nation.  

You will see that the statement begins with our commitment to pray for and support just leaders.  It also acknowledges that we are not perfect and have failings of our own.  However, the statement also reminds the governing party that we are expecting them to govern justly and that we will not tolerate low morals, greed, abuse of power and the breakdown of the rule of law.

It is well worth reading the letter we wrote to the ANC (see the link in press release from Gateway News).  

The document is entitled 'The Church speaks for a time such as this' you can download a copy from here:

In order to aid you in praying for the nation we have prepared prayer pointers and materials to guide you in your prayers.  You can download those prayer materials here.

Please join us in praying for our nation at this critical time. Please also remember to pray for those who are called to serve us in leadership.


A Biblical mandate for advocacy on poverty and corruption - ABLI presentation

Yesterday I had the great honour of speaking in the Plenary and conducting a workshop session at the African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) forum in Uganda.

I was invited to present on our campaign 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption'. A number of the participants asked me to upload the slides from the presentation.

You can view the slides online below (please note that the first slide is blank, there is content from slide two).

If you would like to download a copy of the slides you can download them in PowerPoint format here.  They are in PPTX format and the file size is about 7.5MB.  If you use the slides please just attribute their source.

I told three stories to make the point that Christians have a responsibility, a ministry, to advocate for justice (speaking out against corruption and working with and for the poor).

Story 1 was called Philip's story.  It asks a powerful theological question:  If God has made the earth plentiful.  If Africa is so fertile and rich in natural and human resources, then why is he, and so many other Africans, stuck in abject poverty?

I used this wonderful video from NURU international.

Story 2 is a Biblical story.  I give some Biblical and Theological input on God's Economy (the oikos [household] nomos [management]).  The etymology of the contemporary English word 'economics' derives from two Greek words that mean the 'management of the household of God'.  The basic point here is that God desires a different standard of equity, justice and the management of the earth's resources so that every person can have a share of God's loving provision to flourish and live in blessing.

Some participants challenged a statement that I made in which I said that the prosperity 'gospel' is  not Biblical.  I stand by that statement.  I do not believe that God is an 'investment banker' where if one follows certain deterministic principles God is contractually bound to make one rich.  Moreover, it is simply not possible for the world to all live at the same standard of consumption that is expounded by prosperity preachers.  We can sustain that level of consumption of the natural resources of the earth.  If every person on earth lived at the standards of the average first world citizen the planet would depleted in a few short years.

However, I also do NOT believe that it is God's desire that the poor should remain in poverty.  I also do not believe that all wealth is evil and wrong.  I believe that what God wants is greater equity between the poor and the rich. In God's economy no child should have too much while another child has too little.  Of course there would be some who have more (e.g., persons who pursue business) and some who have less (persons such as myself who follow a life of service in the academy or in ministry).  However, no one should have too little and no one should have too much.

I do believe that part of the ministry of the Church is to develop the nation.  We should be involved in economic development.  We should be encouraging entrepreneurship.  However, we should also be encouraging responsible stewardship.  We should be encouraging simple and responsible living.

Aman, and a visiting Bishop from Zambia, both put their finger on the problem.  They both suggested that the problem is the terminology that we use.  For me, and many 'westernised' Christians the word prosperity has connations of excess (i.e., how does one get a bigger house, a better car, a higher salary than the good one already has).  However, for most poor persons prosperity means being able to meet the needs of your family and live with a reasonable measure of economic and social freedom.

Just to give some credit, I used a slide from my colleauge at the University of Stellenbosch, Dr Marius Nel, in this section.  It traces the development of the Historical Jesus scholarship.  I basically ask the question 'which Jesus shapes your faith?'  In short, the kind of Jesus that one finds preached by popular television preachers does not resemble the Jesus of the Bible very much.  If you want to find out what the Jesus of scripture cared about do yourself a favor and JUST read the red letters of the Gospels (the words of Jesus) for a month or so and see what Jesus thinks about, talks about, and cares about.  You may be surprised that he cares more about justice, economics, gender relations, systems of power in society than you thought.

Story 3 is our story.  I used the 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' campaign as an example of  advocacy on corruption and poverty. In this section I drew on the great work of my colleague, Amanda Jackson, on advocacy.

I used this video.

I hope there may be something of use here.  Please let me know what you think.  God bless, Dion


$5 Million as a prize - I think it is worth it! Just consider the alternative.

Today it was reported that former Mozambican President, Joaquim Chissano, was awarded the Mo Ibrahim prize for excellence in leadership for an African statesman. The prize money amounts to $US5 Million.

At first I thought, heck $5 Million US, that's about as much as some of the poorer African nations whole budget! But then I thought, well, what is the alternative?

If one were to do an estimate of how much money Robert Mogabe has pillaged from the poor of Zimbabwe I'm sure that it would be a heck of a lot more!

I say well done to Mr Chissano, and well done to the generous benefactor, Mo Ibrahim. May we see many, many more examples of good, honest, integral, African leadership. We are NOT a corrupt continent, we are NOT doomed to poverty and subservience. We are African. We can teach the world another way to live.

Go to the BBC website for full coverage of this story.

What are your thoughts and comments?

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