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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.

Entries in friends (9)

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!

Monday
Jul092012

Pantai Baptist Church and meeting good friends

Yesterday was another wonderful day here in Malaysia.  

Young Soon, the director of Malaysian Care collected me from my hotel in Sentral KL at just before 8am. We drove the short distance to Pantai Baptist Church where I was kindly given an opportunity to preach in their two morning service.  Pantai Baptist Church (formerly First Baptist Church) is a wonderful, vibrant, socially engaged, Christian community.  The worship was wonderful - I always find being in worship with sisters and brothers across the world as a rich and deep experience of grace.  There is an aspect of worship that makes me feel at home, among family, not matter how far I am from home.

Marvin Wong is the minister of this thriving Church.  As we chatted we discovered that we have many friends and interests in common.  Marvin did his studies in Cambridge and knows Wesley House well.  He also knows Mark Greene from the London Institute of Contemporary Christianity (LICC) and Peter Heslam from Cambridge's Transforming business (Enterprise solutions to poverty) institute.

I had a chance to talk about the importance of integrating faith and every sphere of life (work, politics, economics, community life etc.)  Marvin had asked that I share from my book 'Transform your work life', which was a great joy.  I am passionate about that message.  Of course I also focussed on 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and the Unashamedly Ethical campaign.

A few persons asked me to post my powerpoint slides from the sermon online.  So, here they are! The title of the sermon was a question:  Are you a Monday morning atheist?  

Simply stated, an atheist is someone who acts as if they have no faith or belief in God.  Sadly, I have experienced that many Christians live parts of their lives as if they are atheists - sure, we find it easy to be people of faith in 'places of faith' (like a Church building or Church service), but do we live our work life, or social life, our community life with the awareness that God is present there?  Do we ask God to guide, direct and inform our decisions, choices and actions at work, when we are given a chance to cast a vote, to participate in shaping an institution or making ethical decisions?  It is critical that we recapture our responsibility as Christians to be 'salt and light' in the world - working for the transformation and renewal of every aspect of society, to the glory of God and for the blessing of all people and the rest of creation.

Last night was a wonderful time of friendship as I went to dinner with Alvin Tan and one of his leaders Charlie.  Alvin and I have been good friends for a number of years - he is one of the leaders of the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical in Malaysia.  He and Charlie blessed me with a relaxed evening of good conversation and fellowship.  It is wonderful to know such brothers in Christ.

Sunday
Oct242010

Partnership is about friendship

Perhaps this post is an expression of my age, an insight into my generation.

This week at the Lausanne Congress has been truly wonderful in most ways! The connections, new friendships, and deepening of relationships have been great!

But among that I have also encountered some folks here who have been much more interested in themselves, their ministry, their 'big idea', than they are in others.

Their approach comes across as functional - they engage me so that they can use what I have to further their cause. I can tell that they want to be connected with someone more important than me. They have little interest in me, my family, and God's calling for my life - I'm a tool, a stepping stone, a connection along the way.

I want to encourage Christians to adopt the attitude of Christ that Paul writes about Phil 2.3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others".

So here's my point, I would love to serve you. I recognise that I too am prone to putting tasks and goals above relationships. I'm trying to adopt the power of the trinity's life - power in relationship. So please do contact me if I can connect with you. Please drop me a note if I have something that can help you in any way. But please let us remember that partnership is about friendship first!

Everybody is good at some things, and needs the help of others with some things. In God's eyes we're all valuable in spite of our titles, positions, influence, opportunity or lack thereof. I pray that I will recognise that truth in the lives of those among whom I have the privelage of living each day!

This picture shows a few of our digital communications team having fun together!

. They are such a wonderful example of a true partnership. Good friends who get things done for God's Kingdom. It has been a blessing to serve in this team!
Sunday
Feb282010

Power Piston fun ride! 110km of Hot, hot, hot fun!!

Today 10 of my friends and I did our own fun ride. It is the second time we've done it (we did it last year this time as well). It is supposed to be a training ride for the Cape Argus Pick n Pay cycle tour which is in 2 weeks time here in Cape Town. That race is 110km (or so) and so we try to do one ride (at least) of the same distance to stretch our legs a little.

We left from Klapmuts (half way between Stellenbosch and Paarl) at 6am. From there we did the 60 kilometers to Malmesbury, and then another 30 some kilometers to Wellington with a final stretch of about 20 kilometers back to Klapmuts.

11 of us started this year with 8 of us doing the entire distance, one going until 80km's and two opting out at 65 kilometers.

The routs has quite a few hills, but the real challenege is the heat -to the temperature was over 40 degrees C. There is also always quite a strong head wind between Malmesbury and Wellington.

My wonderful wife Megie and our two kids prepared goodies for a few 'water stops' along the route. She is WONDERFUL!!!! Ice cold water, a cold coke and a few bannanas saved the day. Plus her little Renault Clio was a great car to help get folks back to their cars when the heat and distance took its toll!

Next week Sunday I'll be riding the 55km mountainbike Argus ride at Boschendal near Stellenbosch, and the week after I'll be at the starting line of the road Argus for a 7.13am start to the race!

Please spare a prayer for stron legs, big lungs and safety on the mountain and road!

Thursday
Mar132008

Mertyl the great (aka my Orange 1967 Vespa VLB 150cc) is back!!

 

Wohoo! My beautiful orange Mertyl is back in action!! I was called by Uncle Regie of KR and Sons in Zasm Street, Waltloo, Pretoria to say that they had finished the painting, bending, and bashing to get Mertyl back in shape!! She looks great!

In this picture you'll see Mertyl (with her left legshield repaired after the accident), a friend Rev Paul Oosthuizen (with the helmet - he is bringing her home for me), my friend and colleague Prof Neville Richardson (who drove us to collect Mertyl), and Uncle Regie the 'doctor of Vespa' who has her looking as good as new!

I am so pleased that she is back!! However, I won't be riding her for a few months yet - tomorrow is week 4 since my accident, which means I still have 8-14 weeks before I am off my crutches and back up to speed!

Thanks for the help Uncle Regie, Neville, and Paul!! It feels GREAT to have Mertyl where she belongs, safely in my garage at home!

Friday
Oct122007

Celebrating a powerful life! Happy Birthday Pete!

There are some people who change one's life more than they would ever know...

Today I offer thanks to God, and celebrate, my friend Peter Grassow's life - some years ago on this very day (13 October) Peter Grassow was born into the manse of a Methodist ministerial family (Pete can tell you how many years ago it was).

Pete is a follower of Christ, the kind of follower who doesn't compromise on the Gospel (even when it has consequences!) He is just, humane, loving, gracious, fair, prophetic (yup, we've just been talking about that). Oh, and he rides a large BMW motorbike and has done 12 Comrades Marathons (which means he must also be just a little bit crazy!!!)

I have known Pete for over a decade now. He has been a mentor and a guide, offering wise counsel, the ear of a friend, but also challenge and rebuke where necessary. Pete is the friend who will phone me to tell me that I am not spending enough time with my wife and children. He's also the kind of friend who phones me just about every week without fail, simply to ask how my relationship with God is going! What's even better is that he is willing to listen, and not offer advice (unless I ask for it). He's the kind of person I am pleased to follow and learn from. He gave me my first real teaching post - teaching New Testament at the College he runs in Cape Town.

Pete serves as a Pastor of a Church in Cape Town. He is a gifted preacher, a great teacher, a published author (more than a few times over), and he's one of the best leaders I know. He has been jailed for his stance against the Apartheid regime... He has faced the struggle of being the only white minister to serve in a black congregation (during a time when it was both illegal, and just not done, in both South Africa, and the Methodist Church). But more importantly, he loves Christ, loves his wife Jen, and his 3 daughters. I learn a lot from him

Happy Birthday Pete! You're a gift! And no, I don't say that to all the boys!

If you want to wish Pete a Happy Birthday (even if you don't know him), please drop him a note on his blog www.rockinthegrass.blogspot.com.

Much love from Dion, Megan, Courtney and Liam

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Friday
Oct052007

A year ago today... The sadness of a bureaucrat... But, tomorrow is another day!

It was the 4th of October 2006. I was dressed in a jacket and tie. Megie was about five and a half months pregnant with Liam, it was just before a week long retreat with my friends Peter Woods, Peter Grassow (above) and Kevin Needham.... A year ago today I graduated with a Doctorate in Theology. You can read more about that week here (look for the past dated 6 October 2006).

So much has changed since then! Most magnificent of all of those changes was the birth of our little miracle, Liam. I can hardly believe that he is almost a year old!

Tonight I celebrate and give thanks for Liam as I end another day of fasting - I have done 48 of these so far, every Friday for children, parents, and those who long to be parents. I do it because God knows the intensity of my gratitude and the sincerity of my intercessory prayer.

But, I am also sad - maybe I'm just hungry and pensive, but I feel sad. I miss Peter Woods - he is preparing for his year long retreat and has long since stopped blogging. I feel like I have lost a good friend. I mourn the fact that next year there will be no Phase 1 center at Plumstead in Cape Town. I wasn't involved in the final move that saw all the students from that District being placed elsewhere, but I feel guilty. Somehow as each year passes my sense of responsibility and culpability grows within the Church. Responsibility, because like most of our Church's leaders I also wish to help to make the Church more faithful so that we can honour God by bringing healing and transformation to the world, but also culpable since I realise how inadequate I am to achieve that, but also because one is seldom untouched by the struggles and mistakes of our Church, my Chuch.

My friend from Malaysia, Sivin, posted the following insightful comment on his blog - it comes from an interview with Brian Mclaren. I wonder if I am being sucked into the bureaucracy, or maybe I am already a bureaucrat, or maybe there is hope that benevolent leadership can help to change the Church and the world, or maybe I am just hopefully naive?

Bureaucracy a gift? The conversation in this post seems to model divergent and convergent thinking …

“Whether we like it or not, hierarchy and its sibling command & control, are here to stay. That doesn’t mean that networked organisations and self-organisation are not valuable additions, but they are just that. Additions, not the norm.”

“I think the evidence is showing that hierarchy may be here to stay as a way of irrigating and organization with resources, but command and control have long given way to networked action based on relationships and intimacy. It’s how anything actually gets done, especially in large organizations. Don’t believe me? It’s the principle behind “work to rule” slow downs. Command and control aren’t synonymous with hierarchy - one can organize a resource allocation hierarchically but use distributed leadership to get the work done.”

When the 4th ends the 5th will come... I will go for a run tomorrow and try to figure out who I am, what I should do, and what I should not do...

On Sunday I preach at Alan Storey's Church, Calvary Methodist in Midrand! I always look forward to being there!

Friday
Oct052007

It disturbs me... Another instance of visionary leadership

I subscribe to a number of email list groups (google groups and yahoo groups). Perhaps one of the most active groups is that for gay, and gay friendly (affirming), Methodists in Southern Africa. It is an open group, you can read our discussions and posts here.

Since our conference the list has been abuzz with discussion. The one thing we have in common is our passion for the Gospel of Christ, and a desire to see the values of Christ's Gospel fairly, courageously, and lovingly reflected in our Church's ministry. However, along with that common passion comes many different perspectives on how this should take place.

For those who have been following my posts on this discussion (and the comments that others have made in response to those posts) you will know that there has been some concern that we have placed the unity of the Church before our calling to be a prophetic institution of justice and grace. I have prayed, and thought, and journaled, and read, and engaged with these two positions (unity in the Church vs. prophetic and Christ honoring ministry in spite of disagreement). I am struggling to know which way to go...

Today I came across this quote (actually part of a poem) by Martin Niemoller (a German theologian who became one of the founders of the Confessing Church, and was imprisoned between 1937 and 1945 in both the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps)

"First they came for Socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak for me."
Rev Martin Niemoeller (1892-1984)
Here is the post from my friend Peter Grassow, one of the most prophetic and Christ like ministers I know: (this post is taken from an open forum - you can read the original here)

I belong to a divided church.
And some of you who read this will understand how Sundays sees our nation divide - with black people going to black church services, "coloured" people attending "coloured" services, and some white people going to church (most do not go to church at all).

But this is not the division I think of - I am referring to the division between straight and gay people. The Methodist Church of SA has chosen to maintain a distance from gay people. No - this is not overt: as my Bishop' pastoral letter says : " We must, and I do, care for them pastorally and with sensitivity." But this is exactly the divide: "we care for them".....us and them. "They" are not understood as being "us". In fact, after the humiliating treatment dished up by straight Christians, I am surprised that there are any gay people left in church.

And to add insult to injury, the MCSA has affirmed that we must be "one and undivided". But this is not about being in unity with gay people. No, this is about maintaining our unity with those who are anti-gay. Our desire to remain united with the anti-gay lobby outweighs our desire to be one with the gay members of our church. And so we have compromised truth in the name of unity. And we have not
even questioned the ethical correctness of this unity.

Here is my pain: the statement that "we are one and undivided" was a statement of courage in the face of the 1958 Apartheid Government's desire to divide our church on racial lines. We had moral courage - then. We adopted this statement, in the face of a threat by white members to leave our church. We understood that this was a particular kind of unity. It risked division in the name of a greater unity - a
unity with the truth of the Gospel of Jesus.

We have lost this. I am convinced that the mantra "one and undivided" has become our excuse to do nothing. We are so afraid of losing members that we would rather forfeit Gospel truth.
Once again, I am challenged by visionary leadership... Gospel truth must come before ecclesiological unity. If only I had the courage...

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Thursday
Sep202007

Privilege, responsibility.... and good friends.

This post comes at the end of the first 'proper' day of the 118th Conference of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. For those who are not Methodist (or not particularly Christian), the Conference is the place where the Church sends representative persons to debate, strategise, and work out, how best we can serve the world and honour God. Well, in theory that's what should happen! In reality it is often much less saintly than that! Often there are conflicting and difficult issues over which tough and challenging decisions need to be taken... Naturally, this leads to some rather spirited debate, and significant engagement with people who hold different, and often opposing, points of view. You see, the problem with us religious people is that we ALL think we occupy the centre of God's will (i.e., I am right because God told me so, and let me find a way to show you how wrong you are).

Wessel blogged the most memorable quote of the day, given by our Lay President, "Minds are like parachutes - they only work when they are opened".

Today we heard the reports and addresses from a number of important Church leaders and commissions that have been doing significant work. Among them were the reports by the Presiding Bishop, the Lay President, the Connexional secretary (which was very humorous and well researched), and reports by the John Wesley College relocation Committee (a very important committee in my life, since I am both a member of this task team, but of course also the Dean of the seminary that is touted to move to Pietermartizburg in KwaZulu Natal - a very significant piece of news is that the NEW seminary is to be called Seth Mokitini College (named after the very first Black President (Presiding Bishop) the Methodist Church of Southern Africa elected in 1963. A father in the faith who helped to change Southern African society, and the Church, significantly). However, there were also other important reports such as the report on the Methodist Jubilee economic recapitalisation campaign, and the equalisation of stipends.

Tomorrow we will break into smaller groups to consider resolutions related to our ministry and mission - among these will be the resolution on the same-sex matter that I proposed and Rev Mvuyiselo Stimela seconded.

Here's a copy of our resolution to the Church (Same sex resolution for Conference 2007.doc) - what we seek is hospitality, warmth, and the openness of Jesus Christ for ALL Methodists. It is a misnomer to think that there are no gay Methodists! In fact I know quite a few in our denomination, and even a few in my local Church. The Gospel of Jesus Christ demands that we would minister love and grace to all persons. Moreover, I have come to discover that if we are to be a Church that would seek God's justice and mercy for all in society (for the poor, and the rich, the empowered, and the powerless, the loved and the unloved, the accepted, and the rejected...) then we need to first find justice within the Church! After all the scriptures do ask "how can the world believe that we love God, whom we have not seen, if we hate our brothers and sisters, that we have seen"?

Ascent to a particular second order element of doctrine has never been a condition for acceptance in Christ's Kingdom - no, rather what Christ asks is whether we love and accept him (which also means loving and accepting those whom he loves - very challenging for someone who is as sinful as I am!)

OK, enough of the sermon. Another wonderful reason for coming to Conference is that it is always a great time to catch up with friends! Of course I see the friends here that I often see in the regular course of my work, people like Paul Verryn, Neville Richardson, Madika Sibeko, and my good friend Wessel Bentley. But, I also get opportunities to spend some time catching up with friends that I don't often get to see. This even Wessel, myself, Barry Marshal, Kevin Needham, and Ken Carr went for dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant in Cape Town. It was great! We laughed until our sides hurt, we ate with our hands, and we felt something of what the Kingdom of God feels like - a place of love and acceptance.

I miss all of you back home! Thanks to those of you who are checking in from time to time! Megie, Courts and Liam I can't wait to get to the coast when I get back!! To my students, I still can't tell you anything about your stations for next year. As soon as there is news we will let you know.

Midnight, 20 September 2007, Cape Town.