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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 inclusive (6)

Monday
May022016

We don't decide who's invited: The Church as inclusive Eucharistic community

 

Is the Church intended to be a closed (exclusive) community, or an open (inclusive) community?
Today I talk about an image of the Church as a Eucharistic community - and I show you some incredible views of the Helderberg mountains!
My views on this were shaped by the theology (and ethics) of the Anglican theologian Sam Wells, who I met first at Cambridge and then at Duke Divinity school when he arrived there in 2005.
The image is that of a the Eucharistic table - many contemporary Churches have structured themselves more like a restaurant table than a Eucharistic table. What do I mean by that? Well, at a restaurant table you decide who sits with you, you expect service and you are the center of the social attention, you pay for what you want, you are a client. I hear people using this language in relation to their Church, 'I don't like that type of person here', or 'The sermon and music were not very good', 'I am not feeling satisfied with my Church, it is not doing much for me'.
The Eucharistic table is very different, however, at the Eucharistic table we are not the hosts - Christ is the Host! We are invited. That means that we don't get to decide who is at the table. Our responsibility, out of love for Christ and those whom He loves and has invited, is to work out how best to love those around the table. They may be very different from who and how we are. But, like us, they have been welcomed in grace.
Watch the video if you can - I'd love to hear your take on this!
Remember, it's not a lecture, just a thought…

 

Thursday
Oct072010

Is God a heretic?

In Mark 2.13-17 to we read one of the many accounts in the Gospels where Jesus was judged by the Pharisees for fraternizing with sinners.

There is little doubt that the religious establishment of his day thought that Jesus was a heretic!

I was reminded of this today as I was speaking to a friend about one of my little books 'Christ at the centre - discovering the cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths'.  We were remarking how different Fr Bede's Christology was from that of his friend CS Lewis.  In fact, Fr Bede's theology developed in a very different way to CS Lewis' - I think that it may be because each of the men honoured the context in which they served Christ.  Lewis formed his faith in the University City of Oxford, while Griffiths formed his faith as a missionary monk in Southern India.  Both were committed to Jesus, yet that commitment found expression in quite different ways.

I was milling over our conversation as I was driving to a meeting at the University of Stellenbosch (where I was to give input into a new Master's degree for ministry practitioners).  My thoughts turned to two rather strange questions:

1)  I wonder how the contemporary Church would 'judge' God's radically gracious theology?

2) Would we, like the pharisees of Jesus' time, consider God to be heretic?

Here's a video I recorded while driving.

In the December 2008 volume of the Journal STUDIA HISTORIAE ECCLESIASTICAE I did a review on Richard Burridge's wonderful book 'Imitating Jesus: An inclusive approach to New Testament ethics' - Burridge makes an interesting point in his book, one that I tend to agree with.  He notes that if we read the words of Jesus (his teaching) we will see that he had a rather stringent ethic, a high set of moral standards.  Yet if we observe the actions of Jesus we will find that he acts far more graciously.  It is not a matter of incongruence, or cognitive dissonance, rather it is that the teaching of 'the law' finds it's fullest expression in a life of loving grace.

Perhaps the contemporary Church, and many Christians, have become too caught up in the stringency of 'the law' and have not held on to a lifestyle of loving grace.

Perhaps we would consider God to be unorthodox, maybe even a heretic? What do you think?

As for me, I am trying to be a little more like Jesus every day! I want His love for this world to run through my speech, my thoughts and my actions.  Some may find the company that I keep difficult to bear, the may even call me unorthodox, perhaps even a heretic!

Thursday
Mar252010

Even if they call me mad! Keeping it together.

Over the years I have had the opportunity to do many personality profile tests, skills inventories, and aptitude measurement tests.  Of course each one of these has had some form of bias built into it. However, there have also been some common threads that run throughout all of the results.

Let me share some of those here:

1.  I am a people's person.  The Meyers Briggs test suggests that I am strongly extroverted - I get my energy from people (and in my case more people give more energy).  I love being with people!  I love to hear all about them and share myself with them in return.

2.  I am an 'activist' in the sense that I get behind causes and try to get others in joining me to get things done.  Some tests call this kind of personality an 'influencer' - someone who discovers movements, causes or ideas and then influences others to follow the same path.  Whether it is a social cause, an event, an idea or some new technology I am constantly acting like an 'evangelist'.  I am far more likely to see the positive elements of persons, movements and technologies than others, and I will extol those virtues to others.  Over the years I have encouraged people to join Churches, accept Christ's love and grace, use Apple Macs, take up cycling, start blogging, attend events, start writing, fight for causes, read certain books... I'm an activist at heart!

3.  I am non-conformist by nature.  I tend towards the 'thin spaces' in my thought life and choices I am not afraid to be 'out front on my own'.  I know others who feel insecure when they are not understood, or if they feel that they don't fit the prevIling mindset.  I prefer to think, dress, talk, act and live a little differently.  Sure, this can lead to bring misunderstood or judged.  But, it's the way I'm wired!  It has also been a great blessing.  There is much less competition for space where I am!  Most people clamour for the middle.  I have had many blessed opportunities as a result writing, thinking and acting upon uncommon things.  I am thankful for this trait.

4.  Another aspect of my personality that frequently features is that of 'bridge building'.  I often connect people, ideas, groups etc., from very different perspectives with one another.  It is a joy to see new opportunities emerge for others, new ideas come to the fore, and new relationships form where persons may not have connected or met.  It takes some effort to do this - often people distrust one another, or hold such rigid convictions about their point of view, or the perspective of another that it takes some time, grace and effort to facilitate a safe engagement and a trusted space for encounter. But in the end it is worth it.

In short, I have come to understand that part of my ministry - an aspect that runs throughout most of my life regardless of the task I'm performing, the place in which I work, and the persons among whom I work, is this:  I am radically inclusive.

I have a strong desire to bring people together in Jesus Christ - there are none of us that do not require grace.  There are none of us that are free from weakness.  There are none of us who are not loved by God.

And so, while some try to exclude I have discovered that I have a natural propensity to include.  While some try to build up walls, I have a supernatural desire to deconstruct them.  Whether you are liberal or conservative, a proponent of the social Gospel or an evangelical, it doesn't matter, there is enough space for all of us in Christ's love.  

This is something that I can live for!  I'm wired for it!  I am radically inclusive!

One of the things that I have noticed is that we tend towards accepting people who are like us and look away from those who are different.  Liberals are inclusive of those who share our views, whilst conservatives are inclusive of those who share their views.  This is not the way of Christ!  It is only a few steps from rejection the position of another, to rejecting the other.  We have so many examples of this in history from which we can learn.

Even when they call us mad, when they call us subversives and communists and all the epithets they put on us, we know we only preach the subversive witness of the Beatitudes, which have turned everything upside down.
Archbishop Oscar Romero, an advocate for the poor and marginalized, was assassinated thirty years ago today while giving Mass in El Salvador.

So, I want to invite you to allow the grace of Christ to give you love for those who are different from yourself.  Ask God to help you to love those persons, even as God loves them.  

Today I heard that the President of El Salvador has apologized for the assassination of Arch Bishop Romero.  The visuals of El Salvador showed how this Christian man has inspired Catholics, evangelicals, politicians, and even people of different faiths.  There is something of the Spirit of Christ that is at work through his legacy of love.  I find him truly inspiring.  I first came to hear about Bishop Romero when my friend Dr Larry Kaufman (the head of the Redemptrist order in South Africa) gave me the book 'Romero' when I was doing some graduate study at Rhodes University.  I read it during lent 1996 - it transformed my theology and my life!

Here I am in Malaysia, a different geographical location, a different culture(s), a different climate, and even some different expressions of Christianity - it is my joy to work towards building an inclusive Christian community! [citation needed] ;-) It is wonderful!  Thank you for the hospitality - I LOVE being back in this place among these wonderful people.  

We're here for two days and then head to Singapore for some speaking engagements and meetings, and then to Hong Kong before heading home!!
Wednesday
Feb102010

Ancient laws, contemporary controversies

My friend Prof Cheryl Anderson, who I first met at Garrett Evangelical Seminary in beautiful Evanston Illinois - right on the Northwestern University Campus, in 2005, has just published a fantastic book entitled 'Ancient laws, contemporary controversies:  The need for inclusive Biblical interpretation.' (Oxford University Press, 2009).

Cheryl is a Professor of Old Testament who has done some wonderful work on contextual hermeneutics.  Her approach to reading the Bible responsibly is well worth studying!

Cheryl, thanks for sending me a copy of the book!  It looks fantastic!  I can't wait to read it!  It will help me to gain a better understanding on how we treat the text with integrity when there are so many elements of it that we no longer accept as morally or theologically binding (e.g., slavery, incest, polygamy etc., are no longer deemed acceptable because of shifts in culture.  We can't simply dismiss them without having some clear reasoning for passing over these elements while holding on to others)!  Anyone who is serious about the Bible, as I am, should read this book!

Here's the link to the book if anyone reading this blog would like to buy a copy.

Here's a description of Cheryl's project:

The Ten Commandments condone slavery, and Deuteronomy 22 deems the rape of an unmarried woman to injure her father rather than the woman herself. While many Christians ignore most Old Testament laws as obsolete or irrelevant-with others picking and choosing among them in support of specific political and social agendas-it remains a basic tenet of Christian doctrine that the faith is contained in both the Old and the New Testament. If the law is ignored, an important aspect of the faith tradition is denied.

In Ancient Laws and Contemporary Controversies, Cheryl B. Anderson tackles this problem head on, attempting to answer the question whether the laws of the Old Testament are authoritative for Christians today. The issue is crucial: some Christians actually believe that the New Testament abolishes the law, or that the Protestant reformers Luther, Calvin, and Wesley rejected the law. Acknowledging the deeply problematic nature of some Old Testament law (especially as it applies to women, the poor, and homosexuals), Anderson finds that contemporary controversies are the result of such groups now expressing their own realities and faith perspectives.

Anderson suggests that we approach biblical law in much the same way that we approach the U.S. Constitution. While the nation's founding fathers-all privileged white men-did not have the poor, women, or people of color in mind when they referred in its preamble to "We the people." Subsequently, the Constitution has evolved through amendment and interpretation to include those who were initially excluded. Although it is impossible to amend the biblical texts themselves, the way in which they are interpreted can-and should-change. With previous scholarship grounded in the Old Testament as well as critical, legal, and feminist theory, Anderson is uniquely qualified to apply insights from contemporary law to the interpretive history of biblical law, and to draw out their implications for issues of gender, class, and race/ethnicity. In so doing, she lays the groundwork for an inclusive mode of biblical interpretation.

Wednesday
Jul252007

A Church that displays the hospitality, warmth, and welcome of Christ's Gospel.

Last week a number of Christian lay people and ministers met in Cape Town informed by the 115th Conference of the MCSA (PE-2001) that resolved that we (Methodists) would be "a community of love rather than rejection", and the practical enactment of this value that was resolved by the 117th Conference (Johannesburg-2005) which decided that safe places be formed "...for people of a same sex orientation to tell their stories. [where there can be]... healing and forgiveness for both the church and these members".

The purpose of this meeting in Cape Town was to consider how we could increase the witness, welcome, warmth and, hospitality of Christ's gospel for all persons (much like Jesus himself speaks of in John 3:16). The purpose was to seek to break down the 'dividing wall of hostility' between persons of different positions on the same sex matter in the Church (Ephesians 2.14), and that Jesus’ love is equally given for all people (John 3.16, Romans 3.23-24; Romans 6.23). A number of testimonies were shared by people of a same sex orientation, who love Christ, and yet have felt excluded from, and unwelcome in, Christ's Church. It was a challenging, and moving, meeting.

I recorded a number of these testimonies, devotions, and Bible studies. We have decided to make the report of the listening committee available (this report sums up the feelings, ideas, and experiences of the members of the meeting).

The report is in MP3 format, it is about 6MB in size, and is presetned by the Reverend Alan Storey.

You can download the report HERE (simply click on the link).

DISCLAIMER: Please note that this report does not represent the official views of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, or any of the local societies of this Christian denomination. Rather, it is a process report that resulted form the resolutions of Conference 2005. As a process report it is likely to change, adapt, and grow as it encounters persons and positions that represent different perspectives on this issue.

For an alternative perspective from within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa please download and read the following document:

An alternative position on persons with a same sex relationship. (Adobe PDF document).

So, please do pray that we will find a way forward that:

a. Is true to God's will and desire for God's Church and God's mission in the world.

b. The moral, ethical, justice, mercy, and grace filled principles of the Gospel are upheld for persons who hold very different, and often conflicting views, without denying each other's dignity, commitment to Christ, and without harming the mission and evangelical purpose of Christ's Church.

c. No person should ever feel that Christ does not love or accept them.

d. Our Churches would love the people that Jesus loves, and love doing the things that Jesus does, even if it is difficult and challenging to do so.

Please feel free to engage me on this issue!

With much love in Christ! Dion

Sunday
Feb042007

Right of admission reserved!?


Yesterday I spent the morning doing a workshop with the clergy and leaders of the churches in the Magalies Circuit. It was wonderful to be at Rev Stuart Bosch's fantastic church in Sinoville. I was so impressed by the warm reception, and more so by the openness of this group to consider how they could share the Gospel more faithfully with their communities (not just 'keep the gospel' for the members of their church).

The workshop was based upon the liturgy and powerful stories in Kevin Light's wonderful little book (Light, K & Rogers, F 2004. Right of admission reserved? Cape Town. Methodist Publishing house).

The primary question was, "whose shoes do you see in your church during the week?" You see, shoes don't lie. They not only tell us about the persons who wear them (i.e., are they young, old, men, women, poor, rich, conservative, flamboyant etc.), but they also tell us who comes to our church and who doesn't. Look at the shoes of most Methodist Churches and you'll see that they normally represent one particular sector of that population... They will tell you a lot about that Church - perhaps they will be mostly male shoes, or maybe only adult shoes, perhaps there will only be highly polished black leather shoes from a particular uniformed organisation etc.

Here are the resources if you would like to run the morning of reflection with your church or small group. It does not require any preaching, just the reading of the liturgy and the reading of the three reflections punctuated with songs, then some time in personal reflection and discussion in groups.

I noticed a few typos in both the liturgy and the questions. I will fix them when I get a chance. Please feel free to distribute and use this material wherever you would like. And please, change and adapt it as much as you would like. Can I just ask that you reference Kevin's book when doing so?

I would love to hear some feedback from you if you do use or adapt the materials.


Just like his dad, a nice double chin and chubby cheeks!

Now, some news on little Liam. He was weighed again on Thursday, and now weighs 2.2kg's! So he is becoming a big boy now! He also had his vaccinations this week (two injections and some drops), which have left him a little out of sorts. However, it is all necessary! We are still waiting for our Medical Aid to give their approval for him to have the MRI scan so that we can assess what, and where, the damage from the brain hemorrhage is.

Megie is doing so well with him, although I think as only mothers could know, she is exhausted from waking to feed every 2 hours! Courtney is loving her brother and has been an incredible help to Megie and I.

As for me, I am at the end of two of the busiest weeks of the year! We finished our Orientation with the new students (see the picture below) on Friday afternoon, which meant that I was in class, chapel, or with the students from 7am to 5pm each day and then needed to do my other work after that (preparing sermons, workshops, preparing lectures, dealing with staff and student concerns, catching up on correspondence, and all the other management and administration requirements). I am pleased that we will start with our regular lectures from this coming week. However, we also now begin with screening new candidates for the ministry, which means that between now and easter we will travel to every one of the 12 geographical districts of Southern Africa where the Methodist Church has membership. It is always an honour to be part of those discerning committees, listening to people articulate and share their call, asking a few pointed questions, and helping them to find a path through which to express their unique gifts and abilities. So, I'll be racking up the frequent flyer miles (well, that should be the kulula, mango, and 1Time points...)

This is a picture of our new students, the staff, and the Bishop of the district in which the seminary is located, the Revd Dr Gavin Taylor, Dr Richardson is to his right, and that's me on the extreme right (wearing my favourite jacket!). This photo was taken outside of our chapel. Please excuse the angle of the photograph... My camera was perched on a chair (one day I'll get a tripod). PS. you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.