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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 Oxford (13)

Sunday
Aug192018

Discussing theology, class, economics, and the labour movement with Prof Joerg Rieger in Oxford

In this video I have the joy of speaking with Prof Joerg Rieger, the Cal Turner Professor of Wesleyan Studies and Theology at Vanderbilt University.

Joerg is a great example of an engaged scholar who is deeply committed to justice and deep scholarship that serves communities for transformation, renewal and flourishing.

In this interview Joerg and I talk about a theology of justice, class, economics, gender, race and the task of organizing communities for change and transformation.

You can find out more about Joerg at: http://www.joergrieger.com

The books that we discuss in this interview are:

 

 

Thanks for watching!

As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video and feel free to re-post and share it.

You can follow me on: Academia (research profile): https://sun.academia.edu/DionForster

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/digitaldion

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/dionforster

Friday
Aug102018

Starting my first academic sabbatical at Oxford University

Today I depart for Oxford. This is the first in a series of academic and research visits that I will undertake during my sabbatical. I am so very grateful for this opportunity!
 
I will be researching and working on a new book (on the politics of forgiveness and the complexity of social identity). I will also be finalising various chapters for other books, editing two books for which I am a co-editor, and finalising some long overdue research articles for publication in scholarly journals.
 
In-between I will be teaching and speaking at various Universities in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America. I am also presenting papers and lectures at a few conferences.
 
I don't take this opportunity for granted - it is a very rare privilege. What I do with this time, belongs to others. 
It belongs to my students and others who graciously and kindly read my work and engage my research. It belongs to colleagues who pick up my responsibilities so that I can have this time to read, reflect, write and grow - thank you! It belongs to the various communities of which I am a part (the church, our neighbourhood, and various organisations that I serve in society) who are giving me the freedom and support to be away. And of course it belongs to my precious family, Megie, Courtney and Liam, who I will miss immensely each time that I pack my bags!
The work that I do is not very important - it certainly is not more important than my family, the Church, my colleagues and students. However, it is the work that I am called to do, and so I will do my best! I will remain disciplined (while still having some fun!), be critical, creative and joyful as I go! And hopefully, I will get to see a few of you, my friends, along the way! So keep an eye on facebook, my twitter and instagram feeds (both are @digitaldion), any my youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/dionforster - I will post various forms of content to each of these platforms as I go.
First up is the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies at Pembroke College Oxford. For the first time, this year, I will be participating as a New Testament Scholar in the Biblical Studies group. In previous years I have always participated in the Systematic Theology and Ethics group.
I will be presenting a paper based on research from my last book on the 'politics of forgiveness' among South African readers of Matthew 18.15-35 at Pembroke College, Oxford. 
Then, I will also be presenting the Fernley Hartley Trust lecture in Oxford for the Methodist Church of Britain on Friday 17 August 2018 at Wesley Memorial Church in Oxford at 17.00. See details for that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/216413309019437/
Wednesday
Aug212013

Reflecting on London and Oxford - so thankful!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday
Aug172013

A ride to Oakley and Worminghall on my Brompton

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

The countryside is just amazing!

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

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

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

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!

Wednesday
Aug072013

Leaving for London and Oxford tomorrow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday
Feb142010

My 3 year old iPad! Still going strong!

The Apple iPad is attracting a lot of attention. I know that there are a few VERY exclusive people who have iPad's to try. However, the ordinary consumer will have to wait 60 days before being able to get their hands on one of them. Let alone those of us who live in places like South Africa where it will probably take another year before Apple releases the iPad with 3G! Still, I love my iPhone 3G and would LOVE an iPad 3G!

If I had the money I would pre-order one! However, there are a few more pressing priorities at the moment. So, I have come to appreciate what I already own - I have a 3 year old iPad (in South Africa.... Sort of!)! And, what I own is Sony Vaio UX 180 P.

This photo was taken when I was attending the Oxford Institute at Christ Church, Oxford University in August 2007.

My little portable computer is a Sony Vaio UX 180 P. It is a Windows XP device with a touch screen, a 30 gigabyte hard drive, 512MB or ram, wifi, bluetooth and a 3 hour battery life. It is the perfect travelers computer! It is smaller than a DVD case, in fact small enough to put into a big pocket on one's 'cargo pants'!

It runs a 'normal' operating system and 'normal' versions of MS Word, MS Outlook and the google Chrome browser. This means that I can simply plug in my backup USB flash disk that has copies of all of my documents and files on it and work away! Moreover, since it has a USB port I can connect to the internet using my 3G modem wherever I am and get my email, browse the web, and even use MS Outlook to connect to corporate server.

In this picture you'll see the iPod I owned in 2007, my old Nokia phone (a great big brick!), the UX 180 is docked in its docking station (that adds a VGA port, firewire, ethernet, and 4 USB 2.0 ports). You will also see my batterygeek external battery (this battery gives me an amazing 20 hours of battery life for the UX 180! On my Macbook Pro it gives me an additional 5-6 hours). I also have a cheap foldable Bluetooth keyboard that I can use with the UX 180 P.

So, until the iPad arrives, (and of course until I get some royalties for my books and don't have a washing machine to fix, kids school activities to pay for, a car to service and a few other pressing things to pay for), I shall be using my UX 180 P as a 'road warrior' computer!

Just as a final note - if you have not yet used dropbox it is a MUST HAVE for a person who uses more than one computer. Dropbox is a free service (for 2 Gigabytes of backup, after which you can choose to upgrade your space for a fee). You install a small application (which I have on my Macbook, my iPhone and my UX 180 P), then it creates a folder in your documents folder. Any file that you drag into that folder gets updated on Dropbox (you can even log into dropbox if you don't have your computer with you, and download the file you want to work on and then update it!)

While I was working on my most recent book 'Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling' (Struik Christian Media, 2010 - the book is due out in May), I used this little tool (in conjunction with my Macbook and my UX 180)! If I found that I was waiting to go into a meeting and the person I was meeting was running late I simply connected did some editing and knew that when I got back to my office the most up to date version of the file would ALWAYS be on my computer! Moreover, if my computers got stolen, or my house burnt down at least I would have backups of these (and other) critical documents 'in the cloud'.

I would suggest you consider using dropbox - it is free! OK, back to work for me! And then when I've done editing the article I'm working on I'm going to hop into bed with the Amazon Kindle application for Windows on my UX 180 P and continue reading Malcom Gladwell's new book 'What the dog saw'!

Sunday
Aug192007

From poetry to prose - Oxford University and an African boy.

This evening I went for a nice long run... It took me about an hour. I ran in the rain. I left the gate of Christ Church, turned left and ran down St Aldates street until I hit the end of town, then I ran towards the A40 until I found the Thames Park walkway. I ran along the Thames, and then wound my way back into town. It was dark and raining the whole way. It was great!

This was the closing run for my time here in Oxford. It has been a remarkable week! I have grown and been challenged - yet I have also learned that the African voice can be heard, and that in fact many are eager to hear it. My paper was extremely well received. As a result I was asked to serve on the international Editorial board for the Epworth Review.

As I ran I thought about all the wonderful people that I met, but also about what I am going back to in South Africa. Some would know that I have faced the temptation of taking up a post overseas - there have been some offers. It is tempting I'll admit. But Africa, and in particular Southern Africa, is where I am called. I look forward to being back at John Wesley College. I look forward to seeing our wonderful students, being with our incredible staff, and seeing all my friends and family at Bryanston Methodist Church. My bones are filled with the nutrients of African soil. (I added the graph of my run on 2 Jan 2009 - here's the software and equipment that I use: Polar S625X)

Wikipedia states that prose is distinguished from poetry "by its greater variety of rhythm and its closer resemblance to the patterns of everyday speech". I am turning from poetry to prose - from the poetry of Oxford to the prose of my wonderful life. Both are rich, both are filled with meaning and depth - but my life in South Africa has more rhythm (like most African things do), and it is closer to what is normal for me (it feels like a comfortable conversation, rather than a carefully constructed speech).

Tomorrow I attend the last of the Sytstematic Theology working group sessions, the closing banquet in the evening, and then on Tuesday I make my way into London to visit Wesley's Chapel in City Road (and in particular Jenny who is the minister there - herself coming from Botswana). I fly out late on Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, I am only home for 6 days and then I leave for Malaysia... But that's another story....

Sunday
Aug192007

Christ Church, Oxford, Meadows 6-2

The history of Methodist clergy who studied at Oxford goes all the way back to our founders, John and Charles Wesley who were students here in the 1700's. This photo - which is at a very weird angle - shows the commemorative stone laid in honour of those two fathers in the Christ Church Cathedral.

However, there have been other great Methodists (I shall simply concentrate on the South African Methodists) who studied at Oxford. In this picture you see Prof Neville Richardson (who is the current principal of John Wesley College, Pretoria, and the Director of Education in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa) with me. Neville was the very first student to do an MPhil in Theology here at Oxford. The reason why we're standing at this strange place is because this is the doorway to the residence where another well known South African Methodist minister lived during his time at Oxford. Christ Church, Oxford, Meadows, staircase 6, room 2 was the residence of the Rev Dr Donald Cragg (who later became a lecturer at Rhodes University and principal tutor for the Methodists who studied there).

I know that there are some others (who I never got to know) like Vic Bredenkamp, forgive me for not mentioning you with any detail.

So, blessings from a WET, summer's day (which is bloody freezing) in Oxford!

Sunday
Aug192007

Never too small to remember

This week has been amazing in so many ways. I have met and interacted with great scholars. I have spent time in ancient churches and centres of learning. I have discovered new friends, and been reaquanted with old ones. I have learnt so much, and had a few chances to teach.

However, as I think back on this week the experience is run through with one overarching idea - the fact that everyone, and every story, matters.

Before leaving for South Africa I was asked to write a chapter for a book on HIV / AIDS. I have been doing some research and reading, talking with Christian AIDS workers, and spending time with persons who are HIV positive, and those who have felt the great loss of loosing a loved one to this dissease. The reality is that very few of those persons' stories will ever be told. That matters. However, at another level their stories make up the very fabric of who each one of us is. They are our world.

This week I have been moved to tears (in private - this is England after all!) whilst reading Pehlippe Denis little book 'Never too small to remember: Memory work and resilience in times of AIDS' (2005, Cluster Publications, Pietermaritzburg). The book tells of the marvelous work that is being done among AIDS orphans in Kwazulu Natal through the use of 'memory boxes'. The aim of the project is to build a greater resilience in children and child headed households where both parents have been lost to AIDS. Of course there is very little that could ever be done to remove the agony of such a loss, but there is a great deal that can be done to help such young people. Naturally pragmatic and practical solutions seek to educate, clothe, and feed the children. This is necessary. It challenges me to think if I could not give and do more to help make their lives a little easier. But such generosity does not deal with the deep hurt and stigma associated with their loss. Morover, if the children themselves are HIV positive they will need more than just food, clothing, and education, to make meaning of their lives, to do more than just survive, but to truly live.

I have spent quite a lot of time with my friend Clive Marsh this week. He and I have been talking about the importance of experience and memory as a source of healing, yet also an essential source of good theology.

The memory box, which is the 'memory tool' Philippe Denis uses, allows the children and their care givers to make use of narrative, story-telling, to recount the memories that they have of their parents (both the good and the bad). It allows them to articulate, analyse, understand, and move through these memories (note that I don't say move beyond - to move through means that one takes something of the memory with you into your future). In doing so the children are given a far greater resilience to cope with their past, make choices in their present life, and form a new future. They can learn to live with the virtues and grace of belonging to the wider community (which as you know is essential as an expression of ubuntu in African communities), but they can also learn how to solve the problems that their parents and caregivers faced.

Memory is a wonderful thing. Today I remember where I come from. The picture above was taken in 1989. I was in my final year in high school [yes, I had a porno 80's hairstyle - although the mullet I had on my wedding day was even worse!].

So much has happened in the 18 years since then, and so much had gone before. My parents were divorced when I was 2, we left Zimbabwe, the land of my birth, came to South Africa to start again and encountered many more severe challenges and hardship than most. I was raised in my early years by my mother who struggled - the struggle was within herself and often caused great hardship around her. She was married, and in relationships, many times. My early childhood is filled with memories of terror, physical and emotional violence, yet also with tenacity and a will to live - it was however, also the dawning of my faith. I remember praying ernestly for the first time when I was 9. My mother's husband at the time had come home in a drunken rage and had beaten her to the point of breaking her back. My brother of 11 had tried to defend her yet was unable and also faced the madman's wrath. I was afraid for my life, and for the life of my mother and brother, and so in desperation I grabbed a hammer and hit the man on his head. He fell to the ground bleeding.

I remember praying, a frightened 9 year old, fearful that everyone was dead - my mother, my brother, and my mother's husband. Somehow the knowledge that there was a person - not a power but a person - named Jesus who could see, hear, and answer my prayers gave me the hope that I needed to get beyond that night.

Of course, such scars remain with one. By the time the picture above was taken I had been off the rails a few times. I had used (and abused) most of the drugs that were popular in the 80's, sought refuge in popularity and rebelion, and given my poor father and step mother many sleepless nights and gray hairs! I had been arrested, asked to leave church groups, and caused a lot of unhapiness to many people. I also had two tatoos and many earings as a reminder of those times.... In some ways it was because I had not built up a spiritual resilience that I sought comfort and meaning in physical and psychosocial remedies.

Perhaps it was when I discovered Christ, not just as a saviour, but as a friend, that my life changed most. That was in 1987. It was the first time that I knew that I was loved unconditionaly, that there was no threat, no need to impress, no expectation, just love.

Of course a great deal has taken place since that photo was taken. I have been married to Megan for almost 14 years now. She completes me in ways I could never have imagined. I have my two miracle children, Courtney and Liam, both of whom have stretched my heart and filled me with a new kind of wild passion. This passion moves me inwardly, to find ways of loving them and caring for them by showing them the kind of grace I have experienced in Christ. Yet, it also moves me outwards - to seek to change our world so that what they grow into will not be a place of fear, hate, and danger - this too is the work of Christ in me.

My life is very different now - as I write this I am sitting in one of the oldest, and most prestigious, academic institutions in the world, Christ Church, Oxford University. Who would ever have thought? But I am different in otherways: I am taller, fatter, balder, and richer than I was when I was 9... I also have more debt... But, I am also happier, more grateful, and much more privelaged. Remembering who I am helps me to savor these moments and experiences. They cannot be taken for granted!

Even though my life is different, I guess I am still the same. I am still Dion, I remember my past and long for a better future. I still enjoy adventures and love to pray. My memory box makes me more resilient. God has never forsaken me - God heard my prayer when I was 9, God heard my prayer last year when Liam was born, God still hears my prayer today.

Tuesday
Aug142007

A few thoughts from the 12th Oxford Institute of World Methodist Scholarship

I arrived in a very hot Oxford on Sunday. I didn't realise that England could get quite as hot as it does! It has been lovely. Today, however, the "Queen's rain" (as I have jokingly been calling it) has started to fall. It is lovely, a bit cooler, and quite wet here in Oxford.

I am staying in Tom's Gate (off Tom's Quad) in Christ Church, Oxford. Here's a picture taken from just outside of staircase 5 where I go up to my rather extravagant parlour... It would seem that the title 'Dean' carries some weight here in merry old England. I am on the same floor as our Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, and a number of other dignitaries. If only they knew what a small fry I truly am!

Christ Church is a remarkable College, one of the early one's (starting in 1524!) Two of my colleagues studied here in previous years (Dr Neville Richardson did an MPhil, and Dr Donald Cragg did a DPhil). Those must have been glorious times! Of course there are many other notable figures that studied and lived in these hallowed walls. Among them are John and Charles Wesley (the founders of Methodism - and also the reason why we hold the Oxford Institute here at Oxford, since it is the home of the very first Methodist scholars), John Locke (the philosopher), Charles Dodgson (better know to most by his pseudonym, Lewis Caroll, who is the author of 'Alice's adventures in wonderland'). Albert Einstein even studied here in the 1930's! For more detailed (and accurate) information on Christ Church please check out their website here.

This picture was taken in the Christ Church dining hall. If it looks familiar don't be surprised! Take a closer look, indeed, this is the location where dining hall scenes from Harry Potter were filmed! I can assure you there are no candles floating in the air, or owls delivering messages!

The traditions are still very strongly adhered to. Guests go into the dining hall and are only seated once the dignitaries take their seats (although they are not sitting at the 'top table'), then we are served by 'Scouts' under the watchful eye of the 'Steward'. The gate and main door are guarded by 'Porters' to keep eager Harry Potter enthusiasts from barging in on the meals. You can see that the walls themselves are lined with the portraits of past students and lecturers of the College.

I am truly enjoying the hospitality and the tradition of being here. Of course, for an African, what makes this place most valuable is being part of the community. It has been wonderful to meet new friends (many of whom I have either only read about, or read their work), such as Randy Maddox, Douglas Meeks, Paul Chilcote, Neil Richardson, Brian Beck etc., and catch up with others who I have not seen in some years, such as my good friend Laceye Warner, the well known Geoffrey Wainwright, Ted Campbell, JC Park, and Dick Heitzenrater.

Each day starts with worship at 7am, then we have breakfast (in the Harry Potter dining hall!), after which we move to Wesley Memorial Methodist Church for the Plenary sessions, followed by our individual group meetings (I am in the Systematic Theology Group). In the group meetings the scholars present have a chance to speak to their paper, there is a respondent, and then general discussion. If you're interested to read some of the magnificent papers that are being, and have been, presented, then please download them from the Oxfrod institute website here.

I have only had limited Internet access in Oxford (I cannot believe how difficult it is to get online in the UK! I think as more and more people realise what a commodity communication is the wifi is shared less openly and is more often than not a service for which one is expected to pay). However, I shall be posting some reflections from the papers and groups, plus a number of audio recordings from the Plenary sessions, as I have a chance to do so.

I can't tell you how much I am missing my family!!!!! I miss Megie so much!!! Times away from her remind me just how desperately I am in love with her. I have also longed for Courtney and Liam. It has been very difficult to be away from them! Please do pray for them, and drop them a line or give them a call to let them know that we belong to a community of faith that cares for one another!

Here's a closing thought that came from Douglas Meeks in a discussion; we were talking about wealth and ownership of property (well, ownership in general) when Douglas reminded me that John Wesley's understanding of stewardship (how one uses one's money) was based upon that of the Patristics (the early Church parents). Wesley believed that whatever I do not need to survive today, or need in order to fulfill the mission to which God has called me, already belongs to the poor. And, as such, I should give it away! I was challenged by that!

Rich blessing to all! I miss you! Please check back for more news, thoughts and updates from Oxford.

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.