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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 research (4)

Friday
Oct062017

Graduating with a 2nd PHD in Holland - the possibility of the (im)possibility of forgiveness!

I am so grateful to be traveling to the Netherlands tomorrow (with my wife Megan!) to graduate with my 2nd PHD at Radboud University, Nijmegen in Holland.

The graduation ceremony (and defence) will take place at 16.30 on Wednesday 11 October 2017 - if you read this beforehand you can watch the ceremony online via this link.

I started my research at Radboud University in December 2013. I worked on the project, and spent some wonderful months, at Radboud University between then and May 2017 when I completed the manuscript / dissertation. You can read all of my posts from Radboud and about this research (in reverse order!) via this link.

The research project is entitled:

The (im)possibility of forgiveness? An empirical intercultural Bible reading Matthew 18:15-39.(Click the title to read an excerpt from the book and see the table of contents).

In Holland it is required that the dissertation is published as a book. It has been published by African SUN Media in the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology series on public theology.

Here is the full reference:

Forster, D.A. 2017. The (im)possibility of forgiveness? An empirical intercultural Bible reading of Matthew 18:15-35. 1st ed. Vol. XI. (Beyers Naudé Centre Series on Public Theology). Stellenbosch, South Africa: SUN Press.

 

You can read the abstract below, and see copies of the cover of the book and the commendations in the attached images. If you would like to purchase a copy you can do so via African SUN Media.

I have some sections of the book under review for publication, and have already published the following article which is a shortened section of the Biblical exegetical component of the study:

 

Forster, D.A. 2017. A public theological approach to the (im) possibility of forgiveness in Matthew 18.15-35: Reading the text through the lens of integral theory. In die Skriflig/In Luce Verbi. 51(3):1–10.
In this article I also discuss (in summary) the other theoretical component of my study - namely integral All Quadrants All Levels (AQAL) theory.

 

 

I made one or two short videos of some of the central concepts (see the bottom of this post for a discussion of the empirical qualitative aspects of the study, and a discussion of one of the primary theoretical components).

I am truly grateful to my promoters, Prof dr dr Jan van der Watt and Prof dr Chris Hermans. They were encouraging, supportive, and wonderful guides along the journey. I learned so much and I am so grateful for the findings of the research and the fruit that it will bear for the participating communities.

Here is a video I recorded at my home University (Stellenbosch University) where I discuss how I worked with the participants to gather and analyse the theological (qualitative empirical) data on forgiveness.

In this video (recorded in Nijmegen at Radboud University) I discuss one of the primary theories that I used in the study, namely inter-group contact theory.

Here is the abstract from the dissertation:

This project engages the complexity of understandings of forgiveness in Matthew 18.15-35 within the context of an intercultural Bible reading process. The study shows that concepts of forgiveness among South African Bible readers are diverse, containing nuanced, and even conflicting, expressions and expectations - a politics of forgiveness. Some have suggested since such entrenched differences in understandings of forgiveness exist in South Africa, that forgiveness may be impossible. However, in spite of this complexity it is suggested that South Africans, and South Africa, could benefit from a rigorous academic engagement with the theologically and culturally diverse understandings of forgiveness that emerge from reading Matthew 18.15-35 in an intercultural Bible reading setting. The knowledge gained from this study may help persons from diverse histories, cultural identities, racial identities, and economic classes, to gain more integral, shared, understandings of forgiveness. In this sense, at least, the possibility of forgiveness may emerge. 

Considering the above, the aim of this study is to produce rigorous, textured, and credible theological insight into the complexity of differing understandings of forgiveness in Matthew 18.15-35 from 'ordinary' Bible readers of different cultures who are members of the same Christian denomination - the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Helderberg Circuit. This is achieved through structuring the study as a practice oriented research project in empirical intercultural Biblical hermeneutics.

Three theories informed the research design. First, Ken Wilber’s All Quadrants All Levels (AQAL) integral theory is used as a philosophical framework that provides language and structure to ‘plot’ the theological understandings of forgiveness in the text, and in the reading of the text. Second, intergroup contact theory is used to identify the mechanisms and processes for positive intergroup contact that inform the intercultural Bible reading sessions. Third, the Biblical text is engaged in a scholarly exegetical process so as to avoid collapsing the thought world of the text into the contemporary context. This is a critical aspect of a credible engagement with the Biblical text. This process allows for the construction of a hermeneutic bridge to link aspects of the text to aspects of the interpretive insights of the contemporary readers engaged in this study.

As anticipated, the findings of the research process agreed with some aspects of the research hypotheses and varied from others. The findings of the post intervention research data and analysis shows that to a large extent (except for minor variations which are discussed in the study) the participants of the intercultural Bible reading intervention developed more integral understandings of forgiveness. This means that participants were far more open to accepting understandings of forgiveness that were not held within their in-group, but were more common among members of the out-group.

The primary conclusion of this study is that more integral theological understandings of forgiveness are evidenced among the majority participants in this intercultural Bible reading process which was conducted under the conditions of positive intergroup contact. Moreover, this study shows that one can give credible empirical content to, and explicate, the theological perspectives, and the hermeneutic informants, of readers of the Biblical text. This helps the ‘problem owner’, (i.e., the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, Helderberg Circuit), to understand what some of the barriers to shared understandings of forgiveness may be. Moreover, it allows for the design of intercultural Bible reading interventions under the conditions of positive intergroup contact. The data shows that in this case, the participants of this study mostly became more open to a more integral theological understanding of forgiveness with the ‘other’.

This project makes the following novel contributions to scholarly knowledge and the construction of theory: In New Testament studies the research contributes towards a number of new hermeneutic opportunities that arise from reading the Biblical text from a social identity complexity perspective (informed by Ken Wilber’s integral AQAL theory). Moreover, in relation to intercultural Bible reading, the project provides new insights into how persons who hold different socially informed views of forgiveness may encounter one another constructively under the conditions of positive intergroup contact. In terms of empirical cultural Biblical hermeneutics this study is the first of its kind to provide insights into how Black and White South African Christians understand the concepts and processes of forgiveness in relation to Matthew 18.15-35. The findings show that there is a logic behind the socially informed theological understandings of forgiveness that are expressed by the participants. This holds value not only for Biblical Studies, but also for Systematic Theology in general, and South African Public Theology in particular. Then, from a methodological point of view, the interdisciplinarity of the theoretical approach that is employed in this research stimulates new avenues for scholarly theological study in relation to problems in practice.

Thanks for checking in and sharing in my joy! I appreciate it.

Sunday
Nov232014

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

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

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

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

Here is the abstract for the article:

Very little empirical research has been conducted into faith and work, particularly as it relates to the experience and expectations of Christians in the world of work in South Africa. This article discusses the most recent research of this kind that was conducted by Call42. Call42 conducted an empirical research project on faith, calling, and the world of work between 2011 and 2012. The findings were released to the public after July 2012. Not only is this the most up to date data on this subject at present; the research findings and research process are also worthy of academic consideration. The Call42 research was initiated and commissioned by a group of young Christian professionals (mainly engineers) and as such it brings a perspective on faith and work from within the primary context of the world of work, rather than the theological academy or the church. The findings of the research have implications for the church and its officers (priests, pastors and leaders). It also arrives at some conclusions for Christians in the world of work, students who are contemplating a vocation or career path, and companies and organisations that have an explicit or implicit Christian orientation.
Thursday
Oct182007

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Christians - your help is needed, we need to hear your voices!

This evening I responded to the call for papers for the Theological Society of South Africa meetings. The Theological Society of South Africa, as I have mentioned elsewhere on this blog, is the professional body for Academic Christian theologians.

Next year the TSSA will be meeting in my old stomping ground, Grahamstown (18-20 June 2008)! I can't wait! The theme for next year will be:

Grace, space and race: Towards a theology of place in (South) Africa today.

You can download a more detailed copy of the call for papers here.

I have decided to prepare a paper for this conference entitled:

What place, and how much space? Or, is it merely an empty hospitality - A theological critique of the place, and space, given to persons of a same-sex orientation in selected mainline Southern African Christian Churches.

(or something like this... I know, it still needs a lot of work).

Here is a rough abstract of what I intend to research:

This paper will investigate the theological principles that have informed the stance of the mainline Christian Churches in South Africa in relation to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) persons. It will present and consider the the dominant theological themes that have informed this debate in Southern African Christianity. Having done so, the research will ask some critical questions about the 'space' afforded to GLBT persons within Southern African Churches (i.e., are such persons welcomed, do they have full, or limited, access to the Church and the privileges of the Church? etc.) The paper will also evaluate the Churches that consider themselves to be a 'place of welcome', by being inclusive, affirming, and hospitable to GLBT persons. The nature of this 'place of welcome and hospitality' will be considered by drawing upon the experiences of a number of GLBT clergy and Christian laity. It is hoped that this paper will offer some valuable insight into two aspects of this current debate: First, it will offer a useful guide to 'place' the theology that informs the stances of various mainline denominations in Southern Africa. Second, it will give 'space' for the voice of GLBT Christians to be heard within the academy, allowing Southern African theologians to hear the struggles, concerns, and viewpoints of our sisters and brothers who are gay.

What do I hope to achieve?

I would like to weave three things together in my research 1) Southern African theology (and a critique of our content and approach to theology), 2) An honest consideration of the place and space that we allow to gay persons in our Churches, and 3) to have a platform on which gay persons can give their input and critique of the theology of the mainline Churches on this issue!

So, now the work needs to begin. Naturally I have done quite a bit of reading and research on this topic over the years, and written a few papers, however I would truly like this to be a significant piece of research that will be able to offer some insight, stimulating discussion, and provocative thought, for some of our country's top theologians.

Here's the help I need!

Here's where I need your help - I know that there are a few gay and lesbian Christians that read the blog - if you're willing to help me by answering a questionnaire, and sending in some form of testimony, that would be extremely helpful! I would also like to hear from gay and lesbian clergy and laity who have been afraid to come out for fear of rejection. Please send me an email and I'll keep in contact with you: email Dion.

Lastly, anyone is welcome to participate, present a paper, or attend the meetings. However, only persons with a Masters degree in Theology (or higher) may be nominated as members of the society.

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Monday
Jan012007

Sermon for a new book

Happy New Year everyone! May 2007 be filled with joy and blessing.

Here is a copy of a sermon that I was asked to write at the World Methodist council in Korea last year. Rev Dr Angela Shier-Jones initiated a project to get Methodist scholars from across the world to each choose, and rewrite, one of John Wesley's 44 sermons. I chose sermon 28, which is on discourse 8 of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:19-23). You can read John Wesley's original sermon here. The brief was not to simply rewrite, critique, or modernise Wesley's sermon, but rather to take the central message of the sermon and adapt it to the writers context. The outcome was to be a sermon that could actually be preached today.

It is a great honour to have been asked to participate since persons such as Randy Maddox, Richard Heitzenrater, and Geoffrey Wainwright have also been asked to write sermons.

Here is a copy of the sermon. I would appreciate feedback, comments, corrections and insights.
UPON THE LORD'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT.doc