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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 social action (4)

Wednesday
Mar192014

Changing the way that change happens - Social Innovation through Vocational Freedom

Today I had the joy of meeting with Francois Malherbe - an amazing guy who is facilitating a social revolution with 100 cups of coffee.  You can read about his '100 Conversations for Social Innovation' here.

I was deeply challenged by Francois' passion for seeing people flourish through discovering their passion and finding the tools, resources, and most importantly the relationships, to bring those passions to bear on the needs of the world.

When our coffee was done I was left with the feeling that he, and those who he will be meeting with over the next year, will be part of a revolution of change that changes how change happens.  What impressed me most was his focus on empathetic listening - a core value of people and relationships.  I experienced it as quite close to the idea of ubuntu that we hear so much about in Africa (if you're interested in a few other posts I've written on ubuntu follow this link).

Francois referred me to the TED talk of Ernesto Sirolli entitled 'Want to help someone? Shut up and listen!' Some of the rationale behind Francois' approach to social transformation and human flourishing stems from Sirolli's work and thought.  It is well worth watching the talk.

Thanks to @eksjaco and @findingfrancois - this has been the best cup of coffee this year!

Thursday
Jan132011

Prayer, social action and change.

Some years ago I wrote an article entitled 'Prayer, compassion and social change: Towards an understanding of prayer and spiritual activity as a praxis transformative of the individual and society'.

It's a mouthful, I know, but then what would the academy be if it is was not at least a little verbose!  ha ha!  The point of the article was to show how prayer and spiritual discipline are critical elements for individual and social transformation.

The following little quote reminded me that article:

Prayer is not an old woman's idle amusement. Properly understood and applied, it is the most potent instrument of action.  

- Mohandas Gandhi

Here's the abstract for the article:

This paper will argue that prayer and spiritual activity are not only effective means for transformation, but that they form a sound basis for all forms of personal and social transformation.

In order to develop this argument it is essential to start with a brief explanation of an emerging paradigm of reality.  In brief, this paradigm bridges the gap that has been created between creation and redemption.  The new paradigm no longer separates God’s ongoing work of creation from God’s activity of redemption.  Understanding this notion forms an essential basis for investigating how and why prayer, compassion and contemplative activity are effective in bringing about transformation, in both the individual and in society.

This paper will show, that prayer or contemplative activity is an extremely important starting point for embarking on any form of transformation or social change.  It will show that prayer puts one in touch with the source and goal of true transformation.  Along with this, it will be argued that true transformation takes place physically and spiritually (since the two can not be separated).  In the past great emphasis has been placed on mere physical action to bring about social change.  This paper attempts to show that true transformation or social change requires some measure of spiritual activity and awareness in order to bring about meaningful and holistic changes to individuals and societies.

It is in this sense that prayer and spiritual activity act as transformative praxis of self and society.

It was quite an interesting article since I attempted to bring together elements of traditional spirituality (with a focus upon the discipline of prayer and Christian meditation) and tie it in with elements of quantum theory, consciousness studies, some sociology and integrative theory.

I'd love to hear your thoughts (if you do read it!)  I have long since progressed to more subtle and intricate understandings of Wilber's thoughts on holarchy (of course Wilber has published a great deal in the past few years on this subject).

You can download the paper here.

Tuesday
Oct162007

Resources to guide your prayers, thoughts, and choices during World Hunger relief week.

Did you know that Hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined!?

This week is World Hunger Relief week. I would encourage all Churches to insert some prayers into their liturgies, service sheets, or weekly devotionals.

From the links below you can get Prayer resources, Bible verses, and even games to help focus your prayers, and the choices and thoughts of your cell group, or Church during world hunger relief week.

Here are a few facts about world hunger:

You can download a MS Word prayer guide that has 40 prayers, with additional information, to guide your prayer during the week by clicking on this link.

  • 854 million people are hungry
  • 20 million people are undernourished
  • 1 billion people live on less than $1/day
  • 146 million children under age 5 are underweight
    • 10 million children under age 5 die every year, over half of hunger-related causes
  • 1 in 6 people is hungry
  • 1 in 6 people lacks safe drinking water

  • In the developing world, 20 million low-birth-weight babies are born each year. They are at risk of dying in infancy or suffering lifelong physical or cognitive disabilities.
  • 3/4 of all deaths in children under age 5 in the developing world are caused by malnutrition or related diseases.
  • Each day in the developing world, 16,000 children die from hunger or preventable diseases such as diarrhea, acute respiratory infections, or malaria. Malnutrition is associated with over half of those deaths. That is equal to 1 child every 5.4 seconds.
  • Hungry children are more likely to be ill and absent from school.
  • Hungry children suffer from 2 to 4 times more individual health problems--such as unwanted weight loss, fatigue, headaches, irritability, inability to concentrate, and frequent colds--as low-income children whose families do not experience food shortages.

Africa quick facts - hunger and HIV/AIDS

  • The Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that there are 206 million people who are hungry in sub-Saharan Africa. This region accounts for 13 percent of the world's population, yet it is home to 25 percent of the world's undernourished population.
  • In Sub-Saharan Africa, 24.9 million people live with HIV/AIDS, which is 63% of the world's 39.5 million total cases.
  • In half of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa, per capita economic growth is estimated to be falling by between 0.5 and 1.2 percent each year as a direct result of AIDS. (Bread for the World)
For detailed information, resources, and a truly wortwhile read, please visit Evangelical Lutheran Church of America's website.

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Saturday
Sep012007

'Merdeka' and miracles in Malaysia

Please forgive me for not posting any updates on my Malaysia visit sooner. Whilst my time in Oxford was busy (starting with the first session at 7am and ending with the last session after 10pm), my Malaysian trip has been even busier! Not only do we start early and finish late, but there is also a 6 hour time difference between here and South Africa. So, I stay up until after midnight to phone Megie, Courts and Liam (when it is midnight here it is 6pm there). The long and the short of it is that I have been capitalizing on my ability to get by on about 4 hours of sleep a night. Those who know me know that 4 hours is just about as much as my A.D.D. body cope with... Anything more than that and I start to feel sluggish.

Well, my time in Malaysia has been remarkable. I flew in via Singapore (which is the same route as I took to South Korea last year). However, the Malaysian Church is so different from the Church in South Korea! I have felt very much at home here. This is not only because of the magnificent hospitality of Bishop Hwa Yung and his team (not to mention that I am staying in an incredible hotel in Kuala Lumpur - the photo above is taken from my balcony and shows the inland wave pool of the Sunway Spa and resort), but also because the Malaysian Methodist Church has such a similar history to that of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa. Both our Churches come from Methodism in Britain. Both our contexts have a rich and varied racial spread, and both contexts have significant contextual challenges.

Whilst the Church in South Africa struggles with issues relating to poverty and HIV / AIDS, the Church in Malaysia faces the challenge of being Christian in a Muslim nation. Less that 8% of the 26 Million people in Malaysia are Christian. The Methodist conference at which I am speaking has about 4000 Methodists from the 6 annual conferences, and one mission conference, of Malaysia. Here's a photo of the main hall in which we're meeting for our plenary sessions.

Last night I did my first session in the plenary. It was extremely well received. There is such an openness to the gospel of Christ, and such a longing to see society transformed and renewed to reflect the values of justice, mercy, equity, wholeness and grace, which are central to the Kingdom of God. I had a 30 minute slot (translated from English into Chinese and Tamil) in which I spoke about the Transformation / Global day of prayer movement that combines:

  • 10 days of ecumenical fasting and praying for change, renewal, and God's blessing in society.
  • a one day gathering (often in large stadiums or churches) where persons gather to pray, repent, and witness to the unity of the Christian faith (there is an eschatological dimension to this of course - having to pray together for 10 days, and having to organise an event at which there may be 30 000 or 40 000 people soon teaches us that we have more in common with each other than what we have a distinctive difference). This event takes place on Pentecost Sunday each year.
  • 90 days of blessing, ministry, and service that follow the prayer event. Here the Church has an opportunity to be an answer to its prayers. The emphasis is on using the 90 days after Pentecost to try and address some of the practical issues that the community is struggling with (e.g., feeding the hungry, caring for the sick, rebuilding schools, blessing the elderly, building homes for the homeless etc.)
I have found a great deal of resonance with the balance between prayer (showing that true life, and new beginnings are ultimately reliant on the God who makes all things new), and Christian social action (showing that as Christians we have the incredible responsibility, and privilege, or matching our personal piety with social holiness - i.e., we need to become the instruments that God uses to bring about change and transformation in society). For me, this is the way in which the Gospel is made real, it relies upon God, yet it expects active human participation in God's mission in the world. Today I will be doing a two hour workshop with 1000 people. I hope that it will convince many of the the balance that is needed between personal piety and social holiness. God is glorified by our devotion to God, and our devotion to God's will for the world.

Yesterday was a national public holiday here in Malaysia - it is called Merdeka day. Merdeka means liberation, freedom, and independence. The Malaysian nation celebrated 50 years of independence from Britain on the 31st of August. The Celebrations outside our hotel where magnificent!! Here's a picture of the fire works that went off at midnight on the 30th. It was loud and spectacular!

I have experienced God's Merdeka among these wonderful Christian people. We can learn a great deal about racial diversity and religious tolerance from our Malaysian sisters and brothers. Of course there are some things that they can learn from us as well.

I always enjoy new contexts, and particularly meeting new people! Here's a photo that was taken yesterday. In it you can see Bishop Hwa Yung (I am seated to his right). Tomorrow the Bishop will lead a service in a local stadium for about 13 000 Methodists. It will be largest Christian gathering of its kind in the history of Malaysia. This is significant in a Muslim country!

On Monday I will travel to STM to spend some time with the academic faculty and students of the Methodist Seminary - I will be speaking on the role of the Methodist Church in South Africa in working against Apartheid, and dealing with violence and oppression in society. I hope to be able to blog some more in the next few days.

Please keep Megie, Courts, Liam and I in your prayers. All four of us have been sick with flu in the last two weeks.