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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
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    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
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    by Dion A Forster
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    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
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Entries in Stellenbosch (12)

Wednesday
Oct082014

God is still weeping over South Africa - Archbishop Tutu's speech at the TRC reenactmen

 

Today Archbishop Desmond Tutu opened the reenactment of Truth and Reconciliation Commission conference in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University.

The core of his message was that God is still weeping over South Africa. Even though our people were promised freedom, they still struggle in poverty, face oppression and are not truly free.

God is still weeping - the Churches and faith communities still have a critical role to play In working for the liberation of South Africa's people. God is still weeping - the Churches and faith communities must hold the servants and leaders of the nation to account for their leadership and stewardship of power and resources.

I recorded the speech (the recording was interrupted so it is in two parts). Please copy each link into your browser and you should be able to download the two recordings and listen to the.

Archbishop Tutu opening speech part 1
https://www.dropbox.com/s/vqf847oo9godzgk/Desmond%20Tutu%20TRC1%208%20Oct%202014.mp3?dl=0

Archbishop Tutu opening speech part 2
https://www.dropbox.com/s/1ij2evy4jn9r2pe/Desmond%20Tutu%20TRC2%208%20Oct%202014.mp3?dl=0

I would love to hear your ideas and feedback on Archbishop Tutu's opening address and the role of Christians, the Churches, faith communities and people of faith in the "re-humanization" of South African society?

I have the responsibility and privilege of representing the Methodist Church of SA at these hearings since our Presiding Bishop was unable to attend and asked me to participate on his behalf.

Tuesday
Sep022014

Launch of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Unit, John de Gruchy conference

This evening we launched the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Unit in the Beyers Naudé centre for Public Theology at Stellenbosch University.

In the front row of this picture are some of the most famous Bonhoeffer scholars (from left to right), John de Gruchy, Clifford Green, Wolfgang Huber, Dirkie Smit, Frits de Lange, and Wentzel Van Huyssteen next to Robert Vosloo.

I recorded John de Gruchy, Dirkie Smit, Nico Koopman and Robert Vosloo's short presentations at the launch. They were fascinating. I will upload that audio as soon as I have had a chance to edit it. So do look back - I found de Gruchy's section on Bonhoeffer reception in South Africa and Beyers Naudé fascinating. As was Dirkie Smit's talk on Russel Botman and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Tomorrow we will host a three day conference in honour of John de Gruchy. Many of these visitors are speakers at the conference. Others include Prof Graham Ward Regis Professor of Divinity at Oxford University and Prof a Serene Jones (President of Union Theological seminary - where Dietrich Bonhoeffer studied before his return to Germany). The prominent ethicist Larry Rasmussen will also be a speaker, as will Prof Iain McGillchrist from Oxford.

I will be chairing the panel on science and theology.

Here's a peek at the program.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

9h00: Opening

Session 1: Engaging Dietrich Bonhoeffer [Chair: Robert Vosloo]
9h20-10h00: Wolfgang Huber: Dietrich Bonhoeffer's question: How a coming generation
is to go on living?
10h00 -10h40: Nico Koopman: Bonhoeffer and the Future of Public Theology in South
Africa
10h40-11h10: Tea:
11h10-12h40: Panel Discussion: Clifford Green, Michael Phiri, Karola Radler, Frits de
Lange
12h40-14h00: Lunch
Book launch: A Theological Odyssey: My Life in Writing (John de Gruchy) (Sun Media);
Chair: Len Hansen; Speakers: Keith Clements, Roderick Hewitt, Cas Wepener
Session 2: Theological Aesthetics [Chair: Lyn Holness]

14h00-14h40: Graham Ward: Sanctification: Towards a Pedagogy of Affect
14h40-15h20: Frank Burch Brown: The Aesthetics of Forgiveness: Representing
Forgiveness Artistically.

15h20-15h50: Tea
15h50-17h20: Panel Discussion: Janet Trisk, Marnus Havenga, Awet Andemicael, Johan
Cilliers
18h15-19h15: Welcoming function
19h15: Concert: Libertas Choir

Thursday 4 September 2014
9h00: Opening: Robert Steiner
Session 3: Christian Humanism [Chair: Elna Mouton]

9h10-9h50: Denise Ackermann: The Mystery of Hope
9h50-10h30: Jim Cochrane: The Spirit of Humanity: Contra Theologies of Death

10h30-11h00: Tea
11h00-12h30: Panel Discussion: Karin Sporre, Martin Prozesky, Nadia Marais

12h30-14h00: Lunch
Book Launch: Denise Ackermann, Surprised by the Man on the Borrowed Donkey:
Ordinary Blessings (Lux Verbi)
Speaker: Dirkie Smit
Session 4: Theology and Science [Chair: Dion Forster]
14h00-14h40: Iain McGilchrist
14h40-15h20: J. Wentzel van Huyssteen: The Emergence of Personhood: Why the
Evolution of the Moral Sense and Symbolic Behavior defines the Human Self
15h20-15h50: Tea
15h50-17h20: Panel Discussion: Ernst Conradie, Gys Loubser, Larry Rasmussen, Rika
Preiser

18h15: Evening reception: Clos Malverne wine estate

Friday 5 September

9h00: Opening: Bruce Theron
Session 5: The Struggle Continues [Chair: Edwin Arrison]
9h10-9h50: Serene Jones: Economic Freedom
9h50-10h30: Allan Boesak: 'A Hope Unprepared to Accept Things as They Are':
Reflections on John De Gruchy's Challenges for a Theology at the Edge

10h30-11h00: Tea
11h00-12h30: Panel Discussion: Rothney Tshaka, Christo Lombard, Helené van Tonder,
Deon Snyman
12h30-13h00: Conclusion: John de Gruchy

Sunday
Jun152014

Hope for the future and being a community of hope

This past week I had the privilege of doing the closing plenary address at the Stellenbosch University Winter School. The theme of the conference was hope. The quote below sums up what I tried to say.
“Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime; therefore, we are saved by hope. Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history; therefore, we are saved by faith. Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore, we are saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own; therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.”
Reinhold Niebuhr. In short, we act today for what we hope for and anticipate tomorrow. Moreover, everything worth doing is best done in community and partnership. Finally, we are all embraced in grace and love - the is the reason for hope! In this picture are the three keynote speakers (see *) and some of the other speakers and organizers of the great event (left to right) Prof Aben from Jos Nigeria (a visiting scholar), *Mrs Marlene le Roux, (back) Dr Danie O'Kennedy, (front) Dr Bruce Theron, (back) *Dr Mvume Dandala, *Dr Dion Forster.
Tuesday
Jun032014

Zotero or Mendeley? Which academic citation manager is better?

There is a well known saying among academics the world over, Publish or Perish.

It is true! In the academic world the publication of research is critical to one's career - I like to see it in a less 'survival' directed framework.  Namely, that I want to publish my research because I believe it serves the world and helps the Church and Christians in their task of making the world more just, beautiful and blessed.  Perhaps I am being a little idealistic?

Regardless, I try to publish a book over other year or so, and I also try to get about three scholarly articles in peer reviewed journals each year.  When you consider the work that it takes to do that while still teaching undergraduate and postgraduate classes, as well as supervising multiple Masters and PhD students, you can imagine that I need a pretty efficient system to keep a record of what I am reading, and easily get that information into my books and academic articles.

For some years I have been using Zotero as a citation manager.  It is a great tool since it is open source, it works really well on the Mac and PC, and it stores your reference database (books, articles, documents, web pages, videos, interviews etc.) in the 'cloud'.  It also has plug ins for Microsoft Word (on the PC and the Mac), and also for open source word processing software.  It is really easy to use!

However, I have been frustrated by two things.  First, it does not have an iOS client for use on my iPhone and iPad.  I often only travel with my iPad and when I have a few spare moments it would be great to be able to catch up on the latest journal articles and books and add them to my citation index for later use.  Alas, that cannot be done.  I have to wait until I am back at my Mac, fire up my web browser, either find the article or book on Google Scholar, Amazon, or Google books, and then add the source automatically.  Or worse still, if it is an older or lesser known source I have to add it manually.

My second frustration is that Zotero is not supported by the University of Stellenbosch Library system (I am a faculty member at Stellenbosch University).  This means I often search for titles in the library, and once I have found them there I have to search for them a second time (on Amazon, Google Books, Google Scholar, Gale etc.) to be add the reference to my library.

One of our library staff suggested I try Mendeley.  It is also a free piece of citation management software.  It also works on the Mac and PC (and Linux), and as a bonus it also has an iOS client! So that is great.  However, it is not opensource - that always worries me a little.  Often it means that if there is a problem, or the owners no longer make money from the software or loose interest in it your data could get 'stuck' in an outdated piece of software.  Opensource solutions tend to updated more quickly and over a longer period of time since it is the users who drive that process.

Still, it is worth checking out since it is tied into our University library system (a huge bonus that will cut at least one significant step out of my Zotero workflow).  Moreover, the University has some sort of agreement with Mendeley that allows faculty to have more space for storing references on online copies of PDF's and articles (Zotero charges for extra space).  It also works well with the Mac and has a lovely interface, and as I mentioned above it also has an iOS client.

Here is a little video from Portland State University that does a good job of comparing Zotero and Mendeley

Do you use citation management software?  I know many folks find the learning curve too steep and have stuck to manually entering every citation! My goodness, I simply don't have time or patience (or enough of an eye for detail) to do that well.

If you do use citation software what do you use and why?  If you use either Zotero or Mendeley I would love to hear your reasons for choosing one over the other, and any tips you may have to help me maximise my use of the software.

Thursday
Jan022014

The dawning of a new era - Stellenbosch University

Today a new era dawned in my ministry and working life - on the 2nd of January 2014 I arrived at Stellenbosch University at around 7.50am to move into my new office in the Faculty of Theology.  

Yesterday my appointment as Senior Lecturer in Systematic Theology and Ethics (with a focus on Public Theology) came into effect! I am truly grateful for this magnificent opportunity to serve the Church and society in the academy!

I am so excited about what the future holds in this new post! For some years I have been attached to the faculty as a staff member in Ekklesia (the Center for Leadership and Congregational) - however, this new post is as a full time academic with both undergraduate and post graduate teaching and research responsibilities.

I will be teaching Ethics and Systematic Theology and will have a particular focus on the Church's role in the various 'public' spaces of society (politics, economics, health care, education, the arts and many others).  This is where most of my attention and energy has been focussed in the last decades.  The Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED 'Shining a light on corruption' campaigns have aimed at precisely this, to support and empower the Church for making a positive contribution to the transformation of the nation and the world.

So, today I moved my stuff from my 'old office' in the Ekklesia side of the faculty building into the 'faculty' side of the building (which is pictured above - I took this photo about three years ago.  Isn't it a beautiful building?) Each of the departments are clustered together, and I am in the section for Systematic Theology, Church History, Ethics and Ecclesiology. It is a beautiful sunny office with rows and rows of book shelves and lots of wood - befitting the historical look of the Kweekskool buildings.

My prayer for this new sesion in my ministry is that I will have an opportunity to serve both the Church and the nation in developing critical though and ideas, useful tools, and well trained people who can bring about transformation and the renewal of society for the sake of justice and grace.

I am inspired by the following quote from a speech that former President Nelson Mandela gave at the Methodist Conference in Umtata on 18 September 1994:

One cannot over-emphasise the contribution that the religious community made particularly in ensuring that our transition achieves the desired result. The spirit of reconciliation and the goodwill within the nation can, to a great measure, be attributed to the moral and spiritual interventions of the religious community.

Now that a major part of the journey towards democracy has been traversed, new and more difficult tasks lie ahead of us. For, political democracy will be empty and meaningless, if the misery of the majority of the people is not addressed.

The Church, like all other institutions of civil society, must help all South Africans to rise to the challenge of freedom. As South Africa moves from resistance to reconstruction and from confrontation to reconciliation, the energy that was once dedicated to breaking apartheid must be harnessed to the task of building the nation.

I would appreciate your prayers for me, and of course also for Megie, Courtney and Liam, as this new phase in our lives takes shape.

I will remain the Chairman of the Board of 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' as our team works towards the G20 meetings in Australia in November 2014.  In addition to that I will also serve on one or two other boards (Unashamedly Ethical, the Power Group Charitable Trust, Half Time and Alpha).

Wednesday
Nov202013

Multimodal transport and the Brompton bicycle

I am very fortunate to be on the faculty of one of the most amazing Universities in the world - Stellenbosch University in the wine lands around Cape Town.

The University is situated in a most beautiful setting, surrounded by magnificent mountains and vineyards. The town of Stellenbosch has experienced a property boom in recent years. Partly it is because of the University, but also because of the beauty and climate of the region. I live 20km from Stellenbosch in the equally beautiful city of Somerset West which is on the slopes of the Helderberg mountains overlooking the ocean. However while we share the Cape's beauty with Stellenbosch we don't benefit from the great weather - Somerset West is cooler, windier and the weather is less predictable (like most coastal towns).

The result of the growth in residence of Stellenbosch is quite severe congestion during term times. The 20km drive from home to University to teach can take 25 minutes during vacation times and over an hour during term times! Another nightmare is parking on Campus. As with many Universities, parking on campus is scarce and restricted. Frequently I find it easier to park off campus and walk or bike in.

This is where the Brompton works perfectly! I can load it into the boot (trunk) of my car and drive to Stellenbosch. Then I can either park at my office and leave my car for the day and only battle the traffic in and out of town at the start and end of the day. The Brompton then gets me on campus, to meetings, to the library and even into town if I need to buy anything. At times I have even opted to park my car outside of the congested area (at a shopping mall just outside of town, or at the station) and then cycle in and out of town. That is often quicker than getting through the narrow streets and traffic lights to get to and from the office.

Of course another benefit of the Brompton is that it fits neatly under my desk at the office, and can even be covered and taken into the Library or a lecture theatre without a rousing any interest or suspicion. I simply fold the Brompton and pull the cover over it, pick it up and go!

A final thing I love about the Brompton is it's carrying capacity. With the T Bag or C Bag I can carry my laptop, some books, my camera, and at times have even carried at data projector in the bag.

In this post is a picture of Doris in front of the Faculty of Theology building, and folded and covered in the journal section of the main campus library.

I'll be heading to the UK and Holland at the end of this week and Doris my trusty M3L Brompton (which is lighter than Darth my black M6L) will be packed into the B bag, checked onto the flight and taken along!

Thursday
Nov172011

The launch of Word and Worship - a resource on the Revised Common Lectionary

On Wednesday I had the joy of attending the launch of a great new resource for Churches and ministers - it is called Word and Worship. It is a great book that was put together by Dr Coenie Burger, Dr Bruce Theron and a team of ministers from various denominations including the Methodist Church of Southern Africa, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Catholic Church and various other denominations.

The book takes the texts from the Revised Common Lectionary and gives background information, commentary, liturgical, prayer and worship pointers.

Prof Russel Botman, the Rector of the University of Stellenbosch, spoke at the opening of the event, as did Prof Nico Koopman (the Dean of the Faculty of Theology), Dr Coenie Burger and Dr Bruce Theron. It was wonderful to see my friends Kevin Needham, John van de Laar (one of the conveners of the project - and perhaps one of the world's foremost theologians on worship and liturgy, picture here receiving his copy) and many other colleagues contributing to this wonderful resource!

 

 

Here is the report from the University of Stellenbosch website:

Word and Worship, the first South African ecumenical resource manual written in English, will be introduced on Wednesday 16 November 2011 at the Faculty of Theology.

It was compiled by 35 ministers of six different churches and will be published under the auspices of Ekklesia, a centre of the Faculty of Theology, Stellenbosch University.

Ekklesia will be distributing 6 000 copies in November, in time for use by ministers and congregations on the First Advent Sunday, on 27 November.

The purpose of Word and Worship, which follows the well-known ecumenical Revised Common Lectionary, is to assist ministers with the preparation of weekly sermons and services. BUVTON, the forerunner to Ekklesia, published an Afrikaans ecumenical resource manual for 14 years. It has long been a dream to publish an English equivalent, making it possible for churches on any given Sunday to be busy with common texts of Scripture.

I am a staff member at Ekklesia at the University of Stellenbosch, the centre in the Faculty of Theology that managed this project. We are planning to have 'Word and Worship' reflection and conversations starting from Tuesday the 17th of January 2012 between 9-12. If you're interested in attending these sessions please just drop me a line! It would be great to connect you with the group facilitators.

Thursday
Sep082011

I need your help to design a Masters course in Spirituality

Ekklesia web logo.jpg

We are planning to launch a new Master of Theology course in Spirituality and Spiritual formation at Ekklesia in the Faculty of Theology at the University of Stellenbosch

I would love to make this an 'open source' project! Our aim is to serve the Church and society. Ekklesia has a particular focus on shaping Churches, their clergy and members, for effective mission and transformation in the world.

As a result we would like our program to cover both spirituality and mission in what it presents for the participants. The Master of Theology program consists of 6 modules. 3 of the modules are shared with the Master of Theology in Congregational Leadership course. These 3 modules are: Congregations, a Theological module (this year we focussed on the Trinity and 'Missio Dei', and a module that introduces Christian Spirituality.

How can you help?

  • Please suggest themes or topics that you think we should cover in the three remaining modules.

  • Please suggest any books, authors, or scholars that we should consider including (with a brief one line motivation)

  • If you're interested in being updated on how this course develops, or if you may be interested in applying to do the Master of Theology in Spirituality and Spiritual direction at Stellenbosch University, then please leave your details.

    Please feel free to leave your feedback, comments and ideas in the comments section below (see the link below this post), or send me an email via the contact section of my website.

    Thank you!

  • Saturday
    Sep032011

    We cannot divorce service of God from the service of humanity - some changes ahead

    Last month I read Eric Metaxas' great biography of Dietric Bonhoeffer 'Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy'.

    It has served as a wonderful reminder to me that my calling is to be a servant of God first and foremost.  And, that my service of God is to find expression in service to humanity.  Bonhoeffer was carefuly to understand what he could do, and then to do his best to apply himself to those tasks faithfully and with courage.  There is a lesson for all of us in his life - try to spend your life doing the things that God has created and called you to do.  Life is too short to waste on other things!

    The quote below expresses Bonhoeffer's understanding of this notion so succintly:

    The Incarnation is the ultimate reason why the service of God cannot be divorced from the service of man.

    - Dietrich Bonhoeffer

    To be human is to be 'incarnate' in the world where God has placed you.  There is work to be done in the community where you live, among the people that you see each day, and with the skills, ability and gifts that God has given you.

    I will admit that I have been a little quiet on my blog for the last month or so.  

    In part that is because I have been busy (every blogger's excuse!) However, that does not mean that I have not been posting! If you look to the left of this blog (at least the form it is in now, in September 2011, you will see my Tumblr feed listed in the first colum of your browser window).  I have simply found it much easier to post in the short and medium format that Tumblr allows and so I have shared brief thoughts, quotes, photographs and ideas there. So, look in on http://digitaldion.tumblr.com from time to time.

    Yet, in part I have also been a little slower in posting to my blog since I have been taking time to pray and discern the way forward in my ministry and life.

    I have had three fairly 'distinct' phases to my ministry.

    • I was a minister who pastored various Methodist Churches for almost 15 years.
    • I was an academic who held posts at both Seminaries and Universities for some years.
    • Most recently I have held a corporate chaplaincy and spent a great deal of my time working among business people in the world of work.  Of course while doing this I have remained a minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa and continued to hold a post at two South African Universities.

    I am about to move into another phase of my ministry.  Not everything is in place, but I have permission from my Bishop, the blessing of my friends that I am currently serving, and some opportunities taking shape.

    The last (almost) 4 years have been absolutely amazing! I have discovered a side to ministry that has been such a blessing to me, while I hope it has brought some joy to those among whom I have ministered. I have had the opportunity to travel the world, meet many wonderful people and experience so many new things as I have sought to faithfully serve Christ 'in the marketplace'.

    This will not end.  I will continue to serve as the Chaplain to the Power Group of Companies, the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical campaigns.  Although I shall give about 50% of my time to this wonderful work.

    From January 2012 I shall be returning to a greater measure of Academic work.  

    I have been invited to take up a post at the University of Stellenbosch in Ekklesia, a Unit of the Faculty of Theology at the University.  I cannot tell you how blessed I am to be able to transition into this new role of service and responsibility! To start with I will have responsibility for the Master of Theology courses that are run within the Unit, as well as some research output.

    Together with this wonderful opportunity I was offered a scholarship to do a second PhD.  I have been working on a Doctorate in New Testament at Radboud University in Nijmegen, Holland, for part of this year.  Radboud is a distinguished research University - Edward Schillebeeckx was a Professor there, and Henri Nouwen did some of his studies there as well. From January I will devote a little more time and attention to this great opportunity.  It truly is a gift of a lifetime!  I am working under Professor Jan van der Watt, reading in the area of narratology in John's Gospel.  I shall apply some of the insights I developed in my first PhD in approaching the text - bringing an interdisciplinary perspective to reading the text of John (from integrative studies, neuroscience and African relational ontology).

    Lastly, I shall do some consulting work - over the last few years I have found that I am approached more and more frequently to speak at conferences and gatherings on various subjects (most recently it has been on my book 'Transform your work life' (Amazon copy and Kindle Edition) which deals with developing spirituality, ministry and faith in the world of work).  

    But I have also developed quite a strong base of friends and clients with whom I do spiritual guidance, counselling, life coaching and strategic development.  So I will continue to help individuals and teams (companies, churches, communities) to navigate complex challenges by drawing on my experience in ministry, spiritual direction and of course my studies in cognitive neuroscience and integrative theory.

    So, I would appreciate your prayers as I move towards this change.  Please offer thanks with me that this space has been created by Graham Power and my friends in the Power Group.  They have been generous and gracious in allowing me to structure my time in this way. I am also grateful that my Bishop has so kindly supported this shift in ministry.  Also give thanks for these new opportunities that are arising at the Universities and with various friends and clients.  Please could I also ask that you pray for the practical matters that we shall need to manage, such as generating sufficient income and managing my time and resources wisely?

    Indeed, these are exciting times ahead! My greatest desire is to serve God through service to humanity!

    Do remember that if you are looking for someone to come and do something creative with a group at work or Church just drop me a line. Or if you are looking for someone to journey with you to solve a particular challenge you're facing, or simply for support, guidance and encouragement, please consider making use of my time.

    Thursday
    Sep302010

    The Bible and Christian Ethics - lectures at the University of Stellenbosch

    This week I had the privelage of teaching at the University of Stellenbosch on two days.  The topic of the lectures was Scripture and Ethics.

    The Bible is a critical source that informs our moral and ethical decision making processes, and helps us to justify why we have taken a particular course of action.  My lectures were based on two chapters that I have written.

    Reading the same Bible and reaching different ethical conclusions:  The Bible and Christian ethics" by Forster, D (2009:131-156) in What is a good life? An introduction to Christian Ethics in 21st century Africa. Kretzschmar, L; Bentley, W; van Niekerk, A (eds). Kempton Park, AcadSA Publishers.

    And,

    "Why you can't simply trust everything you read" by Forster, D (2008:25-46) in What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists. Forster, D; Bentley, W (eds). Cape Town.  Methodist Publishing House.

    When we need the Bible most... Complex ethical dilemmas and Christian scripture

    Sadly, the Bible is often abused in moral and ethical decision-making processes.  I often hear people quoting a single verse to justify a stance on something (whether it be politics, sexual choices, wealth etc.)  An overly simplistic approach to ethics and an ignorant application of the scriptures can be extremely hurtful and damaging in complex ethical decisions.

    In this set of lectures we began by examining the complexity of ethical decision-making.  We used a story that a student shared with me when I was still a lecturer in Ethics and Systematic Theology at the University of South Africa (UNISA) some years ago:

    Moral problems tend to have straigthfoward answers (right or wrong), whereas ethical dilemmas seem to have a mix of both good and bad.  No matter what choice you make it will not be entirely good or entirely bad.  The complexity is to work out what decision is best under the circumstances.  This process of deciding is often complicated when one asks the question 'What would God want me to do in this situation?', or 'What does the Bible say I can and cannot do in this situation?'

    The example used in class came from a student that I taught at UNISA.

    Example:  Is it ever right for a son to have sexual intercourse with his mother?  What does the Bible say?  The answer is, no, it is not acceptable for a son to have sexual intercourse with his mother.  The Bible will not allow that.  This is a clear moral problem.  It is easy to resolve since the choices are either right or wrong, good or bad.

    However, in this instances the young man was at home with his mother.  A gang of thugs burst into their home, stole various items and then held a gun to the young man’s mother’s head.  The told him that if he did not have sex with his mother they would kill her.  What should he do?  Does the Bible make some allowance for him to break a law on sexual purity because the value of his mother’s life is more important in Biblical terms?

    This last point is an ethical dilemma.  There is a conflict of values – the value of sexual purity in conflict with the value for life.  Which is more important in Christian ethics?  How does one use the Bible to inform such an ethical decision making process and choice?

    Well, here are the slides from the lectures.  You can download the original Microsoft Powerpoint slides from this link (5MB).  These slides have notes and references in them. 

    However, if you simply want to click through the slides then please use the slideshare window below.

    In order to illustrate the complexity of using the Bible in Christian ethics we used a very contentious subject, the Christian (Biblical) perspective on persons with a same sex orientation, and in particular persons in an active homosexual relationship, to consider an approach to ethical decision-making.

    I would highly recomend that you read the chapters referenced above.  They give a detailed technical outline of both the content of the lecture, but also the Analyse, Ask, Evaluate and Act model that is presented here.

    Sunday
    Jun272010

    All the gory details!

    Yesterday my friends Greg (@gregbeliever) and Ruan (not on twitter!) and I (@digitaldion) did an EPIC mountainbike ride from Somerset West to Stellebosch (on the mountains), and back.

    Ruan had to turn back a bit early (I think at about 30km's), but Greg and I did 60km's in total, mostly on the mountains above Somerset West and Stellenbosch.  It was great fun!  There were many parts where we had no roads or tracks to ride - we simply road through the bushes, and at times pushed our bikes, and even had to 'hike' them over our shoulders.  Yes, there were one or two spots where we had to jump a boundary fence!

    We left at 13.30 and eventually got back home in Somerset West at 19.30 - 60km's in 6 hours!  Not exactly a world record for speed, but definitely a ride of a lifetime.

    It was great to share the experience with Greg - he and I are both deeply committed Christians.  So, we had lots of time to talk, pray and give thanks, and just celebrate being healthy, alive, and riding in one of the most beautiful settings in the world.

    It is a great varied ride; some tar, some good jeep track (with lots of climbing), some technical single track, some VERY technical single track (in Eden and Paradyskloof - hectic, steep, rocky downhill!), and some bush with no road in sight!  So cool!

    Well, if you're interested in following the route in Google earth you can download the file here (right click and save it if you're on windows, control click it if you're on a mac).  Firefox seems think it is a text file and open it in the browser instead of saving it to open in Google Earth.  Not sure why.

    There was some spectacular scenery along the way! My goodness!  At one point we ended up on this farm (I'm still not entirely sure where it is - somewhere behind Avontuur farm).  Isn't this view amazing?

    If you're interested in the 'inner workings' of my heart this image below shows my heartrate throughout the ride - I snapped this one at my highest point (166bpm - not too bad for such a long ride!)

    A friend asked 'Why would you do this!?' - well, first it is GREAT fun! But, we're also training for the wines2whales race later this year that will be between 80-100km a day for three days.

    Have you got any 'fun' activities for which you'll endure strain and discomfort!?

    Friday
    Sep282007

    They are worthy! The 2007 Ordination service of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa

    Forgive me for not posting this sooner [Link to photos below]. I have had a few days of re-creation, Megan, Courtney, Liam and I took 4 days of rest and relaxation with her parents in Waterfall just outside Durban in South Africa. It was wonderful! However, it is about time I posted a few thoughts and some photographs from the Ordination service in Stellenbosch last week Sunday.

    Within the Methodist Church of Southern Africa the annual Ordination service has become the crowning celebration of the Connexional executive meetings (in the period of the triennial conference), or Conference. This service celebrates that women and men still choose to respond to God's call to ministry - even when they are gifted, capable, and able to do many other things. The service took place in the picturesque town of Stellenbosch, just outside of Cape Town, this year. Our Presiding Bishop, the Rev Ivan Abrahams, presided over the service (shared with the Presiding Bishop of Ghana). In total 29 persons were ordained to the ministry of word and sacrament (called Presbyters in South Africa, Elders elsewhere in the world), and a 4 persons to the ministry of word and service (Deacons, from the Greek word diakonos which means to serve).

    The liturgy for the Ordination service contains all of the necessary elements of Christian worship, praise and adoration of God, thanksgiving for God's good gifts, confession of our sin, and a charge to serve God more faithfully and obediently. Apart from the Ordination and communion there are also very pointed reminders that ministry is not reserved for those who are Ordained. In fact it is the 'Lay President' of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa who asks some of most pertinent questions of those to be Ordained, and the Presiding Bishop who charges the congregation of laity and clergy to respond obediently in discipleship to our Lord - all participating together in realizing God's mission in the world.

    I have been to more than 10 Ordination services since my own - I have had the privilege of serving as a Presbyter at most of these (a Presbyter is an Ordained minister nominated by an Ordinand to lay hands on his or her head, together with the other Ordained ministers and Bishops when the Ordination prayer is said. Theologically it symbolizes the apostolic succession from one generation of ministers to the next). A special moment in the Ordination service is when all of the Ordained persons who are present (from all Churches and orders of ministry) are asked to stand and renew their promise to faithful service.

    I had the incredible joy of serving as a Presbyter for two of my past students, both good friends, at this Ordination service - the Rev Juan Smith (with whom I am pictured above) and the Rev Dorah Ngcakani. Juan and I are good friends. We go a long way back - he was a Phase 1 minister in Cape Town when I was a young minister there. He and I are very alike (just take a look at our hairstyles!) in personality, passion, and love for Christ. This young man is a great gift to Christ's Church! I am thankful that a person who is a graduate, bright, committed, energetic, and capable, has chosen to give his life in service of Christ. It is what the Lord deserves, and it will bring great blessing and fulfillment in his life. Dorah, is a mother to me. She is an extremely accomplished woman. She holds a string of degrees and qualifications, having served as a school principal, Educational inspector, and senior member of the South Africa department of Education. She helped me with advice, guidance, and a patient ear when I was a very 'green' Dean at the Seminary. She is far more capable to do my work than I am, yet she was humble, restrained, wise and gracious as I tried to find my feet. Thank you Juan and Dorah for the blessing of sharing in this incredible day with you!

    I do want to encourage others who are hearing God whisper the call to the Ordained ministry (either as a Presbyter, or Deacon) to test that call! There can be no greater way to spend your life than doing the thing that God wants you to do! If you are the best, you're the person that God wants! I am currently working on a little book, that I hope to publish in the next few months. It is intended to help persons discern their call to ministry (whether it be ministry in the pulpit, home, and Church, or ministry in the marketplace, workplace, or wider world). In the meantime however, please read this document if you want to know what steps to take to test your call.

    Lastly, I have compiled a little page with photographs of the Ordination (taken with my snap and shoot camera). Please follow the link for photographs of the MCSA Ordination service in 2007.