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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 teaching (4)

Tuesday
Aug012017

Religion and Public Life across the world? A week of teaching at Cambridge University

It has been almost two weeks since I returned from Cambridge. I had the privilege of teaching on a Doctor of Ministry course at Wesley House, Cambridge University. This particular degree is co-hosted by Wesley House and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. My senior colleague, and friend, Prof Bruce Birch (the Dean of Wesley Seminary) had invited me to teach on the course. It was such a wonderful blessing to be able to visit Wesley House again. I have been a friend of the Principal of Wesley House, Dr Jane Leach, for more than a decade.

You can find out more about this magnificent doctoral course at this link - I can highly recommend it for anyone who desires to engage in relevant, critical, theological study that will make a contribution in Church, society and academy.

The 'cohort' of students that I had the joy of spending a week with were amazing. It was a diverse group of academics from all across the world (18 in total, one colleague from Liberia could not get a visa). Each of them had a particular connection to the Church and was seeking to develop as both a theological and ministry leader to better serve in their context. The class discussions were deeply challenging, lively, and of an extremely high level. I was so impressed by the persons, their experience, knowledge and preparation for the course.

The week on which I taught aimed to bring together an understanding of Christianity as an historically 'glo-cal' phenomenon i.e., a faith that is globally oriented, yet locally contextualised. During the week we considered a number of aspects of the history, theology, geography, culture and demography of different Christianities across the world and across history.

We read Kim, S. & Kim, K. 2016. Christianity as a World Religion: An Introduction. London: Bloomsbury Academic. It is a wonderful 'survey' text that traces the development of contextual expressions of Christianity across the continents of the world in historical and theological detail. I can highly recommend this book.

In addition we also considered the work of Taylor, C. 2009. A Secular Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. And some exceprts on the role of religion in public life from the brand new book: Kim, S. & Day, K. Eds. 2017. A Companion to Public Theology. Leiden Bosten: BRILL.

It was just such a wonderful experience to be in community at Wesley House - it is truly one of the most remarkable places of learning - a true scholarly community with a deep commitment to academic excellence and spiritual discipline. I learnt a great deal from the colleagues on the course, and in my preparation to teach the course was once again inspired and challenged to think critically and carefully about the role of the religion (and the Church) in public life. It can be a great source for good, but also a space of struggle. I was reminded just how much good work Christians and Churches do, and how much more work there is to do in service of God's Kingdom and humanity and the planet's wholeness.

Below are two videos: First, is a video I recorded in Cambridge on the content of the course and some of our focus points in Christianity as a Global / World religion. My thoughts were a little scattered, and I was also a little destracted by the persons walking past. But, it gives some idea of what I was thinking.

Second, I would commend this video, recorded with Prof Jan Jans from Tilburgh University (about a year earlier) on the death of religion and the rise of spirituality in Europe. It is also a very interesting discussion! Jan is a great friend who visits us at Stellenbosch each year. I love his energy and insights!

As always I would love to hear your thoughts, and ideas. How do you express your faith in your context? What is the role of Christianity and religion in your community?

 

Saturday
Oct222011

A visit to the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary

This week I had the wonderful privilege of visiting the Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary. This is where the minister of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa are trained for the 6 nations of Southern Africa.

SMMS pano.png
It is a truly remarkable place - the attention to detail and excellence is visible throughout the property. Moreover, that staff and students of the seminary exemplify excellence in their commitment to their vocational formation.

SMMS Chapel.jpg I was invited to SMMS to do some examinations for 3rd year students in Systematic Theology (for a course in Ecology and Caring for the earth), and also for 3rd year Church history students. My friend, Peter Grassow, who is a lecturer (and the Chaplain at SMMS) invited me. I also the joy of working with Dr Lilian Siwila, as well as preaching in the magnificent Chapel (for the SMMS community, which makes up staff, students and their families).

SMMS forms part of a theological cluster around the University of KwaZulu Natal in Pietermartizburg. Among the 'cluster' institutions are the University's theological faculty, the Lutheran Seminary, the Catholic Seminary and an Anglican house of study. As a result of this diversity the students get a great deal of ecumenical interaction, as well as the highest level of theological formation for ministry.

SMMS chapel 2.jpg
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.

Wednesday
Oct032007

Last class... Leavers Service... Some courses... Some leave... A new year!

Today I taught my last class for 2007 (well, I will still have some sessions and presentations before the year is done - see below) - but this was my last 'formal' class for the year.

This is just a quick reminder to all our Methodist colleagues that we have approximately 250 Probationer ministers writing exams over the next three weeks. Then, I am always praying for the UNISA and University of Pretoria students I have taught this year (a further 250 Ethics 1 students from UNISA, and about 50 New Testament students from UP). Please pray for all of these people! For clergy examinations are seldom about getting a qualification, rather exams are about learning how best to serve God and God's people (well, at least I hope that is what it is about)!

Next year a brand new batch of bright, gifted, and committed students will arrive to be shaped for ministry. [Boy, I am so optimistic tonight! Perhaps it's because I got my car back from the garage, they had to replace the onboard computer on my 1 year old Polo TDi... The car has been nothing but problems since I bought it. Anyway, it seems to be going fine now! Heck, I say that we should all just drive Orange Vespa's!]

Between now and when we close just before Christmas we (the Unit) will be training lay leaders (Circuit and Society stewards), Bible Women, Evangelists, Superintendents, District Supervisors of Studies, preparing for new students coming into Phase 1, helping students who are transitioning from Phase 1 to Phase 2, and Phase 2 to Phase 3, writing materials, designing courses, and of course taking a few days leave (Megie, Courts, Liam, and I will be going to stay with our friends Graham and Lauren Power at Thiesens Island in Knysna between the 18th and 27th of December. I can't wait!) Then, the cycle of the year starts again. It is quite satisfying in many ways.

Tomorrow evening is our College Valedictory service and leavers' dinner (Wessel will be there in his brand new Doctoral gown!) Rev Dr Jenny Slater (the Dean of Students from the Catholic Seminary, St John Viarney in Pretoria) will be the guest speaker. I will try to record her talk and post it here.

Thanks to my students, you are truly great colleagues! You have made this year so memorable and blessed. You are a gift to the Church, each one of you!