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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 Theology (95)

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.

Wednesday
Jul042007

Getting into the theological journey of a lifetime! You could never be the same again.

A friend of mine (zoob) emailed me this morning to ask for some advice about getting into Stanley Hauerwas. I thought I would post my response here. Once again, I would suggest that you cannot be a serious contemporary theologian without reading some Hauerwas! Come on, engage me on this!

Thanks for the mail. Wow, you are in for a spectacular ride!!! I would suggest that you simply cannot get by without getting yourself a copy of the 'Hauerwas Reader' Check out Angus' review here There is also a direct link from his post to order it from Kalahari. This book has a representative selection of his own essays and chapters from books, so it will give you a superb insight into his theology... In particular you should read the chapter in it which is entitled something like "Why gays (as a group) are morally superior to Christians (as a group)"... I don't have my book here with me in the office to give you the exact title. However he makes an incredibly creative argument for pacifism based on sexual orientation and US's hunger for war! Incredible!!!

Hauerwas is a MIND BEND! He will revolutionize your theology in a way you have not yet thought possible.

Another exceptional read is his Gifford lecture series called "With the grain of the Universe" (SCM Press, 2001). I would also suggest some reading for Easter, "The cross shattered Christ" (2007).

A fourth book to read is his 'festschrift' called "God truth and witness: Engaging Stanley Hauerwas" - Neville wrote a chapter in the book!!! How incredle is that!? In this chapter he relates Hauerwas ethics (and his notion of community and expression of his eclessiology) to what is happening in the Church in South Africa. An incredible read - it was the first time that I actually began to want to Barth by the way! Up to this point I had been a firm Kung and Rahner person.

If anyone else has some suggestions to make here (Wessel, Angus, Neville?) please post a comment. Blessings, D.

Thursday
Jun282007

Meetings, musings, and much less important things...

Today we ended the June General Committee meeting of the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit. These are always incredibly stressful meetings since we have the responsibility of making some very tough and conflicted decisions about the lives of our student ministers.

Thank God the meetings are done, the Theological Society is finished (week before), now I look forward to hosting some visitors from Cambridge in the UK, Garret in Chicago (US), and a Colleague from Detroit! Visitors are always a wonderful blessing. They bring new insights, energy, and a great sense of connectedness with this great wide world, and God's great church all over the world.

Just to mention three books that I am currently reading that are SO worthwhile (each for different reasons).

Firstly, I would strongly encourage all of you who are seeking a fresh and novel approach to orthodox Christian Theology to read Brian Mclaren's 2004 book "A generous orthodoxy". This has truly been the most encouraging, and gently presented, approach to Christian truth and the cause of the Gospel of the Kingdom of God that I have read in a long while. It is set to be my book of the year!

Secondly, I have been reading (for a book review in the Journal 'Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae') a centenary festschrift on Cardinal Yves Congar edited by Gabriel Flynn, entitled "Yves Congar: Theologian of the Church" (2005). It has reminded me again of the discipline of working for the reform and renewal of the Church from within its fellowship. Congar was a leading light in Vatican II, a contemporary of Bernard Longeran, Karl Rahner, and Courtney Murray. His ecclesiology has lead in large part to the Catholic church's renewed ecclesiology and role for an 'educated laity' in the formulation and renewal of the evangelisation of the world.

Lastly, I have been reading a book by my favourite author, Bill Bryson, entitled "The life and times of the thunderbolt kid" (2006). This has to be one of the funniest, and most poignant, books I have read in a very long time. I have laughed so hard that I have almost bust a stitch!

Oh, and for the gadget freaks, take a look at this GREAT video review of the iPhone that gets released tomorrow evening in the US!

It was put together by David Pogue, a Mac fanatic with a great sense of humour.

Monday
Jun252007

The paper I presented at the Theological Society of South Africa.

There are few things quite as boring as sitting through some strange man telling you all about neurons, dendrites, objective and subjective reality, quadrants, hierarchies and a host of things that would normally put the average person to sleep...

However, whilst there are few things as boring as being PRESENT to hear a paper, the one SURE FIRE thing that IS MORE BORING is reading someone else's BORING paper.... Ha ha!

So, I just wanted to announce that there will be a test for all my friends (particularly for those of you on facebook that keep poking me!) So you had better start reading the paper (all 31 pages of it) or else you may not go to heaven! What do you think Wessel, is that a fair soteriology!?

So, click here to download the BORING paper!

Do South Africans exist.doc

Here's the Abstract (hint - study this and you should be able to pass the test ;-)

A generous ontology: Identity as a process of intersubjective discovery - An African theological contribution.

The answer to the question "who am I?" is of fundamental importance to being human. Answers to this question have traditionally been sought from various disciplines and sources, these include empirical sources such as biology and sociology, and phenomenological sources such as psychology and religion. Although the approaches are varied they have the notion of foundational truth, whether from an objective, or subjective, perspective in common. The question in the title of this paper comes from the title of a book by WITS academic, Ivor Chipkin, entitled, "Do South Africans Exist? Nationalism, Democracy and the Identity of 'the People'" (2007). This paper will not discuss Chipkin’s thoughts on nationalism and democracy in any detail, however it will consider the matter of human identity that is raised by his question. The approach that this papers takes on the notion of identity is significantly influenced by Brian McLaren’s postmodernist approach to Christian doctrine as outlined in his book "A generous orthodoxy" (2004) - a term coined by Yale Theologian Hans Frei. The inadequacies of traditional approaches to human identity and consciousness that are based upon 'foundational knowledge' will thus be considered. Both subjective and objective approaches will be touched upon, showing the weaknesses of these approaches in dealing with the complex nature of true human identity. The paper will then go on to present an integrative framework for individual consciousness that is not static or ultimately quantifiable, rather it is formulated in the process of mutual discover that arises from a shared journey. The approach presented here draws strongly upon the groundbreaking work of Ken Wilber and Eugene de Quincey and relates their ontlogical systems to the intersubjective approach to identity that can be found in the African philosophy of ubuntu. This paper will show how the ethics and theology of this indigenous knowledge system can contribute toward overcoming the impasse of validating individual identity and consciousness.

Monday
Jun252007

Take a look at this....

This book arrived in my post on Friday... What's so special about it!? Well, isn't it a nice cover?


Check out the last name and title of the chapter on the left hand side page (you may have to click on the image to enlarge it), and the fourth name and description on the right hand side page! ha ha, that's the great thing about this book with the rather 'generic' cover... I have a chapter published in it! I presented a paper on consciousness, identity, and Africa Theology (particularly the ethics of ubuntu) and it was published in the book. It is wonderful (and vain - Lord forgive me) to see one's name in print!

So, there we go! Have a blessed week!

Tuesday
Jun122007

A resource for Society Stewards and Circuit Stewards (sometimes called Elders) in Methodist Churches

I have just completed writing up a little resource for Society Stewards and Circuit Stewards (sometimes called Elders) in Methodist Churches.

This document is an attempt at laying a foundational theology for the ministry of these important lay persons in our Methodist Churches. My document draws on four primary sources (all listed of course):

1. Tim Attwell's ecclesiology paper for DEWCOM.

2. My document that discusses orders of ministry (with particular reference to Ordained Deacons in the MCSA), also prepared for DEWCOM.

3. A superb little booklet written by Ken Leverton (from which almost the entire last point comes) - "Your ministry as a Steward" Leverton, K, 1996:21. Methodist Publishing House. Cape Town. Sadly this little booklet is currently out of print (hence the need for my little document).

4. The Laws and Discipline of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa (10th Edition! Note the edition number please, I did not have the 11th edition at the time of writing. As soon as I get a copy, I'll update the references).

So, here's the document entitled:

Your ministry as a Steward in the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.doc

Sunday
May272007

Let's talk! Homosexuality and the Bible.

This evening I met with some of the senior members of our congregation to give an account of my stance on the same sex issue.

They were wonderfully gracious, incredibly understanding, and treated the subject, and me, with earnest and sincere integrity, seeking to understand, yet at the same time having the freedom to disagree when feeling inclined to do so. Thank you for your grace and understanding. Whilst we are not all on the same page with regards to an appropriate Christian response to persons of a same sex orientation, we are on the same page with regards to our love for Christ, our desire to see the Church remain one and undivided, and the fact that Christian scripture is authoritative and is the primary source of God's revelation.

Of course, each one of us approaches that same sacred text from very different perspectives, with a different life's history, differing experiences of the same God, and so also with different 'interpretive lenses' that shape what we read, and how we read and apply the text in our lives. This is often the source of misunderstanding. So let me say a few things about the lenses that inform my approach to God's Word.

I for one accept that all of scripture is God breathed (or God inspired), as the Word of God, however, I know that I have come to understand certain texts as being fundamentally culturally and contextually bound and so such texts are in need of some interpretation (for example those texts that suggest that women should not speak in Church, or that Christians may own slaves and still honour God in doing so, or some of the Old Testament dietary laws relating to pork etc.). I accept, without too much effort, that these elements of the Bible need to be understood as addressing particular cultural and social issues (for example dietary laws helped to keep people healthy - however, pork is no longer dangerous to eat (except of course of your cholesterol is as high as mine is!), injunctions about what is socially acceptable for women to do in the ancient near-east were about maintaining order in worship in a culture that frowned upon women taking a lead when men where present - most of us would certainly agree that society has changed significantly and that very few persons would find a woman in leadership offensive to their faith. And what about ethical statements made to Christian slave owners? These statements were clearly made in a context where ownership of slaves went unquestioned, so the issue is about being humane to those in one's service, not about ownership of others persons.

There are other even clearer examples of Biblical injunctions that many of us would not hesitate to 'interpret' through our 'modern lenses' as being so context bound that God would certainly not expect that we apply them unquestioningly. Let me list a few examples of texts in the Bible that I choose some interpretive license with - for example the expectation that I am entitled to sell my lazy daughter into slavery [Ex 21:9] (after all at what age does she become productive? How should I measure her productivity in this day and age? Would I not be transgressing Paul's injunction in Romans 13 to obey government laws by putting a child to work in this day and age? If so, which law do I obey, Exodus or Romans?), or what about my neighbour who works on the Sabbath, she is a nurse, Ex 35:20 says that she should be put to death for doing so. Does God really still expect me to do this? If so, what would you suggest is the best possible way to do it? Or what about the fact that the senior pastor of my Church should not be allowed to go near the altar, or even enter the temple, since he does not have perfect 20/20 vision (he wears glasses as proof of that fact) which is clearly prohibited by Lev 21:20.... and the list goes on. These examples, however, help to make my point. I hope that you will agree that we all choose some measure of interpretation when it comes to the Bible. Consistency in interpretation would thus seem to be the only integral approach in such a reality.

Now please hear me, that this does not mean that we must throw such texts out of the Canon of scripture, or that the Bible does not still maintain its authority! No, rather it means that we MUST always approach the text with a great deal of humility, sensitivity, and rigor, being constantly dependent upon the God who breathes authority into the text, and Christ who is the true Word, to help us understand God's will and desire through the texts that we read.

Please could I encourage those who wish to understand why I hold the views that I do, particularly in relation to sacred Scripture, to read the article below? It is not very long, but it will help you to understand the 'lens' that shapes my reading of the 5 texts that are usually associated with homosexuality and the Bible.

I am not asking that you change your mind, but simply that you understand that my position is based upon a deep conviction that has been shaped by much searching, committed prayer, and what I believe to be a far more responsible approach to scripture - letting the text tell me things, rather than trying to tell scripture what I want it to say to support my individual, or society's, prejudice.

Of course there are many other things, and people, who have helped me to understand that God loves gay people. However, that is the content of another post.

Here's the article: Walter Wink homosexuality and the Bible.rtf. It is in Rich Text Font (RTF) format. You should be able to open it in MS Word.

Once you've read it, let's talk! My great desire is to be obedient to God, and to be effectively used by God, to share grace and love in God's world. Please feel free to post comments. I promise to hear you with the same integrity and respect that I ask from you. However, please do read the article before posting.

Together with you in Christ,

Dion

PS. Please excuse the poor formatting in the Walter Wink article. I scanned it from a paper copy I got some years ago.

Wednesday
Apr252007

What is the 'emerging church'?

My friend Arthur, who is the Children's Pastor at Bryanston Methodist Church, sent me an email about the emerging Church. WOW Art, this blows my mind! AND...., your blog needs updating.....

What is the emerging Church? Here's a quote from the paper you can download below:

Perhaps a little Mark Twain tomfoolery will give us a fresh start. Here's the urban legend: The emerging movement talks like Lutherans - which means they cuss and use naughty words; they evangelize and theologize like the Reformed - which means, in the first case, they don't do much of it, and in the second, they do it all the time; they confess their faith like the mainliners - which means they say things publicly they don't really believe in their hearts; they drink like Episcopalians - which means - to steal some words from Mark Twain - they are teetotalers sometimes - when it is judicious to be one; they worship like the charismatics - which means with each part of the body, some parts of which have tattoos; they vote liberal - which means they all move to Massachusetts come election time; they deny truth - which means Derrida is carried in their backpacks.


Ha! Isn't that GREAT! I loved the bit about worshiping with every part of the body, "some of which have tattoos"!

Download Scot McKnight's address to the Westminster Theological Seminary on the emerging Church here. (Gus, you and I will enjoy this guy, he is a progressive New Testament scholar! Very few of those around! Except you and I of course ;-)

Wes, I would love to hear your learned thoughts (being a Doctor of the ecclesiological arts yourself).

The article is a GREAT read, and certainly resonates with my idea of what the Church should be! I will be using some of this when I preach at the Highveld and Swaziland SYNOD of the Methodist Church in a few weeks!

Tuesday
Apr242007

A biased perspective... An attempt at reading the scritupres through a women's eyes - Women and ministry.

I am seldom without an opinion... Or at least that's what Megie tells me! Ha ha.

Last week on Friday I combined my New Testament 2 class (with whom I am currently doing an introduction to the Pauline and pseudo-Pauline epistles and letters), and my Systematic Theology 1 class (with whom I am currently doing contextual theologies, such a liberation theology, feminist theology, and black theology).

We got together to study the topic of 'women in the ministry'. For those who are not familiar with the debate - two thirds of the Christians (that is Roman Catholic Christians) do not accept the ordination of women to presbuteral ministry i.e., they will not ordain women as priests. Moreover, for those who know anything about African culture, you will know that African men (particularly Xhosa and Zulu men) who hold to their ancient traditions are very patriarchal. This often means that women have a great deal to contend with when they enter the ministry in South Africa, not only do they have to face opposition from other Christian denominations, they also face cultural opposition.

So, here's what I did. I brought my two classes together. Just less than half of the students in these two classes are women. I then gave them an opportunity to prepare a debate on women in the ministry. However, I got the women to argue that women SHOULD NOT be allowed to be ordained, and the men to argue that WOMEN MUST be ordained to ministry. It was a lively and creative interaction!

Here is a little paper that I wrote to hand out to the students.

Women in Ministry 2007.doc (it is a small document in MS Word format).

It is an attempt at approaching the scriptures from a womanist perspective (in other words, I attempt to read the scriptures with the perspective of women who are called to ministry in mind).

Let me know what your thoughts are on the subject, and on the paper!

Blessings,

Dion

Monday
Mar262007

A theology of the ministry of an ordained Deacon in the MCSA.

One of the great joys that I have is serving as the co-ordinator of training for persons who are training towards ordination for the ministry of word and service in the MCSA.

For those who are not aware, the MCSA ordains persons to the ministry of word and sacrament (called presbyters, the are most commonly ministers of local Churches, often called by the title Reverend), and then the Church also ordains persons who are called to the ministry of word and service (these persons are addressed by the title deacon).

The ministry of word and service is an incredibly high calling that has its roots right back in the early Church of Acts. Of course it can trace its character back to the ministry of Jesus, who was perhaps the very first Christian deacon. Jesus said that he came not to be served but to serve.

Sadly, deacons are often treated like 'second class' presbyters. This is most often because they do not administer the sacraments of baptism and the eucharist. The result has been that the Convocation of the order of deacons has requested, on numerous occasions, to allow ordained deacons to preside as ministers over the sacraments (particularly the sacrament of Holy Communion). This is also a pragmatic need since deacons are most often visiting the sick, the elderly and such persons that cannot come to a regular service of worship.

However, if one were to make such a concession it would require some significant theological gymnastics to sustain a credible position in its favour. As a result I was asked to prepare a discussion / position, paper on deacons and the sacraments in the MCSA.

This paper take the point of departure that there are three co-equal ministries in the Church (taking the triune God as a point of departure). These three ministries (the ministry of the lay, the ministry of ordained presbyters and the ministry of ordained deacons) are mutually interdependent, and of equal necessity and value in achieving God's mission for the Church.

Moreover, the paper argues that the traditional translation of the Biblical Greek words diakonos (acts of service) and diakon (the one who serves) have been inaccurate. You can read the paper for the finer points of this argument. The essence is that a deacon is not only a servant (in the Biblical sense), but more particularly an 'emissary servant', one who is sent to represent the King.

Here is the paper. It will be of particular use to persons who are considering offering for the ordained ministry and are unsure of whether God is calling them to be ordained presbyters or deacons. It will also be of use to deacons and presbyters who are getting ordained this year and need to write the assignment on the uniqueness and distinctiveness of each of these forms of ministry.

Deacons and sacraments.doc (MS Word document 88 Kb). NB! Students, please use accurate references when using sources from this document!

Please pray for us as we go to the Doctrine, Ethics, and Worship Commission meetings of the MCSA this week (DEWCOM). Amongst other things we will be deliberating on Same Sex Unions, Abortion, a theology of Mission, Human Sexuality and Marriage and a host of other important doctrinal issues.

Tuesday
Dec262006

The Pope get's it right!

I am not a huge fan of Pope Benedict the XVI. In his previous position, as the Cardinal in charge of the 'Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith', he silenced many of the most progressive and sensible theologians of our time (these in include Hans Kung and Leonardo Boff).

However, there is no doubt that he is one of the most astute theologians of our time. He is well read, extremely intelligent, and has the power and authority to change trends in global theological discourse, and of course political and economic policy.

As a result I always try to read the Pope's Christmas address. I loved the central message of his address this year. I quote:

Pope Benedict said in his Christmas message on Monday that mankind [sic] [should read humankind], which has reached other planets and worships technology, cannot live without God or turn its back on the hungry.

I would encourage all my students, friends, and fellow Christians to read the superb summary on the CNN website. You can find a synopsis of Pope Benedict's message
here:

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