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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 travel (71)

Sunday
Oct282018

Pyrotheology - searching for certainty, and embracing our doubts

The Irish theologian, Peter Rollins, was part of a unique Church community in New York City called 'IconNYC'. If I understand it correctly, it was a year long experiment in Christian community that sought to consider the Christian journey, indeed the Christian community, in ways that held the tensions of doubts, uncertainties, and the realities of our struggles with belief.

Having some understanding of how the brain works, I realise how difficult it is for us, as human beings, to live with uncertainty. Our neuro-evolution has formed us to want patterns, to create certainty and predictability, for the sake of our survival. This can be seen in how we seek out communities of belonging that we understand (what in inter-group contact theory is called 'in-group' identity). We can understand how persons of a certain race, culture, economic class, religion, think and behave. So we seek sameness, and become afraid of difference. This leads to inter-group contact anxiety between the self and the other. It is not surprising to me that Americans want to build a wall, that European countries are trying to keep migrants out, and that racism and identity politics continue to thrive in South Africa. None of these things is just, right, or even desirable. Yet, we fall into the traps of self interest, and self protection. We are wired for it to a certain extent.

However, we soon find that even in the in-group there are differences. White protestant women in Chicago, IL see the world differently from white protestant men in Birmingham, AL. Not all South Africans see the world in the same way... You get the idea.

In my experience, the pursuit of certainty is painful, it is limiting, it binds us to our fears, instead of releasing us for freedom.

The 'IconNYC' community, and Peter Rollins' 'Pyrotheology' speak to me as I contemplate these issues. I am currently in Gothenburg in Sweden. Here I am the cultural, linguistic and geographical stranger (not to mention a stranger to the climate! I realised yesterday as it snowed, that my body was formed from the African soil, and baked in the African sun!) Yet, the difference, the strangeness, the doubts, can be OK. I can learn about others, and about myself. I can slow down and listen - paying a little more attention to unfamiliar people, places and experiences. And the difference becomes a gift. I don't have to collapse it into my world-view, or contain it in my understanding or experience. I can just participate, observe, experience, and know what I can.

It is a sacred experience. It reminds me that God is Swedish... And also African... And Asian... You get the idea? We are because of who God is. Our diversity is an expression of God's creativity.

Here is what Rollins had to say about uncertainties, doubts and pyrotheology:

 

The good news nestled in the heart of Christianity is not that which gives us certainty and satisfaction, but rather is that which helps us embrace our un-knowing, our doubts, and our dissatisfaction… Instead of seeking a burning bush, a place where God is, we will discover that every bush is burning, that everything is sacred and full of depth, if we only have eyes to see.
- Peter Rollins, Pyrotheology

If you have 3 minutes more, you may want to listen to him speaking about this in his wonderful Irish accent! See the video below, or at this link: https://youtu.be/gY-VITTf7k4

 

Sunday
Aug192018

Our strength is our diversity - Heartlines #WhatsYourStory - Beyond the River

This evening I arrived home from the UK and we watched the #Heartlines movie 'Beyond the river' as a family

It is such a powerful and moving reminder of the possibility and hope that exists in South Africa.

We face some very significant challenges. Yet, we can work for a better future for all South Africans. Our diversity is our strength. Thank you Garth Japhet and team for the amazing work you are doing. I am so grateful to be home, and grateful for this powerful initiative #WhatsYourStory

Watch the trailer for 'Beyond the river' here.

You can find out more about the 'What's your story?' campaign from 'Heartlines' here: https://heartlines.org.za/media-campaigns/whats-your-story/

Friday
Aug102018

Starting my first academic sabbatical at Oxford University

Today I depart for Oxford. This is the first in a series of academic and research visits that I will undertake during my sabbatical. I am so very grateful for this opportunity!
 
I will be researching and working on a new book (on the politics of forgiveness and the complexity of social identity). I will also be finalising various chapters for other books, editing two books for which I am a co-editor, and finalising some long overdue research articles for publication in scholarly journals.
 
In-between I will be teaching and speaking at various Universities in Africa, Europe, Latin America, and North America. I am also presenting papers and lectures at a few conferences.
 
I don't take this opportunity for granted - it is a very rare privilege. What I do with this time, belongs to others. 
It belongs to my students and others who graciously and kindly read my work and engage my research. It belongs to colleagues who pick up my responsibilities so that I can have this time to read, reflect, write and grow - thank you! It belongs to the various communities of which I am a part (the church, our neighbourhood, and various organisations that I serve in society) who are giving me the freedom and support to be away. And of course it belongs to my precious family, Megie, Courtney and Liam, who I will miss immensely each time that I pack my bags!
The work that I do is not very important - it certainly is not more important than my family, the Church, my colleagues and students. However, it is the work that I am called to do, and so I will do my best! I will remain disciplined (while still having some fun!), be critical, creative and joyful as I go! And hopefully, I will get to see a few of you, my friends, along the way! So keep an eye on facebook, my twitter and instagram feeds (both are @digitaldion), any my youtube channel http://www.youtube.com/dionforster - I will post various forms of content to each of these platforms as I go.
First up is the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies at Pembroke College Oxford. For the first time, this year, I will be participating as a New Testament Scholar in the Biblical Studies group. In previous years I have always participated in the Systematic Theology and Ethics group.
I will be presenting a paper based on research from my last book on the 'politics of forgiveness' among South African readers of Matthew 18.15-35 at Pembroke College, Oxford. 
Then, I will also be presenting the Fernley Hartley Trust lecture in Oxford for the Methodist Church of Britain on Friday 17 August 2018 at Wesley Memorial Church in Oxford at 17.00. See details for that event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/216413309019437/
Friday
Dec222017

A year to remember! So grateful for 2017! Grateful for all of you!

This has been a year to remember! Forgive me, but this is a bit of a rambling post! Please feel free to skip it if you get bored. I have used this post as an opportunity to re-collect many of the important people, events, places and happenings in 2017.

At the outset I want to say how mindful I am that the blessing of this year comes from the many wonderful people and communities that I am priviliged to be associated with. I have received much more than I deserve, and in many instances, been recognised for work that belongs to a group of persons, not just to me. In addition to this, I am also mindful that any achievement is only worthwhile if it can lead to service. My hope is that the work of this year bears fruit for my students, for the Church I serve, for the people of the world that God so loves, and in some small way may help us to honour and protect the dignity and sanctity of humans and creation. This is about Christ, and community, and undeserved grace.

As I was reflecting on this year I was struck by this beautiful quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer's, 'God is in the manger':

'While we endeavor to grow out of our humanity, to leave our human nature behind us, God becomes human, and we must recognize that God wants us also to become human—really human. God raised his love for human beings above every reproach of falsehood and doubt and uncertainty by himself entering into the life of human beings as a human being, by bodily taking upon himself and bearing the nature, essence, guilt, and suffering of human beings. Out of love for human beings, God becomes a human being. This is about the birth of a child, not of the astonishing work of a strong man, not of the bold discovery of a wise man, not of the pious work of a saint. It really is beyond all our understanding: the birth of a child shall bring about the great change, shall bring to all mankind salvation and deliverance.' – Dietrich Bonhoeffer, God Is In the Manger

I am truly grateful for this year! 

It included, my daughter finishing high school and getting accepted to study at Stellenbosch University! Courtney also got her drivers license this year. My wife, Megan, completed a brilliant Masters degree, and my son Liam, is going to Grade 5!

I continued so serve as the Chair of the Department of Systematic Theology and Ecclesiology and the Director of the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology in the Faculty of Theology at Stellenbosch University. I am so grateful for the opportunity to do the work that I do. I truly feel like I am fulfilling my calling and spending my time and energy among magnificent people, doing interesting and worthwhile things - I am in my 'sweet spot'!

Here are a few of the highlights:

  • My book was published: Forster, D.A. 2017. The (im)possibility of forgiveness? An empirical intercultural Bible reading of Matthew 18:15-35. 1st ed. Vol. XI. (Beyers Naudé Centre Series on Public Theology). Stellenbosch, South Africa: SUN Press.
  • I was awarded a 2nd PhD from Radboud University in the Netherlands.
  • The South African National Research Foundation awarded me an NRF Rating as an internationally recognised academic researcher.
  • I was blown away to be awarded a 'Distinguished Teacher' award by the University of Stellenbosch in November.
  • In January I was priviliged to attended the 'African Doctoral Academy' to do some advanced training on ATLAS.ti (a powerful software package for qualitative empirical research analysis).
  • The Wesley Works project nominated me to serve on their Board as a 'Director at Large'.
  • I was also nominated to the executive committee of the newly formed, Methodist Theological Society of South Africa.
  • I continued to serve on the executive of the Global Network for Public Theology, and was appointed to the editorial board of the International Journal for Public Theology.
  • Being appointed as an Associate of the Allan Gray Centre for Values Based Leadership at the University of Cape Town's Graduate School of Business - thanks to my friend Prof Kurt April, he remains an inspiration, a source of encouragement, and blessing.
  • I had the rare and magnificent privilege of participant in the G20 meetings in Berlin this year (thank you Prof Peter Petkof). As with the World Economic Forum that I attended in 2015, this was a remarkable event. It was particularly interesting to see how prominent religion and ethics feature in global policy.
  • I was also appointed as a fellow of the Berlin Institute for Public Theology at the Humboldt University in Berlin. I am so grateful for Prof Torsten Meireis, a senior academic and senior colleauge who is a great help and inspiration in my academic development. I count it a great honour to work with Torsten.
  • In September I was asked to deliver the Stellenbosch University 'Form Lecture' on the topic 'Is forgiveness really possible in South Africa?'
  • The Graduation of my first PHD student at Stellenbosch University, Dr Anna Cho! I am so pleased for Anna - she wrote a magnificent disseration in Biblical ethics. We have also published an academic article together on this theme.
  • Another highlight was meeting Prof Jürgen Moltmann and having lunch with him while on his visit to Stellenbosch! Thank you to my friends Prof Julie Claassens and Prof Robert Vosloo, for making this event happen.
  • And, as a final highlight to the year I was awarded a place at the 2018 Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies a Pembroke college Oxford. A particular honour is that I was asked to deliver the deliver the “Fernley Hartley Trust” lecture (Methodist Church of Britain) at the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies on Friday the 17th of August 2018 in Oxford. I’ll post more details in due course. I am already nervous! I am sure that Bishop Ivan Abrahams (President of the World Methodist Council) had something to do with this! Thank you Ivan.

Among my highlights in teaching and learning were:

  • Teaching a group of international Doctoral Students at Wesley House, Cambridge University (as part of a joint doctoral program between Wesley House and Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, DC).
  • Teaching two courses (Masters in New Testament and another in Leadership and Ethics) at Radboud University, Holland.
  • The University of Cape Town, Graduate School of Business MBA program (Ethical Leadership).
  • A seminar (with my friend Sean Temlett) to the University of North Carolina MBA cohort who visited South Africa - this is an amazing group of people! This year was the 2nd time that I was priviliged to join Sean and this group.
  • And then of course, my own wonderful students! This year I taught courses in Human Dignity; Public Theology; Modern Theology and Contemporary Theological Trends; Faith and Public Life; Youth and Moral Formation; Apologetics (which includes issues such a faith and science, theodicy, secularism etc.).

 

Travel and conferences. I travelled a fair amount in 2017 (16 trips, of which 8 were overseas):

  • Holland in January for the ordination and commissioning of our wonderful colleague Rev Rineke van Ginkel with whom I work in the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology - I recorded two videos while on that trip here and here. And here is a great interview that Rineke recorded to highlight her work in the Beyers Naudé Centre for Public Theology.
  • I was back in Holland in May to teach at Radboud University. While there I also spoke at a conference in Leuven (Belgium) at the invitation of my friend Prof Kobus Kok. Those were two magnificent trips! It was also wonderful to have the time in the evenings (after classes) to just work on the completion of my PHD dissertation. I sent the final full draft for examination on the 14th of May when I departed!
  • I visited Germany from 5-23 June to do four things (see these videos here and here). I participated in the Summer School of Stellenbosch University, the Humboldt University and the Universities of the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal. I also participated in the G20 meetings in Berlin. Then I delivered a Public Lecture at the University of Bamberg (such an amazing medieval city)! Finally, I returned to Berlin for the launch of the Berlin Institute for Public Theology (of which I am a fellow).
  • In July I was in Cambridge to teach on the International Doctoral Program at Wesley House, Cambridge University.
  • My second last international trip for the year was back to Holland do some doctoral seminars and defend my PHD! That was an absolute blessing and joy, and all the more so since Megan travelled with me! This little fun video shows some of the preperation for the defence and a bit of riding around Radboud University's campus. And here is a video about the PHD defence and the award of the degree.
  • My final trip for 2017 was a wonderful visit to New York, and Princeton University, and then on to the American Academy of Religion in Boston where I delivered a paper and had various meetings with publishers, editorial boards and research projects.
  • Within South Africa I participated in the Methodist Theology of Southern Africa founding conference at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary in Pietermaritzburg, I spoke at a conference in Potchefstroom in honour of my Doctoral Supervisor, Prof Jan van der Watt, I spoke at numerous Churches and institutions around South Africa. And of course participated in many conferences at Stellenbosch University (many of which will lead to publications, such as the Forgiveness, Reconciliation and Violence conference, the Religious Freedom conference, the Historical Trauma and Healing of Memory conference etc.)

 

As I write this I am on leave. There is a great deal to look forward to in 2018! I am due for research leave in 2018 and have been invited to undertake some part of that research leave in Sweden at the University of Gothenburg's department of Religious Studies and Theology. I will also be spending some time in Oxford for the Oxford Institute for Methodist Theological Studies. And if my Humboldt Stiftung (Fellowship) is successful (please say a prayer!) I shall be spending some months in Berlin! It is my hope that Megie, Courtney and Liam will be able to join me for parts of those trips.

So, as the year ends, I want to give glory to God, express my love for my family, and give thanks to my colleagues and friends. I am truly grateful to share in this journey with each of you. May we continue to offer our selves, our resources, our passion, our training, our intellect, our creativity, and indeed our very lives, for the development of the common good, for justice, for peace, and for fullness of life.

I share my last little video for the year (recorded on the Campus of Princeton University) on the politics of forgiveness with you. May you be blessed at Christmas, revived, renewed, and replenished for what lies ahead.

 

Thursday
Oct122017

So grateful! A celebration! Defending my PHD - sharing the experience with Megie!

Yesterday was a truly amazing day! At exactly 16.30 (11 October 2017) I defended my PHD (which you can read about here) at Radboud University, Nijmegen. It was a wonderful joy to share it with my wife Megan. At Dutch Universities the defence and graduation takes place at the same time. Your dissertation (once completed) gets examined, and then you have to publish it as a book (which I did - see the previous link for details). Then you defend it in public, and the degree gets awarded at the same event! It was exciting, but also rather scary at the same time! I am so grateful that it is done and the degree of ‘Doctor’ has been awarded (which means that I now hold two PHD’s, one in Systematic Theology and one in New Testament studies).

You can watch a little video about the build up to the defence below. And here are a few pictures from the event (with the ‘pedel’ / ‘beadle’) who was a great sport! My thanks to Radboud University, my supervisors, Prof Jan van der Watt and Prof Chris Hermans, to the communities that participated in the research (they matter most in this project!) and to my wonderful family for their love and support.

 

Friday
Oct062017

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

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

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

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

The research project is entitled:

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

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

Here is the full reference:

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Here is the abstract from the dissertation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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?

 

Wednesday
Jun212017

A matter of conflict? Politics and sustainable development? A reflection on my visit to Berlin

I am coming to the end of a magnificent trip to Berlin, Germany. I arrived here almost three weeks ago to speak at and participate in a number of events. The title of this blog post is 'A matter of conflict? Politics and sustainable development?' It seems, as I reflect on my time here, that I have given a lot of time to thinking about the relationship between an ethics of justice and an ethics of care - how do we work of a world in which no one has too much while anyone has too little? How do we transform economic, social and political systems for the common good AND at the same time care for one another and the environment. This is the 'site' of conflict, that intersection between justice and care. My colleauge Dr Carike Noeth is a specialist in this field of study (having completed a great PHD on the ethics of care (and justice!) last year. So, this has occupied a lot of my thinking.

Prof Torsten Meireis, a senior colleauge in Ethics and Public Theology - who is a Professor at the Humboldt Universität zu Berlin - invited me to participate in some events here in Berlin during the summer. It has been such a wonderful and significant visit. I have had the privilege of participating in a number of academic conferences, the G20 meetings in Potsdam, visiting and doing a lecture at Bamberg University, and working on a joint research project with Prof Meireis.

So, I arrived in Berlin on the 6th of June to participatein the first event which is a joint 'Summer School' program that is hosted by the Humboldt University, Stellenbosch University (where I teach), the University of KwaZulu Natal (UKZN), and the University of the Western Cape (UWC). Each year we meet in South Africa in February or March, and then in Berlin in June.

It was so wonderful to be here with South African and German colleagues - the event was arranged by Dr Clemens Wustmans from the Humboldt University and our topic was 'Religion, sustainability and politics'. The presenters included scientists, literary theorists, development specialists, religious scholars and theologians. 

In this picture you will see Prof Meireis. As mentioned I was in Berlin at his invitation. In part it was also to work on a joint research grant application for a project that he and I will collaborate on. The project focuses in the ethics of 'Welfare pluralism' in South Africa and Germany - in particular how notions of welfare are conceived and who participates in the conception and expression of these concepts (the state, civil society and the religious sector, the private sector etc.) I really hope that this project will be successful! It will be a great development for my academic career, and it will also mean that I will spend a lot more time with Torsten and time in Berlin! So, I will keep you updated on how that develops!

At the summer school I presented a paper entitled 'Thinking 'olive' instead of 'red' or 'green': Seeking to bring together sustainability and development discourses in Southern African Methodist Ethics'. The paper will be finalised and prepared for publication. In the meantime, here is a short Youtube video from my series 'It's not a lecture... Just a thought!' on this topic. You will also get to see some of Berlin and my beautiful Brompton Bicycle on this trip!

Then, on the 12th of June I went to the University of Bamberg where I did a public lecture with Prof Thomas Wabel who is also an ethicist and Public Theologian. The purpose of the visit (other than the lecture) was to hand over the 'leadership' of the Global Network for Public Theology from Stellenbosch (where we hosted the last global gathering in October 2016) to Bamberg where the next gathering will take place in 2019. Thomas takes over as the hosting chair, and I will serve (at the behest of Prof Nico Koopman) as the outgoing hosting chair on the international commitee. Bamberg was amazing! It is such a beautiful city! The lecture itself went well, as did the meetings. I was so surprised to see my colleague Prof Smanga Kumalo from UKZN and Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary (SMMS) arrive at the lecture! He had come to the city for some meetings and heard I was doing the lecture and so attended. That was very special. Here is a poster for the lecture, and a picture of Smanga and I before the event. The title of my lecture was ‘The (im)possibility of forgiveness? Nelson Mandela and the Politics of forgiveness in South Africa’.

The lecture is based on two large research projects that I have just concluded (if you see my youtube channel you will find details of both). They are, the research and work that I have been doing on Nelson Mandela and political theologies in South Africa, and my 2nd PHD (which I handed in at Radboud University on 14 May 2017!) which is entitled ‘The (im)possibility of forgiveness? An empirical intercultural Bible reading of Matthew 18.15-35’. In that research project I did a 3 year qualitative empirical study on how Black and White South African Christians conceptualize, understand, and express notions and processes of forgiveness in contemporary South Africa with its significant economic, social, political and racial divides.

The lecture went off well and there was a lively discussion afterwards. The President of the Bamberg University, Prof Ruppert, attended the event which was a great honor. Here is a picture of myself and Prof Thomas Wabel, where the 'GNPT' Batik cloth was handed over.

After returning from Bamberg I came back to Berlin to participate in the G20 Interfaith Meetings in Potsdam. This was a wonderful opportunity to further discuss the role of religion in the G20 nations in relation to sustainable development and migration - which are significant and important topics currently. What I found so interesting is the very important role that the G20 places upon religion and the religious across the world. The Pew Researcher (Brian Grim) spoke about their research that shows that 84% of global citizens identify that they are religious. This is significant. Of course we know that religion is often a source of conflict and social division, even abuse. Yet, at the same time it is also a great source of transformation, care, development and change. I was so grateful to be at this event thanks to my colleague and friend from Oxford University, Dr Peter Petkoff (pictured here).

Now I am on the last stretch of my stay in Berlin. Today and tomorrow I shall participate in the opening conference of the Berlin Institute for Public theology (of which I am a member). I will be speaking on Public Theology, globalization, politics and economics tomorrow. My paper is written, but I feel that I still need to rework it a little before I present. By Friday evening I shall be home with Megie, Liam and Courtney! I cannot wait. 

Trips like these are always so wonderful and significant. But, my goodness, there is nothing quite like being home with my family!

 

Wednesday
May242017

Justice, economics and historical consciousness - on a trip to Belgium

You may have noticed that I have not been posting to my BLOG as regularly in recent months. In part this is because Squarespace no longer supports posting to version 5 sites from their iOS apps. I mostly posted to my BLOG from my iPad or iPhone. So, if anyone has a solution for this please let me know! I would love to be able to post more regularly but need to be able to do so from my iPhone or iPad.

Well, here is a post that I prepared about two weeks ago when I was in Belgium.

In today’s VLOG I travel to Leuven in Belgium for a conference with my friend Prof Kobus Kok. It is a wonderful journey, and so much fun with my Brompton bicycle (cycle, train, bus, cycle!) It is awesome. But, I notice that the demographics of the Netherlands and Belgium differ somewhat. This got me thinking about the current concerns in Europe, the USA and elsewhere about refugees, ‘closing’ one’s borders, BREXIT and of course Turkey, France and Trump’s USA.

I discuss John Rawls’ Theory of Justice as one way of viewing how we might structure our societies economically and politically if we have a concern for our past history and our future shared wellbeing.

See John Rawls’ ‘A theory of justice’ here: http://amzn.to/2qg83OI

Thanks for watching! As always, I would love to hear your comments, suggestions, ideas, feedback and questions!

Please subscribe and like the video!

You can follow me on:
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Thanks

 

I would love to hear your thoughts, comments, ideas!

Wednesday
Jul062016

Heading to the XII International Bonhoeffer congress in Basel, Switzerland

I am all packed!

In just a short while I am heading to Basel in Switzerland for the XII International Bonhoeffer congress where I am delivering a paper see:
http://www.mission-21.org/en/agenda/agenda/events-from-mission-21/archive/2015/August/article/bonhoeffer-kongress/

My Brompton bicycle is all packed and loaded! I love this bike!

All packed and ready to go to the #bonhoeffer Congress in #Basel with my #Bromptonbicycle @bromptonbicycle

A video posted by digitaldion (@digitaldion) on

I will ride to Nijmegen station, catch the train to Basel and ride to the conference venue - viola! Just awesome!

My paper is on Bonhoeffer and Mandela in conversation around (African) Christian humanism. I will post more details here and on Twitter @digitaldion during the week.

Tuesday
Jun072016

Travel, time and achievement

This VLOG was filmed in Cape Town and Johannesburg. We talk about our efforts and God's time and gaining some perspective as we bring these two into conversation with one another.

 

What happens if I don’t achieve the things I want to in life? Must I give up if it seems like I  may not reach a certain goal? Or, must we live within God’s time, doing our best, but realising that God holds time within God’s economy?
For me the struggle is frequently between wanting to see the 'fruit' of my efforts, yet having to understand that achievement is not the intended goal of Christian effort - faithfulness to God is the end of our good, faithful, creative, and courageous work. Since our work is directed towards God, and not ourselves, it means that God has the right to decide how and when to achieve what God wishes to achieve. My peace, and even joy, should come from knowing that I can serve a purpose (even a history) that is larger than myself.
I also talk about Theological Education by Extension College, see http://www.tee.co.za and read this great article on theological education and justice!
Kinsler, F.R. 1978. Theological Education by Extension: Service or Subversion? Missiology: An International Review, 6(2):181–196.
I also mention the following book:
Jürgen Moltmann ‘Theology of Hope’ 
Remember, it's not a lecture, just a thought…
I’d love you hear your feedback, comments, questions and ideas!

 

Monday
Jan112016

An excellent book on the Theology of Migration, Travel and Justice by Joerg Rieger

I received a copy of my friend Joerg Rieger's book 'Faith on the road: A short theology of justice and travel' (2015, IVP Academic) in the mail today.

I had the joy of reading it last year just a few weeks before the recent crises of migration in Africa, Asia and Europe hit the headlines. Rieger's understanding of what it means to be a just society - even a just planet, deeply shaped how I feel about migration, travel and pilgrimage.

I was so honoured to be asked to write one of the commendations for the back of the book. Here is what I wrote:

'Faith on the road' explores the complexity of faith, identity, economics and social justice through the lens of travel. This is a superbly written volume that approaches these complex issues in a thorough and helpful manner. It has changed how I think about travel, migration and faith. I highly recommend this book!

Brian D. McLaren said the following:

From his reflections on travel in the Scriptures to his experiences as a motorcyclist, Joerg Rieger invites us to see how travel changes more than our location: it can change our hearts and transform us from tourists to advocates for justice and peace.

Indeed, I do think this is one of the most helpful books on issues of migration and travel at present. If you are trying to work out what a just, ethical, stance to migration (and migrants) should be I am sure that reading this book will help you. If like me, you have the privilege (and the responsibility) to travel in your nation, continent, or across the world, then this book is important to read! There are important ethical issues around travel, the environment, borders and globalization to consider. Or, if you are interested in notions of pilgrimage as part of your faith or culture, then this book will also help you.

Hey, if you ride a motorcycle and have faith - then this book is for you! Joerg and I have had many great conversations about our shared joy of motorcycling (we both ride BMW GS bikes).

Here is the publisher's description for more information:

Millions of people travel every day, for what seem like millions of reasons. Some travel for pleasure, others travel for work and education, and many more travel to find a new job and a better life. In the United States, even those who don’t travel far still frequently find themselves on the move. What can we learn from these different forms of travel? And what can people of faith learn from the Christian and Jewish traditions that took shape on the road? From the exile from Eden to the wanderings of Jesus and his disciples, the story of Scripture is a dynamic narrative of ceaseless movement. Those who let themselves be inspired by this movement, and are willing to learn from others and from mistakes made in the process, are well positioned to make a difference in the world, not only at home but also around the globe. In this revised edition of the author's book Traveling, Joerg Rieger reflects on how Christian faith reorients the way we think about and make journeys in our lives.

You can get your copy of 'Faith on the road' from IVP here, and from Amazon (either in print or kindle edition) from the link below.

Once you have read it I would love to hear your thoughts or questions! Drop me a comment below or contact me via Twitter or Facebook.