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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 Wesley (5)

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?

 

Tuesday
Aug242010

Re-Appropriating the term Evangelical - is it worth it?

My friend Jenny posted a great reflection on her blog about an 'evangelical' gathering that she attended.  I am reposting it below because it raises some very interesting points for consideration, however I would encourage you to visit her blog to see the discussion related to her post.

I've just spent the weekend at the Methodist Evangelical Renewal Movement consultation - or countrywide gathering. It was such an encouraging experience. I must admit that I went along with some hesitancy as I have struggled to fully understand what this fairly new movement is all about. I hoped to catch a sense of their vision - and I did. I am still trying to process and absorb everything and I hope that I will blog about it all eventually.
What I think at the moment- it's ok to believe the Bible is the word of God. It doesn't mean I am a fundamentalist (I don't read it word for word literally).
It's ok to believe in a 'whole salvation'. We speak of both personal salvation and social salvation. Personal holiness and social holiness.
The Bible informs us of these salvations and 'holinesses'. I go to the Bible to discover how to live in order to bring about the kingdom of God.
Sometimes people understand the word 'evangelical' differently and even negatively - that doesn't mean I am like their understanding!
The Methodist Church has always had a missional ecclesiology and we should reclaim that.
There is too much more and I really need to process it properly.
I came away believing that there is real hope for the Methodist Church and the God truly is a God of love and action.

My response to Jenny's post is below.  In particularly I am keen to re-appropriate the term / descriptor 'evangelical'.  I feel, rightly or wrongly, that it has been missunderstood in popular society and theology, and hijacked by a conservative element in the Christian tradition. As a result it has a fairly negative connotation in popular theology and even in social and theological discourse.

Here are my thoughts (reposted as a comment on Jenny's blog):

Hi Jenny,

Thanks for this reflection. I am so pleased to hear of your experience - I too have been on a journey to 're-appropriate' the term 'evangelical'. In my understanding the common usage has been far too narrowly applied to the act of 'evangelical preaching'. However, in the Bible we see that Jesus' 'good news' (Luke 4:19 ff) was very social. He not only wished to describe the state of 'good news', his intention was to establish God's good news as a life changing reality for those whom he encountered.

I am passionate about journeying with people towards a personal encounter with Christ. But that is only the starting point, not the end. Once the encounter has taken place the results of Christ's transforming love must flow out into society. You cannot love Jesus without loving His ways - and his was are just, merciful, inclusive, empowering and renewing. The ways of Jesus set people free from sin and the structures that enslave (some clear examples are Jesus' encounter with unethical business people in the temple, and false religious leaders with the woman and man caught in adultery. Jesus cares about the rights of children and the fate of the oppressed).

For me, the whole Gospel for the whole world means precisely that! Not just a narrow personal salvation from individual sin.

In this sense I am evangelical!

With regards to Wesley's theology of personal holiness and social holiness it is always worth remembering the context in which he served. Not unlike us, he faced some massive social challenges around his ministry. Slavery, the abuse of labour, unjust governing authorities, a Church that was disconnected from the needs of society etc., it was into this situation that he came to understand that personal piety (my prayers, my acts of worship etc.) is meaningless unless it is expressed socially.

As South Africans I think we can understand this relationship very well. For many years Christians would worship on Sunday's declaring the Glory of God in Church, reading our Bibles and praying. Yet, we lived in a society that was fundamentally unjust. 

Such a disconnect between faith and belief invalidates belief (as the Epistle of James clearly says).

You may be interested in the paper that I presented at the Oxford Institute of Methodist Theological Studies at Christ Church in Oxford in 2007. It deals with a history of social holiness (Wesley's 26th sermon, plus his theology around that), and in particular relates it to the South African Christian Church. You can find that article here: Dion Forster Oxford Institute - Social Holiness.

The chapter was later reworked and published in the book Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission. Some of the stuff that was cut out of the chapter for the book was also published in 2008 in Journal of Church History Studia Historiae Ecclesiasticae.

Thanks for sharing this reflection! I am grateful to be an evangelical!

I would love to hear your thoughts on the use of the term evangelical.  Is my approach to this term appropriate, or should I seek some other descriptor?  Or, is the term so strongly 'branded' with negative religious and social connotations that we should move beyond it?

Tuesday
Aug142007

My chapter has been published!

Here's a picture of a BRAND NEW book entitled "44 Sermons to serve the present age" edited by my friend Angela Shier-Jones, and Kimberly Reisman.

I have written chapter 23 in it.

The aim of this body of work is to present John Wesley's 44 sermons in an accessible format for contemporary readers that are facing contemporary issues in their own context.

My own chapter interprets the use of money and resources from a Southern Africa Liberation theology perspective. I am so proud to be in the book with other authors such as Angie Shier-Jones, George Freeman, JC Park, Trevor Hudson, Mvume Dandala, Paul Chilcote, Theodore Jennings, Brian Beck, Richard Heitzenrater, Leslie Griffiths and a host of others! This is my first international publication! How cool is that!?

Tuesday
Aug142007

A few thoughts from the 12th Oxford Institute of World Methodist Scholarship

I arrived in a very hot Oxford on Sunday. I didn't realise that England could get quite as hot as it does! It has been lovely. Today, however, the "Queen's rain" (as I have jokingly been calling it) has started to fall. It is lovely, a bit cooler, and quite wet here in Oxford.

I am staying in Tom's Gate (off Tom's Quad) in Christ Church, Oxford. Here's a picture taken from just outside of staircase 5 where I go up to my rather extravagant parlour... It would seem that the title 'Dean' carries some weight here in merry old England. I am on the same floor as our Presiding Bishop, Ivan Abrahams, and a number of other dignitaries. If only they knew what a small fry I truly am!

Christ Church is a remarkable College, one of the early one's (starting in 1524!) Two of my colleagues studied here in previous years (Dr Neville Richardson did an MPhil, and Dr Donald Cragg did a DPhil). Those must have been glorious times! Of course there are many other notable figures that studied and lived in these hallowed walls. Among them are John and Charles Wesley (the founders of Methodism - and also the reason why we hold the Oxford Institute here at Oxford, since it is the home of the very first Methodist scholars), John Locke (the philosopher), Charles Dodgson (better know to most by his pseudonym, Lewis Caroll, who is the author of 'Alice's adventures in wonderland'). Albert Einstein even studied here in the 1930's! For more detailed (and accurate) information on Christ Church please check out their website here.

This picture was taken in the Christ Church dining hall. If it looks familiar don't be surprised! Take a closer look, indeed, this is the location where dining hall scenes from Harry Potter were filmed! I can assure you there are no candles floating in the air, or owls delivering messages!

The traditions are still very strongly adhered to. Guests go into the dining hall and are only seated once the dignitaries take their seats (although they are not sitting at the 'top table'), then we are served by 'Scouts' under the watchful eye of the 'Steward'. The gate and main door are guarded by 'Porters' to keep eager Harry Potter enthusiasts from barging in on the meals. You can see that the walls themselves are lined with the portraits of past students and lecturers of the College.

I am truly enjoying the hospitality and the tradition of being here. Of course, for an African, what makes this place most valuable is being part of the community. It has been wonderful to meet new friends (many of whom I have either only read about, or read their work), such as Randy Maddox, Douglas Meeks, Paul Chilcote, Neil Richardson, Brian Beck etc., and catch up with others who I have not seen in some years, such as my good friend Laceye Warner, the well known Geoffrey Wainwright, Ted Campbell, JC Park, and Dick Heitzenrater.

Each day starts with worship at 7am, then we have breakfast (in the Harry Potter dining hall!), after which we move to Wesley Memorial Methodist Church for the Plenary sessions, followed by our individual group meetings (I am in the Systematic Theology Group). In the group meetings the scholars present have a chance to speak to their paper, there is a respondent, and then general discussion. If you're interested to read some of the magnificent papers that are being, and have been, presented, then please download them from the Oxfrod institute website here.

I have only had limited Internet access in Oxford (I cannot believe how difficult it is to get online in the UK! I think as more and more people realise what a commodity communication is the wifi is shared less openly and is more often than not a service for which one is expected to pay). However, I shall be posting some reflections from the papers and groups, plus a number of audio recordings from the Plenary sessions, as I have a chance to do so.

I can't tell you how much I am missing my family!!!!! I miss Megie so much!!! Times away from her remind me just how desperately I am in love with her. I have also longed for Courtney and Liam. It has been very difficult to be away from them! Please do pray for them, and drop them a line or give them a call to let them know that we belong to a community of faith that cares for one another!

Here's a closing thought that came from Douglas Meeks in a discussion; we were talking about wealth and ownership of property (well, ownership in general) when Douglas reminded me that John Wesley's understanding of stewardship (how one uses one's money) was based upon that of the Patristics (the early Church parents). Wesley believed that whatever I do not need to survive today, or need in order to fulfill the mission to which God has called me, already belongs to the poor. And, as such, I should give it away! I was challenged by that!

Rich blessing to all! I miss you! Please check back for more news, thoughts and updates from Oxford.

Monday
Jan012007

Sermon for a new book

Happy New Year everyone! May 2007 be filled with joy and blessing.

Here is a copy of a sermon that I was asked to write at the World Methodist council in Korea last year. Rev Dr Angela Shier-Jones initiated a project to get Methodist scholars from across the world to each choose, and rewrite, one of John Wesley's 44 sermons. I chose sermon 28, which is on discourse 8 of the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:19-23). You can read John Wesley's original sermon here. The brief was not to simply rewrite, critique, or modernise Wesley's sermon, but rather to take the central message of the sermon and adapt it to the writers context. The outcome was to be a sermon that could actually be preached today.

It is a great honour to have been asked to participate since persons such as Randy Maddox, Richard Heitzenrater, and Geoffrey Wainwright have also been asked to write sermons.

Here is a copy of the sermon. I would appreciate feedback, comments, corrections and insights.
UPON THE LORD'S SERMON ON THE MOUNT.doc