Dion's random ramblings

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Duke Divinity students... Update on John Wesley College!

Here is a copy of an email that I sent to the Methodist Ministers' email list to share some news about students from Duke Divinity School who visited John Wesley College in South Africa, and to update them on some developments at the seminary.

Dear friends,

In the midst of celebrations over our victory at the Cricket and the Oscars, I thought we may wish to celebrate some more good news about our nation and Church.

Each year John Wesley College receives lecturers and students from our sister seminary, Duke Divinity school, in the United States. Last year we had 4 MDiv students who spent some time at John Wesley College, and two months of the year working Churches in South Africa.

All four of them have spoken of the transformative impact that this trip has had on their lives and ministry. It is truly a joy to know that we have such a rich asset to offer to the world! We are a wonderful nation and a wonderful Church! It was wonderful to see the interest from world class scholars when I visited Duke in 2005. This year we look forward to hosting Dr Willie Jennings (the Academic Dean, an incredible African-America scholar and theologian). Next year we hope to host, Dr Stanley Hauerwas, who was chosen as the world's leading theologian in 2004!

To read the full story of the Duke students' visit to South Africa please follow the link below (if the link is cut over two lines by your email client, please copy the whole link into your browser).

Then also just to offer you a brief update on the Church's seminary, John Wesley College.

We are very pleased to have a wonderful group of students studying at John Wesley College! Yes, I do tell each year's group that they are the best... Because they are!

This is the first year that we have enrolled students for the Bachelor of Theology and Ministry Degree (the majority of our students have upgraded to this qualification), we still have a few students doing Diploma's in Theology. Among the probationers studying at John Wesley College this year we also have 4 students doing Honours degrees, and one student doing a Masters degree.

It was a wonderful joy to welcome the Revd. Dr Neville Richardson as the new Director of the Education for Ministry and Mission Unit. Dr Richardson is a highly regarded scholar who has brought a great deal of depth to our academic programs, and wonderful leadership to the general working of EMMU. We were also pleased to welcome the Revd Ruth Jonas on staff, since the Revd Matsepe returned to circuit at the end of 2005. Ruth is teaching Pastoral Theology at the College, and spends a great deal of her time working as the co-ordinator for training for lay ministries (Local Preachers, Evangelists, Bible Women and a host of other groups of Methodist laity). Ruth is currently working on a Doctorate in Pastoral Theology which she hopes to complete next year. The Revd Madika Sibeko is still the life of the Unit! She has taken over her new portfolio as the co-ordinator for training for Ordained ministries (looking after the 260 or so probationers in circuits). It is incredible to think that one person can manage to do so much! She is a real asset to us. As you can tell from this email, I am still on staff as Dean of the college, teaching Systematic Theology, Ethics, some Greek and few other odds and ends. I am also pleased to be completing my Doctorate in the next month or so! Please pray for me as I pen the last few pages.

As always we do still have some needs among our students at the Seminary. In particular we are always keen to hear from circuits and societies that may wish to sponsor or support a student family, or single student, whilst they are at College. This is truly a wonderful way to share in developing ministry and mission from you Church! Our families at College get about R500 per month, whereas the single students get approximately R300. Of course we are also always pleased to get donations of books for our library. So if there is anyone who is moving, retiring, or just wanting to get rid of some books, please do make contact with me! We would love to receive these into our Library.

Thank you so much for all the care and support you offer us in the training of ministers and laity for ministry and mission! Please continue to keep our work in your prayers.

Best regards,


Friday, March 03, 2006

What incredible power... A God who rules the world from the cross...

Tonight I sat reading Stanley Hauerwas' book "With the grain of the Universe" (2001, Grand Rapids. Brazos Press). The book is the result of Hauerwas' Gifford lectures of 2000 - 2001. It was a gift (which always makes a book so much nicer to read) from my mentor and friend Dr Neville Richardson.

I was struck by one particular phrase in the book "... the God who would rule all creation from Christ's cross" (2001:17). Isn't that an amazing thought? The very nature of the Universe is radically changed in the events of the cross of Christ. What the world would consider an act of ultimate defeat, what evil would consider as its ultimate brutal victory, becomes God's greatest triumph. It is a victory of love. Of course, if one thinks about it, it all makes so much sense!

The most powerful force that could ever operate in the world is not violence, it is not hatred, or abuse, or loneliness, not even death, it is love! What could ever challenge the love of God that would show itself, even if the price is death?

The God of the cross is not healthy, he's dying. This God is not free, he is enslaved by others. This God is not white, he is from Africa. This God is the saviour, the creator, the sustainer, the ruler of the whole Universe! This God is God... Well, at least the kind of God I can identity with!

Truly God rules all of creation from the loving, life giving, self sacrificing cross of Christ. Through that act the world is redeemed, it is brought back to its true identity - a loving relationship with God, not based on power, not based on authority, or even respect, but a relationship based on self giving love.

I am not sure what cross you are facing in your life? I hope that in love you will be able to bring it before God, so that God may show God's love by ruling from the cross. God can rule, in fact God can triumph, in the crosses of this world.

Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

The image above comes for a Kenyan set of stations of the cross found here.