Monday, October 23, 2017

Economics Paper

I spent much of today writing 200 words. There is a trend today towards brief academic papers. Most recently, Oxford University decided to admit 500 word papers, where their papers usually are thousands of words. This in fact turns back the clock. Short "papers" (they were letters then) were once common. But it is no snap to write a brief paper. It has to "advance the research interests of a field" in about two paragraphs. With so few words, every word must count. OBSERVATION: My purpose is to prove, albeit modestly, that I am capable of economics -- in this case labour economics. So far, I have been journal published in theology, philosophy, electronics, gnomonics, and organology -- the last of these being a brief paper.

The Search For True History

I had an essay published this morning on the (critical) philosophy of history: The Search for True History. This is a chapter of my metaphysic, presented in a different form -- a general treatment of how we may arrive at true history. OBSERVATION: In my metaphysic, I further examine the relationship of history to religion. When dealing with secular history, it may seem adequate that we have a mere balance of evidence in hand, or can reach a common-sense judgement as to what in fact happened. Yet this is not a standard high enough for religion. It is inconceivable that religious certainty should be based on any doubt at all. It depends, though, what our criteria are for judging religious history. Basically I say that we do not use the best criteria.

Churches Living By Faith

Too often Churches act on what they see, not what they can envision. This is manifested in many ways. I think now of one Church which was in "maintenance mode". It could have called a man to continue the maintenance -- but it called a man who was, so to speak, a celebrity. The Church itself became a jewel in the area. I speak of the late Rev. Roger Horwood, who was a friend. However this transformation only took place because Roger himself did not see the church as a maintenance project. OBSERVATION: When I took on my city ministry, I myself saw it not as a maintenance project, as some did, but as the jewel of Congregationalism. It indeed became a (humanly flawed) showcase of integration and spiritual life, eventually attracting Christians on the world stage, as visitors.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Domestic Accidents

Something that made a great impression on me as a boy was a nun, in the mission, who had lost her tongue because her brother had bumped her while she was licking a knife (it's not for nothing parents caution their children about that)! Recently wife E and I had a young woman over for lunch. I told her the story, which I had not told in years. She went awfully quiet. She had been shooting porcupine quills, she said, and hit her brother in the eye. He lost the sight in his eye. OBSERVATION: Another parental warning is: tie your shoelaces. I almost came to grief when I jumped in my diesel three-wheeler and slammed the door on a shoelace. I couldn't operate the brake.

Abandoned Avenue

All over South Africa, one finds abandoned farmsteads. I took this photo from the front door of one such farmstead, near Bredasdorp. It is an avenue of Australian gum trees, which would no doubt have been the approach to the farmstead in times gone by. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Fault-Finding

This is a re-post of something I wrote in a moment of frusration: "I wish people would find something substantial to criticise about a minister: doctrinal error, moral failure, dereliction of duty -- rather than his tone of voice, which books he read, or what he might or might not have done fifteen years ago. OBSERVATION: Not that the latter things are altogether insignificant, but you know what I mean. Some things scrape the bottom of the barrel." It does in fact happen that ministers who are on track with the big things get hounded for the small things. Jesus of course spoke of people who strain at a gnat and swallow a camel.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Police Respond

The police, at the close of my city ministry, set me up -- which was a serious offence. I put up some evidence here last week (in which there has been intense interest). But over more than two years, the police's Complaints Nodal Point refused to respond to the situation. Now that I made it public, they contacted me in three days -- but with no name, no reference. How should I respond to that? One sees my response on the right (click on the image to enlarge). OBSERVATION: While trying to deal with this confidentially, through other channels, the police indicated that hell would freeze over before they handed me the docket. They drew up papers to secure my silence (I did not sign), and acted unlawfully in various ways. Most of it, I am in a position to prove.

Arranging An Agenda

Here’s what an agenda has looked like in a typical Diaconate meeting I have led. I have placed the estimated emphasis in brackets, as a percentage of the whole meeting. This differs markedly from many Churches, where agendas tend to be crowded with business. The percentages may vary, depending on circumstance and time of year:
• Devotions (5%)
• Attendance register and previous minutes
• Spiritual matters (45%)
• Church programme (5%)
• Staff, office-bearers, and members (10%)
• Correspondence and contacts (5%)
• Finance (15%)
• Property (5%)
• Other (5%)
• Closing prayers (5%)

A Symbolic Photo

Following my wife's death, I entered into what essentially was an arranged marriage with E. The photo was taken nearly seven years ago, and catches a symbolic moment. It is the memorial service for my wife. She had instructed me to marry E on her death -- and had spoken to E herself in riddles. E did not know of the instruction here. My son, also in the photo, did -- as I think one sees in the photo. E left the Church last of all. I shook her hand, and said: "Last, but not least." I did not yet know, then, how I would deal with my wife's instruction. E and I are, of course, married now.

Friday, October 20, 2017

KPMG And IRBA

KPMG, one of the world's big four auditors, were "willing partners in state capture" in South Africa. Now they have been handed over to the IRBA, the Independent Regulatory Board for Auditors. Based on my own experience, this could be a a backward step, not a forward step -- a cause for unease. An auditor, under my ministry, was fraudulent. The IRBA themselves alerted me to this, and announced that there was "criminal contravention" of a kind which was "very serious". At first, the IRBA seemed to approach this with great professionalism. But then, strange signs. They obtained statements, not sworn -- they issued ultimatums, not acted on -- they appeared to work with copies of copies -- and so on. I said to the IRBA's Legal Director Jane O'Connor, you talk assertively about prosecuting the auditor, yet your behaviour reveals that this is not where you are headed. Finally the IRBA handed the matter to the police's CCU (Commercial Crimes Unit) "for investigation" -- yet could not produce a CAS number. Without a CAS number, said the CCU's Advocate Ndunyane, there is no investigation. This, then, is the same IRBA which now deals with KPMG, and indirectly with state capture. OBSERVATION: There is something more common than state capture, which is regulatory capture. While I cannot foretell whether that would happen in this case (the IRBA is a regulator), I would hope that those who laid the complaint are watching the signs.

Kareedouw Creosote Works

My first major ministry was in the "provincial" city of Port Elizabeth. When travelling from Port Elizabeth to Cape Town, the road branches into the busy N2 on the coast, or the quiet R62 inland. I often took the inland route. The first town on this route is Kareedouw, well known for its Creosote Works (pictured). Creosote oil, which is made from tar, is used here to preserve wood. OBSERVATION: Behind this mountain, at the time, lived a girl on a desolate plateau, who would one day become my wife. At the time, I did not know that the plateau existed.

Critical Writing Technique

I have been "walking with" several people lately helping them with postgraduate theses. There is something critical to all kinds of writing, theses included, called "bridging". It is a very common mistake to overlook it. There is the classic example of the bishop who sent a telegram to the archbishop:
"My wife died. Please send a replacement."
The bridge is missing:
"My wife died. I'm not up to my duties. Please send a replacement."
OBSERVATION: Without appropriate bridging, writing can seem jerky, bitty, difficult, even incoherent. In other words, it can be much improved with bridging -- which may be a fairly simple thing. The material is often there -- it just needs connecting better.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Hacked

News24 reported today that there has been a massive data breach in South Africa, affecting 30 million people. Which is most of us. It may be the biggest violation, ever, of South Africa's Protection of Personal Information Act. Good news and bad news for me. Some of my personal information has been purloined, however my passwords are secure. One may check one's own details at HaveIBeenPWNed and PWNedPasswords ("PWN" means "soundly defeated"). OBSERVATION: I have had a rough time with the Internet. Among other things, my Internet account was "broken into" on the server last year, and my account used all too intelligently.

Portrait Of A Niece

I just put thirty portrait photos up on my Facebook page. This is one of my favourites -- a "niece" (cousin's daughter) of my wife E -- a gentle and thoughtful child who lives on the farm. She is schooled in a farm school nearby. She is now four years older than the photo. You may click on the photo to enlarge.

Spiritual Or Cultural Ministry?

I have said that I wouldn't want to have a Church in middle class suburbia. The reason: it seems hard for me to tell whether such Churches are cultural or spiritual things, or whether the minister is a spiritual or cultural item. In the last few years, I have been invited to apply for several positions. Apart from accepting a consulent ministry, I signalled an interest in one -- but the Church had already made a decision. This Church had several districts, where there was much poverty and trauma. OBSERVATION: I felt that that would be meaningful ministry. That, too, is why I stayed in my city Church in spite of it being tough, and in spite of receiving several calls in that time (three of which overseas). This is not to say that ministry in middle class suburbia is meaningless. Somebody needs to do it. I have done it myself.