Immediately following our Hughey Lecture series delivered by Curtis Freeman IBTSC Amsterdam hosted a conference on ‘Convictional Theology’. This conference sought to critically reflect upon the work of Baptist theologian James Wm. McClendon who has been described as ‘the preeminent progressive Baptist theologian of his era’.
During the three day Conference which took place in November we were pleased to welcome visitors and contributors numbering between 20 and 40 people per day. Those who attended came from throughout Europe and America.
The conference was started by Professor Nancey Murphy, the late McClendon’s wife talking about McClendon’s life and work and reading from Volume 1 and 2 of the recently published Collected Works of James Wm. McClendon. We were of course delighted to receive from Nancey copies of these volumes for the IBTS Centre library contributing further to our material on what can be described as ‘convictional theology’.
Two of our MA students in the Baptistic Histories and Theologies programme attended the conference and were able to integrate their learning and experience into the unit on Baptistic Theological Perspectives which they studied at the centre the following week.
For some attending ‘convictional theology’ represented a different ‘tradition’ to their own, for some it was something to contest, for others an introduction, and for many an opportunity to revisit not only the value of this tradition but its future potential.
Papers from the conference will be published in the future in the Journal of European Baptist Studies. This Journal and its sister Journal can be ordered from IBTS Centre.
Curtis Freeman gives Hughey Lectures
IBTSC Amsterdam hosted Hughey Lectures 2014 at the Protestant University oval room at Free University. The event brought together scholars from IBTSC, Free University, Dutch Baptist Seminary as well as international guests. The speaker this year was Dr Curtis Freeman from Duke University. The lectures focussed on an intriguing topic: how dissent may lose its vigour and become ’domesticated’ and how creativity and visionary dimension may help to give new dynamic to dissenting spirit. Hence the title of the series: „Undomesticated Dissent“.
Curtis Freeman, a renown Baptist theologian and author of a recent major volume titled Contesting Catholicity, used three historical persons to present his topic: John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe and William Blake. All three have memorials in Bunhill Fields cemetery. The cemetery, where many other dissenters have been buried, locates an identifiable tradition, which is more about ’the living faith of the dead’ than ’the dead faith of the living’. „But for that living faith to be kept alive, it must be remembered,“ said Freeman.
The aim of the lectures was well summarised by the speaker: „These lectures focus on three narratives of dissent: Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, and Blake’s Jerusalem. … The structure accounts for a diversity of voices… By telling the story in this way it will become clear that the voices of dissent are always subject to the forces of domestication, … by becoming „hand-tamed“ to the powers that be. At times the radical spirit slumbers away in uncomfortable dreams while the nations rage or becomes gentled to the touch and taste of polite culture, only to rise again unexpectedly in all its undomesticated fervor. Perhaps by remembering these stories of those memorialized in stone, the slumbering saints may be awakened and the voices of undomesticated dissent may arise yet again.“
The Hughey Memorial Lectures was the idea of professor Wayne Pipkin, an influential historian and a leading figure in Anabaptist research at IBTS in Rüschlikon during the 1980s. However, it was only in the 1990s when the idea was taken forward. The lectures honour the work of John David Hughey (1914-1984) who served as the president of IBTS, Rüschlikon, in 1960-1964, and who taught practical theology and church history. Since 1994 the Hughey Lectures are taking place every second year, constituting an important event in the IBTSC academic life, and exploring topics related to Baptist life and witness. Hughey Lectures 2014 will be published as a separate volume in Baptistic Theologies, a publication of IBTSC Amsterdam.
The 9th of September 2014 saw the first defence and promotion (graduation) at the VU of an IBTS Centre Amsterdam PhD student, Jon Hardin. On this occasion in the Dutch style, Jon publicly defended his PhD thesis: ‘Creating Convictional Community: Missional Spirituality in the Moravian Community of Bethlehem Pennsylvania, 1741-1762′ and was awarded the title of ‘Doctor’.
His supervisor Tim Noble writes:
Jon Hardin, from the USA, first started as a student on our old doctoral programme in Prague in 2006. From the beginning of his studies, he was interested in the Moravian community that was established at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, in the mid-eighteenth century. Initially he was interested in combining it with reflection on the missional calling of the church in contemporary America, but he was persuaded by his first supervisor, Ian Randall, to concentrate on how the Bethlehem community itself in the period from its foundation until 1760 expressed and deepened its missional spirituality.
There is a lot of material on this community, which is good for a PhD student, but also somewhat daunting, and despite having to deal with a serious illness that made study impossible for several years, Jon kept up at an impressive rate of work. He was able to read and organise the material into a series of chapters looking at the worship, hymnody, community meetings, prayer and art of Bethlehem, and how they spoke to the founding missional vision of the Moravian community.
In all this Jon was helped by Ian Randall, and later Tim Noble, as well as by a leading American Moravian scholar, Craig Atwood. In 2013 Jon transferred to the doctoral programme of the VU University in Amsterdam, and from the VU side, Prof. Piet Visser added his expertise, and equally importantly his knowledge of the VU system.
Jon submitted his doctorate in early 2014, and it was read by a group of five readers, all of whom were happy to pass it for defence. So it was that Jon came to be in the Aula of the VU University, where he was able to respond fluently and on the whole convincingly to his five examiners, all of whom pronounced themselves satisfied with his response. This was highly deserved, as Jon had produced a very solid, carefully argued, well-written and convincing study that fully merited the award of the title of doctor of theology.
“First Fruits” is the title of a painting by a Moravian artist that Jon used as the basis of his final chapter. In the rather splendid setting of a Dutch doctoral promotion, with its formulae, ceremonials and impressive clothing, Jon has written his own name into the history of both IBTS Centre in Amsterdam and the VU University, as the first fruits of the partnership between the two institutions. We all hope it is the first of a ripe harvest, and we salute Jon for his excellent achievement. (Tim Noble)
The DMin students were the first to arrive, then new master and doctoral students continued with modules: ‛Critical Thinking, Academic Research and Writing’, ‛Interpretations: Bible, Theology and Society’ and ‛Faith and Reason’. Students emphasised three aspects of what they experienced: international climate, academic challenge and Christian fellowship.
Students from Ghana, Croatia, Canada, USA and Cuba, and certainly from Holland, confirm the continuity of the international dimension of this learning community. A Croatian Filip Grujic summarised:
The first weeks of IBTS instensive lectures at Amsterdam were full of challenging study in the atmosphere if international fellowship. It was an enriching experience to explore important theological topics in the context of wider perspective of colleagues coming from three different continents.
A special event, underlining the acadmic quality of IBTSC, was the graduation of Jon Hardin with the PhD degree. The promotion took place at the aula of the Free University Amsterdam. (More on this in a later post).
As is characteristic of IBTSC, worship is an integral part of research and study. The students described the fellowship and common prayers as uplifting. Mary Pokuaa from Ghana:
I am impressed with the environment, the receptive nature of professors and the entire IBTSC community. This is an opportunity to gain knowledge and to reflect on my faith and ministry.
Another student from Ghana, Kofi Owusu-Ansah, added:
I recommend this programme for all Christians seeking higher level education. This helps to put you on the cutting edge in ministry.
First time in the IBTSC history a student from Cuba, Adianes Villalonga, has joined the student body. She taught us all to pray ‛in a Cuban way’ – feeling the presence of God and ourselves, and being thankful for the gift of life – and she commented:
It is an open door to a source of knowledge, wisdom and prayer. Professors encourage me to study hard if I want to be useful in my country, and my fellow-students make me experience the intercultural Baptist challenge. And I always feel serenity during our time of prayer.
Ray Harms-Wiebe from Canada seconded that:
The perspectives of the international faculty and students have already enriched my spiritual journey and I look forward to the coming years with anticipation.
Not being a native speaker of English, and while writing this blog entry, I checked some of the words. Merriam-Webster Dictionary explains that one meaning of ‛launch’ is ‛to put a boat or ship on the water’. New IBTSC academic year is launched… I find this symbolism surprisingly fitting.
At the IBTS Centre we are aiming to provide affordable and accessible post-graduate education in an international Baptist context. We see such theological education as not simply informative but trans-formative. While some costs are higher for students in Amsterdam other costs of study are less expensive.
Be this as it may, the national and personal situations of students may mean that such education is simply unaffordable. We at present have two students for whom this is the case. They are already involved in significant ministries in their countries. They are supported by friends, family, and home churches for travel and accommodation but cannot pay for fees. The IBTS Centre can try and absorb some of these costs but our capacity to do this and make the programmes of study sustainable is very limited.
One way in which individuals, institutions and churches can help is by donating towards bursaries to help cover the fees of such students.
You can either make a one off, or a regular donation marked as:
an ‘unspecified bursary’ for allocation by IBTS Centre to most pressing present situations
a ‘specified bursary’ towards a particular individual
It may be as a Church or an individual you would like to support a particular student through a course of study and to receive information and be put in contact with such a student. This can be a rewarding experience for both creating lasting contacts and friendships. If you would like to know about the students who we have at present seeking bursaries please be in touch with me directly.
All donations marked as bursaries will only be used for paying the fees of students who cannot afford it and sums will be acknowledged. If we receive bursary donations beyond present needs we would gather those monies to make them available for future bursary use.
The IBTS Centre Amsterdam also still welcomes general donations towards our work in order to enable us to offer affordable and accessible post-graduate education to all in an international context. These can be marked simply as ‘donations’.
All donations can be made directly to our bank account:
Bank Account: IBTSC, (IBAN) NL34 RABO 0181 6602 02 (Swift: RABO NL2U)
This week IBTS Centre (Amsterdam) welcomed to Baptist House its first student in the form of the Acadia D Min students led by Dr Anna Robbins Associate Professor of Theology, Culture and Ethics Academic Dean Director, Doctoral Studies. The various topics that the students have chosen for their Dissertations demonstrate the contextual concern for mission and ministry in this study programme.
Next week we will welcome students on to the MA and PhD programmes. A problem with the intercom for several days saw the Rector being a door keeper in the new premises but bit by bit teething problems are being sorted out as ‘first experiences’ in the new context added to past experience create the sort of learning that allows us to develop better in the future our aspirations for IBTS in its new partnerships to continue to offer high quality theological education in an international context and with a baptistic emphasis for ministry and mission.
Baptist House is a working location of people involved in various ways in Baptist work in the Netherlands and beyond. Within it are bright and modern learning and teaching spaces that reflect in layout the interactive nature of the learning and teaching which takes place there.
With these courses marking the beginning of another academic year we plan to have a new look website available soon that will begin informing and advertising the range of study options as we seek to build a new cohort of students for the following year.
From November 3rd till November 6th 2014 the IBTS Centre Amsterdam will be hosting the Hughey Lectures and then a conference in Convictional Theology.
The Hughey Lectures will be delivered by Dr Curtis Freeman, Director and Research Professor at the Baptist House, Duke University. The title of the lectures is Undomesticated Dissent.
Lecture 1: The Dissenting Conscience
Lecture 2: The Dissenting Church
Lecture 3: The Dissenting Christ
Prof Dr Freeman will examine these themes by looking at the Canon of Dissent in English Protestantism. Specifically, he will look at the way this canon has been memorialized in Bunhill Fields, the Dissenter burial grounds in London. By looking at the three memorials to three great voices of dissent in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, John Bunyan, Daniel Defoe, and William Blake, he will explore how they give voice to these major themes of Dissenters.
These lectures will be delivered at the Free University (VU) on the 3rd of November 2014.
The Hughey Lectures will be followed by the Conference on Convictional Theologies which will celebrate 90 years of James Wm McClendon’s life witness and theological thought.
It will engage in different streams of convictional theologising of Baptists, Mennonites, and other adherents of the Radical Reformation. Guided by the titles of McClendon’s three-volume Systematic Theology, the conference will be organised along the themes of Ethics, Doctrine, and Witness.
This conference will be held in Baptist House, Postjeweg 175 a short metro journey (and slightly longer cycle!) from the VU University. Both locations are easily accessible by public transport from the airport and Central Amsterdam.
The lectures and conference are free although participants have to arrange own travel, food, and accommodation. Help on accommodation can be gained from contacting IBTS Centre with a block booking option at the nearby Student Hotel if you contact firstname.lastname@example.org before the 1st September.
The option of presenting a paper at the conference with the possibility of later publication in an IBTS Journal remains open but please contact Parush Parushev before the 1 September at the latest Parush@ibts.eu
During this time participants will also get the opportunity to investigate the post-graduate study option at Masters and PhD level which are available at IBTSC Amsterdam.