Archive for the ‘Rector’ Category

Congratulations to IBTSC Alumnus

Thursday, May 18th, 2017

 

We are please to copy and carry this announcement from American Baptist Churches USA and to Congratulate a recent alumni of IBTSC Amsterdam.

VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/9/17)—On Monday, May 8, the Board of General Ministries met at Springhill Suites in Chicago to elect Reverend Dr. Lee B. Spitzer to the position of General Secretary of American Baptist Churches USA. Dr. Spitzer’s name was brought forward to the Board of General Ministries by the General Secretary Search Committee. Over the past several months the Search Committee had interviewed numerous candidates. After much prayer, discernment, and deep discussion, the committee identified Dr. Spitzer as the candidate best suited to lead American Baptists forward.

Gill’s Promotion

Friday, May 12th, 2017

He is smiling now. We are pleased to announce the successful PhD defence and ‘Promotion’ of Gil Dueck at the Vrije Universiteit which took place on Wednesday 10th May. Gill’s Thesis was entitled: ‘A Transformative Moment:
Emerging Adult Faith Development in Conversation with the Theology of James E. Loder’. We extend our congratulation to Gil and to his family, his wife, parents, and children who traveled to be present.

We also congratulate his IBTSC supervisor Dr Parush Parushev and his Vrije Universiteit supervisor Prof. Dr Fernando Enns. Not present on the day we also extend our congratulations to his co-supervisor Prof. Dr Nancey Murphy.

A good day.

Vienna and Vienna again…

Monday, March 27th, 2017

In the past two weeks I have been in Vienna twice to participate in two EBF conferences.

The first of these was the EBF Younger Leaders’ Programme TRANSFORM held from 15-18 March. Present were six men and five women who had been identified by their Baptist Unions or Conventions as having gifts and potential to exercise leadership in a wider setting with an international dimension. The focus of this gathering was on discipleship and I contributed around themes of: less conventional biblical images of discipleship as leadership, the communal nature of discipleship, and the practices of discipleship. Perhaps a key theme which emerged through all of this was how we deal with and respect different cultural contexts which influence biblical interpretation.

After a few days back in Amsterdam I returned for the  joint conference of EBF Mission and Evangelism Commission and Youth and Children Workers.

At this conference I had the task of ‘re-imagining’ discipleship, the Church, and mission. Of course whether what I offered was a re-imagining would depend upon how people imagined these things in the first place! On this again, contextual, cultural, and hermeneutical come into play. This said, I would suggest that re-imagining these issues begins by us not separating these issues, or arguing which one has priority, but rather by viewing them as integrated in the call, challenge, and grace of Jesus Christ which takes priority. In so far as we can talk about them separately I drew upon the work of the late Athol Gill to offer the biblical images of…Following Jesus, Friends for the Journey, and Engaging the Powers as perspectives from which to view discipleship, Church, and mission respectively. In viewing each on in this way one cannot really talk about them without reference to the others.

Part of the pleasure in being in Vienna was to see the great and developmental work being carried out by the Baptist Church there under the leadership of Walter Klimt and his team. To be honest they are embodying what I was talking about in a clear way. Below is Walter beginning the Conference speaking about Luke 4.

 

Stuart

Is God Disappearing from the Netherlands?

Monday, September 5th, 2016

L1005277Today with colleagues I attended the opening of the academic year jointly hosted by the Theological Faculty of the Vrije Universiteit and the Protestant Theological University who work closely with one another. The theme upon which there were various papers and comments was: “Is God really disappearing from the Netherlands – and what would that mean for doing Theology”

This title was a response to the survey held every 10 years called “God in the Netherlands” and which focusses in particular upon the place and role of the Christian faith in the Netherlands.

Some of the reported results were:

“More than 68 percent of the Dutch say they do not follow a specific church, 25 percent are Christian, 5 percent are Muslim and 2 percent follow other non-Christian beliefs. Almost a quarter of the population are atheists, compared to 14 percent in 2006. 31 percent consider themselves spiritual, compared to 40 percent ten years ago. And the people who believe in some form of higher power fell from 36 percent in 2006 to 28 percent this year. More than half of Dutch never pray” see NL Times.

Possible responses to the question of what this means for “theology”.

Such decline is a sign of the end times.

The issue is that the nature of religion is changing and we have to look elsewhere for God’s presence, theologians have to listen.

The starting place for theology is not society at large but the Church which then bears witness to the world – not saying what society already has decided we should say, but saying that which will make sense only after it is said.

To be sure all of this is complex.

To start with the sort of “theology” which was being discussed was “formal” theology, that which theologians do rather than the theology of local congregations in words and actions.

In turn while the Church may be the starting place for doing theology, what does that actually mean, whose Church and where is such a Church. If this pushes us again back to the local and ,local congregations the question is simply begged – where are there congregations that are engaging with such issues through discussion and discernment?

With a  sort of analytical synthesis on the various contributions by various people I offer:

We certainly live in times of complex change. Whether they are the “end times” is not within our knowledge and it is pointless to speculate.

If we wish to bear witness to and in society we certainly need to listen and look to hear and see where faith is to be found and God is to be found outside of the Church although we may need some prior perspective on what we mean by “God” and “God’s presence” unless we want simply to accept the post modern idea of a “soft power” or general “spirituality”. On the other hand we need to be open to the in breaking of the kingdom in “imaginative” and “creative” ways over which we do not have control.

The Church may indeed be the starting place for the doing of Christian theology in such a context but before seeking the “conversion” of society we may well indeed have to as “what sort of conversion” we need as people (as one speaker suggested) if we are going to be able to talk to one another and those beyond our “ranks” in a way that shows “faithful witness”.

 

 

 

What does it mean to say that we are an “International” Study Centre

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016

International TreeI have recently being doing some work on what it means to offer supervision to international, part-time, theological PhD students in a  largely distance learning environment.

What follows is one reflection on this:

IBTSC is not an international study centre because we are a national institution with international students which is the way the term is often used in Higher Education discourse. Rather, for us the term indicates something more complex than that. It represents the fact that we are a meeting place of students and supervisors who come from different countries, often researching in their own local situations but bringing their contextual work into conversation with others from different situations to offer a richer texture and perspective. The learning involves “transculturation” in that it does not simply go one way, from one dominant culture to another, but rather all involved in the dialogue both teach and learn through this interaction.

National identities remain important, difference is not denied or negated, such can be oppressive, but in so far as all our identities are constantly being made and remade the interaction is part of that process of making us somewhat more “international” than we would be without the experience. At the very least we become more informed about other contexts, at best we begin to understand the limits and the strengths of our own identity in relation to a wider picture of global humanity.

To be sure in all of this our faith offers us a common denominator but even our faith is culturally embodied and expressed so this becomes another place of international encounter: commonality, difference, and “(re)formation”. In these ways the learning at IBTSC takes place in a particular “ecosocial” environment (to borrow a phrase from Bill Green “Unfinished business: subjectivity and supervision”) where the international is explicit.

If as we sometimes claim believer’s baptism is the baptism into a new humanity which transcends national identity although finds expression  in such national identities, IBTSC aspires to reflect something of the complexity of that reality in the international learning and teaching context we offer.

[The educational literature from which I drew and with which engaged in this blog post includes:

Green, B. (2005) Unfinished business: subjectivity and supervision. Higher Education Research & Development, Vol. 24 (2), pp. 151-163.

Manathunga, C. (2007) Intercultural Postgraduate Supervision: Ethnographic Journey’s of Identity and Power in Palfreyman, D. and McBride, D.L. (eds.) Learning and Teaching Across Culture in Higher Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Trahar, S. (ed.) (2011) The Doctorate: International Stories of the UK Experience, ESCalate. [Online]. Available at https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/8137.pdf [Accessed 4th July 2016].

Blythe

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brexit

Monday, June 27th, 2016

175As a UK passport holder and rector of an European institution set up post war as an ‘experiment in Christian internationalism’, I watched the unfolding referendum results in the UK with some dismay. Perhaps too much history makes me nervous when the common destiny of European countries is not formally linked even as I might be critical of EU bureaucracy. The uncertainty which this decision has created seems somewhat tangible in the UK if not in other countries of Europe. Both campaigns have unleashed expectations and created fractures that are likely to take some time to re-settle.

Perhaps one theological reflection on this is that all political structures and arrangements are provisional. I think that a recurring refrain in some sermons yesterday was to reassure people that God is still in control over the nations. Perhaps it is necessary and good to reaffirm this because people forget.

Yet, in my opinion, the above confession should not lead to mere acquiescence to political arrangements or even democratic decisions. (My personal thoughts on ‘accepting’ democratic decisions are found here).

In turn, it is also the case that people have to work out what the rule of God means for them not in the general affirmation but in the socio-political practicality and perceptions of their contexts. The practicalities and perceptions as a consequence of the Brexit decision will be different for different people be they EU members living in the UK, UK citizens living in the UK, UK citizens living in Europe, and citizens of EU countries who may be impacted by a referendum decision in which they had no participation. It is in these contextual realities, practicalities, and attendant perceptions that Christian witness will either be faithful or unfaithful.

At a recent ‘future’s week’ discussion concerning IBTSC the staff felt very much that IBTSC should continue to be an internationally focused ‘baptist’ institution with an intentionally European perspective. Such a European perspective is not naive in that it takes seriously the identities of different nations and understands that Europe can be conceptualised in more ways than in terms of EU political arrangements. Indeed the ‘Europe’ of EBF and IBTS(C) has always been broad and inclusive rather than exclusive. To put this differently, from the beginning the concern of this institution has been to offer something pan-national in a global world to inform Christian witness in the local, national, and international. This has been done through its diverse staff, students, and theological perspectives. I am not sure whether or not that task seems more complex today. It does, however, seem no less important, and once again somewhat urgent.

 

Visiting Scholar Reflection

Wednesday, May 18th, 2016

Here is a personal reflection on the recent visit to IBTSC Amsterdam of  Prof. Louise Kretzschmar.

Prof. L Kretzschmar3jpg (1)

Nordenhaug at Herdenkingskerk

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015

Nodenhaug

Nodenhaug

 

As mentioned in other posts, on Monday 2nd November 2015 the Nordenhaug lectures will take place. Josef Nordenhaug was between 1950 and 1960 the inspirational President of the first incarnation of this institution then located in Rüschlikon, Switzerland. These lectures are delivered in his memory.

Last year we were delighted to receive this Photographic Biography of Josef Nordenhaug from his daughter Karin Nordenhaug Ciholas. For those interested in the history of European Baptist Church life and indeed the Rüschlikon Seminary this is a fascinating and informative book. Yesterday a former volunteer at  Rüschlikon visiting the IBTS Centre looked through the book with great interest.

This year the lectures to be delivered by Dr David P. Gushee will be delivered in the Herdenkingskerk, a church building a two minute walk from the IBTS Centre in Amsterdam.

Originally we had planned to hold the lectures at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam but for some practical reasons we moved them to the church building. As I reflect upon this I am pleased about the change for a couple of reasons.

The first is that the tradition of this institution considers that academic theology is ‘secondary theology’, and that it exists to serve the Christian community in its life, worship and witness (primary theology). Insofar as these lectures represent ‘academic theology’ I think that there is something symbolically significant about them taking place as it were in the home of some local congregations rather than the ‘academy’.

The second reason, however, is one that was a pleasant surprise to me. IMG_0002For as my friend, sitting in our library, looked through the Nordenhaug book, she said: ‘Is that not the church along the road?’ So indeed on page 212 there is a picture of the opening of the Herdenkingskerk opened in 1964 – presumably an event at which Josef was present. I love the moments of connection, a former volunteer (originally from America now in Canada)  reading about a former President of Rüschlikon (a Norwegian) notices that a church building in Amsterdam is in the photographic biography of that President just a week before the lectures held in his honour and the tradition he represents are about to take place in that building! I have to say, it made me smile.