Today (Thursday) we were introduced to some developed proposals. One of these relates to Baptist responses to anti-Semitism and persecution of Jewish people. We heard also of three new proposals two from students from Ukraine and one from the Czech Republic. Purpose of the presentations is to allow students to get feedback and sharpen focus and methodology. Lots of fascinating ideas and worthwhile proposals with a contextual and often missiological concern. It was great to have the Randall’s join us for a couple of days.
Over the past few days at the research colloquium in Amsterdam students have been presenting an update on their studies. Some are at the beginning of their studies seeking a focus and methodology to carry their work forward. Others are facing the challenges of writing and rewriting. All students are part time and doing their work while sustaining ministries in churches and colleges. The geographic range of students is wide. As part of the colloquium we also have various seminars for students and staff. Here Dr Tim Noble is presenting a piece of recent research on ‘Freedom’ drawing some theological links between Russian Orthodox Theology and Liberation Theology. The paper as ever was followed by questions, discussion, and a bit of debate. As the pictures will show Dr Andrew Kirk and Dr Jim Purves were ready to engage engage after thoughtful consideration!
IBTSC Amsterdam is preparing to host its first research colloquium in the Postjesweg 175 premises from 19th till the 30th of January 2015.
This colloquium is when our research students gather from around the world to present the updates on their work and receive peer and team tutor feedback. It also gives them a chance to meet and discuss their specific research with their supervisors from IBTSC and their promoters from VU.
As a trial run the annual colloquium was held very successfully last year already in Amsterdam but this will be the first year in terms of operating as IBTSC Amsterdam.
At present we have 22 students registered with the VU with several others recently having had their proposals accepted and in the final stages of completing the registration process. A number of these and others at earlier stages of registration will attend and participate in the colloquium as part of the process of shaing their proposals and beginning their research work.
In addition to our VU students a number of our completing students with the University of Wales will attend and two will have their viva’s during this period with internal and external examiners participating.
Pete is very well known for his research and writing in areas of Christian youthwork, culture, and more recently in relation to ethnography and theology.
Since he is going to be present at the time of the colloquium he has agreed to address the colloquium on this recent area of research interest.
It is the inclusion of this and other activities which means that the research colloquium is not simply about reporting on research but actually provides students and staff the opportunity to develop in their own learning and networking with other scholars.
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.