Visitors to IBTSC

April 1st, 2015

Today I was pleased to welcome to IBTSC at Amsterdam the Revd Dr Yaw Adu-Gyamfi, Dean of School of Theology and Ministry (STM) of the Ghana Baptist University College (GBUC). TodayHe is visiting friends and participating in some ‘Revival’ meetings for a new Ghanaian Church in the Amsterdam area. We currently have Revd Kofi Owusu-Ansah and Rev (Mrs) Mary Fosu a lecturer and chaplain respectively of GBUC as students at IBTSC. It was good to see him and talk about possible future co-operation. 

For those who studied in my time at Rueschlikon part of our conversation was about the late Rev Dr Frank Kwesi Adams


Flexible Study from a Baptist Perspective

March 25th, 2015

MA in Baptistic Histories and Theologies

Some of last years students.

Some of last years students.

Between 24th and 28th August 2015 we will deliver our first intensive teaching week for the new session. During this week we will deliver two required core units for this MA Degree Programme:

‘Critical Thinking and Research Methodologies’ and

‘Interpretation, Bible, Theology and Society’.

Both units can be done the same week as they will be delivered on the morning and evening Mon-Fri respectively. Students will then receive ongoing support online to complete the assessments for these units before May 2016.

Attendance for these five days can fulfill 25% of the required maximum attendance for this programme which can be taken part-time in anywhere between two and five years.

Photo Opportunity at Bakkerstraat

Photo Opportunity at Bakkerstraat

If you wish to stay on, enjoy the weekend in Amsterdam perhaps visiting ‘Baker’s Street’ (Bakkerstraat) the site of the first Baptist Church in the world.

You can then take a second intensive week of teaching during the week 31st August to the 4th of September. The unit you will study during that week can be negotiated although ‘Faith and Reason’ will certainly be offered.

Attendance at both these weeks can fulfil 50% of the required maximum attendance for this programme.

If you take the core units during the first there will be another opportunity to take other units during the following year in November or February or in September, November, or February in subsequent years.

This programme has been designed to offer flexible and supported learning with a contextual emphasis from an international Baptist perspective. It is a programme with three possible streams. It is a degree that stands in its own right but also prepares people for further research study.

The costs of the programme can be spread over the period of study

For more details please see the website or contact

Richard J. Mouw, Of Pagan Festivals and Meta-Narratives Recovering the Awareness of our Shared Humanity

March 13th, 2015

Yesterday Parush and I attended our respective section meetings at Vrije Universiteit (VU). We now have 29 IBTSC Amsterdam whose proposal have been accepted by VU and are now part of their/our PhD Research Programme. In the next year we anticipate that two or three will graduate and that by the end of the year several more will be officially registered.

Following our meetings we attended the annual Abraham Kuyper lecture at VU. This was delivered by Richard J. Mouw,

Richard J Mouw

Richard J Mouw

formerly President of Fuller Theological Seminary and one time visiting Professor at the Free University.  The title of his lecture was ‘Of Pagan Festivals and Meta-Narratives: Recovering the Awareness of our Shared Humanity’. His basic argument was that Kuyper’s view of common grace should open us up to appreciating the shared humanity we have with others.  He argued that for Kuyper, while Christian fellowship may be considered a special relationship our shared Christian particularity was only one root of this fellowship the other being our shared humanity in which the Holy Spirit is also active.

He also went on to argue that the formative practice of Christian fellowship should shape in us such an openness to others.

Without debating the particular reading of Kuyper’s Calvinistic theology I want to reflect on the idea that if our worship practices are formative, an idea commonly asserted at the moment by such as James K. Smith (although I think that this requires some discussion), then they are of course possible of shaping our ideas and actions negatively as well as positively. In this respect work by Siobhán Garrigan in The Real Peace Process: Worship Politics and the End of Sectarianism (London:Equinox, 2010) demonstrates the way in which liturgies and worship can develop a hostility towards rather than an openness to others. This being the case, the question I posed to Professor Mouw was what practices can we introduce to our worship to ensure that they form ‘empathy’ towards others rather than disregard?

His own answer in the limited time picked up on my suggestion about the significance of intercessory prayer for the world – as one practice that expands our interests although of course this in turn begs the question of ‘who’ do we pray for in our common prayers and ‘how’ do we pray for them? For the way in which we pray for others can of course reinforce difference rather than affirm a shared humanity recognized as a theological conviction.

It was a fascinating and clearly presented lecture which invites further reflection not simply in relation to academic discussion but in relation to our church practices including prayer. The opportunity to attend and participate in such activities is one of our present benefits from IBTSC being a collaborative centre within the faculty of theology of the VU Amsterdam.

Six Months On…

February 24th, 2015

We have now been operational in our Amsterdam for the past six months or so. The relocation of the library and set up of the offices taking place in August 2014. In the following months set up issues continued to demand a lot of time an attention. Simple things can suddenly become BIG – e.g. when you discover that the computers have been set up in a language you don’t speak! In some ways it seems longer than six months and at other times less.

Despite all that has been going on, building on the past with the support of previous and new colleagues a lot have been achieved in circumstances which can only be described as ‘complex change’.

Anna Robbins led the Acadia D Min teaching weeks in August 2014

Anna Robbins led the Acadia D Min teaching weeks in August 2014

Starting in August we first hosted the Acadia D Min intensive teaching weeks led by Anna Robbins.

This programme is one which we run in partnership with Acadia and offers high quality biblical, theological, and practical reflection suited to the tasks of ministry. The way which it is run also offers a genuine international experience. So it is worth making known. Please contact for information.




Following this we hosted in August/September a three week intensive teaching block for students undertaking our MA Degree with Manchester University or our Post-Graduate Certificate in preparation for PhD studies.

Students from Ghana, Cuba, Croatia.

Students from Ghana, Cuba, Croatia.

This MA programme has some considerable flexibility in delivery and while involving some intensive teaching block attendance also has some distance learning options. Please contact for information.

The second week of this teaching period included our first PhD graduation (Promotion) from the Free University (VU)a day in which several of us including the successful student Jon Hardin got dressed up for the occasion…

First IBTSC graduation at VU

First IBTSC graduation at VU






Curtis FreemanIn November we hosted the Hughey Lectures with Curtis Freeman followed by a well attended conference on Convictional Theologies. The Lectures were held at the VU and the conference in our own premises with lunch being provided for participants. Papers will follow later in the Spring/Summer published in our Journals in order to disseminate some of the research and thinking that is going on.

Nancey Murphy As well as Curtis Freeman we were please to welcome Nancey Murphy to this event as a contributor and were grateful for the of signed copies of the latest collections of McClendon’s works from which she read by way of recollection.




Then in January 2015 we held our annual research degrees colloquium attended by students and staff from around the world. Thinking HardThis included much valued input from Professor Pete Ward PeterWard01smallfrom Durham University .





With all these events the first six months has been fairly hectic. At times I am frustrated with a range of things we have not yet got done but when I stand back I am nothing but grateful to our colleagues, supporters, and God for all that has been achieved. The coming few months do not have quite the same intensity in terms of events but are required to allow us to develop supportive administrative systems and methods suited to our location and continue to sort out details like…who do you call when the mini-bus breaks down? In turn for me these months give the time to strategize beyond the immediate.

We are now moving firmly into our first full year of activity – January to December which will allow us to see what it is like to operate fully in our new context. Wwe remain grateful for your interest and support in IBTSC as we seek to provide research, researchers, and leaders which can aid the mission and ministry of churches in Europe and beyond.



CMU Ministers Conference

February 14th, 2015

Over the past week I have completed an introductory talk and a series of three bible studies at the ministers conference hosted by the Canadian Mennonite University.

CMU Campus

CMU Campus

On the Tuesday night I  attended a fascinating panel discussion on “Where did we lose you?” which involved a panel discussion on the declining participation of ‘millennials’ in Canadian churches. The panel participants were all of this age group born some time after 1980 and represented a number of church traditions and indeed none in that one panel member was an avowed atheist but with a concern for the life of the church! A question which this posed for me is when and where in our Baptist contexts are we creating such space for discussion, including a variety of voices, and attracting such a large turn out of interest?

On Thursday I participated in an oral communication class to discuss issues of persuasion concerning when and where persuasion becomes manipulation and coercion and as such does violence to others. This was a followed by a radio interview for a programme on radical change in the church where I was questioned on some of the statements I had made in the bible studies and discussions. One such issue was whether it was more important that the Church understands what others think about God or whether it is more important that he Church knows what it thinks about God. Of course both are important but if one is to be given priority I think it is what the church thinks about God. This is the ‘ground’ from which we can evaluate other belief and in turn our own. I also think that it is our own beliefs which if they are convictions which will most shape our own behaviour and response…anyway that is something of the flavour.

Engaging in Discussion

Engaging in Discussion

On Friday I preached at chapel on the theme: “I don’t want to be good” … as for the sermon…we you had to be there…then I had a meeting with some of the theology faculty talking about IBSC programmes.

We have also been kindly hosted throughout this last week by friends and faculty members at CMU – so thanks to all…


February 9th, 2015

I am presently in Canada to participate in a ministers conference organised by the Canadian Mennonite University. It seems to me that there is a strong resonance in the reading of Baptist via McClendon/Stassen or just plain old anabaptist roots with Mennonites, although I am leaning what a varied group that they like we actually are.

As part of my trip I attended the launch of this book which offers some fascinating insights and may well make a contribution to the thinking of those who wish to come at issues from an Anabaptist (dare we say baptistic) perspective and yet engage with wider society and its institutions. I have bought a copy but know that both Parush and the library will want one also.

toward an anabptist political theology

We have a number of students presently studying with us at IBTSC who come from a Canadian Mennonite background. At present they are all Mennonite Brethren rather than the Mennonite Church. CMU serves both groups.

As part of the trip I will have the opportunity to meet with the theology faculty at CMU and I hope that in the future collaboration at various levels between IBTSC and CMU on a broad shared common ground of ‘baptist’  will be possible.

I have also been struck by the way in which “donors” will support specific research into issues of church ministry and mission providing the finances for CMU staff to carry out the research. I hope that this is something that IBTSC as a research centre will be able to encourage in the future – specific financed projects of relevance to the mission and ministry of the church, supported by those who think that such issues are important, and carried out with the skills and personnel and academic credentials that IBTSC can bring to the task. Such a linking of the interests of the church in practice and IBTSC as a research centre into practice is something I am very keen to develop. In turn the emphasis on ethnographic research as a theological project is one that can provide a theological as well as a sociological approach for such research. This potential excites me as part of the IBTSC vision of providing research, researchers, and leaders who can serve the church in Europe and beyond.

Dreaming – perhaps rather than us simply having students come to us with their ideas church based individuals, organisations, unions, would finance projects of interest to them where we could then seek out and support individuals who have already shown some ability in an area (perhaps through a Masters) to carry out specific research that becomes their PhD  project.

I know that sometimes people think that when ‘academics’ go on such trips that they are spending all their time at the beach rather than working – and I confess that this weekend I was on the beach at a lake near Winnipeg…STA41723

Colloquium Amsterdam 2015 continued

January 23rd, 2015

STA41712Today (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.STA41713STA41714STA41715

Freedom and Person: Research Colloquium 2015

January 22nd, 2015

STA41705Over 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!