Curtis Freeman gives Hughey Lectures

November 10th, 2014

Curtis Freeman gives Hughey Lectures

Curtis Freeman

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.


Toivo Pilli

First Promotion at VU of IBTS Centre Student

September 24th, 2014

The 9th of September 2014 saw the first defence and promotion (graduation) at the VU of an IBTS Centre Amsterdam PhD student, Jon Hardin. DSC_0146-001 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.DSC_0097-001

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.DSC_0119-001

“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)





New Academic Year Launched

September 10th, 2014

The new academic year at IBTS Centre Amsterdam began with enjoyable sunshine and engaging discussions. An intensive teaching session took place in the new premises at Postjesweg 175.175

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.DSC_0134-001

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).DSC_0099-001

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.T Pilli

Toivo Pilli

Bursary Scheme

September 5th, 2014

175 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)

Stuart Blythe.

First Students

August 21st, 2014

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.


IBTSC Amsterdam: Hughey Lectures and Convictional Theologies Conference

August 13th, 2014

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.

Curtis Freeman

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.175

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 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

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.

Rector Update

July 13th, 2014


On the 1st June 2014 I took over as the Rector of IBTS as it transitions to IBTS Centre Amsterdam. I come to this post after being a Scottish Baptist minister in two Churches over a fifteen year period and teaching at the Scottish Baptist College for the last nine.

DSC_0552 - Version 2 (1)

Since June I have managed to be in Prague for some important endings: the last graduation service, the last exam Board, the last shared prayers in the Chapel. I was grateful to be given the opportunity to offer the graduation address. Then as now I would suggest that worship, mission, and discipleship do not belong in one world whereas study, research, and academic rigour belongs in the other. Rather for those of us who study and those who teach in theological education our study, research, and academic rigour is an expression of,  and in service of,  worship, discipleship, and mission. In mentioning this service I express my thanks to all previous and existing staff and supporters of IBTS for that which has been built to this point and especially those for whom the present changes are especially hard.

I have also managed to be in Amsterdam for some beginnings such as the establishment of the library. I am pleased to say that I personally shelved some of them so when you visit and cannot find the book you want…it may be that I am to blame.


In turn in recent weeks I have had the opportunity to be at the CEBTS conference in Warsaw and the BWA annual gathering which took place this year in Ismir, Turkey. These have been opportunities to meet people, renew links, establish contacts. Some call this networking but I am a bit resistant to that idea. In networking a goal can be simply to serve ones own interests Rather I hope that in Christian community we form authentic partnership which are mutually beneficial, and established with common respect and purpose. This at least been my hope and experience of these two events. I have also been amazed at how many people in the EBF and indeed the BWA context claim IBTS as their educational home.

I am presently back in Amsterdam to participate in the beginning of our common life in Baptist House located for the coming years in 175 Postjeweg. Here I want to thank our Dutch partners for the help, support, encouragement, and welcome which they have given.

Although I am not yet fully relocated to Amsterdam which I hope to be by the 1st August one of the first things I did upon my arrival in June was buy a bike. To those who know me this was a bit of surprise! It has been a great decision, however, allowing me not only exercise but to learn my way about.Today I wanted to find out how long it would be to cycle between Baptist House in Postjeweg and the VU (the Free University) our collaborative partner for the awarding of PhD degrees. It is not too long a trip although a few wrong turns on this expeditionary journey meant that it took me a bit longer than would be expected normally!

It was a beautiful day. It made me aware as I cycled that while our new premises may not have the grandeur and glamour of either Rueschlikon or Prague that it is literally one minutes walk from the beautiful Rembrantpark. So for those who need the beauty to help with their theology we can still provide such.

Rembrantpark                                                               Rebrant spring

At the various conferences I have attended people have asked about my ‘vision’ for the future. To be sure I have ideas. I am both interested in learning and teaching and have a commitment to providing a good student experience. This said I think that a vision is reality filled with Christian hope and at the moment I simply learning the way things are in our new Amsterdam reality. Be this as it may I see the IBTS Centre Amsterdam at the very least continuing to aspire to bring a high quality Baptist theological education in an international context with an understanding of the gospel centred in Jesus Christ which emphasises the place of social care and justice as well as necessity for personal transformation. In this as ever I have the hope that we can make this education as affordable and accessible to as many people as possible.

In the middle of all that is happening in so many places in Europe I have at times been humbled and embarrassed when people have offered to pray for me and the future of IBTS. On the other hand the truth is that we need your prayer so we covet them and are grateful for them.


June 24th, 2014

We are in our season of transitions.  The Library has already removed from Jenerálka to Postjesweg in Amsterdam and David, Zdenko and Vladko are working hard on assembling it ready for the Academic Year 2014-2015.

Meanwhile on the Jenerálka campus the academic year 2013-2014 has to be put to bed. So yesterday (Monday 23 June) the Exam board dealing with Master of Theology degrees from the University of Wales met to review progress of the final batch of MTh students and to pass results on for verification at the University Exam Board meeting in Cardiff in the first part of July. We were delighted to have our Moderator, Dr Helen Costigane SHCJ, presiding and our External Examiner, Dr Ann Jeffers, with us. Unfortunately, no one from the University Registry could be present. This appears to be the last Exam Board for the University of Wales at IBTS as all continuing students are now at Dissertation writing stage.

On Thursday we will hold our first Exam Board for students now doing the MA in Baptistic Histories and Theologies validated by the University of Manchester. We look forward to having Professor David R Law (our Manchester University Moderator) and the Revd Dr Nicholas J Wood (Regents Park College, University of Oxford, External Examiner, with us on campus. Our thanks go to those who have served us so well as Moderators and External Examiners  over the past  sixteen years.

- Keith