IBTS will move to Amsterdam as an International Baptist Study and Research Centre, probably by September 2014. This is the unanimous recommendation of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the Seminary to the Council of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) that will meet in Elstal, Germany, from 26-29 September 2012 to take the final decision. The proposal is to move into a new phase of partnership with the VU (Free) University of Amsterdam, the Baptist Union of the Netherlands and the Baptist Seminary of the Netherlands. In this way the Board of Trustees is confident that IBTS will continue to be at the forefront of European and worldwide Baptist research and study.
The global financial situation that has adversely affected the income of IBTS and the increasing financial burden of the upkeep of a very large suite of buildings in Prague, led to a severe financial crisis for IBTS from 2008 onwards. The BOT has been seeking to address this in a positive and visionary way, considering several options to secure the best possible future for IBTS. The conclusion was reached that the only way to meet the clear desire of European Baptists to continue the work of the Seminary was to refocus it as a non-residential International Baptist Study and Research Centre. This means selling the property in Prague and moving to a new location that better meets the current needs of IBTS, and in co-operation with a local Baptist Union and Seminary and a new academic context.
One of the joys of being Baptist is living with the provisional nature of all institutions, and the capacity to reshape how we do things to meet changing situations, comments Chair of the Board of Trustees, Dr Ruth Gouldbourne: It is exciting to see God once again leading us into new places, and to rest in the faith of this community, that wherever God leads God also opens the way and equips the people.
In Amsterdam, IBTS will be located in a “Baptist House’, a Baptist church building in South Amsterdam. The Baptist house will be shared by IBTS (including its specialist Library of Baptist and Anabaptist books and journals), the Baptist Union of the Netherlands which will move its offices to Amsterdam, the Baptist Seminary of the Netherlands, and the office of the EBF. Work to renovate and extend the church building will be carried out by the Baptist Union of the Netherlands. The “Baptist House’ will provide a setting to continue the strong community ethos of IBTS which is seen as one of its unique strengths by both staff and students.
IBTS has been invited to become an ‘embedded institution’ in the Faculty of Theology of the VU University Amsterdam, which is situated close to the proposed Baptist House. This University, founded by Dutch Calvinists, is now a large Public University which seeks to preserve a Christian ‘ethos’. The Faculty of Theology is one of the largest in Europe and already has several seminaries, including the Dutch Mennonites and Baptists, as embedded institutions. This will give the opportunity for sharing of academic and practical resources and higher degrees awarded by the VU University. IBTS will focus on doctoral level studies in Baptist and Anabaptist Studies, and Mission and Practical Theology. Study at Masters level will take place using the combined resources of the Centre and the VU University.