The IBTS conference ‘Dimensions of Baptist Identity’ took place on 23-24 April 2021 on Zoom. Even if a new experience for some, the electronic environment offered a space for enriching discussions and gave a glimpse of the broad spectrum of the issue that the conference explored. No doubt, being in the same room physically is preferable for exchanging ideas and building academic relationships; nevertheless, the electronic conference offers its own benefits, making it easier to ‘travel’ geographically and timewise.
This conference brought together people from different continents and countries and ‘accommodated’ about fifty participants and guests for the first session. There were thirteen presentations altogether in four main sessions and four short-paper sessions.
The keynote speaker for the conference was Professor Curtis Freeman (Duke University) whose paper “Framing Baptist Identity” emphasised the continuous need to tell the story and conceptualise the multifaceted topic in narrative and performative ways. Other papers dealt with Baptist ecumenical relations, diaconal ministry, discipleship, worship, religious freedom and other aspects of being a Baptist and/or baptist. Some presentations directed the focus onto local developments, such as Ian Randall’s exploration of St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church in Cambridge, and Ivan Kunderenko’s survey about developments in Ukrainian evangelical theological education.
It is part of the IBTS mission to facilitate discussion on Baptist identity, either from historical, missional or practical theology perspectives. This conference reflected all three areas and helpfully threw light on the interpretation of how to grasp the sometimes rather elusive concept of ‘identity’. It is, said Freeman, not only about identity, but also about identification.
Toivo Pilli, Director of Baptist Studies.