Archive for the ‘IBTS travels’ Category

Vienna and Vienna again…

Monday, March 27th, 2017

In the past two weeks I have been in Vienna twice to participate in two EBF conferences.

The first of these was the EBF Younger Leaders’ Programme TRANSFORM held from 15-18 March. Present were six men and five women who had been identified by their Baptist Unions or Conventions as having gifts and potential to exercise leadership in a wider setting with an international dimension. The focus of this gathering was on discipleship and I contributed around themes of: less conventional biblical images of discipleship as leadership, the communal nature of discipleship, and the practices of discipleship. Perhaps a key theme which emerged through all of this was how we deal with and respect different cultural contexts which influence biblical interpretation.

After a few days back in Amsterdam I returned for the  joint conference of EBF Mission and Evangelism Commission and Youth and Children Workers.

At this conference I had the task of ‘re-imagining’ discipleship, the Church, and mission. Of course whether what I offered was a re-imagining would depend upon how people imagined these things in the first place! On this again, contextual, cultural, and hermeneutical come into play. This said, I would suggest that re-imagining these issues begins by us not separating these issues, or arguing which one has priority, but rather by viewing them as integrated in the call, challenge, and grace of Jesus Christ which takes priority. In so far as we can talk about them separately I drew upon the work of the late Athol Gill to offer the biblical images of…Following Jesus, Friends for the Journey, and Engaging the Powers as perspectives from which to view discipleship, Church, and mission respectively. In viewing each on in this way one cannot really talk about them without reference to the others.

Part of the pleasure in being in Vienna was to see the great and developmental work being carried out by the Baptist Church there under the leadership of Walter Klimt and his team. To be honest they are embodying what I was talking about in a clear way. Below is Walter beginning the Conference speaking about Luke 4.



CEBTS Elstal

Monday, July 4th, 2016

CEBTS (1)Between Wednesday 29th June and Saturday 2nd of July the bi-annual meeting of the Confederation of European Baptist Schools took place in Elstal Germany hosted by the Theologische Hochschule Elstal. The theme of this particular conference was: In which way is our Baptist Movement linked to or in tension with the Reformation in Europe in the 16th century?

A number of shorter and longer papers were presented which allowed insight into the ways in which the events of the Reformation impacted various countries and contexts such as Spain and Italy and also the way in which various theological themes have been and can be interpreted. Some of these will be published in a future edition of IBTSC Baptistic Theologies.

A guided day trip to Lutherstadt Wittenberg offered a fascinating insight into the events associated with martin Luther.

The theme aside, as ever, those participating valued the opportunity for contact and conversations with others also involved in Baptist theological education in Europe and beyond and the hope of this years participants is that another event will be held in 2017.

CMU Ministers Conference

Saturday, 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…


Monday, 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

Rector Update

Sunday, 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.

Building new partnerships, working hard to get the paperwork right

Monday, March 10th, 2014

As a result of the decision of the University of Wales to cease validating institutions and its present downsizing, at IBTS we have been working hard at building new partnerships to replace this defunct collaboration with a once-great federal University.

Parush, Lina, Lydie and Tim have worked incredibly hard to “give flesh” to the relationship with the VU University in Amsterdam for our doctoral programme and with the University of Manchester for the MA in Baptistic Histories and Theologies.

Last week I accompanied Lina to the Religions & Theology Academic Panel which is a meeting of academics from the Department of Religions & Theology and the theological college partners (Nazarene Theological College; Cliff College; Luther King House Educational Trust; Spurgeon’s College and IBTS). Lina presented various changes to our MA programme to allow for a Postgraduate Certificate and a Postgraduate Diploma. The Chair of the Academic Panel commended Lina on the high quality of the materials submitted and suggested it might serve as a model for others !

IBTS has been exceptionally blessed to have two outstanding Academic Deans in succession – Parush and Lina – as we have steered through the trials of changing our validation and academic credentials. The whole EBF family should be very thankful to them for their outstanding and sterling work !

– Keith


Lady Library Has a New Friend

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Yet another impression from VU Amsterdam………this time about the library

Part of my last month‘s mission in Amsterdam was to visit the VU University and Theology Library, a new home for the majority of our doctoral students, and to explore various possibilities for them in regard to how to use the library most effectively, how to get a WiFi, where to order the books, etc. For me, it was actually a refreshment to be in the library and not to keep in mind MARC 21, AACR2, authorities, Z39.50 and other highly specialized library tasks.

Mind you, several things seemed very strange to a conservative part of my personality, such as students entering the library area with books in their coats, with bags, even with coffee and sandwiches. I really do not want to know how the books over which a student has just had a snack look like, but hey, it is the Dutch way of understanding academic freedom, certainly not part of my librarianship philosophy.

But, there is something more important, namely that IBTS has received a strong partner. In the area of learning resources and library this partnership has a different impact than accreditation perspective. You see, I always had (and still have) many ideas that could be implemented in the Library, but not all of them were suitable for such unique, but still small library as ours inPrague. Being a small library means that there will never be enough personnel and finances to start some projects, and for our small number of visitors and patrons many of them would not give much sense.

But I have always envied big libraries for having a sufficient humanpower and infrastructure to develop all their ideas and  to be able to provide the best possible service to students. In our Lady Library we were always student-oriented and made effort to provide as much service as we could, but I admit it was never the best possible service; what two (now only one) librarians and occasional volunteers can do could never  be compared with the work of several tens of librarians in a machinery as VU University library is. If you could just see the number of online resources that VU Library provides and enter the premises with almost perfect conditions for making a research and writing, you would see the advantages that a huge Library can provide to students.

Therefore after my short Amsterdam trip I am actually very optimistic regarding the future: we will still have the best collection of English theological books in the area, and better resources on doing research in Baptist studies, missiology and applied theology than anyone else, but our Library will always remain a small library with limited possibilities. Therefore, it is good that our Lady Library has a new friend who will help her with service and resources.

 – Zdenko Š Širka

Head Librarian

Chips and More Chips

Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Not the edible variety but electronic chips. In Amsterdam a chipkaart enables you to use the metro, trams buses and trains. You load lots of euros onto the card and it gets subtracted each journey you make. It feels like traveling for free and it’s only when you have to recharge your card that you’re reminded it isn’t. In the Student Hotel you are given a round blue key fob. You don’t need a real key as the chip inside it opens the doors from the public area and the door to your bedroom. To buy anything at the hotel’s restaurant (called The Kitchen!), you can only use a debit or credit card – chips again. You can buy edible chips but only by using an electronic chip. And to go back to where I started (or just to keep on traveling), you need the chip in your debit or credit card to recharge your chipkaart.

Chips may make life easier. That is until your bank takes the money from your account.

– Simon