Archive for January, 2012

Despise Not the Counsel of the Poor

Monday, January 30th, 2012

So it’s all go here – we’re done with one week of Research Colloquia and now have started M-level intensives plus the conference “Despise not the counsel of the poor: Convictions on religious freedom, the power of the states and the state of the powers,” organised by Thomas Helwys Institute for Study of Religious Freedom. Tonight’s the opening of the conference, with Dr Raimundo Barreto of Freedom&Justice Division of the Baptist World Alliance. There’s a good number of participants – some of them our own students who have stayed on in order to take part, but also other friends from different parts of Europe and the world.

Raimundo recalled the 400th anniversary of the first publication of Thomas Helwys’ book A Short Declaration of the Mystery of Iniquity, often cited as the first publication to address issues of religious freedom. The title of the conference comes from Helwys’ dedicatory handwritten note to the King, where he calls on the King to allow freedom of conscience for all his subjects. So on this first evening we reflected on how such conviction that every human being (and every community) is entitled to the freedom of conscience has been enacted in different contexts since the times of Helwys. What does this mean today for the church which lives between the times, asked Raimundo. One of the most important contributions of the church, he suggested, is its public witness in sustaining the plurality and secularity of the contemporary societies. The danger facing the church remains that of becoming victims of our own success and becoming a part of the establishment, thus foregoing our task  to stay in solidarity with the powerless and the poor. A proper theology of power needs to be developed, he suggested. Finally, more than ever we need to tie our work for religious freedom with the desire to seek peace with others who believe differently.

A good discussion already arose on the basis of Raimundo’s presentation – so the next few days for those in the conference look exciting.

– Lina


Thursday, January 12th, 2012

Arak Donald (Nigeria) is the newest member of our residential community–due to visa problems, he had to miss the September Orientation and Intensives and was only able to join us for the Second Intensives in November. It’s been great having him around and learning much more about Nigeria and Arak’s life and experience an African Baptist perspective on things.

Here Arak is reflecting on the ‘culture shock’ he experienced by coming to Europe (and to such a strange place as IBTS!):

I have heard and read about “Culture Shock” in missions but have never experienced it until my arrival in Prague on 02/11/2011. It all started in the airport after coming out to the taxi park. I stood there for 45 minutes waiting for a Seminary’s car or bus with bold inscription like IBTS PRAGUE just as it is with famous Seminarys, Universities and Colleges in Nigeria. My attempts to ask passers-by, including the Police, were fruitless because they didn’t understand English. Gazing at the blue sky, I suddenly realised there was no single black person around. I quietly but audibly asked myself, Yaro, me ya kawo ka irin wannan kasa (Man! What brought you to this kind of country?) I tried going back inside and there saw a young man displaying a card on which it said ‘IBTS’. With a deep relief I approached him and said, “I am the one” without waiting for any further introduction. He kindly helped me to the car. This young man was Zlatko Sebesta.

It was lunch time and I went to the dinning with the aim of washing my two hands and dipping my five fingers into the food to interact by eating and licking my fingers as usual. It turned out to be a different thing. I was given what I can best describe as “leaves and grass” with spoon, knife and fork. I was complaining within, what is this, is this food? I am in real trouble. I acted as if everything was ok and as if I was enjoying the meal—but I was not.

My first Sunday at IBTS was on 06/11/2011. I thought I will be comforted of my loneliness and shock through the mode of worship. The worship was blessed through the sermon, but afterwards I felt bad again, because it was my first time to attend worship without clapping, dancing, singing choruses, shouting amen and halleluiah to the glory of my God. That Sunday I had to ask myself a serious question, “Am I in the right place?” I called my friend who is in his final year of PhD study at Liverpool Hope University and complained to him. He laughed and laughed but then told me to relax: I will get used to it. He told me of his experience which was almost the same as mine. To God be the glory, the story is different today: I have made some major adjustments. With the loving, caring and family life in IBTS community, I can answer myself that what I considered leaves and grass is really balanced diet and truly, I am in the right place, with the right people, for the right purpose.  I love IBTS.

– Arak

Subscribe to our email notifications!

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Our wonderful IT master, Ivan, has just set up an email notification service to which you, the readers, are very welcome to subscribe. What it means is that you’ll get a little email when we post a new entry. Try it out!

Your happy blog co-moderator,

– Lina

Is the Baptist World Alliance truly international?

Monday, January 9th, 2012

The Baptist World Alliance (BWA) was founded in 1905 principally by English speaking Baptist communities together with a handful of European nations. Over 105 years later it has become a major Christian world communion with representative member bodies in almost every nation of the globe. Between 2005 and 2010 I served on a group seeking to truly internationalise the “leadership” of this word Christian communion to equip it to represent the real Baptist family of the 21st century.  Sadly, it has proved to be a hard task!

Recently the BWA sought to initiate conversations with world Pentecostalism. Baptists interact with Pentecostalists in all continents of our world, but we could not, it seems, create an international team for this important dialogue!

Who represents us?

Neville Callam – graduate, Harvard, USA

Fausto Vasconcales – doctoral degree, South Western Seminary, USA

Timothy George, Dean, Beeson Divinity School, Samford University, USA

Bill Brackney, Acadia University, Nova Scotia, Canada

Curtis Freeman, Duke University, North Carolina, USA

All the above are excellent academics, but where is the representation from Africa, Asia, Central Asia, Europe (east and west), Central America and the like where Baptist – Pentecostal encounter is so important?

–  Keith

Czech Census insights

Thursday, January 5th, 2012

Like many other parts of Europe, the Czech Republic had a census earlier this year and the Czech Statistics Office are providing the first set of global figures with detailed analysis to come in the third quarter of 2012 and submission of more precise outcomes to the European Union in 2013.

There are few surprises, at least from my perspective! The trend towards people wanting to describe themselves regionally or ethnically, rather than as a “citizen of a nation state” grows here as it does in so many places of Europe. So, more people classify themselves as Moravians or Slovakians or Roma rather than “Czech”. There has been growth of the number of foreigners living here since the last census with massive growth of those escaping from Putin’s Russia and the perverse government in the Ukraine. I think this movement to local identity and feeling ourselves citizens of Europe, abandoning much interest in the nation state, is common in Spain, the United Kingdom, Belgium and Italy. For my part I find it no bad thing (and long to belong, as a European, to a Yorkshire set free of the tentacles of Westminster and the dangerous powers of  a London elite).

On the religious front this most secular of nations continues on its journey, though the Roman Catholic Church still has 1.8 million out of 11 million citizens claiming to be adherents. The Czechoslovak Evangelical Brethren Church (a partner of the Church of Scotland and a classic reformed church) is the largest Protestant grouping with 52,000 people claiming membership, whilst the Hussites ( a denomination formed in the First Republic c 1920 to claim the heritage of Jan Hus) apparently has 32,000 people willing to say that is what they are. The Baptists hover somewhere about the 4,000 mark. This might be considered as worrying when over 15,000 people in the census claimed their religious affiliation to be Knights of the Jedi!

As to personal life, the divorce rate continues to rise. Meanwhile more people have an indoor toilet and a bath than a decade ago.

We await more detailed analysis in due course and the opportunity to comparer this country with others within the European Union.

– Keith