Archive for November, 2013

Praying for the World

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

This week it’s Jeff leading our morning prayers – yesterday included placing candles on various places on the map as we prayed for them. Thanks to our graduate and now volunteer, Sasha, for the photos!

Lady Library

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

A delightful update from our amazing Head Librarian, Zdenko!

When my wife saw the title of this blog, she commented, “How typical for you” – and she was quite right. It is typical for me to develop intensive and intimate relationships with inanimate things and to give them names as a sign of this relationship. For example, my pipes have female names, my laptop and my pans also, and I greet the apartment every evening when I arrive home. Yes, first I gently and polite greet the apartment, and only then I greet and kiss my wife. Taking the above into account, it is not unusual at all (at least for me) to talk about ‘Lady Library’ (see capital ‘L’s) and to perceive it not as a collection of dead things, but as a living organism, even as an existence – dynamic, changing and progressive. Writing about this Lady for me involves a certain element of self-disclosure, but I assume that is a part of blog-writing. Now, what is happening with this lady? What is going on in the Library? (more…)

Busy and exciting times

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

The first two full weeks in November usually mean Intensive session for IBTS – and it certainly has been a very intensive period so far! As you may have seen in an earlier blog entry, several of us have started our last week in Amsterdam, listening to Dr Cathy Ross talking on Global Christianity and Hospitality for our Nordenhaug lectures. Then the ‘IBTS crew’ travelled back, picking up one of our students, Kristina from Latvia, who continued with her classes in our Prague campus.

This week traditionally is the Dissertation Writing Seminar Week. So yesterday we welcomed and today we listened to the dissertation proposals of six of our M-level students: Walid from Lebanon, Ben from South Russia, Torben from Denmark, Anatoliy from the Ukraine, Tomek from Poland, and Ingeborg from the Netherlands. As you can imagine, this is quite a feast for anyone interested in contextual theological studies! To me, this is one of the favourite times: hearing the students beginning to verbalise their research plans, listening to their motivations for taking up a specific topic, wrestling with almost inevitably too wide an area of research, then focussing, then hearing them report again and seeing the proposals maturing and taking shape, and writing commencing. What a privilege to walk alongside them, encourage them, and see them grow as theological thinkers and servants to their faith communities!

One other exciting addition this week has been the first visit of our Academic Advisor, Prof David Law, for our new MA in Baptistic Histories and Theologies programme. He also took part in one of the dissertation proposal reporting sessions, met with the staff and students, and offered encouraging comments and helpful questions. Although this year’s intake for this new programme is small given the timing of its commencement, it’s exciting to see the opportunities this programme provides to those interested in reflecting on the history, theology, practice, or mission of baptistic communities. If I were to start my M-level education now, this is the programme I would want to do!! So if you are interested, or know someone contemplating master-level theology studies, do have a look at this one! (Well, the last bit may sound like a ‘PR exercise’, but it really comes out of my genuine excitement for this newest ‘baby’ of IBTS!)

So, just a bit of an update for those of you interested in how things are going! Will try to post some photos tomorrow for those of you visual people. Do keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

– Lina



Wednesday, November 6th, 2013

Following its meeting in Prague on 1 November the Board of Trustees of the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) announced its unanimous decision that the Rector of the International Baptist Theological Study Centre (IBTS Centre) in Amsterdam is to be The Revd Dr Stuart Blythe, at present Interim Principal of the Scottish Baptist College, where he has been on the staff for the past eight years. He will take up his new post in the summer of 2014.

Stuart Blythe is the first head of the institution to be an IBTS graduate alumnus, obtaining his BD degree magna cum laude at Rüschlikon in 1989. Before that he had graduated MA from the University of Glasgow in modern and medieval history. He then had ministries in the Scottish Baptist Churches at Springburn and Kirkintilloch, latterly as Senior Pastor of a large suburban church. He completed an MTh degree through Spurgeon’s College in 2003, and followed this with a PhD in Homiletics from the University of Edinburgh in 2009.

His primary areas of teaching and research are in the areas of practical theology with a concern for Baptist and anabaptist identity and the contribution which this particular perspective can bring to church ministry and mission. Over the years he has been involved in various ways with the Baptist Union of Scotland and has encouraged thinking and practice in line with what it means to live under the rule of Christ.

The Scottish Baptist College is based in the University of the West of Scotland and Stuart has continued to develop his learning through this University with a Postgraduate Certificate in Learning and teaching in Higher Education. He is committed to the idea of life-long learning and that education can be informative, formative, and transformative. He has several published articles in his specialist area of homiletics. Recently he has participated in the annual Doctoral Colloquium at IBTS Prague.

Dr Blythe describes himself as a ‘convictional Baptist’ with a passionate concern for God’s mission. With respect to his new position he says he feels honoured to be invited to take up this post and excited by the challenges ahead. ‘Our churches in Europe and beyond face a challenging and changing missionary situation. IBTS has an established reputation of high academic quality not least with attention to the Baptist tradition. My hope is that the tough thinking, research interests, and students of IBTS will be able to support our churches as they seek courageously to bear faithful witness to Jesus Christ in their various contexts. The relocation of IBTS to Amsterdam seems somewhat symbolic and the close partnerships this offer, full of potential.’

Stuart has been married to his wife Susanne for 29 years and they have two grown up children, a son Stephen (25) and a daughter Kim Michal (21). He was converted and baptised as a teenager in his home town of Uddingston near Glasgow.

Stuart Blythe’s appointment was warmly welcomed by the outgoing Chair of the IBTS Board of Trustees, the Revd Dr Ruth Gouldbourne, who also chaired the Search Group: ‘Appointing somebody to the kind of key position as Rector of IBTS is always a crucial task – and at this time of change, even more so. We believe that Stuart brings to the position energy, vision and skills that will be significant in helping us develop the new patterns and relationships that will mark the life of IBTS in the next years.’

Speaking on behalf of the current IBTS community Acting Rector Dr Parush Parushev warmly welcomed the decision of the BoT to appoint Dr Blythe. ‘We feel he is already well known to us from his participation in the academic life of IBTS and from our personal contacts with him over recent years. We have full confidence in his academic expertise and in him fitting into the communal sprit of IBTS. We hope he will feel that IBTS is his natural academic home.’

The Revd Dr Jim Purves, friend, colleague, and Mission and Ministry Adviser to the Baptist Union of Scotland, described Stuart Blythe’s appointment as marking ‘an exciting, new stage in our service of the church throughout the European Baptist Federation and beyond. Stuart’s skills as pastor, theologian and educationalist are well suited to and will be ably exercised in leading both faculty and students in pursuing our IBTS mission of developing baptist values for effective mission into the 21st century.’

‘Stuart Blythe impressed us first of all as a person of strong Christian faith and Baptist conviction’ commented the Revd Tony Peck, a member of the Search Group and the General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation which owns IBTS. ‘Add to this his impressive academic background, his considerable experience in theological education, and his passion for the Gospel and the mission of God, and I believe we have someone who will build on the past achievements of IBTS whilst also being open to new and exciting possibilities for IBTS when it moves to Amsterdam. I also discern that he is someone who can gain the trust and confidence of Baptists in all parts of the EBF.’

Nordenhaug Lectures in Amsterdam

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013

This year’s Nordenhaugh lectures, delivered by Dr Cathy Ross at the VU University, marked an exciting new beginning in the history of IBTS:  the first IBTS event in Amsterdam. Here are some of my impressions.

Firstly, what an amazing place Amsterdam is! The areas I moved around in were looked after, the impressive trains in good condition and the metro and trams so well run; and everyone seems to speak perfect English! Possibly because English is a mandatory part of the curriculum in Dutch schools. People were really helpful when I had to make some unplanned changes to my itinerary.

Our Dutch colleagues are so genuinely enthusiastic about our arrival here. I am fully persuaded that the move over to offering the VU doctorate will work well for our IBTS students. The expanded menu of DMin and Masters degrees provides good alternatives for busy pastors, missionaries and teachers.

Cathy was great. Very practical. Taking us in, through a journey that recognised that all theology is contextual, Cathy addressed the nature of Hospitality as Creating Space for the Other; Hospitality as Seeing the Other and Hospitality as Nourishing the Other. After lunch, she led us into reflections on mission through Attentiveness as Creating Space for Hospitality; Hospitality as Presence and Hospitality from the Margins. The closing panel time, with Keith, Lina, Cathy, Henk and Parush, was a stimulating and creative conclusion.

All of which reinforces a conviction that has been steading growing in me for a long time. Authentically Christian mission must be rooted in authentic ministry: that is, in looking to humbly help and serve the ‘other’ through bearing the presence of God’s kingdom – righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit – through the vehicle of our own humanity. This is what witnessing to the Kingdom of God is anchored in. Without this, any proclamation is no more that a hollow and harsh heckling of others. Jesus did not proclaim without offering practical helps: neither should we.

So, all in all, a good prelude to a full movement! I really look forward to the IBTS Research Intensives here in Amsterdam here in January. May God strengthen our full-time colleagues who labour in Prague towards completing the transfer to Amsterdam.

Jim (Purves)