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The IBTS Centre Amsterdam

Having been involved with European Baptists and their theological training for several decades, Alec Gilmore recently visited the IBTS Centre in Amsterdam for the first time 


After close links over 30 years with European Baptists and the International Baptist Theological Seminary in Rüschlikon, followed by a further ten on the move to Prague, initially to organise the EBF archives, with occasional lecturing to  the point where I became a Senior Research Fellow, all of which came to a natural end with the move to Amsterdam (in 2014), I inevitably found myself wondering many times how things were progressing.

Should I try to find out, should I keep my distance? With gentle encouragement in a couple of Christmas card exchanges with staff, I decided to pay a visit and by mid-January found myself sitting in the January Colloquium when doctoral students come together to meet their supervisors.

IBTSC300The differences from Prague were unmissable. No building, no residential students, no visitor accommodation; just two rented floors in a four-storey block prior to moving shortly into their permanent home in a developing Baptist church a few hundred yards down the road. Over three days some 20 doctoral students had come together together, with the Rector Stuart Blythe, and their supervisors, four with their proposals for research and the rest with presentations on their progress.

Over three days each had a one to one session with their supervisors and had to present their work to their peers and other supervisors. Validation of their work comes from the free University in Amsterdam and (in the case of an MA required to access the course) Manchester University.

Since the ethos of Prague was Applied Theology (and this has been maintained) topics varied but were always well-earthed. In Norway, for example, where the Lutheran Church is no longer a State Church but a Folk Church, one student was proposing to examine the impact of this (and other changes such as secularism, globalisation and the growth of evangelical and pentecostal churches) in relation to baptism, incidentally raising issues which were hot potatoes in Britain in the early days of the ecumenical movement.

A Ghanaian student researching issues of church government in Ghana opened up wide discussion as to what we mean when we use the word 'democratic' in Baptist circles, and a third was well into a study of the Work of the Holy Spirit in the Community in the light of the Roman Catholic theologian Yves Congar.

As if that were not enough we had two J D Hughey Lectures from Ian Randall on the Anabaptists and the Bruderhof; two Research Seminars, one led by Anthony Cross on 'Historical Research and the Nature of the Knowledge it Produces' and the other by a Professor from the Canadian Mennonite University on 'Ecclesiology and Ethnography: a Baptist Project'; and a Library Session on 'Research Data and Data Management'.

I came home well satisfied that I had made the right decision. One half of me regretted that I had limited myself to only half the event. The other half told me politely that I was privileged to have that.

What I had no doubt about was that the best of Rüshlikon and Prague were being retained and re-modelled in an entirely new environment for a new world.   

Alec Gilmore: 'A significant contribution to EBF life'
By Tony Peck, General Secretary of the European Baptist Federation

Alec GilmoreAlec Gilmore (89) is a British Baptist minister who has been a local pastor, author and publisher. He edited, co-authored, and authored a number of significant books in the 1950s, 60s and 70s that broke new ground in our understanding of aspects of Baptist identity and ecclesiology.

His importance in the story of the EBF is that in the 1970s, together with the then Baptist Union of Great Britain General Secretary, David Russell, Alec served on the EBF Books and Translations Committee. Out of this he and David Russell developed 'EUROLIT' as means of getting much-needed biblical and theological books to pastors in the Communist Bloc who often had no books at all except for the Bible.

In particular, in partnership with the St Andrew Press, they arranged for the New Testament commentaries of the Scottish biblical scholar William Barclay to be translated into Russian and other Slavic languages. Even today, you sometimes see on the shelves of older pastors in these countries a line of red books that helped them during those difficult years in their exposition and preaching of Scripture. One of these Baptist Unions has recently requested that the books be made available in electronic form for a new generation.
In more recent years, Alec became a Visiting Fellow of IBTS in Prague, whose teaching and engagement with students was much appreciated. At the same time he undertook to sort and catalogue the IBTSC and EBF Archives. This was truly a 'labour of love' involving him a number of visits to Prague over several years. The quality of Alec's work with the EBF Archives is shown by the readiness of the historic Angus Library in Regent's Park Oxford, England, to accept them and add them to the archives of the early years of the EBF already there. This means that, thanks to Alec's good work, the EBF archives are now all in one place where they are readily accessible to future generations of Baptist researchers.
We honour Alec Gilmore for his significant contribution to EBF life over many years. We note that he continues to write and engage with theology!
Alec expressed a desire to come to Amsterdam to experience something of the new reality of the International Baptist Theological Study Centre there. IBTSC was delighted to welcome him during its Doctoral Colloquium in January, and he wrote the above personal reflection after his visit.
For more of Alec's writing, visit his website: http://www.gilco.org.uk/

IBTSC Amsterdam exists to help train leaders and conduct research that can aid the Christian church in its mission and ministry in Europe and beyond through internationally focused, European based, baptistic theological education. IBTSC’s primary areas of research and education lie in Anabaptist/Baptist histories and theologies, Missiology, and Practical Theology – Identity, Mission and Practice.

Baptist Times, 02/02/2017
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