EBF Desires to Retain IBTS in Prague

EBF Desires to Retain IBTS in Prague

Klaus Rösler - October 08, 2009

Prague – Prague’s International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) may have a future at its present location, the former “Little Castle Jeneralka”, after all. That was reported following a consultation of the European Baptist Federation (EBF) at the Prague campus on 1 and 2 October. It had become known in May that the European Baptists’ educational institute, which had been relocated from Rüschlikon/Switzerland to Prague 12 years ago, was mired in financial difficulties due in part to the present financial crisis. The capital of a foundation, which had helped finance the on-going costs of IBTS, will be used up within another three to three-and-a-half years. The 30 participants from 10 countries were informed that IBTS has succeeded in renting out a number of its rooms, a portion of them to another educational institution: Prague College. IBTS has thereby gained additional breathing space. Questions have been asked as to whether an appropriate specialist could not locate additional renters for other buildings on the campus, allowing EBF to retain the location as a centre for European Baptists and IBTS. The EBF also has its central offices on this property. One had tended to assume until now that IBTS will need to leave its present location because of cost considerations.

A statement from the EBF reports that delegates present at the consultation “overwhelmingly affirmed” the view that the seminary needed to be retained as an academic centre for research and study. The doctoral and masters programmes, the options for research and the possibility of holding conferences all strengthen the common identity of the Baptists in Europe and the Middle East and are therefore of vital importance. Consultation participants suggested that IBTS also develop courses on leadership training for new young leaders within the various Unions and congregations as well as for the members of ethnic communities. These could be non-degree courses.

A strategy group on the future of IBTS installed by the EBF’s Council had envisioned three possible options: retention of the present campus; move to a more modern and smaller campus with a reduced course offering in the vicinity of Prague; move IBTS to another European country. In the last scenario, cooperative agreements would be sought with another Baptist or evangelical institution. It was stated that the first option – remaining at the present location – will demand hard work in decreasing costs and increasing income in order to make it feasible. The second and third options were only to be considered if ongoing costs would be decidedly lower than in the first instance.

Tony Peck, the EBF’s General-Secretary, told the EBPS press service that the consultation, which had been led by the British Baptist David Goodbourn (Manchester), was “a very positive experience”: “There is no doubt that the EBF wishes IBTS to continue as a place of high academic
achievement and also as a meeting place for the different Unions and cultures which make up the EBF.”

IBTS-Rector Keith Jones (Prague) reported that no delegates from the Commonwealth of Independent States attended. Yet leading representatives from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine confirmed in writing that the work of IBTS plays an important role in their countries. Fifty-two Baptist Unions with a total membership of 800.000 belong to the EBF.