What lies ahead for the International Baptist Theological Seminary?
N a z a r e t h – What lies ahead for the International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Prague? The college is the central training school of the European Baptist Federation. This question is being considered by the 140 participants in the EBF Council from September 21-24 in Nazareth (Israel). The theology school, which moved from the Swiss area of Rüschlikon near Zurich to the Czech capital in 1997, finds itself in serious financial difficulties. According to information from the Norwegian head of the EBF Finance Committee, Jan Saethre (Siljan), the seminary operates with an annual deficit of 265 000 Euros. All attempts to cut this deficit in half in the past few years have failed. “We haven’t been able to do it. The situation is very serious“, said Saethre. The foundation which supports IBTS in Switzerland still has a capital of about 2.6 million Euros. However, it is not possible to wait for this capital to be completely used up. There are four other possibilities for keeping the school running. The best would to find a financially strong partner, who would join the work at the current site. However, all attempts to find such a partner have met with no success. The second best possibility would be to work together with the Brethren Church in the Czech Republic. The Brethren plan to establish their own seminary, with a connected social ministry. However, this 100-million Euro project can only be implemented if the European Union contributes a subsidy of 80 million Euros and the Brethren Church itself can raise 20 million Euros. The requests for support have been made, but not yet decided. IBTS could also relocate to that site. If that should not prove possible, the IBTS could also relocate to the site Elstal training center of the German Baptist Union near Berlin, or to the site of the Free University in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Three other proposals discussed internally, in Vienna, Austria, Budapest, Hungary, and Stockholm, Sweden, have already been rejected by the Implementation Task Force. In any case, in Saethre’s opinion, a move to another location only makes sense if the costs are significantly lower than in Prague.
The chairman of the IBTS Board of Trustees, Ruth Goldbourne (London), emphasized at the conference the significance of the school. It helps strengthen the identity of Baptists in Europe. Surveys among the students have shown that, in addition to the content of the courses, they especially value the international fellowship.
The delegates requested that member unions of the EBF contribute 10 Euros per union annually, in order to promote the feeling that IBTS is a training school for all Baptists in Europe.