European Baptists Elect a New President: Valeriu Ghiletchi

European Baptists Elect a New President: Valeriu Ghiletchi

Klaus Rösler - August 05, 2009

Amsterdam – The European Baptist Federation (EBF) has a new President: the Moldovan politician and Baptist pastor Valeriu Ghiletchi (Chisinau). As scheduled, the 49-year-old has succeeded the Croat Toma Magda (Cakovec) and will serve for the next two-year term as President. In early April, Ghiletchi had been elected to the Moldovan parliament as a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, becoming thereby the only evangelical politician in the ranks of the parliamentary opposition. Working originally as an engineer, Ghiletchi was ordained pastor in 1996 following a programme of theological studies. He served for two periods as President of the Moldovan Union, to which 470 congregations with 20.400 members belong. Before transitioning into the political arena, Ghiletchi had resigned from all leading church positions. Meeting in Amsterdam on 24 July, the EBF’s Council confirmed him unanimously in his new office as EBF head. From 24 to 26 July, the EBF is celebrating in Amsterdam the 400th anniversary of the founding of the Baptist movement.

Hans Guderian elected Vice-President

A German was elected the EBF’s new Vice-President: the Berlin Baptist pastor Hans Guderian. Until the end of 2008, the 60-year-old had served for more than 12 years as General-Secretary of the European Baptist Mission (EBM). At the beginning of this year, he became Pastor of a 160-member Baptist congregation in Berlin-Oberschцneweide. Guderian possesses wide experience in the EBF. He has been a member of the EBF’s Executive for 14 years, initially heading the “Department for Mission and Evangelisation”. He has served for the past 10 years as Chairman of the Nominations Committee.

IBTS: Funds will only suffice for three more years

The primary topic for the EBF-Council’s consultations concerned the future of Prague’s “International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS). Twelve years ago, the seminar had been moved from Rьschlikon near Zurich to the Czech capital of Prague. The former “Small Palace Jeneralka” was rebuilt to become the seminary’s new campus. Since that time, 255 students from 44 countries have received an additional theological degree there. Six of these obtained a doctoral degree and 92 a Masters degree. The EBF’s central offices are also located on this campus. Yet it remains doubtful whether this centre of Baptist activity can remain at this location. As the Chairman of the EBF’s Finance Committee, the Norwegian Jan Saethre (Siljan), explained, the surplus stemming from the sale of the Rьschlikon property, which is administered by a Swiss-based foundation sponsoring IBTS, is constantly decreasing. In 1999, a profit of 6,3 million Euros used to finance the work of IBTS had been chalked up. But thanks to the financial crisis, that profit had shrunk to 1,3 million Euros last year. At the present rate, the foundation’s entire holdings should be consumed within three to three-and-a-half years. In order to finance the work of IBTS, assets have been reduced between 200.000 and 500.000 Euros annually in recent years. EBF-General-Secretary Tony Peck (Prague) underscored the meaning of IBTS for European Baptist identity.

Following a controversial discussion, the Council approved a proposal of the EBF-Executive with five dissenting votes and three abstentions to give an existing strategy group the right to consider a sale of the Prague property if it is deemed necessary. Yet before such a far-reaching final decision is to be made, the member Unions will need to be informed and invited to attend a further meeting on the topic. Under consideration is a move of the IBTS-campus to another, cheaper location in the Czech Republic or even to another country. Various Baptist Unions have expressed an interest in having IBTS cooperate with their own national educational institution.