Shaping Theological Education through Global Conversation

I love being a Baptist, because being Baptist is all about freedom— freedom of worship, freedom of belief, freedom that’s for all people. Every January, I leave the cold lands of my Kentucky home and return to the place where Baptists began. 

Amsterdam is a city less for known Baptist history and more for abnormal coffee shops. It is here where I gather annually with believers from around the world to share research and engage in global issues and challenges. 

The International Baptist Studies Centre (IBTS) has a long history of providing theological education for faith leaders in countries around the globe. Located on the west side of the city, research colleagues travel from all around the world for the annual Colloquium, hosting conversations among scholars.

IBTS is a research community for the global church, a place for holy colloquy. This week, we gathered once again to engage in conversations on a global scale that touch our academic and ecclesial context. IBTS is one of the few Baptist communities that lives out the true nature of being Baptist. 

Baptists create space for freedom of thought, belief and practice. Getting out of the country is a privilege in itself. 

Studying abroad every year is even more so. It is in this global Baptist community that I become fully aware of the privilege I have as an American. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love being an American. America is all about freedom— freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom that’s supposed to be for all people. 

However, I’ve learned that as an American and a white person, I often arrogantly take these freedoms for granted. As a white American, it can be difficult to engage in a global conversation while sitting in the comfort of a coffee house where lattes cost more than an hourly wage in many countries. 

As a white American, it is challenging to see beyond my own bias to what is going on around the world when I have been taught that the world revolves around me. It isn’t until I literally step beyond the blinding biosphere of my narrow world that I learn to see how big God really is. When I engage with global diverse thoughts and beliefs, I get to see the Holy Spirit do her best work, transforming lives.  

IBTS creates a path to step into holy, transformative conversations with sisters and brothers living faithfully around the world.  It is a holy place where talking about peace looks different with a colleague from Lebanon. It is a sacred space where understanding war looks different when you listen to a theologian from Ukraine and a pastor from Russia. 

This is a community engaging in transformative conversations about justice and reconciliation from womanist, Jewish and Muslim scholars. Year after year, my eyes are opened when I show up at the Baptist House in Amsterdam. 

Year after year, my mind is transformed when I hear about the scholarly work from my global colleagues. Year after year, my spirit is renewed when I hear testimonies of the transformative work of the Holy Spirit in churches around the world. 

As a Baptist pastor and American doctoral student, I am so grateful that IBTS is shaping theological education by engaging in global conversation.

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