The Future of IBTS
The International Baptist Theological Seminary (IBTS) in Prague, Czech Republic, has made a substantial recovery from the financial crisis of 2009. Nevertheless it is likely that the Seminary must move to a new site in three years’ time.
At its governing Council meeting in Rome, Italy, from 22-25 September, the European Baptist Federation which owns the Seminary considered a Report and Recommendations from a Strategy Committee appointed by the IBTS Board of Trustees and the EBF itself, in order to consider the future of the Seminary in the light of the acute financial difficulties it has faced over the past 18 months.
The Council first heard the good news that with some recovery on the Stock Market and significant cost savings by the Seminary, the financial situation was not as serious as when the Council last met in Amsterdam in 2009. Tribute was paid to the Rector, Keith Jones, and his staff for the good way in which they are managing the Seminary with reduced financial and human resources.
The Council also heard that the 62nd year of the Seminary’s life had opened with another excellent intake of students, bringing the total student body to 162.
Nevertheless, the Strategy Committee Report acknowledged that the underlying trend in the use of the Seminary Endowment was still downwards, and that the maintenance of the buildings on the Prague site continues to be very costly.
The Committee brought three Resolutions which were overwhelmingly agreed by the EBF Council. In the first of these, the Council agreed in principle to sell the Prague site, probably within three years.
In the second Resolution Council agreed to set up an Implementation Group to look at the options for a new site for IBTS, either in the Czech Republic or elsewhere. At the same time the Implementation Group was given the task of having one last attempt to see whether, by increasing rental income from the Prague site, the gap between income and expenditure could be closed to a level which would allow the Seminary to stay in Prague at least for the medium term.
The third Resolution instructed the Implementation Group to use the clear criteria already drawn up to evaluating other possible sites in Europe. The main concerns are to achieve ‘added value’ by sharing resources with another Baptist seminary or compatible theological community; and that the distinctive ethos and priorities of IBTS be preserved.
Commenting on the Council debate and decision the EBF General Secretary, Tony Peck, said, ‘We are all sad to have to think about moving IBTS from Prague which has proved to be such an excellent European ‘centre’ for the Seminary and for the EBF Offices. This is why we still want to have one more attempt to see if we can stay there. But as this looks unlikely we must be prepared to move for the sake of the continuation and future development of IBTS which achieves high academic standards and serves our EBF so magnificently. We ask for the prayers of the worldwide Baptist family for all who have to make the important decisions in the coming days, and especially for the Rector and staff who have to keep the Seminary functioning well during this period. We pray God’s wisdom and guidance for the future.’