Blog Interview: Toivo Pilli – International Baptist Theological Study Centre

Please introduce yourself and your role at the International Baptist Theological Study Centre Amsterdam (IBTSC).

Rev Dr Toivo Pilli, Director of Baptist and Anabaptist Studies at the IBTSCMy name is Toivo Pilli and I am Director of Baptist and Anabaptist Studies at the IBTSC. I have been involved in the work of IBTSC since 2002.

Tell us a little about IBTSC.

IBTSC is a European higher education institution, which was initially established in Rüschlikon, Switzerland, in 1949, then under the name of International Baptist Theological Seminary. In 1996 the Seminary was relocated to Prague, Czech Republic, with a special aim of responding to the needs of Eastern European Baptists in pursuit of theological education and reflection, in the post-Communist era. Nowadays, after another move in 2014, IBTSC is located in the Netherlands. The Centre today focuses on three main areas: practical theology, contextual missiology and Baptist identity. The MA in Baptistic Histories and Theologies is validated by the University of Manchester, UK. IBTSC is an independent Collaborative Centre within the Theological Faculty of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Most of our fifty students are on the PhD programme with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. IBTSC has an excellent library in the main fields of research.

Are the courses full-time, part-time or a mixture of both?

All the courses offered are part-time, however the studies require travelling to Amsterdam for intensive teaching blocks, usually once or twice a year. For PhD students the most important meeting point is the Research Colloquium every January. For beginning students the starting intensives take place in August-September. Independent reading, writing, communication by e-mail, Skype and using IBTSC Moodle resources are part of the learning culture of IBTSC. The Centre teachers and students appreciate the intensive teaching and learning sessions in Amsterdam which enable them to build networks, communicate directly, sometimes discuss and debate, and deepen friendships.

After PhD graduation ceremony
After PhD graduation ceremony

How do IBTSC students fund their studies?

IBTSC students fund their studies from different sources: church support and scholarship funds, as well as personal funding. Although the Centre does not offer scholarships, the fees in this European higher education institution are extremely friendly.

Does IBTSC take students from overseas?

Yes, many students at IBTSC are from overseas. The student body at IBTSC is diverse and multicultural, serving the Baptist and wider Christian family – from Armenia and Australia, Cuba and Canada, Norway and the Netherlands, Ukraine and the USA, to name only some countries. Students benefit from interaction with other students – and teachers – from different cultural contexts: a Lebanese Christian perspective may be an eye-opening experience for a British student.

Baptist House where IBTSC Amsterdam is located
 Baptist House where IBTSC Amsterdam is located

What type of ministry is IBTSC intended to prepare students for?

The Centre aims to help students to pursue their calling in life and ministry – some students are engaged in pastoral work, mission or theological education, others are strengthening their knowledge and skills for teaching or research. IBTSC aims to help students to reflect upon their own context: either from the aspect of mission, practical ministry or baptistic identity.

When students leave IBTSC, what kind of ministries / jobs do they go into?

As most of the students are PhD students, almost all of them already work as teachers, pastors, youth workers, mission leaders or they are involved in academic life. However, the experience in IBTSC may open up new opportunities, as the studies offer new horizons and insights, and help to clarify personal calling and ministry goals.

What is distinctive about what IBTSC offers compared with other colleges in the Netherlands and overseas?

January colloquium of research students
January colloquium of research students

The IBTSC makes a deliberate attempt to enhance theological studies from a baptistic perspective. Strong focus on baptistic (both Baptist and Anabaptist) church traditions gives to these studies a unique colour of identity. However, there is a clear understanding that this can only be strengthened in conversation with other Christian traditions.

Please tell us about the library and other research facilities.

The IBTSC library consists of 40 000 carefully selected volumes which strengthen studies in the three key research areas: practice, mission and identity. The online resources, especially the Digital Theological Library, and vast holdings of the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam library create excellent library opportunities for students and researchers.

Does IBTSC offer a distance or on-line learning option? If so, please tell us more about it.

IBTSC Amsterdam offers flexible part-time study opportunities, but not online courses.


My thanks to Dr Pilli for his contribution to this new series of interviews with faculty of theological colleges from around the world.

Blog Interview: Revd Dr Simon Vibert of Wycliffe Hall

Last year I hosted a series of interviews with Faculty members of a number of Bible Colleges and Seminaries around the Globe. This series will continue on an occasional basis. This week I interview the Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall in Oxford.

I would like to note that Wycliffe Hall has given great support to the work of Theology on the Web by making resources from its library available for digitisation, for which I am extremely grateful.

1) Please introduce yourself and your role at Wycliffe Hall.

Revd Dr Simon Vibert, Vice-Principal of Wycliffe Hall Oxford
Revd Dr Simon Vibert

I am Revd Dr Simon Vibert, Vice Principal Wycliffe Hall, Oxford; Tutor in Homiletics and Leadership.

2) Tell us a little about Wycliffe Hall.

Wycliffe Hall, OxfordWycliffe Hall was founded in 1877 to provide a Protestant response to the growing tractarian influence in Oxford. One of the founders, JC Ryle, was later to become Bishop of Liverpool. Key evangelical leaders such as Frank Chavasse, Griffith Thomas, J.I. Packer, N.T. Wright and Nicky Gumbel have all also been associated with the Hall. During the Principalship of Prof. Alister McGrath Wycliffe Hall became a permanent private Hall of the University of Oxford (in 1996). Our total student body is 140. Fifty students are training for Ordination in the Church of England, others are part of the Apologetics track, training for ministry in other denominations or engaged in research. Most students are part of the University of Oxford on a range of courses from Certificate to Doctoral level. A small number of our Students are studying for the Durham Common Award in preparation for Anglican Ordination. See wycliffe.ox.ac.uk for more detail.

3) Are the courses full-time, part-time or a mixture of both?

Wycliffe Hall, Oxford
Wycliffe Hall, Oxford

Wycliffe Hall is primarily a full-time residential community – an environment which we believe gives the best context for academic, ministerial and formational training. After all, Jesus trained the 12 by living with them as well as teaching them. We have a small cohort of Mixed Mode students (half time in the Hall and half time training in a parish) and a part-time evening course leading to a Certificate in Theological Studies over two years.

4) How do Wycliffe Hall students fund their studies?

Anglican Ordinands receive funding from the Church of England. Some are able to access HEFCE funding. We have very little endowment and, like most similar institutions, we depend on the generosity of alumni, churches and friends to supplement student fee income.

5) Does Wycliffe Hall take students from overseas?

Yes. If enrolled on a University Course, it is possible to apply for a Tier 4 Student Visa.

6) What type of ministry is Wycliffe Hall intended to prepare students for?

Wycliffe Hall, OxfordThe founders of Wycliffe Hall envisioned training Protestant Men for Ordination in the Church of England. Today, Wycliffe Hall trains men and women for all spheres of ministry across a variety of denominations, although with a particular Anglican flavour. We emphasise Leadership, Evangelism and Church Growth, Preaching and Apologetics which all require grounding in traditional disciplines (Biblical Studies, Doctrine, Church history etc.) alongside time and space to grow in personal holiness, disciplined prayer and practical ministry training.

7) When students leave Wycliffe Hall what kind of ministries / jobs do they go into.

For some, their time at Wycliffe Hall is preparation for Anglican Ordination; others are training for a variety of lay or ordained ministry. For others, this is the pathway to further research and/or a career in Seminary/Bible College.

8) What is distinctive about what Wycliffe Hall offers compared with other colleges in the UK and overseas?

Wycliffe Hall has a privileged relationship with the University of Oxford. We are guided by an evangelical Trust Deed which means that the Hall provides a home for evangelical students to experience the rigour of the University of Oxford within a worshipping Christian Community. Our vision for Wycliffe Hall is that we should be:

• A Centre for the Intellectual Renewal of the Church, and, through the Church, of Society

• A Centre for the Renewal of Christian Preaching

• A Centre for the Renewal of Christian Character

• A Centre for the Renewal of Christian Prayer

9) Please tell us about the library and other research facilities.

Our own library has 24,000 books and journals key journals in our field. All Oxford University students can use the University Libraries including the Bodleian and access to 300,000 e-books via SOLO.

10) Does Wycliffe Hall offer a distance or on-line learning option?

Wycliffe Hall prizes the value of a residential/communal learning and has not offered distance or online learning.

My thanks to Dr Vibert for his contribution to this series.

Blog Interview: Dr Peter Mead – Cor Deo

In the last of the current series I interview Dr Peter Mead one of the leaders of Cor Deo.

1) Please introduce yourself and your role at Cor Deo.

Dr Peter Mead (second from left) is the subject of this week's blog interview
Ron Frost, Peter Mead, David Searight
& Mike Chalmers

I am a mentor at Cor Deo, a deliberately small mentored training programme based in Chippenham, southern England.  I am also part of the leadership of a local church plant, and leader of the Bible Teacher’s Networks at the European Leadership Forum.

2) Tell us a little about Cor Deo.

Along with Dr Ron Frost, I started Cor Deo several years ago.  We saw a need for a more relationally enriched training approach that would allow participants to be part of a team that can study together, serve together and grow together.  We offer a six-month full-time training programme, one-week Intensive courses and are now in the process of launching a follow-up programme to help past participants go further in their studies and ministry.  Our training blends lots of biblical studies, history in the context of church history and applied theology in all aspects of pastoral ministry.  We have only six spaces available each year for the full-time programme, believing that we would rather pursue a multiplicational approach to training, where we hope to go deeper with a few participants, rather than simply trying to get bigger numbers in to the course.

3) Are the courses full time, part-time or a mixture of both?

The main six-month course is full-time.  The Intensives last just one week.  The new follow-up programme for past participants will be a modular study programme that is part-time and flexible.

4) How do Cor Deo students fund their studies?

We do not charge a fee for participation.  Instead we suggest a donation amount, thereby meaning that financial limitations do not restrict potential participants.  As far as living during the six months, some have lived off savings, others have been supported, others have been given an extended study leave from employment.  Six months is much more manageable than 2-4 years of full-time study!

5) Does Cor Deo take students from overseas?

We can if they are from the EU, but we are not in a position to help people get visas.  If someone can legitimately be in the UK for the necessary time, then we would gladly take them.

6) What type of ministry is Cor Deo intended to prepare students for?

We want to prepare people to go on to serve in their own church, either as pastoral staff, or as lay leaders within the church.  We want to prepare missionaries for further and greater service overseas.  We want to prepare people to go on to further academic theological studies so that they can thrive in that environment.  Our goal is to multiply ministry that shares God’s heart.

7) When students leave Cor Deo what kind of ministries / jobs do they go into?

We have seen past participants go on to all of these next steps: senior pastor, church elder, student ministry, church youth work, overseas missionary, student in further training, as well as people heading back into “secular” work with a missional mindset.

8) What is distinctive about what Cor Deo offers compared with other colleges in the UK and overseas?

Cor Deo offers a uniquely integrated programme of study.  All the mentors are present for every subject area. Participants get full life-on-life access to the mentors, with the option of travelling together for ministry, local ministry exposure, mentoring in their own context, etc.  The programme is focused on exposing participants to biblical study as well as a history of spiritual traditions that gives a framework for understanding contemporary Christian spirituality.  We do not have either a carrot or a stick – that is, there is no certificate at the end of the six month course, and there is no academic pressure to get there, instead there is a shared confidence that the God of the Bible is worth pursuing in fellowship with the team.  Cor Deo is a unique opportunity for personal, theological, spiritual and ministerial growth.

9) Please tell us about the library and other research facilities.

Cor Deo has a small, but focused collection of reference materials that is available to participants.

10) Does Cor Deo offer a distance or on-line learning option? If yes, please tell us more about it.

No, we believe in the importance of face-to-face interaction.  It is in community and in relationship that growth and learning best occur.  There are many good sources of information transfer available, but the opportunity to be part of a group like this is sadly too rare.

My thanks to Peter Mead for taking part in this series. If I get any more entries I will re-start the series in October.