Around 50 Christian men and women gathered at London’s Barbican Centre on Saturday 21 April, their interest sparked by news of a new Reformed Baptist seminary in the USA. The purpose of this UK launch event, and of the subsequent events planned for Sydney, Auckland and Los Angeles, was to raise awareness worldwide of the planned opening of IRBS Theological Seminary from August 2018.
The seminary’s president-elect, Dr. James Renihan, explained that the Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies had operated happily within Westminster seminary California, since 1998, preparing men for ministry in Reformed Baptist churches. However the Association of Reformed Baptist Churches in America (ARBCA) had approved a plan to establish it as a fully independent seminary, to be based near Mansfield, Texas.
The event’s title, ‘Renewing the present with help from the past’, gave a flavour of the seminary’s commitment to the theology of the Second London Baptist Confession of 1689. This was reflected in a lecture from Dr Matthew Bingham (author and soon-to-be tutor at Oak Hill College), who put a forceful case that, historically and theologically, these beliefs sit comfortably within the Reformed tradition.
Oliver Allmand-Smith, pastor of Trinity Grace Church, Ramsbottom, spoke warmly of the benefits which churches can reap in a day of pragmatism and superficiality, by holding to a comprehensive confession of faith. Evangelical Times was able to interview Dr. Renihan after the event.
ET: With so many seminaries available in the US, what is distinctive about IRBS Theological Seminary?
JR: While we appreciate the good that is done in other evangelical schools, there are no accredited, residential seminaries committed to the Second London Confession and dedicated primarily to preparing men to serve in Reformed Baptist churches. This is a need we believe that the Lord is calling us to meet. We welcome students from all evangelical traditions, but our goal is to instruct our students in a consistent confessional climate. Our goal is to have a theologically unified faculty so that our students are thoroughly prepared to serve in Reformed Baptist churches.
ET: Why do you want to raise awareness of the seminary in the UK?
JR: American churches owe great debts to our brothers and sisters in the UK. There are many long-established friendships, and a great deal of mutual support. We know that many pastors and churches in the UK share our vision, and it seems natural to encourage deeper ties. We hope to serve the churches of the UK by training men to serve in confessional Reformed Baptist churches there. We hope that UK churches will send their men, and that we will be able to expand our support of the churches in the UK. With ease of travel and fast communication, there is every reason to strengthen our ties.
ET: How can we pray for the seminary?
JR: Please pray that the Lord will glorify himself in all our work. Our leadership and faculty must pursue holiness, our professors must uphold their commitments to inerrant Scripture and our confession of faith, and our students must grow in godliness and giftedness. Ask the Lord to send us students. And ask the Lord to provide the funds needed for this expensive venture. We believe that all must be done with excellence to the glory of God.
For further information, visit www.irbsseminary.org