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4 décembre 2020

Framework agreement between the LSRS, the Faculty Religion and Theology (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and the Mennonite Seminary attached to this faculty

On Thursday 19th of November 2020, the three directors and deans of the LSRS, the Faculty Religion and Theology (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam) and the Mennonite Seminary attached to this faculty, signed a framework agreement in which they express their common vision on further cooperation. After some months of preparatory discussion and not wanting to delay their agreement for Corona-reasons, professor Jean Ehret (LSRS), professor Ruard Ganzevoort (VU) and minister Alex Noord (Mennonite Seminary) decided to meet in Zoom-context.

The framework agreement confirms what has been already informally the case, since LSRS-professor Chris Doude van Troostwijk was nominated ‘visiting professor’ on the chair for Liberal Theology of the Dutch Mennonite Seminary. After some tentative experiences in the field of, valorization, teaching and network building, the involved parties wished to formalize their intention to collaborate.

The VU-Faculty of Religion and Theology reflects Amsterdam’s multicultural, multilingual and multi-confessional reality. Once founded as a private university by the Dutch Double-Reformed Churches (Gereformeerde Kerken), the need was felt, some twenty years ago, to rearrange the theological agenda. Doude van Troostwijk remembers having being involved at that time in the development of a new educational format for the faculty. Things have progressed since then. One could compare the faculty to a “caravanserai”. On large inner court travelers and explorers from all kinds of religious horizons meet. Each of them is hosted, according to his or her spiritual background, in private apartments : the confessional or religious “seminaries”. At the same time, its gates are open to society, most concretely to the fast-growing international business area in which the University is located.

The Luxembourg-delegation in which participated also Monique Kemp (general secretary), professor Alberto Ambrosio and senior researcher Diana Mistreanu had no difficulty to recognize in this model many of the LSRS’ views and ambitions. The LSRS and the VU-faculty share the conviction that nowadays postmodern society should avoid to neglect, for whatever ideological or political reasons, the importance of religious forms of life. She has the responsibility to create open spaces of sense-making interaction and non-prejudiced communication between the members of various belief-groups. Academics should critically religious literacy, in order to prevent believers to withdraw in bastions of non-communicative truth claims.

During the meeting, professor Marianne Moyaert presented her research work on interreligious relations, developed within a hermeneutic paradigm (Ricoeur). It implies the willingness to being changed oneself in and by interreligious exchange. Moyaert, who recently obtained a prestigious research-grant for a project on interfaith-marriages, is also responsible for the Emouna executive leadership program, initiated by the French rabbi Pauline Bebe. Her work will inspire further concretization of the frame-work agreement.

Prof. Fernando Enns, working part-time at the Hamburg University, part-time at the Amsterdam Mennonite Seminary, presented his research on theologies of liberation, justice and peace that envisage to translate the anabaptist peace tradition into nowadays engagements. Enns is convinced of the reconciling role precisely the Mennonite minority church should play in ecumenical understanding amongst Christian communities. Liberal theology belongs to spirit of toleration, openness and theological creativity of the Dutch Mennonite tradition. For that reason, the Mennonite seminary decided, under the guidance of Kees Blokland, chairman of the meeting, to install the chair for Liberal theology and invited LSRS-professor Doude van Troostwijk on it. The frame-work agreement permits now that he develops his research on the “rhetoric of believing” both in Luxemburg and in Amsterdam. The encyclopedia book project Vindingrijk Geloven (Believing inventively) will be the first step in this research, entitled Ars bene credendi : “the art of sound believing”.

More cooperation-activities are on the agenda. For the 2021, the partners agreed on organizing an international, multi-local conference on Religion & Emancipation, public courses on Inventive Believing. Options for further research cooperation and doctoral supervision will be concretized in the coming months. The Vrije Universiteit and the Mennonite Seminary expressed their firm wish to meet again, after the pandemic crisis.

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