"Theology is the discovery, understanding, and transformation of the convictions of a convictional community, including the discovery and critical revision of their relation to one another and to whatever else there is."
The James Wm. McClendon Chair for Baptistic and Evangelical Theologies was installed on september 1st 2017 at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and dedicated to the baptistic, free church mentality, theology and reasoning of James Wm. McClendon (1924-2000). His basic premise may be summarized to radical christian materialism: Christianity is about knowing and obeying Christ as bodily as it can be, as an individual follower of Christ, and as a participant in His community. Christian faith materializes; otherwise it may be deemed illusive or defective. Such emphasis on the morality of bodily presence automatically comes with the history and lived tradition of the Baptist, Anabaptist and Free Church tradition. Major voices from these springs have always underscored the Christ-centred visibility of the Christian faith.
The McClendon Chair for Baptistic & Evangelical Theologies is determined to hold on to these core values, to study them, and to be committed to living them out.
James Wm. McClendon (1924-2000) may be characterized as an inspiring Atlantic theologian. His three volumes on systematic theology exhibit profound knowledge of European and American theology, as it specifically revolves around the retrieval of the baptistic tradition. It also profoundly affected theological thinking on both sides of the Atlantic. He combines the Free Church mentality with robust orientations of Barthian, Mennonite and narrative-hermeneutical background. Anyhow, the result is a challenging and in McClendon’s days a timely presentation of baptistic theology as a way of living and thinking the truth of Christ.
At the onset of the third millennium McClendon’s theology proves even more beneficial and relevant than decades before, because in the present demise of grand narrative of the church, Christian life should be spoken of in terms of diaspora ecclesiology. The church is, and will become, a social-religious minority. Hence, Christianity will not predominantly be studied as a historical and dogmatic reality, but as a lived conviction and a lived religion. Whosoever thinks and believes as a Christian lives like a Christian.
Henk Bakker (1960) is the current chairholder of the James Wm. McClendon Chair for Baptistic and Evangelical Theologies. Born and raised in a typical Dutch Protestant environment, he became fascinated by the Gospel life and turned to believers baptism in 1978. He studied in Leuven (Ba, and Lic./Ma), Utrecht University (Ma in New Testament) and Groningen as promovendus (PhD). During his study and life, Henk developed a broad interest in sources (mainly early christian writings), New Testament Theology and the connection to the local church (in practical theology). He has been teaching at the Christian University of Applied Sciences (Ede, Netherlands), the Dutch Baptist Seminary and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
“I was James McClendon's wife and fellow scholar for seventeen of his years. Knowing what he knew and cared about, the shape of this Chair perfectly honours his memory. He was not narrowly Anabaptist, or even Baptist, but gleaned resources from many religious movements and revivals. The interests of the holder of the Chair, Prof. Dr. Henk Bakker, are remarkably similar to his. This Chair is a great honour in his name and I look forward to supporting its work in any way I can”.
“With its name, the McClendon Chair refers to a type of theology that is thoroughly academic and profoundly practical, radically baptistic and courageously ecumenical. It will produce scholarship that takes seriously the challenges of our world. With that profile, the McClendon Chair and its Chairholder, Prof. Dr. Henk Bakker, will contribute significantly to the multicolour theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam."
“McClendon's work offers an international, ecumenical, yet, distinctly confessional approach to doing theology. IBTSC itself promotes research in this area and sees this Chair as an opportunity to develop further collaborative learning, teaching, and research with the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam into this particular expression of the Free Church tradition. Prof. Dr. Bakker is an internationally acknowledged scholar in this field”.
“Prof. James McClendon was my friend and colleague for many years. We first met in the midst of Anabaptist beginnings in Zurich and worked together in the Believers’ Church Conference at McMaster University (Hamilton) in 1996 where he was the keynote speaker. I have valued Jim’s theological accomplishment and used it many times in my advanced seminars. It brings together many streams in the Believers’ Church Tradition. I welcome the establishment of the Chair in his honour at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam”.
"The Baptist World Alliance representing over 40 million Baptist believers globally, is delighted to be a co-sponsor of the McClendon Chair. McClendon’s writings are a gift and a continuing challenge to the whole church, but especially to Baptists who dare to embrace his ‘baptist vision’."
"Miroslav Volf called McClendon “one of today’s premier American theologians.” Curtis Freeman once praised McClendon for seeking “to overcome the poverty of baptist theology” by recovering “a distinctive baptist vision as a standpoint for theological reflection” and by retrieving “diverse baptist voices as partners for theological conversation.” I urge Baptists to record our gratitude for McClendon’s contribution by supporting the fundraising program for the establisment of the chair."
James Wm. McClendon Chair
1061 AX Amsterdam
Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
De Boelelaan 1105
1081 HV Amsterdam