‘Theological University is in the right place in Utrecht’

The Theological University moves from Kampen to Utrecht. The originally reformed liberated academy hopes to grow in the university town, where 1,200 students are affiliated with Christian student associations.

Maaike van Houten

For the growth of their Theological University (TU), the administrators have a wetsuit left over. They have promised the students that they will jump in the canal when there are twenty fresh students in September.

“We are still far from that, we are now at about ten first-years,” Roel Kuiper dampens expectations. Kuiper is the rector of the University of Theology with 150 students. He moves from Kampen to Utrecht. The beautiful building by a quiet canal opens on Thursday.

Growth potential

TU, which continues as TUU in Utrecht, is in addition to a theology course also the place where priests are trained for the Reformed churches – and for the past three years also for the Dutch Reformed churches. These two smaller, conservative Protestant churches will merge next year. They partially fund their university themselves, the rest comes from the public sector and from other cash flows.

In Utrecht, TUU is in the right place, says Kuiper. In this university town with 60,000 students are 1,200 members of a Christian student association. Rector hopes that there is growth potential there.

The current students can complete their education in Kampen, but the buildings there are in poor condition. In addition, the university sought a broader profile: “Theology is a broad study that connects with societal and cultural issues,” says Kuiper.

Related settings

Students in Utrecht can easily take courses at Utrecht University. The University of Humanities, like the Department of Theology at Tilburg University, also has two institutions with which TUU must collaborate. Closer ties with the Protestant Theological University are also obvious. It will move from Amsterdam and Groningen to Utrecht in 2024.

With all the like-minded institutions in the area, Kuiper places great emphasis on his own identity. The basic principle remains that TUU practices ‘reformed theology’. “Based on this tradition, we have something to add to the current conversation about science, church, and society,” Kuiper says. †

Earlier plans to merge with a more conservative Reformed variant, the University of the Christian Reformed Churches, fell through when the Kuiper denomination in 2017 decided to admit women to church councils and pulpits. It was and is a bridge too far for the Christian Reformed.

Kuiper calls this ‘a bitter pill’. “It could have resulted in a strong connection, but we decided at the time that we would continue independently. It feels good, we are free people in God’s world, and we make our own choices. ”

Carlijn van der Hart will start at TUU in September.Statue of Werry Crone

Carlijn van der Hart, 23, lives in Utrecht. She will start a bachelor’s degree in theology at TUU in September

“Everything is connected in my head now. It is attractive to study close to home and get in touch with different movements. I never considered studying in Kampen. I had prejudices about that, I thought it was quite strict there.” I am grew up in a Dutch Reformed family, but I am not myself an active member of a church, I have a lot of comments about the church as an institution. I think I am with the Navigators, a Christian sorority. There I saw, among other things, where beautiful theology can be and also how toxic – that the Bible is used to exclude people.Therefore I would read theology.

“I have a bachelor’s degree in history, and I also studied theology for two years at the Protestant Theological University in Amsterdam. It was the closest to Utrecht, but I was not quite in the right place there. I have a nose piercing and vote for the Animal Party, which seems to leave me a bit outside. I hope it’s different here. And I hope to find good theology here.

“I do not want to be a priest, but a spiritual caretaker. Therefore, I am going to a master, with whom I will become a spiritual counselor at the University of the Humanities. It is also located in Utrecht, so it is easy to combine it with theology. There are people with all kinds of beliefs, people who do not believe and convinced humanists. I am also very excited about that. ”

Johannes van der Heide, training as a priest, in the boardroom of the Theological University at the new location in Utrecht.  Statue of Werry Crone

Johannes van der Heide, training as a priest, in the boardroom of the Theological University at the new location in Utrecht.Statue of Werry Crone

Johannes van der Heide, 25, lives in Utrecht. He is now a first-year graduate student in Kampen and is finishing his theological studies there.

“I will stay in Kampen, and I’m fine. I will continue to live in Utrecht, I studied chemistry here and it is not that far. I can study on the train and the location in Kampen is beautiful.

“At home, I was brought up reformed-liberated, and I still am. I would like to become a priest in my church, or in the Dutch Reformed Church, with which we are to merge. That is also good.

“I studied theology at the Protestant Theological University for two years. The diversity in Christian Holland is greater there, it sometimes goes well together, but it also clashes. The TU in Kampen is affiliated with a narrower church community, so you get more personal faith conversations. And the teachers practice theology, which I also see in the church.

“At the moment I am an intern in Nijkerk. I have led three times, I have held catechism and now I make pastoral visits. I like that. I have no idea yet if I want to be a priest in a town or village, preferably somewhere in between.

“The image of Kampen is that it is a quiet city. Utrecht is more of a busy city where the majority of students are not Christians. You have to deal with that and it is also a good preparation for your later work in a church congregation. It is a diverse society where we must get our message out. ”

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