Buy a Foot of Ireland

A brief introduction to a post about supporting intelligent, moderate, solid evangelical theological education in Ireland, in Dublin, at a wonderful location and with a big need for church support. I taught at Irish Bible Institute two summers back and, in fact, gave the full lectures on which King Jesus Gospel is based. It was a splendid time and I’m grateful for the honor of lecturing there. But that’s not the big point, which is that IBI has a wonderful collection of serious-minded Christians who care deeply about Ireland and who have sacrificed deeply to accomplish what they have accomplished.

So I’m asking each of you to consider donating some funds to our brothers and sisters in Dublin, and think about buying a foot of Ireland.

Dedicated readers will have noticed that my volume of blogging has been turned down in recent weeks. The main reason is that the place where I work – Irish Bible Institute – has launched a major building project.

The bottom line is that we are trying to raise €1 million in 6 months.

This has meant that the small team is flat out working on the daily challenges of running programmes, teaching, mentoring, listening, marking, researching, writing and so on, on top of fundraising. You can read all about it here

This post is simply about the project. But I also want to do some follow up theological reflections on ‘beyond fundraising’ – and trying to think about what are we to learn and hear from God in all of this? 

Maybe after reading this you have some questions and comments, not so much on the project itself, but theological questions and issues raised by it? It would be good to discuss them in later posts.

Moving into a new fitted out building in 2005 was fantastic: it helped with the launch of new BA and MA degree courses in 2006 and 2005, significant growth of student numbers, a quality base from which to operate in terms of classrooms, student area, library and offices as well as a city centre location for all sorts of events and meetings by other Christian organisations.

We’ve seen hundreds of students from all over the country through the doors doing a variety of full-time, part-time, modular, summer school, Certificate, Diploma, Degree and MA courses.

Before that we’d been borrowing a church building and literally packing up officesand the library every Friday afternoon! (Jacob Reynolds and I worked in the crèche – make up your own conclusions).

The shift was dramatic and the benefits obvious. Suddenly, specific things that we’d been praying for – our own city centre base, accessible nationally, good quality university validated courses, IBI as more truly an Irish Bible Institute (not just Dublin) … all materialised in a short space of time.

The dreams of developing a good quality centre for theological education and leadership development in Ireland and for the Irish church were being realised.

You can read some encouraging things people have said about IBI here

All this was the result of an unexpected and generous offer where a businessman and his partner took out a loan to buy 9,400 q ft of a new office building. We moved into 4000 sq ft, the other 5,400 sq ft was rented commercially. The tenant’s income paid the interest on the loan. And then in 2019 we entered into an agreement where we would buy the building for a total of €3.5 million. Even by 2007 it was valued at €6.7 million, so if we could not raise the money we would have a valuable asset which could be sold and we could move on. There were also costs of fitting out what was a new empty office block for which a loan of €300,000 was taken out by IBI to be paid back in 2018.

This whole process took about a year. We prayed about it. We sought expert advice. Our Board had excellent people well qualified to deal with the issues, complexities and risks. There was unanimous agreement to go ahead.

This all meant that we were able to operate in Ulysses House virtually rent free from 2005-2011. However, everything changed with the economic crash. I’ve blogged about it here, here, here, here and here and here.

In June 2011 our commercial tenants left, rents have fallen dramatically and renters are scarce, the Bank which issued the loans has lost billions and exited Ireland. Without tenants we can’t sustain the rent payments. We have an annual operational budget of about €500,000, half of which comes in via student fees and half of which we fundraise. We have no endowments or sources of state funding. Every year since I first got involved in 1994, it has been a walk of faith as to whether the budget would balance – and it has, every year. God has been gracious. It’s been quite a journey.

Right across the commercial sector, massive renegotiations of loans are happening as recapitalised banks in dire straits try to clear up their loan books. The businessmen who have the loan on our premises have been doing the same. Between them, us and the Bank, a deal has been agreed that if we can raise the €1 million, this will clear all the loans of €3.8 million and give us ownership of all three units of 9,400 sq ft 7 years ahead of schedule and for about 25% of the original amount envisaged.

That would be an amazing solution.

Strategically, it is a critical step in securing the future of the Republic of Ireland’s only non-denominational evangelical theological training college.
This is a once-off opportunity which will deal completely with all loans and costs (totaling over €3.9 million) associated with the building at a discount of 75%.
It will be necessary if we are to achieve validation with a new university when the current validation with the University of Wales ends in 2013-14.
It would give us the long-term security of a home of our own in an ideal location for students from all over Ireland to access.
It may give us the opportunity of developing a hub of Christian organisations in the city centre
So, that’s where we are. Things are off to an encouraging start.

We are asking people who are interested and supportive to do three things:

Pray – for this need to be met

Give – it works out at about €100 per square foot. We are fundraising in Ireland, UK and USA. All help welcome.

Get Involved yourself – get the word out to others and invite them to pray, give, mobilise. We are glad to meet people as possible.

 

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

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