The life and teaching of a 16th century French-born theologian speak directly to a post-modern world hungry for peaceful and united communities, according to the president of a global network of Protestant churches.
In a presentation delivered at a public event at the Sorbonne University in Paris on Friday 22 May 2009, the president of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) notes that Calvin, a pioneer leader of the Protestant Reformation, once wrote that he would eagerly “cross ten seas” if that would further the cause of Christian unity.
“In a fragmented world and fragmented church, where many of the greatest conflicts are centred in religious difference, Calvin is more relevant than ever,” Clifton Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick made his remarks in an address celebrating the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin and the 450th anniversary of the Reformed Church of France.
“The challenge,” said Kirkpatrick, “is not just to celebrate Calvin but rather to seek what it might mean to lead a Calvinist revolution in 21st century France.”
Rather than being a violent revolution, Kirkpatrick suggests that a Calvinist revolution might include leading a movement for peace based on justice in the economy and on care for the natural world.
Kirkpatrick notes that Calvin, though accused of authoritarianism himself, often warned Reformed Christians in France not to respond in kind when persecuted for their faith.
“This call to be peacemakers could not be more urgent than it is today,” Kirkpatrick declares. “As Reformed Christians, we are called to lead in a different direction and make our communities living demonstrations of compassion, justice and mutual support.”
Kirkpatrick was accompanied by WARC’s general secretary, Setri Nyomi and by the president of the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC), Peter Borgdorff.
In June 2010 the two global ecumenical organizations will merge to form the World Communion of Reformed Churches.