As churches worldwide prepare to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the birth of Protestant Reformation leader John Calvin, leaders of a global movement of Reformed churches are calling on Christians to commemorate Calvin not as a saint but as a source of inspiration for responding to contemporary social and church-wide concerns.
"Calvin certainly was not perfect, and it is against the grain of Reformed Christians to foster personality cults," noted the president and general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC).
"John Calvin himself would insist Soli Deo Gloria, Only to God be the Glory," they added.
In a statement released Wednesday by leaders of the WARC, which represents 75 million Reformed church members, WARC's president, Clifton Kirkpatrick, and general secretary, Setri Nyomi, said this coming Friday should be commemorated in a spirit of gratitude to God for how Calvin's works have inspired a movement of people committed to living faithfully for God in different contexts, and how his legacy continues to inspire believers to be true to God in responding faithfully to current challenges.
"In our world today, many are hurting because of injustice in the economy long before the current meltdown in the financial markets. This has indeed been further aggravated by the financial crisis and job losses in many countries while those who benefited from the system before continue to be bailed out," the WARC leaders noted.
"To this Calvin stated: 'A fair distribution can become reality if the rich do not greedily swallow up whatsoever they can get together; if they do not rack up on every side what belongs to others to satisfy their greed…,'" they added.
The Reformed church leaders also made note of other current-day issues such as the environment and Christian unity and linked them to commentaries by the 16th century theologian.
"John Calvin wrote these commentaries in the 16th century. They continue to be relevant today. That is the legacy for which we thank God," they stated.
Born on July 10, 1509, John Calvin is credited for his profound influence over major religious figures and entire religious movements. The 16th century theologian's ideas have also been cited as contributing to the rise of capitalism, individualism, and representative democracy in the West.
"It is our hope that inspired by this (Calvin's legacy), we who live in the 21st century will also be faithful to God in our commitment to Christian unity, to confronting the forces of evil and injustice in society, and to doing everything we can to be God's agents of transformation, making a difference in our communities," Kirkpatrick and Nyomi stated.
"As we commemorate 500 years after the birth of Calvin, may all our actions and responses to global and community challenges today give glory to God," they concluded.