“The results exceeded our expectations,” said the head of the International Patronage Committee for the Calvin09 Jubilee, the Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick, formerly stated clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and president of the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches, in an October 22 statement.
“Our deepest hope is that the Calvin09 Jubilee will be just the beginning of a new appreciation and rediscovery of the legacy of Calvin which has the potential to renew our churches and our world as we move into the future,” said Kirkpatrick.
Calvin was born on July 10, 1509, at Noyon in northern France, and he is known throughout the world for his role in the Reformation while he lived in Geneva, a once independent city- state that is now part of Switzerland.
“The focus on Calvin has led many Reformed Christians to a new appreciation of their heritage and their connections with one another,” said Kirkpatrick. WARC groups 214 Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed and United churches with roots in the 16th-century Reformation led by Calvin, John Knox, and others.
The events launched in November 2008 to mark the anniversary included congresses, symposia, and exhibitions in Geneva and in other parts of the world. Special events and publications marked the diffusion of Calvin’s writing and ideas from China to South Africa to Argentina.
Organizers said they attracted worldwide attention, and drew a “far higher level of interest” from the general public than expected.
“This year has both re-connected Reformed Christians to their roots and to each other,” said Kirkpatrick. “We no longer felt the need to apologize for Calvin but rather found much in his thoughts, his actions, and his legacy that is truly life-giving for our time.”
Some historians have portrayed Calvin as a stern disciplinarian, but the 2009 events helped challenge the “caricature” of the Protestant reformer, said the Rev. Roland Benz, who was responsible for Calvin events for the Protestant Church of Geneva.
Kirkpatrick noted that many members of the Reformed church movement in the United States saw similarities between Calvin’s social agenda and political debates on immigration, health care, and economic justice.
The economic and financial crisis also helped spread the church reformer’s ideas about economic and social ethics, said the Rev. Thomas Wipf, president of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches.