“Reformed” is the customary name for churches in the Calvinist tradition, which also honor a number of other formative 16th-century figures. In the U.S., these would include our three full-communion partners who in 1998 joined the ELCA in the Formula of Agreement: the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ, as well as other bodies like the Dutch Reformed or Christian Reformed Churches.
This use of “Reformed” can be confusing at first for Lutherans since it doesn’t include us. Positively, of course, the name shows the importance of reformation for the identity of these churches. At the same time it hints at some of the quarrels of the 16th century and later, in which Lutherans could be charged with not fully embracing the consequences and spirit of reformation. Lutherans, of course, made their own criticisms of “Reformed” churches.
• Calvin for Armchair Theologians by Christopher Elwood (Westminster/John Knox, 2002): Excellent first book on John Calvin’s significance
• Grace and Gratitude: The Eucharistic Theology of John Calvin by B. A. Gerrish (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2002): Scholarly but engaging argument that puts thankful worship at the heart of Calvin’s view of Christian life.
• The Legacy of John Calvin: Some Actions for the Church in the 21st Century, ed. by Setri Nyomi (World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the John Knox International Center, 2008): Study booklet that links Calvin to “the gift of communion,” on “covenanting for justice,” and on “addressing violence and destruction in times of war and armed conflict.”
• Web site of the Geneva celebration
• Invitation to a DVD on Calvin’s life and legacy.
What a difference a century makes. In 1909, the 400th birthday of John Calvin was celebrated in his city of Geneva with plans for the International Monument of the Reformation. On this famous “Reformers’ Wall,” his austere, larger-than-life statue clearly communicates the view that he was the most prominent hero among the men who had brought “light after darkness.”
This year the Swiss city again is marking an important birthday for Calvin — but this time the events have many organizers and perspectives. Film festivals join psalm festivals, and there are commemorative chocolates as well as commemorative worship services. And the events extend not only beyond Geneva but beyond Europe, as heirs of Calvin’s influence on every continent present their views of what his vision for a renewed and reinvigorated church might mean now — for the world church and for the entire world.
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