June 04, 2010 | Myrna Anderson

Leaders in Reformed Christianity and Reformed Christian education from all over the globe will converge on the Calvin College campus from Tuesday through Thursday, June 15-17, 2010. The occasion is a conference: “Reformed Mission in an Age of World Christianity,” co-sponsored by Calvin College and the International Association for the Promotion of Christian Higher Education (IAPCHE).

International guest list

The conference—an opportunity for participants to explore what it means to be a Reformed Christian in an increasingly interconnected world—has already attracted registrants from 42 countries: “This conference will bring to Calvin the most diverse group of participants that this campus has ever hosted,” said Joel Carpenter, the director of Calvin’s Nagel Institute for World Christianity. “They come from around the world, and they will be addressing issues that are critical to Christian witness. When people in this country hear ‘Reformed,’ they think of people with a northern European heritage. But there are some 80 million Reformed, Presbyterian and Congregationalist church members in the world today, and they are more likely to come from Brazil, Nigeria and Indonesia than from the United States, the Netherlands, and Scotland.” 

"Reformed Mission in an Age of World Christianity” also has an international speakers list. “Where else would we have the opportunity to learn from a Reformed female theologian from Cuba?” said conference director Shirley Roels, referring to sectional speaker Rev. Dr. Ofelia Ortega Suarez. Other sectional speakers represent Argentina, Canada, China/Hong Kong, Ecuador, Egypt, Germany, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Philippines, Scotland, South Africa, Taiwan, Transylvania and the United States.

Global interpretation

The sectionals will pursue the four core themes of the conference: living roots for living water; translation across borders; the covenantal community and roles at the table of the church. “Our main conversation will be about what it means to be agents of God's mission in the world today, and I am eager to learn what that looks like to my brothers and sisters from Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Pacific,” Carpenter said. The conference will also feature worship and arts from many traditions.

Dr. Richard J. Mouw, the president of Fuller Theological Seminary will deliver the keynote address for the conference at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15, 2010, in the Prince Conference Center. A closing plenary panel will feature Dr. José Alcántara-Mejía, a professor of literature at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City; Dr. Paul Visser, a pastor in Amsterdam and the Professor of Areopagus at the Institute for Contextual and Missionary Preaching; Won Lee, a Calvin professor of religion, and Susan Felch, a Calvin professor of English and the director of the Calvin Center for Christian Scholarship.

"Reformed Mission in an Age of World Christianity,” was designed as a warm-up for a larger event: the Uniting General Conference (UGC), a nine-day assembly being held Friday, June 18–27, 2010, also at Calvin.  The one thousand delegates who will be on Calvin’s campus for that conference will likely serve as witnesses as the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Reformed Ecumenical Council unite as one ecclesiastical body. The proposed union, which will be known as the World Communion of Reformed Churches, will be the largest association of Reformed churches in the world representing 227 churches from Presbyterian, Congregational, Reformed, Waldensian and United congregations.

"I don’t think people realize the magnitude of this opportunity,” said Roels, who also serves as the director of the Van Lunen Center for Executive Management in Christian Schools. “This will never happen again in anybody’s lifetime.” Working on the pre-conference has enlarged her appreciation for the backgrounds and talents of those involved, she added. “When you work on the inside of this and see all of these pieces, you think, ‘This is just a treasure chest.’”

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