By God’s grace, Lenora and I have returned from a full month of ministry in Europe. We had the privilege of preaching in Free Presbyterian Churches in Northern Ireland and being a guest of Dr. Ian Paisley. He took us around sites of the 1859 Ulster Revival. We also managed to visit Downpatrick and the Museum of St. Patrick.
Then we were off to Geneva for the Calvin 500 celebrations. Over 1000 people attended the Sunday morning service in St. Pierre. Singing A Mighty Fortress is our God in that magnificent cathedral to those powerful organs was an experience never to be forgotten.
There were three sermons each evening in St. Pierre and five dry academic lectures every morning in Calvin’s Auditore. Some other meetings and tours of the Reformation Museum in the afternoons. Over 250 foreigners from as far afield as Canada, the USA, Britain, Australia, and South Africa registered with the Calvin 500, and many local people joined in as well. Most of the participants were American, and almost all of the lectures and sermons were given by theological seminary professors, if not presidents of theological seminaries.
While the sermons in the evenings were of a high standard, I was quite disappointed with the very dry papers read by theologians in the mornings. Most speakers were preoccupied with the academics, and Calvin’s soteriology. Very little application was ever made to all areas of life, social and political issues, the present desperate crises in our churches and colleges, entertainment, economics, education, crime and punishment.
It had been my hope and prayer that this Calvin 500 celebration would not only look back, but take a long hard look at our churches, our families and our society, today in the light of the teachings of John Calvin and the other Reformers. The future focus was almost completely absent. Most inexplicably there was no prayer meeting organised at any time.
The cohesion of the event was very lacking as people were placed in different hotels around the city and the one planned meal or banquet on the last day was apparently only for the Americans, as there was no space for ourselves, the Australian couples or other outsiders. Yet we all paid the same fortune to register, it wasn’t quite clear to us why there was two classes of participants.
I did have the opportunity to have input in the DVD they were producing, that was just about all. I was able to put out a book table at the Auditoire on the last two days as well. There was tremendous interest in this.
Inexplicably, numerous key people who have been very involved in the work of Reformation, in Geneva, such as the Principal of the Geneva Bible Institute, Mike Evans and american missionary to Geneva, John Glass, both of whom speak French fluently, were not in any way involved in the events. On a number of occasions representatives of the WCC affiliated local Reformed churches, plainly liberals were given an opportunity to greet or to pray at the beginning of some of the services.
No outreach was organised with the delegates despite the fact that Geneva was plainly filled with mostly unsaved people.
To show the spitefulness of some in the City Council, the Reformation Wall was closed throughout the whole week, encased in scaffolding, for some blasphemous concert! Similarly, Calvin’s Academy was encased in scaffolding and plastic sheeting! Considering that they had 500 years to do those renovations, it’s interesting that they chose to do it at that particular week. Yet, fortunately, St. Pierre and Calvin’s Auditoire were open!
We had far better opportunities to celebrate the 500th anniversary of John Calvin in Zürich and Belfast. However, Dr. Joel Beeke, from Grand Rapids, gave one of the finest sermons of the week. There were many excellent sermons in the evenings, but the morning lectures were disappointing. I got the impression that most lacked a clear vision for Reformation in our own time.
May the Lord continue to be your joy and strength.
Yours for Reformation and Revival today
Dr. Peter Hammond