EKD Press Releases
"Our awareness of the treasure should grow"
EKD and Reformed Alliance hold festive event marking the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth
July 10, 2009
The Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) and the Reformed Alliance celebrated the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin (1509-1564) in the French Friedrichstadt Church in Berlin. Speakers included German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier ("Calvinism and Europe") and Bishop Wolfgang Huber, Chair of the EKD Council.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier called Calvin a "door-opener" and "transitional figure". Later generations, said Steinmeier, "have taken up his ideas. They have built on them and thus crucially molded our society". This applies particularly to the "relationship between religion, politics and business and the significance of Calvinism for the emergence of modern democracy." Calvin called for self-discipline in the handling of possessions. Possessions, for Calvin, went hand-in-hand with an obligation to society. Calvin thus forged "a principle that today is part of our constitution and is particularly relevant at the moment: Property entails obligations (Art. 14)."
Under the heading "Church of the Reformation - Reform of the Church", Bishop Wolfgang Huber placed the reform process in the EKD in relationship to the work of John Calvin. Just as Calvin and the Reformers had not been able to choose the situation at the time, the present church also has to face up to the challenges of the day: "The loss of tradition which we have gone through in Western and Eastern Europe, also in our own country, calls for a powerful counter-movement. We cannot just live with the fact that many people have even forgotten they have forgotten God. Although differently, we see our task - with the 75-year-old Barmen Theological Declaration - as taking the news of God's free grace to all peoples."
Huber also stressed how much commemorating John Calvin could help to bring out the wealth of different denominations in Protestantism, stating, "Traditions are like spectacles: we should look through them, not at them. Only thus will they help us to see more without them. We have gone beyond the time in which we played Reformation traditions off against each other. Instead, we want to discover the treasures that they hold. During the Luther decade leading up to the anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 we are celebrating a Calvin year; a Melanchthon year will follow. So it is all about interlocking traditions; we should grow in awareness of the treasure entrusted to us. We want to benefit from this treasure for our path into the future."
Huber also recalled Calvin's knowledge of God that was fundamental for the modern age, summing it up as follows: "No knowledge of God without knowledge of ourselves. God is not an abstract principle, but has to do with me as a person. We cannot conceive of God properly without relating God to ourselves."
Hanover, 10 July 2009
EKD Press Office