As Reformed institutions worldwide prepare to celebrate the 500th anniversary on Friday, July 10, of the birth of Protestant Reformation leader, John Calvin, leaders of a global movement of Reformed churches have issued a statement calling on Christians to consider Calvin as a source of inspiration for responding to contemporary social and environmental concerns.

In the statement released Wednesday by leaders of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), which represents 75 million Reformed church members, including the Christian Reformed Church, WARC’s president and general secretary link commentaries written by Calvin, a 16th century lawyer and theologian, to the current global economic crisis. Calvin, they say, should not be viewed as a saint, but instead as a man whose ideas and Reformed teachings resonate yet today.

The statement by WARC holds theological weight and is certainly serious in its focus and worthy of reflection.

But this week's anniversary will also be a time of celebration. Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Mich., for instance, is holding a series of events to celebrate its namesake. The school’s Meeter Center is holding a Genevan Psalm Sing at 7:30 p.m., Thursday, July 9, in the Calvin Theological Seminary Chapel. All are welcome and refreshments will be served afterwards.

On Friday, there will be a birthday party starting at 10 a.m. at the Hoogenboom Health & Recreation Center in the Spoelhof Fieldhouse Complex.

Along with cake, punch, and singing "Happy Birthday," a special John Calvin birthday video will be shown and people will have a chance to sing a hymn written by Calvin himself. After the birthday party, people can visit the Meeter Center on the 4th floor of the college library to see Calvin displays and items from the rare books collection.

As for the statement released by WARC, alliance president, Clifton Kirkpatrick, and general secretary, Setri Nyomi, quote Calvin’s instructions to the church about how to respond to 16th century economic and environmental concerns and note that these teachings speak to contemporary concerns about the impact of climate change and the market crisis on the world’s poor.

Calvin believed and wrote, say Kirkpatrick and Nyomi, that a fair distribution of resources can become reality if the rich "do not greedily swallow up whatsoever they can get together; if they do not rake up on every side what belongs to others to satisfy their greed…"

"In our world today where humanity is blatantly ignoring the environment and in fact destroying God's creation," says the WARC Statement, "Calvin's words can be instructive: 'Whoever owns a piece of land, should harvest the fruits in such a way that the soil does not suffer damage.' "

In pointing to the relevance of Calvin’s legacy for today, Kirkpatrick and Nyomi say: "It is our hope that inspired by (Calvin's teachings), we who live in the 21st century will also be faithful … to doing everything we can to be God’s agents of transformation, making a difference in our communities."

WARC will merge with the Reformed Ecumenical Council, which is based in Grand Rapids, Mich., at Calvin College next summer. The meeting is being hosted in part by the Christian Reformed Church.

Visit the WARC website to read the full statement.