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Acton Notes - June/July/August 2009

The 2009 Acton University attracted nearly four hundred participants for the four-day conference in downtown Grand Rapids on June 16-19. One of the many highlights of Acton University this year was professor

Acton University Receives High Praise

Robert P. George’s keynote lecture on natural law. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University. George’s lecture is available on the Acton PowerBlog in its entirety.

Numerous writers on blogs and posters on social networking websites also praised the Acton Institute for the quality of the classes and lectures during Acton University. R.J. Moeller says on his “Voice in the Wilderness” blog:

Because of my admitted inability to thoroughly pay homage to all the things Acton does, I want to focus like a laser beam on what I believe to be the most important service they provide: an articulation and defense of traditional, Judeo-Christian, conservative values and principles in the economic, political, and cultural realm. At the heart of everything Acton does there is a convergence of faith, reason, ideas, facts, and the practicality of any ideology, belief system, or solution must display for it to even be considered as a legitimate option.

Fr. John Zuhlsdorf, who authors an extremely popular Catholic blog, said of Acton University:

This is perhaps the most authentically ecumenical gathering I have ever been to. There are many Protestant and Catholic clergy, including Bishop Rifam from Brazil. It promises to be a rich few days.

The Acton Institute provided 100 travel scholarships to students from across the country and overseas. In total, forty-six countries were represented at Acton University this year. A twenty-nine person faculty, drawn from academia, business, and a number of religious traditions, taught the courses.

Building Networks at AU

Acton Institute together with the Kern Family Foundation brought thirty Protestant seminary professors together from all corners of the United States. The fellows met for a special reception to begin networking and discussing ideas at Acton University. The seminaries represented were Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary at Cornerstone University, Calvin Seminary, Mid- America Reformed Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Bethel University, Northern Baptist Seminary, Ashland Theological Seminary, Denver Seminary, North Park Seminary, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, Houston Baptist Seminary, and Grace College and Theological Seminary.

The Robert and Marie Hansen Foundation, with the Acton Institute, sponsored twenty-five Catholic High School Honor Roll teachers throughout the United States, allowing them to attend Acton University. The Hansen fellows were invited to a private luncheon on the Friday of the conference, followed by a special presentation by Dr. Stephen Haessler from the Hansen Foundation.

John Calvin’s Quincentenary

Jordan Ballor, the associate editor of The Journal of Markets and Morality, published a noteworthy piece in First Things titled “Calvin, Conversions, and Catholicity.” June 10, 2009, marked the fivehundred year anniversary of John Calvin’s birth. The occasion was marked by significant celebration across the world in Reformed communities. Ballor said in his piece in First Things:

I take the occasion to pay special attention to Calvin’s concern for articulating the antiquity, and therefore the catholicity, of the Reformation. Among the factors that converts from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism very often cite as a major influence on their move is the novelty of the former compared with the antiquity of the latter. That is, undoubtedly, an important point that ought to be addressed by concerned Protestants. But I argue, in continuity with the Reformers, I think, that this concern is best answered in the first place not by discounting the value or the importance of antiquity, but rather by doing justice to the claims of the Reformation itself to representing the ancient and catholic faith.

He also discussed the importance of Calvin’s quincentenary and his piece in First Things on Al Kresta’s radio program. Ballor is a Ph.D. candidate in historical theology at Calvin Theological Seminary and a Doktorand in reformation history at the University of Zurich.

Acton Social Networking Surges

The Acton Institute has seen tremendous growth on the social networking sites Facebook and Twitter. One of the reasons for the surge is the timely and expert commentary Acton has provided on Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical.

Acton has over one thousand fans on Facebook and over three hundred followers on Twitter. Intern Louie Glinzak, who has led much of the effort, said, “Social networks allow Acton to instantly inform our friends on publications, content, research, and news appearances by the Acton Institute.“

Acton Shows Expertise on Caritas in Veritate

The Acton Institute has been a leading commentator on Pope Benedict XVI’s new encyclical Caritas in Veritate. Whether it’s media appearances or web content related to the encyclical, the number of Acton Catholic experts and their ability to discuss and offer expertise on the encyclical is proving to be extremely valuable, especially in the highspeed news cycle of today.

Rev. Robert Sirico, president of the Acton Institute wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

In his much anticipated third encyclical, Caritas in Veritate (Love in Truth), Pope Benedict XVI does not focus on specific systems of economics—he is not attempting to shore up anyone’s political agenda. He is rather concerned with morality and the theological foundation of culture. The context is, of course, a global economic crisis—a crisis that’s taken place in a moral vacuum, where the love of truth has been abandoned in favor of a crude materialism. The pope urges that this crisis become “an opportunity for discernment, in which to shape a new vision for the future.”

Furthermore, Acton has a Rome office that has played a considerable role in its position to influence international media. Staff members from the Rome office were able to attend the official press conference on the encyclical at the Vatican. The Acton Institute has catalogued all their commentary, blogs, interviews, and information on Caritas in Veritate on a special resource page, which can be found on the Acton website.

Summer interns at the Acton Institute have been busy helping to provide analysis of the new encyclical. Matt Cavedon, a junior at Harvard University, has been invaluable at providing timely content and resources. Cavedon says of his work experience:

It has been a pleasure to work at Acton and have an opportunity to dig into the theological meaning of Caritas in Veritate. Contributing to the PowerBlog has allowed me to engage with questions like the proper role of international authority and how our dignity fits into theories of natural rights. Without the expertise and perspective provided by Acton’s scholars, I never could have analyzed the encyclical in the ways that I did.