On June 14-17, the Acton Institute welcomed 625 participants from 70 countries for Acton University in Grand Rapids. The number eclipses last year's attendees by exactly 200. Ninetyeight percent of attendees also declared they would recommend Acton University to a friend.
Father Gregory Jensen of the Orthodox Church in America shared these thoughts about Acton University:
There is a great need in the Orthodox Church for the laity to understand the importance of marriage, family life and their work in the market place. Far from making them second class Christians or being a distraction to a life of Christian holiness, marriage, family life and work are the arenas within which the laity fulfill their baptismal vocation. Through formal classes and informal discussions, Acton University offers participants a framework within which to address positively the role of the laity in the sanctification of the world through their fidelity to Christ.
The evening keynote lectures included Diet Eman, who assisted Jews from the murderous Nazi occupation in the Netherlands as a bank teller in her 20s; Metropolitan Jonah, who in 2008 was elected as the head of the Orthodox Church in America; and a business panel, which included Mrs. Betsy DeVos, chair of American Federation for Children; Meijer President Mr. Mark Murray, and Mr. John Kennedy, president and CEO of Autocam Corporation.
Many of the 2011 Acton University lectures can be downloaded for $1.99 at the website: http://sites.fastspring.com/acton/product/actonuniversity2011.
Acton University is a unique, four-day exploration of the intellectual foundations of a free society. Guided by a distinguished, international faculty, Acton University is an opportunity to deepen your knowledge and integrate rigorous philosophy, Christian theology and sound economics.
Acton summer interns have used their skills, education, and experience to contribute timely content to the PowerBlog and Acton commentaries. "We had a lot of interns who have a passion for writing and because they understood the Acton principles, they were able to step in and contribute immediately," said associate editor Ray Nothstine. Matthea Brandenburg, Nathan Rolf, John Meszaros, Tony Oleck, Kenneth Spence, Elise Amyx, and Kailyn Baum all helped to strengthen Acton's web presence with timely material and commentary.
During his time at Acton, Tony Oleck published a piece on liturgy in Crisis Magazine. Elise Amyx published a commentary on agricultural subsidies in the Detroit News and published letters to the editor in The Washington Examiner. "Acton's glovesoff, no-holds-barred approach to economics and public life has been a refreshing change from the usual Washington way of operating," said Kenneth Spence. Spence provided timely analysis of budget issues, the religious left, foreign aid, and agricultural issues, to name a few.
"My Experience at Acton has been very positive. The team of interns is exceptional and I've been able to work closely with them and Acton employees on projects that I feel are meaningful and of great worth to the Institute," declared Kailyn Baum.
Matthea Brandenburg called Acton University the pinnacle of her internship:
Acton University has been the highlight of my time at Acton thus far. It was great to see 600 or more people that wanted to join in this search for truth and were eager to analyze the topics discussed.
The Acton Institute has been instrumental in the push back against clergy protesting possible federal budget cuts earmarked for social programs. The clergy standing against reform of the country's welfare and poverty policies are led by Sojourners President and CEO Jim Wallis. Wallis and others have signed on to a "Circle of Protection" that pledges commitment "to resist budget cuts that undermine the lives, dignity, and rights of poor and vulnerable people."
One way the Acton Institute has been leading the charge on challenging some religious leaders that want an ever expanding welfare state is responding with timely content in print, on the Acton PowerBlog and with media appearances. In a commentary on the topic, Acton's director of communications, John Couretas, offered these words:
Not only does the Circle of Protection group appear to be oblivious to the power of private charity and church-based outreach to the needy, but they seem to have no hope for the poor outside of bureaucratic remedies. This is a view of the human person not as a composite of flesh and spirit, but as a case number, a statistic and a passive victim of the daily challenges and troubles that life brings.
Also, responding to the Circle of Protection and advancing an alternative plan for reform is Christians for a Sustainable Economy (CASE). Readers can check out their website at Case4America.org.
On July 28, a group of religious left officials were arrested in the Capitol Rotunda in an act of protest over supposed cuts. They also staged the sit-in to pray for policies that would raise taxes.
His Beatitude, Metropolitan Jonah addressed over 600 Acton University attendees on "Asceticism and the Consumer Society" on June 16 in Grand Rapids. In November of 2008, Metropolitan Jonah was elected Archbishop of Washington and New York and Metropolitan of All America and Canada at the 15th All-American Council of the Orthodox Church in America, in Pittsburgh, PA.
Metropolitan Jonah spoke about the human condition:
Thus the tragic paradox of the fall, the great tragedy of human sinfulness is this: the gifts of God have become distorted. Rather than drawing us closer to Him and to each other, we misuse the good things of God to our own harm, spiritually, morally, psychologically, socially and physically.
The Orthodox bishop stressed the centrality of repentance so that man has a proper "stewardship of the material world, and its proper use to glorify God." He called on believers of the Gospel to not compartmentalize their spiritual life from all of culture and to overcome secularization. "The fruit of secularism is despair," declared Jonah.
On the world, Metropolitan Jonah said "it shimmers with God's creation." He received a rousing and prolonged standing ovation for his remarks.
You can read Metropolitan's prepared address in its entirety on the Acton website at www.acton.org/global/article/asceticism-consumer-society.