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We live in an age embroiled in turmoil and tension. Cultures are clashing in Europe as refugees from the Middle East seek asylum in increasing numbers. Americans are more polarized than ever. The very foundations of free and open societies are met with deep skepticism in popular media and throughout the larger culture.

In order to address these significant issues, Acton Institute is hosting a unique, two-day international conference at Acton Institute’s headquarters in Grand Rapids, MI. This conference will draw upon the work of Dutch politician, educator, and theologian Abraham Kuyper to present possible solutions for rediscovering civic virtue and building a society in which all may flourish.

On the evening of November 5, the Acton Institute will confer the 2018 Novak Award and its $15,000 prize to the Brazilian academic Prof. Lucas G. Freire of the Center for Economic Freedom at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo. Prof. Freire will present the Calihan Lecture based on his doctoral research in this area.

(The Calihan Lecture, taking place within the conference, is free and open to the public. Advance registration is required. Travel assistance or scholarships are not provided for this conference. Lodging is not included and must be arranged individually. The event will also be livestreamed. Sign up here to be notified when the event livestream begins.)

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Plenary Speakers
Volf Headshot


Miroslav Volf, Ph.D.

Professor of Theology, Yale Divinity School
Founding Director at the Yale Center for Faith & Culture

Miroslav Volf, Ph.D. is the Henry B. Wright Professor of Theology at Yale Divinity School and the Founder and Director of the Yale Center for Faith and Culture. He was educated in his native Croatia, the United States, and Germany, earning doctoral and post-doctoral degrees (with highest honors) from the University of Tübingen, Germany. He has written or edited more than 20 books and over 100 scholarly articles. His most significant books include Exclusion and Embrace (1996), winner of the Grawemeyer Award in Religion, and one of Christianity Today’s 100 most important religious books of the 20th century; Allah: A Christian Response (2011), on whether Muslims and Christians have a common God; A Public Faith: How Followers of Christ Should Serve the Common Good (2011); and Flourishing: Why We Need Religion in a Globalized World (2016). His next book, For the Life of the World: Theology that Makes a Difference, co-authored with Matthew Croasmun, will be released this fall.

Turnbull Headshot


Richard Turnbull, Ph.D.

Director at The Center for Enterprise, Markets and Ethics

Richard Turnbull, Ph.D. holds a degree in Economics and Accounting and spent over eight years as a Chartered Accountant with Ernst and Young. He also served as the youngest ever member of the Press Council. Richard also holds a first class honours degree in Theology and PhD in Theology from the University of Durham. He was ordained into the ministry of the Church of England in 1994. Richard served in the pastoral ministry for over 10 years. He has authored several books, is a member of the Faculty of Theology of the University of Oxford and is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society.

Lucas Freire Headshot


Lucas G. Freire, Ph.D.

2018 Novak Award Winner; Assistant Professor at Mackenzie Presbyterian University

Lucas G. Freire, Ph.D. is an assistant professor at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo, Brazil, and a fellow at the university’s new Center for Economic Freedom. He is also a postdoctoral fellow at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. He received his PhD in politics from the University of Exeter. He previously served as a research associate with the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics in Cambridge, UK. Prof. Freire has commented on political and economic issues drawing on Christian thinking in the Reformed tradition. He has published on political theory and philosophy in journals such as Philosophia Reformata and Acta Academica. His current research focuses on the connection between religion, politics and economics in the ancient Near East and the biblical world. He lives in São Paulo with his wife and two children.


Bruce Ashford headshot
Bruce Riley Ashford, Ph.D.
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

Provost and Professor of Theology & Culture

Bruce Riley Ashford, Ph.D. is Provost and Professor of Theology & Culture at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author or co-author of six books, including Letters to an American Christian (B&H, 2018), One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics (B&H, 2015), and Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians (Lexham, 2015). He is married to Lauren, with whom he has two daughters and a son.

He has been featured in Fox News Opinion, First Things Magazine, USA Today, The Daily Signal, The Daily Caller, The Gospel Coalition, and other national outlets. He has appeared on National Public Radio (NPR), Fox Radio, and many other nationally syndicated shows.

He is a Senior Fellow in Public Theology at the Kirby Laing Institute for Christian Ethics (Cambridge, UK), and a participant in the Dulles Colloquium of the Institute on Religion & Public Life (New York, NY), and a Research Fellow at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (Nashville, TN).

He has spoken at universities, seminaries, and churches across Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, including those associated with the Baptist, Presbyterian, Anglican, Methodist, and Assemblies of God denominations.

Jordan J. Ballor headshot
Jordan J. Ballor, Ph.D.
Acton Institute

Senior Research Fellow and Director of Publishing

Jordan J. Ballor, Ph.D. (Dr. theol., University of Zurich; Ph.D., Calvin Theological Seminary) is a senior research fellow and director of publishing at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion & Liberty. He is also a postdoctoral researcher in theology and economics at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam as part of the "What Good Markets Are Good For" project. 

Alan R. Crippen Headshot
Alan R. Crippen II
The American Bible Society

Chief of Exhibits, Programs, and Public Engagement

Alan R. Crippen II is Chief of Exhibits, Programs, and Public Engagement for the Faith & Liberty Discovery Center at American Bible Society on Independence Mall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Previously he served as founding president of the John Jay Institute, an educational and professional civic leadership development organization.

Alan has more than two decades of experience in non-profit executive management and college level teaching including vice-president for policy and academic affairs at Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and director of development at International Students, Inc. in Colorado Springs. His military service includes platoon and artillery battery command as well as various battalion staff operations and planning positions in the U.S. Army. Alan holds degrees from Westminster Theological Seminary (M.A.R.) and Cairn University (B.S.). He is an ordained clergyman with canonical residence in the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) and membership in the Anglican Church in North America. Alan and his wife, Michelle, have a teenaged daughter, four married adult children, and five grandchildren and make their home in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Daniel Frascella Headshot
Daniel Frascella, Ph.D.
Archdiocese of New York

Director of Adult Faith Formation

Daniel Frascella, Ph.D. serves as the director of adult faith formation for the Archdiocese of New York and is an adjunct professor of Church History at St. Joseph’s Seminary in Yonkers, NY. He completed an MA and PhD in Church History at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., and his studies focus on the historical development of Catholic Social Teaching.

Pavel Hanes Headshot
Pavel Hanes, Ph.D.
University of Matej Bel

Professor of Theology and Catechetics

Pavel Hanes, Ph.D. was awarded an MA in theology by the Lutheran Theological Faculty in Bratislava (1977-1982). He became a Baptist pastor in August 1982 and served as a pastor for nearly 11 years in the north of Slovakia (1982-1993). In 1993 he was invited to teach at the Theological Mission Seminary (now Chair of Theology and Catechetics) in Banska Bystrica.

In the beginning of the school existence he was teaching Church History, Greek and Missiology. Later he began to teach the Old Testament subjects and Philosophy. In 2002 he received his PhD (Systematic Theology and Old Testament) from the Lutheran Theological Faculty in Bratislava and in 2007 a ThDr (Philosophical Issues for Theologians) from Matej Bel University in Banska Bystrica. In 2009, after the successful defence of his habilitation research thesis (Theology of Catastrophe According to the Book of Job), he became an associate professor, and started to do more teaching and training in churches mainly in Slovakia. One of his main research topics are the post-Marxist residuals in Central and Eastern Europe. 

Mary Li Ma Headshot
Mary Li Ma, Ph.D.
Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics; Calvin College

Research Fellow

Mary Li Ma, Ph.D. is currently a research fellow at Henry Institute for the Study of Christianity and Politics at Calvin College. She received her doctorate in sociology from Cornell University. Her expertise include China mission research and public theology with regard to global urbanism and migration.

Dr. Ma published three books and numerous articles both in English and Chinese. Her book Surviving the State, Remaking the Church has been listed as Ten Outstanding Books in Mission Research of 2017 by International Bulletin of Mission Research. Her most recent book The Chinese Exodus serves the first migration-related public theology in the Chinese context. She also writes a column for, China's largest financial media group. Her articles on public policy and NGO governance appear on Initium and Financial Times as well.

Deborah O'Malley Headshot
Deborah O'Malley, Ph.D.
Assumption College

2018-2019 Inaugural Daniel Patrick Moynihan Postdoctoral Fellow

Deborah O’Malley, Ph.D. is the 2018-2019 inaugural Daniel Patrick Moynihan Postdoctoral Fellow at Assumption College. In 2017-18 she served as a Forbes Postdoctoral Research Associate in the James Madison Program at Princeton University, where her research explored the source and scope of the rights of religious institutions in the American legal tradition.

Prior to attending graduate school, she spent several years providing research for various non-profit organizations in Washington, D.C., including the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty. She has participated in fellowships with the Claremont Institute; the John Jay Institute; the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs; and the Ethics and Public Policy Center’s Tertio Millennio Seminar on the Free Society in Krakow, Poland. Debbie holds a Ph.D and an M.A. in Political Science from Baylor University, and a B.A. in Philosophy and Political Science from Ashland University.

Manfred Svensson Headshot
Manfred Svensson
University of the Andes

Head of Department of Philosophy

Manfred Svensson is Professor and Head of the Department of Philosophy at the University of the Andes, Chile, and Associate Researcher at the Instituto de Estudios de la Sociedad. His most recent books are Reforma protestante y tradición intelectual cristiana; C. S. Lewis, una introducción; and Aquinas Among the Protestants (co-edited with David VanDrunen). 

Conference Livestream (English Language)

Event Details

Start Date

End Date


Acton Institute | Mark Murray Auditorium
98 E. Fulton Street
Grand Rapids, MI 49503
United States

Length of Event
Monday 1pm - 9pm (dinner and Calihan lecture included); Tuesday 8am-12pm (breakfast included)

Thanks to a generous donor, this event is offered free of charge to all attendees and includes meals. Registration is required for attendance.


Directions to the Acton Institute

Parking for this conference is complimentary. Please pick up your vouchers from an Acton staff at registration. 

Vouchers can be applied to any of the city garages nearby

Please enter building off of Sheldon Blvd.