Category: News and Events

Here is an index of posts from last week’s Acton University:

Blog author: mvandermaas
posted by on Friday, June 15, 2007

Sometimes you come across a story that’s so powerful that it DEMANDS to be posted. This is one such story:

“Usually, if a turd gets into the Senate, it’s because he or she was elected,” Emily Heil reports for Roll Call. “But on Wednesday, several large piles of actual, nonmetaphorical ‘No. 2′ found their way into the Capitol, and the source isn’t yet clear.”

It was the first sentence that got me.

Today’s lectures from Acton University 2007 (updated as more audio becomes available):

Acton PowerBlogger John H. Armstrong is with us this week in Grand Rapids for Acton University. He is founder and director of ACT 3, a ministry aimed at “encouraging the church, through its leadership, to pursue doctrinal and ethical reformation and to foster spiritual awakening.” Here’s his post on Wednesday’s conference activities:

The relationship between integrity, virtue and vision is not often developed in the business world. Yesterday the Acton University experience afforded me a unique opportunity to understand better why such a relationship fosters both free markets and free people. The moral dimension is critical to both sound economics and entrepreneurial leadership. This is one of several ways that Acton brings together the worlds of faith and freedom.

Last evening Mr. Jeff Sandefer, a Texas businessman who twice made a fortune and then sold his hugely profitable companies, shared his own story: “A Journey from Pride to Gratitude.” It felt a little like being back in the world I experienced growing up in Tennessee or the world I saw when I visited my businessman-farmer uncle in northeast Texas. Jeff is a down-to-earth humble guy who has made enough mistakes to fill a book. Divorced, filled with himself and his accomplishments, and determined to follow a course of running from God at several junctures in his life, he again and again met the God of all grace who called him to radical faithfulness and gratitude.

Today Jeff directs a charitable foundation, built with the money he earned, and leads a most innovative and highly regarded school of business, named appropriately the Acton School of Business, in Austin, Texas. He is now shaping the future by giving himself to others through his vocational skills. Jeff provided a wonderful model to Acton University students of a simple, but radical, “long, slow, obedience in the same direction” (Eugene Peterson). It was a refreshing conversational address. (more…)

Kris Mauren (far right) and African guests get ready to visit GFS.

Acton University is now well underway, and on Wednesday a group of seven African attendees joined Kris Mauren on a visit to Gordon Food Service’s Grand Rapids headquarters for an up-close look at ethical capitalism. Mauren called it a great opportunity for people from countries with barren and corrupt markets to see an efficient, principled business for themselves. “The management of GFS also has a strong concern for philanthropy and international missions,” he said. “So it’s a great model of the capitalist ideal to hold up for these folks, who are used to a much more hostile economic climate.”

The group met with Gordon Food Service management for a luncheon, then toured the company’s office and factory area. Harry Ayile, formerly from Ghana and now residing in Norway, was completely blown away by what he observed. “It was like … wow,” Ayile commented with a smile. He was struck by the dedication shown by the company’s workers. “At every level, the workers are extremely well-organized, focused, and committed to doing their jobs excellently,” he said.

Ayile was astonished at how the “energetic” GFS employees took pains to avoid mistakes in the orders they were filling. “The business has a good system of checks and balances, and most of the employees have been there for fifteen years or more,” he said. “They take true satisfaction in their work.”

Comparing Gordon Food Service’s methods to the way business is done in Africa and even in Europe, Ayile said his visit couldn’t have been more of an eye-opener. “Before I came to Acton, I thought all people who did business were evil,” he said.

Ayile recalled one food-production company in Ghana that deliberately had been selling expired grain infested with maggots. “They would just sift out the maggots, package the grain, and sell it at full price,” he said. “Finally one employee caught on to what was happening and was able to produce evidence and pictures, but it went on for awhile.” Ayile called the incident typical of business practices in much of Africa, which lacks the institutional support necessary for free enterprise to flourish. When the rule of law is unreliable, incentives for greedy and corrupt behavior often outweigh the benefits of integrity. He added that many businesses “show very little respect for the consumer, as opposed to the way American businesses like Gordon Food Service care about their customers.”

Ayile and others from the group — which included visitors from the Congo, Kenya, and other African countries — all said they were very impressed with the way GFS invested in its employees and how these employees, in turn, were invested in the success of the company. Although Africa has a long way to go, Ayile said his visit was inspiring and gave him hope for the future of Ghana and other developing countries in Africa.

A sampling of today’s lectures at Acton University – Bumped – additional lectures added:

Bonus: Kruse Kronicle gives us all a glimpse into the nightmarish dystopia that is a Michael Miller lecture:

This is perhaps the most disturbing image ever captured of Michael Miller in his natural academic habitat.

Last Friday evening, Rev. Setri Nyomi, general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC), gave a joint plenary address to the Assembly of World-Wide Partners and to the CRC Multiethnic Conference.

The talk was titled, “Partnering in a Global Context: Principles and Patterns that will Shape Us,” and focused on three main sets of issues. What is the meaning of being called to mission in partnership today? What are the characteristics of the global contexts that we find ourselves in? What are principles and patterns that can shape us for effective mission partnership, including challenges for our times? (more…)

Last Friday afternoon I attended workshops on the theme, “Christian Education in Ministry,” at the Assembly of World-Wide Partners conference. Facilitated by John DeJager, two speakers were featured in these workshops. Comfort Enders is a lead-teacher at an educational initiative in Liberia, Kingdom Foundation Institute. Dr. Gaylen Byker is president of Calvin College and an expert in Christian education around the world. (more…)

The Friday morning plenary address at last week’s Assembly of World-Wide Partners was given by Ruth Padilla deBorst, a 15-year veteran of work with Christian Reformed World Missions. Padilla deBorst’s talk focused on relations between the global north and global south, “Together in Missions in the 21st Century.” In the following I’ll summarize her talk and intersperse the summary with some of my own reflections. One general comment, with Acton University beginning today: the valuable uniqueness of a conference like Acton U comes into sharp relief given the economic, political, and ideological attitudes on display at an event like the Assembly of World-Wide Partners. (more…)

Last Friday I attended a day’s worth of events at the Assembly of World-Wide Partners of the Christian Reformed Church in North America. I was volunteering to write up summaries of some of the elements of the conference. I was assigned three items: the Friday morning plenary address by Ruth Padilla deBorst, “Together in Missions in the 21st Century”; the Friday workshop sessions on “Christian Education in Ministry”; and the Friday evening plenary address by WARC general secretary Rev. Setri Nyomi, “Partnering in a Global Context: Principles and Patterns that will Shape Us.”

In a series of posts through this week, I’m going to add my reflections and analysis to these summaries. Before I get to those events in particular, however, I want to say a little bit about how Friday morning opened.

Before Ruth Padilla deBorst gave her talk, two representatives from the Micah Challenge addressed the packed audience. First was Michael Smitheram, who is International Coordinator for the Micah Challenge. He introduced various folks attending the conference who are involved in the Micah Challenge’s work. He also provided a summary of what he thought the mission of the Micah Challenge was: “In the Micah Challenge, the body of Christ is finding its voice as a global constituency for the poor.” To be clear, by “constituency” Smitheram means a political constituency. We’ll get back to that point a bit later.

The second representative of the Micah Challenge was Rev. Joel Edwards, President of the Evangelical Alliance (UK) and International Chair of the Micah Challenge. Rev. Edwards discussed three “miracles” in the fight against global poverty:

  1. Jubilee 2000, a historic “miracle,” in which God galvanized the world to engage poverty, with the church at the epicenter.

  2. Governments pledging to halve absolute poverty (MDGs)
  3. The Micah Challenge.

Rev. Edwards clarified the genesis of the Micah Challenge, as the result of combined efforts of the Micah Network and World Evangelical Alliance.

Heading toward 2015, the Micah Challenge focuses on eight “covenants” with the poor (corresponding with the eight Millennium Development Goals), which go beyond “checkbook Christianity” to address heart and lifestyle changes (Micah 6:8).

“If we fail our promises to the poor,” says Rev. Edwards, “The world will be in a spiritually catastrophic place in 2015.”

I got the distinct impression that the Micah Challenge is really just the overtly religious equivalent of the ONE Campaign. There’s not much that is identifiably Christian about the aims of the Micah Challenge. The differences really lie in the motivation and basis for the Micah Challenge, which are clearly Christian.

But there needs to be a difference between something like the ONE Campaign and the Micah Challenge not only in the motivation (secular vs. religious), but in the telos. For a Christian, as I’ve said before, achievement of the Millennium Development Goals is not enough: “The service of the body must be done in view of the greater purpose of Christian missions: the salvation of souls. And this is something the government simply cannot do.”

To challenge Smitheram’s idea about the role of the Micah Challenge, the church’s work cannot simply be reduced to that of another special-interest group or political action committee, even if the poor are those who are ostensibly represented.