It is a privilege, professionally challenging, and intellectually and spiritually stimulating, to teach at Acton University. My efforts include the fourth Core Course, Biblical Foundations of Freedom, and select elective courses – this year my elective course was Why Wesley Matters. The multicultural and multidenominational student body compels creativity and clarity, and I relish the challenge. The opportunity to present the integration of faith, work, and economics is a life mission with much impact on the listeners. The interaction, evaluation, and lasting influence is quite fulfilling.
Charlie Self, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
As a professor, I find the Acton Institute…strongly encouraging us to live for Christ in the business sector and not just in the “sanctuary.” Who we are as persons in the lordship of Christ is significant to this effort. I experience transformation personally and in the lives of those around me at each Acton University conference. I have become more aware of the interests and concerns of the world through meeting people from around the world who resonate with the call to live Christ 24/7.
Susan Reese, Sioux Falls Seminary
The power of Acton University is the presentation of content in an overall context of nonpartisan, thoughtful (more than emotional), yet energetic interaction – truly rare and wonderful. As a first-time attendee and a Wesleyan, I was grateful for how the four foundational courses drew effectively on various sources of authority (in the framework of the Wesleyan quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason, and Experience). I benefited most from the seminars Church, City & Urban Renewal, and Asset-based Participatory Development; both presenters were practitioners as well as scholars, and they effectively modeled how to vigorously assess the true outcomes of our beliefs and behaviors in serving others.
Wayne Schmidt, Indiana Wesleyan University
For years, I have been engaged in political, cultural, and economic conversations with family, friends, and colleagues. Along the way, there have been times when I wondered whether we were speaking more as followers of Christ or more as patriotic Americans. It has been troubling how often the two were either confused or simply mixed together. We knew intuitively that there is a Christian response to the political and economic issues in our world, but I don’t think we knew how to engage them from a thoughtful, biblical, theologically-informed perspective. Acton University is one place where more thoughtful discussion is happening. I look forward to wrestling more with how discipleship to Jesus Christ guides our efforts to impact society for the Kingdom.
Darrell Yoder, Grand Rapids Theological Seminary
One of the greatest benefits this year was sharing with other Old Testament professors and dealing with Old Testament ethics and laws related to property and economics at the workshop facilitated by The Kern Family Foundation. AU also had some excellent Old Testament scholars present, and sessions in my area of specialization which confirmed and clarified my understandings in these areas.
Roger Cotton, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary
I found Dr. Brian Fikkert’s lecture on “When Helping Hurts” to be the most insightful and informative for my own personal growth. I left the session disappointed with myself for allowing my efforts to fall under the “me helping the poor” mentality. How we define the word poor has a direct correlation on how we “help” the poor. People in North America have a tendency to equate poverty with lacking financial security. This leads many Americans to give money to an organization and then wash their hands of any direct responsibility towards fighting poverty…One example that was given in the lecture was the image presented in videos, photographs, etc. of children in third world countries laughing, playing, and simply enjoying life, regardless of what material possessions they may or may not have. We can then turn around and look at the United States and see that statistics show an alarming rate of children coming from well-to-do families needing counseling or therapy sessions to deal with the mounting pressures that come from a culture that thrives on busyness, competitiveness, and consumption of unnecessary materials. “Keeping up with the Joneses” has caused numerous hardships for families in our country. This proves that the definition of poverty is far from anything dealing with finances. Poverty stems from a lack of genuine relationships.
Dustin Brouwer, Sioux Falls Seminary
I was inspired by an idea shared in the first talk given by Father Sirico – that, although an important part of the discussion is about economics and the free market system, we also need to be reminded of the higher purpose and overall goal of our free market commitment. It is a way to facilitate the overall flourishing of people. (He made the point more eloquently than I can here!) This idea set the overall tone for my time at AU.
Klaus Issler, Biola University
The seminars were outstanding! I was particularly blessed by the section Education and the Free Society, by Todd Flanders. It was very eye-opening and made me revisit the impact that my own education had on me from an early age. It was amazing to revisit the fact that our mindsets are indeed set early in our lives. No wonder the government would love to get more control of our…education.
Bruce Fields, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
A highlight for me this year was finally getting to hear former Swiss Guard member and CEO Andreas Widmer on the CEO’s role in creating culture. The presentation included live testimony from the owner/leader of a major New England bakery chain who…related how he treated every employee and member of a supplier or customer group as someone on the winding road to heaven. This led him, for example, to cut off a lucrative relationship with a major supplier who refused to discipline one of their employees who repeatedly verbally abused the bakery chain’s drivers, and (in another case) to redemptively reverse a decision to fire a long-term employee struggling with anger issues. Andreas encouraged the packed audience to consider executive culture-making as the chief task not only of CEOs, but also of leaders in every organization, including the family…Perhaps the most striking theme that emerged at this AU was that of freedom. This was effectively communicated by our first plenary speaker (after Father Sirico), an Iranian woman captured and tortured in the opening days of Ayatollah Khomeini’s rule. She described how easy it is for freedom to be taken away in a formerly open society. The theme emerged again at the next night’s plenary, as a journalist who had been present in Hong Kong during its emergence as a market power related how intentional “hands-off” economic policies caused that city to thrive as never before. Both plenaries left me thinking long and hard about the dynamics, causes, and effects of social and economic freedom, and the concomitant necessity of protecting it from the political encroachment of those who think they have the smarts, and the right, to dictate the actions of the masses in oppressive ways.
Chris Armstrong, Bethel Seminary