Last Wednesday and Thursday (3-4, June), I gave two speeches at a conference in Lisbon, Portugal entitled " Calvin’s Battle for the Reformation." The event was sponsored by a Portuguese denomination, the Christian Presbyterian Church of Portugal (Igreja Cristã Presbiteriana de Portugal, ICPP). The organising committee did a fine job, hanging an attractive banner announcing the conference theme at the front of the church and providing attendees with a helpful programme and a booklet containing excerpts from Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion.
On the first night, the saints assembled to learn about the great Genevan Reformer, while in the nearby Sporting Lisbon football stadium the devil provided entertainment for some of his slaves through Australian rock band AC/DC. Thankfully the racket could not be heard in our church building and the main difficulties caused by the concert were increased traffic and the scarcity of parking spots. Before the first lecture, Nuno Pinheiro (the interpreter), Rev. Manuel Luzia (Nuno’s pastor and an organiser of the conference) and I were interviewed before the TV cameras of the Evangelical Alliance of Portugal. The cameras stayed around to record the start of the speech. Some of this footage is to appear later on Portuguese national television.
As well as native Portuguese, attendees included those who originated in the US, Brazil and Sâo Tomé, an island off west Africa and a former Portuguese colony. Calvin would have approved of the singing of Psalms 1 and 100; he used to sing to the tune of the latter in St. Pierre’s Cathedral in Geneva. The saints in Lisbon were a most appreciative audience, listening very well as I spoke a sentence or clause in English and Nuno translated it into Portuguese. The people were very engaged in the question and answer periods after both speeches, with questions ranging from the execution of Servetus and the state of the Church of England to key points of Calvin’s theology for today and the way forward for Reformed churches in the twenty-first century.
Those whose English was up to it bought a number of books on or by Calvin and other literature, and took DVDs of debates on Calvinism and charismaticism plus free pamphlets. The two meetings were recorded on camcorder and should be going on-line in the next few days (http://presbiteriana.com.sapo.pt/).
Rev. Luzia, the saints of the ICPP and other visitors asked me to pass on their regards to the CPRC and to let you know that they are praying for you. Greetings also from Nuno and Alina Pinheiro who were with us in Ballymena for a long weekend at the start of May and who, with their children Tarsis, Tamar and Lucas, attended the 2008 British Reformed Fellowship Conference in Co. Fermanagh. Nuno and Alina and their children made delightful hosts for our time in the Lisbon area and we were superbly treated by them and our Portuguese fellow believers.
Photos from the Calvin conference in Portugal can be viewed online (http://presbiteriana.com.sapo.pt/3junho.htm and http://presbiteriana.com.sapo.pt/4junho.htm). Rev. Francisco Moura, who attended the conference, has a report on it on his blog (http://franciscomoura.blogspot.com/2009/06/conferencia-batalha-de-calvino-pela.html).
Let us pray for the cause of Christ in Portugal!
Left to right: Rev. Glenn Camenisch, Gerson Júnior, Nuno Pinheiro, Rev. Stewart and Rev. Manuel Luzia