To mark the 500th anniversary of the birth of John Calvin, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches has developed a Calvin theme for its annual Lombard Essay Competition.The theme of the competition — which is open to all theology students or pastors 35 years of age or younger — is “What Would Calvin Say? Responsible Stewardship in the Face of Today’s Ecological and Financial Crises.”

Essays must be submitted no later than Sept. 1, 2009. They must address both environmental and financial stewardship.

According to contest officials, “Calvin taught that the magnificent works of creation are the original vehicles of the revelation of the divine glory and perfection. Despite the subjective vitiation of their revelatory function resulting from human sin, these works still shine as the theatre of God’s glory.

“What lessons might be drawn from Calvin’s high regard for the splendor of God’s gifts in creation to guide our response to the ecological crisis facing the earth?”

On the financial front, Calvin was the first theologian to defend and promote the lending of money at interest. Papal loyalists assailed him as an exemplar of the maxim that “usury is the brat of heresy” and later critics, beginning with Max Weber, pointed to him and his followers as progenitors of capitalism.

“More measured assessments are called for, since Calvin was motivated by the financial crisis of his own day,” WARC officials said. “In particular, he saw the circulation of trade as one of the ways that a redistribution of goods occurs in a world of unequal distribution. He also recognized the need for credit to create new business enterprises — in order both to produce goods and to provide employment for refugees and the poor.

“What lessons may be learned from Calvin about responsible financial stewardship in our day?”

Essays must be between 5,000 and 6,000 words and be written in English, French, German or Spanish. They must be submitted electronically in Microsoft Word format by e-mail.

According to the official rules, “The essay will illustrate a familiarity with Reformed tradition and Calvin’s theology and demonstrate both theological imagination and a willingness to relate theology and the challenges to witness and mission in the church today”; “give evidence of a critical understanding of the issues surrounding today’s ecological and financial crisis”; and “will offer biblical, theological and spiritual potential as a life-based issue that might create opportunities for interreligious solidarity and dialogue.”

All essays essay must be accompanied by notes and a bibliography which clearly indicate sources quoted in the paper and by a statement from the author declaring that he/she is the author of the paper.

First prize is $1,000; second prize is $600; third prize is $400.