For some years I knew of the work of the Rockford Institute. I also knew of some of the trials that impacted that work in the early 1980s. Yesterday I visited the Howard Center in Rockford, Illinois, which sits next door to the Rockford Institute. The Rockford Institute publishes the often eccentric magazine Chronicles, which I read each month with very mixed response because of the often odd direction of contrarian editor Thomas Fleming.
I write about this about Rockford Institute because the Howard Center is not to be confused with the Rockford Institute. The short story is that the Rockford Institute was begun by Dr. John Howard, who was then president of Rockford College (1960 until 1977). Dr. Howard originally began the work of the institute as the Rockford College Institute. Soon after stepping down as president the college wanted no part of his courageous and conservative pro-family agenda. Dr. John Howard later invited Dr. Richard John Neuhaus, then a Lutheran minister in New York City, to edit The Religion and Society Report, the wonderful periodical of the Rockford Institute in those days. I read that publication during the Neuhaus years before he founded the internationally well-known First Things magazine, which I still read. After Neuhaus left Rockford Institute my friend Harold O. J. Brown, who then taught theology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (TEDS), became editor of The Religion and Society Report, which he still edits todaay. The Religion and Society Report is well worth the subcription price of $24.00 and appears eight times a year.
In the late 1980s the Rockford Institute went in a different direction and thus The Howard Center for Family, Religion & Society was formed to promote the vision and values of the original Rockford Institute. The Howard Center is a non-profit organization led by president Allan C. Carlson and vice-president Lawrence D. Jacobs. You can check out the valuable work of the Howard Center at www.profam.org. I urge you to consider becoming an Associate Member for $25 annually. I joined as a Full Member for $70 and read the material with keen interest and now can give my full personal support. The mission and vision of the Howard Center is clearly stated at the Web site so check it out youself.
I visited the Howard Center yesterday because in the kind providence of God I met Dr. John Howard in September. I was a guest speaker at Westminster Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Rockford and where met Dr. Howard on a Saturday morning. Dr. Howard publicly asked me a very good, but not so easy to answer, question related to Christian mission (my topic) and its relationship to family and cultural change. I was intrigued by such a distinguished Christain gentleman and by his vast well of wisdom. We later talked that morning and then agreed to meet later this year for lunch, which happened yesterday.
Dr. Howard was, and remains to this day, an educator and cultural critic. He served in the Eisenhower administration as a young man and also knew the late President Richard Nixon very well. His friends include a list of cultural and political leaders a mile long. Listening to him, and getting to know something of his long and fruitful life, was well worth the trip to Rockford. More importantly, we related well to one another as friends do while we also talked about church and culture at this crucial moment in America’s history. I like the vision and heart I see in John Howard very much and thus I strongly encourage you to support this work with me. This is the kind of cultural input thoughtful Christians desperately need now. It is not the shrill rant of the Christian Right but rather the thoughtful and measured response of a very balanced conservativsm.