Twelfth Annual REFORC Conference on Early Modern Christianity

KU Leuven will be hosting the Twelfth Annual REFORC Conference on Early Modern Christianity, which will take place May 11-13, 2023.

Image: “Handelsbeurs” or Bourse of Antwerp, since 1531. Credits: The Phoebus Foundation

Plenary Lectures

Early Modern Christianity, Economic Entrepreneurship, and Social Welfare

The REFORC conference in Leuven starts from the idea that early modern Catholic doctrines postulating human agency vis-à-vis God’s salvatory initiative, tended to valorize humans’ autonomy to take action, not least in the realms of commerce and banking. But equally widespread is the view that the Calvinist ethics of assiduous labor, thrift, and sobriety, and the ensuing prosperity, was considered a token of God’s election. Recent scholarship discusses, moreover, the relationship between Lutheran Protestantism and the emergence of the modern Nordic welfare state. In any case, the Early Modern Era saw intensive debates between theological currents emphasizing human agency, and others attributing justification and salvation solely to God. This also raises the question of how these debates related to the rise of free entrepreneurship and the birth of the welfare state in Western Europe. The right to charge interest on borrowed money is only one, albeit important, aspect of the discussion. Theologians, moralists, and legalists also took into account rich and successful people’s anxiety for their own salvation, and held them to duties towards the poor, orphans, and widows, i.e. the biblical-juridical category of the “miserabiles personae.”

The REFORC conference in Leuven takes the four-hundredth anniversary of the death of the Jesuit Leonard Lessius — one of the founders of modern contract law and free economic initiative — as an occasion to open up the discussion to include the Jewish tradition and the various Christian confessions. Questions that can be discussed at the conference include: How did early modern Jewish and Christian thinkers see the relationship between theology of salvation, economic entrepreneurship, and social welfare? How did they view interest on borrowed money? And how did they define the responsibility of successful Christian entrepreneurs for the poor and destitute? What were the internal discussions within the various confessional groups – also with their own institutional authorities – and with other confessions? And how does all this relate to Max Weber’s now hundred-year-old theory of the spirit of Protestantism and the emergence of capitalism in Western Europe?

Plenary Speakers

Wim Decock (UC Louvain), Nina Javette Koefoed (Aarhus University), Germano Maifreda (University of Milan), Brian P. Owensby (University of Virginia, History Department), Eleonora Rai (University of Turin/KU Leuven), Keith Stanglin (Heritage Christian University, Florence, AL).

Short Papers, Panels, and General Attendance

The (in-person) conference is open to individual short paper presentations (20 minute presentations) and to thematic sessions of two or three short papers. Papers can focus on all disciplines related to Early Modern Christianity, ca. 1400-1700, such as philosophy, law, history, theology, etc., independent of the theme of the plenary papers.

In case of a thematic session (panel) all panelists must register separately, indicating the panel in the registration form.

It is also possible to attend the conference without giving a paper. In that case, go to the registration form and register for the conference, indicating that you do not want to submit a short paper proposal.

Call for Papers and Registrations

The Call for Papers and Registrations is open.

Short Paper Submission

Short paper submission has closed March 4, 2023 (extended deadline, the initial deadline was March 1, 2023).

Registration/Registration Fee

Registration becomes effective on receipt of payment of the registration fee. If your short paper proposal has been accepted, please see to it that the amount of the registration fee is on our account before March 1, 2023, so that we can include your paper in the program. Registration closes on May 9, 2023.

REFORC Members (Individual and Institutional) will receive a discount on the registration fee, as indicated in the registration form. Go here for the benefits for Individual REFORC Members and here for the benefits for Institutional REFORC Members.


Short paper submission: March 4, 2023 (extended deadline).
Registration: May 9, 2023.


Preferred language for papers is English, but papers in  French and German are also welcome. Presenters who prefer to give their paper in French or German are invited to provide the audience with an English summary of about 150-200 words.

Conference Proceedings

The conference volume will be published by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht in the series Refo500 Academic Studies (R5AS) and will contain plenary papers and a selection of short papers. Another publication venue is the Journal of Early Modern Christianity (JEMC).

Manuscripts for the conference volume can be submitted to the editors (to be announced). All other manuscripts can be submitted to editor-in-chief of the JEMC, Wim François.

Editors will decide on publication.

Organizational Committee

Wim François (KU Leuven), Andreas Beck (ETF Leuven), Wim Decock (UC Louvain), Eleonora Rai (University of Turin/KU Leuven), and Shiri Roelofs (KU Leuven).

Co-sponsored by





KU Leuven
(Faculty Club) Groot Begijnhof 14, 3000 Leuven, Belgium
Register Now

Convent of Chièvres (The Faculty Club) | Groot Begijnhof 14, 3000 Leuven 

Please note that this charming building has no elevator. If you have any difficulties with stairs, please inform us 

How to reach the venue?

The Convent of Chièvres (part of The Faculty Club, Groot Begijnhof 14 | Leuven) is located behind the reception of the Faculty Club, but not accessible by car. When leaving the car park, you must walk around the Faculty Club and turn right into the first street in the Begijnhof.

Walking distance from the train station is 1900 meters. You can find the easiest route here via Google Maps.

Public Transport (Bus) From the Train Station

This is the easiest way to get to the conference venue, besides taking a taxi at the train station.

Travel via the Flemish bus company “De Lijn” ( The bus terminal is located next to the railway station. A prepaid bus ticket costs about € 3 and is valid for one hour within Leuven. Prepaid tickets can be bought in the “Lijnwinkel” near the railway station.

  • Bus line 2: direction “Heverlee” – stop “Naamse Poort”, 350 meters from the faculty club – this bus crosses the city centre as well
  • Bus line 600: direction “Heverlee-Campus” – Stop “University Sports centre”, 250 meters from the faculty club


Travelling by taxi is of course also possible. There is a taxi queue available in front of the railway station. A taxi to the hotel or conference venue will cost you about 15 euro. If you want to call a taxi, we recommend Taxi Cordons: 0032 16 22 20 00.


E40 Brussels-Liège or E314: exit Leuven, keep following Leuven and keep right at the end of the exit (after several traffic lights) and at the beginning of the ring road around Leuven (viaduct) – make a U-turn to the left on the ring road at the second traffic lights (Parkpoort) – turn right after 1 kilometer (blue sign KU Leuven/Groot Begijnhof). If you are using a GPS, please use the address Tervuursevest 70.

You can park for free on Parking 2 and Parking 3 of the Faculty club, if you use the code 5199# to open the barrier.


If you are staying at the Evangelische Theologische Faculteit, Leuven (EFT), please be aware that the faculty is situated outside the city center of Leuven. By foot it will take about 40 minutes to reach the conference venue. You can also take the bus number 7, 8 or 9. These buses pass by the ETF every 15 minutes and you will have to get off at the stop ‘Leuven Redingenhof’. From there it’s a 10-minute walk to the conference venue.

Address ETF: Sint-Jansbergsesteenweg 97, 3001 Leuven, Belgium

The Registration and Information Desk is situated in the entrance hall of the Convent of Chièvres, Groot Begijnhof 14, 3000 Leuven.

When you arrive for the first time on the meeting venue, you can pick up your meeting badge at the Registration and Information Desk. Please note that it can be quite busy at the desk on Thursday 11 May from 12:00 pm. –  1.00 pm. So, to avoid long queues, we strongly advise you to pick up your badge in time.

Registrations are Scheduled for

  • Thursday, 11 May: 12:00 PM – 06:00 PM
  • Friday, 12 May: 08:30 AM – 05:30 PM
  • Saturday, 13 May: 08:45 AM – 12:30 PM

The Registration and Information Desk will be open throughout the meeting for any questions you may have. Please do not hesitate to come to the registration desk, we are happy to help!

If you are travelling, then it is possible to leave your luggage in storage at the registration desk. You can pick up your luggage any time during the opening hours of the registration desk.

Meeting Badges

All registered participants will be given a name badge upon registration at the registration desk. This badge is your official pass to the meeting venue and the social activities. We kindly request you to wear your badge visibly on all meeting occasions.

On your badge you will find the following symbol in case you registered for the social activity during the meeting. Please check your badge.

You registered for the Concert on Thursday May 11, 2023.


REFORC Institutional/Individual Member: € 105,00.
Non-REFORC Member or REFORC Societal Member: € 180,00.
Student, REFORC Institutional/Individual Member: € 85,00.
Student, Non-REFORC Member or REFORC Societal Member: € 145,00.
Spouse/partner: € 90,00.

Short paper submission: March 4, 2023 (extended deadline). Registration: May 9, 2023.

All rooms are equipped with a laptop, beamer, and screen. If you wish to give a presentation, you are advised to put your presentation on the desktop of the laptop in advance. If you wish to use your own device, you may do so as well. Cables for the beamer connection for a Windows laptop are provided. If you want to connect an Apple device, you are adviced to bring your own cable with you.

The WiFi network and password can be found at the venue.

Go here to read more about Leuven and its university.

Travel information can be found here.

Lodging information can be found here.

General COVID-19 measures

We can organize the conference in-person with no restrictions. A Covid-19 certificate is no longer needed to enter the meeting venues. Face masks are no longer mandatory in public transport, in the meeting venues and restaurants/bars/shops in the city. A Passenger Locator Form (PLF) is no longer needed within the EU.

Travelling to Belgium

There are currently no measures in place for travellers returning to/arriving in Belgium. So you do not have to fill in a Passenger Locator Form (PLF).

Here you will find more information about lunches and dinners.

All coffee breaks are offered at the Convent of Chièvres. Coffee, tea and water will be available during the fixed coffee break slots.

For questions concerning the registration procedure, payment, or other practical matters, please contact us via For all other questions you may contact

Refunds will be made for written cancellations received before March 1, 2023, less a € 30.00 processing fee.

The concert BELLUM & PAX, conducted by Capella Nova, is a social activity where registration is required. It will be mentioned on your badge if you signed up for the concert or not. The concert will start May 11, 2023 at 8 PM and will take place in the Saint John the Baptist Church (Groot Begijnhof 14 | Leuven).

Admission is free for conference participants. They are invited to register via the online registration tool before May 1, inserting the special promo code.

Download here the program.



Wim Decock

The Unfinished Max Weber: Retrieving the Soul of Economic Entrepreneurship in the Low Countries

Read more
Nina Javette Koefoed

The Lutheran Household – a Social and Institutional Legacy in Danish Society

Read More
Germano Maifreda

Church/State, Canon/Civil Law, Sin/Crime: Three Comfortable Juxtapositions Economic Historians Should Discard?

Read more
Brian Owensby

Toward a Moral History of the Rich

Read more
Eleonora Rai

The Salvation of the Soul: Leonard Lessius’ Theology of Freedom and Moral Economy (1554-1623)

Read more
Keith Stanglin

Arminianism and the Economy of Salvation

Read more