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Greetings to the 22nd Pentecostal World Conference

In his presentation the first ever offered by a WCC general secretary to a Pentecostal World Conference, the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit highlighted the hope that comes with being invited to the conference and spoke of his personal experience with Pentecostal churches.

25 August 2010

24-27 August 2010 in Stockholm, Sweden

As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’

(I Corinthians 12:20-21)

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is both an honour and a blessing to stand before you today as a brother in Christ and offer these greetings to the Pentecostal World Conference on behalf of the World Council of Churches.

As we have heard here today there are some things God can only teach us when we are together and when we experience what it means to carry the cross of Christ. The Ecumenical Movement as any movement in the church is a movement of the Cross.

In my constituency and particularly in the leadership of the WCC, the invitation from Bishop James Leggett is seen as a great encouragement. I thank you for this historic opportunity to be present with such an august gathering of Pentecostal church leaders from around the world. When I was elected general secretary of the World Council of Churches I expressed my call and commitment to strengthen relations to the churches that are not members of the fellowship of churches called the World Council of Churches.

You may have been told many things about the World Council of Churches (WCC), but I am here to testify that it is a living fellowship of 349 Orthodox churches, churches shaped by the Reformation and independent churches from more than 120 countries.  We are seeking to be a response to Christ’s prayer that his followers might be one, so that the world may believe that Jesus is coming from the Father as Lord and Saviour (John 17.21).

This is our one and true calling that we share with all other churches in the world. To be one is to give witness together to the cross and the resurrection of Christ, to follow God's call together to work for justice and peace in God's world, to obey God's commandment to be a good neighbour to all need us as whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever skin colour they may have and whatever religion they might follow.

Dear brothers and sisters, we all have received this wide call from our Lord Jesus Christ. To respond to this call to be one we need one another. And it is my deep conviction that the member churches of the WCC, some of which are Pentecostal, need the closer bond to the Pentecostal churches you represent. And it is my humble conviction that you need us. Among the many challenges we face in the search for Christian unity is the need to overcome divisions and prejudices that exclude one another. As St Paul reminds us in his first letter to the Corinthians, “there are many members, yet one body”. I cannot say to any brother or sister in Christ that I have no need for you.  We need each other because it is only together that we can grow into the one body of Christ. The world needs a common and credible witness from the churches about God’s love for this world and for everyone in this world.

I have personal experiences of what Pentecostals can offer a wider community, I have been richly blessed by the close relations to members of the family of my wife who belong to Pentecostal churches in Norway, sharing their commitment to serve God in their daily life and work for healing and justice locally and globally, and in their love for Jesus Christ. I am also grateful to have been able to participate in the processes leading to the full membership of the Pentecostal churches in the Christian Council of Norway.

You have come to the Nordic region in a very special season of the year. This is the time of picking cloudberries, these golden, sweet berries you only find here. You have to know where to find this hidden gold. They need a very special humidity, temperature and soil.

Still you might not find them where they were last year. You have to go further, longer and wider, sometimes you have to go back, because you have to change the perspective, to see them from the other side. Sometimes you have to stand in an unpleasant place, wet and dirty. Sometimes you have to go down on your knees. Sometimes you need the eyes of others to find them. Most often you are blessed by finding something. But, do we need these berries? Do they belong to the daily bread we are praying for? Maybe here in the North we need this extra source of Vitamin C. Definitely we need experiences of the joy of finding what we are seeking and we need to have something good to share.

Friends, we are searching for different experiences in our spiritual and ecumenical life. Some of these experiences we can live without, but some we need. It might mean, like seeking cloudberries, we have to go longer, wider, even becoming tired. Sometimes we have to go back and see what we had. Sometimes we have to listen to what others have told us are the places to search for the blessings. And then, sometimes we just have to wait. But believe God wants us to experience this sweet goldenness together as Disciples of Christ.

I was very much inspired last December being a referee for a doctoral thesis written by my friend Terje Hegertun. Terje wrote on the struggle of understanding the ecumenical movement in Norwegian Pentecostalism. He reminded me that the Pentecostal movement was in its very beginning a movement uniting people of different denominations, different races, different classes and different social status in a joint prayer, mission and even a new, common language. This liberating and renewing power of the Holy Spirit is a reminder to all of us to not only recognize and search where we are, but also where we are coming from and the new places we will go to find the gifts of God so that the Holy Spirit can empower us to bring peace and justice to the world together.

The theme of this conference is a call for growth together in unity for God’s great mission. Sometimes the growth is not in numbers but in deepening and widening our perspective.

I do believe that we share in a great hope that the search for Christian unity will grow and that the World Council of Churches and Pentecostal churches will find new ways of witnessing to our unity in Christ and sharing in God’s mission. That you have welcomed me here today is one such sign of hope.

The work of the Global Christian Forum is another wondrous sign that we are one in Christ. The Global Christian Forum brings together Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Anglican, Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal Christians to share their faith in Christ and to learn more about one another. The WCC is particularly grateful to the leadership of Bishop James Leggett and Dr Prince Guneratnam in the life of the Global Christian Forum. You can count on the continued support of the WCC in this endeavour and we trust that we can count on your participation.

As you continue in this gathering of prayer and mutual encouragement, please know that my personal prayers and those of the World Council of Churches are with you. May God richly bless this conference with His abundant grace. May the love of Christ draw you close to one another in fellowship. May the Holy Spirit renew you in faith for the great works of service that God is calling us to perform.

Yours in Christ,

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general secretary