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WCC General Secretary Greetings, Nikolaikirche, Leipzig, 30 June 2017

Living God Renew and Transform Us 2017 General Council, 28 June – 1 July Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit WCC General Secretary Greetings, Nikolaikirche, Leipzig, 30 June 2017

30 June 2017

Living God Renew and Transform Us

2017 General Council, 28 June – 1 July

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

WCC General Secretary

Greetings, Nikolaikirche, Leipzig, 30 June 2017

 

President of the Federal Republic of Germany, Mr Steinmeier,

President Jerry Pillay,

General Secretary Cristopher Fergusson,

Distinguished delegates and guests,

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

 

The World Communion of Reformed Churches and the World Council of Churches continue to walk as companions side by side in the one ecumenical movement. We are moving together, and we are renewed and transformed by the living God. Your theme echoes the call from the last WCC Assembly in Busan, Korea, asking all of us to be together on a “Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace”. We are together on our way, not waiting for everything to be absolutely clear and agreed among us before we can move, but praying that Jesus Christ will show us the way. This image of pilgrimage is a way of unity together in the churches and the ecumenical movement of our time.

The world is in desperate need of sustainable expressions of fellowship and unity. How can we live together as one humanity in this common home God has given us?

What you represent is therefore needed as much as ever before. Many of you represent churches that also are members of the WCC, churches that I have had the privilege to visit. Still, I greet you here from the WCC as a sister organization. You are a communion of churches we highly appreciate and admire in the wider ecumenical family, particularly for your strong commitment to justice and peace as conditions for any expression of unity. We are close, and we sense the mutual love and the mutual accountability to our common values.

We are on our way together, forward. There is no other alternative. In this year of commemorations of 500 years of Reformation there are a lot of reflections of the past, of course. You “Reformed” are the only church family that are even named after the events, the process, and the results of Reformation. Reformation was indeed a call to go back to the origins, to the sources, to the Bible. Without the Holy Scriptures and without Jesus Christ presented to us there, there is no renewal or transformation in the Church. However, I think you reformed have the same temptation as other churches to long for “where we were”, for the clarity of expressions of the reformers. And you might have some challenges from nostalgic comparison of your organization with the “golden ages” of the past, as I have heard about the World Council of Churches.

Not only for churches, but for institutions, societies, people, nations in different parts of the world, there seems be a longing for the “paradise lost”, to become “great again”, to get back the glory they think they had. This is an impossible agenda in life. The past is not what we imagined what it was, and it is impossible to get back there. We can only move into the unknown, our time is the only time we have. Nobody can live in the past. However, it is not only an impossible agenda; it is a very risky and dangerous agenda to try to go backwards. We can see in our time many of these different unrealistic, self-protective, clearly dividing, and in some cases aggressive and even violent agendas of trying to go back to something they pretend is still intact or can be restored as it was

Our alternative is to follow “Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Real change comes from the living God who is the same through the ages. This paradox is a call to go forward, as pilgrims, a call to be renewed, to be transformed, to find new ways together. We are with the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ, who is present through the anamnesis of the Church, in all what we do in “remembrance of me”, acknowledging his presence also in the other. The same Jesus Christ is coming towards us every day, in the horizon of the life to come.

The call to unity should always be based on our shared Gospel of the justification by faith. It is an historical and theologically significant moment when you in this meeting sign on to the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification. To be justified by grace makes us able to follow Jesus Christ together, sharing justice and coming closer to the struggles of the world for justice and peace.

As a world communion of the churches of the Reformed tradition, you continue to uphold your ecumenical commitment. Many want renewal. You have reminded all of us that our faith also calls us to a costly commitment to transformation, in the face of fascism, in rejection of nuclear arms, in care for the integrity of creation, in resistance to structures of economic injustice, in search for gender justice, in condemning occupation or other violations of international law, and in overcoming all forms of racism.

The prayer for renewal and transformation is not new. This is the constant prayer of generations: Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is the vision for a better future, together, not in nostalgic political dreams or in absolute religious models for the society. By this vision we can live with tolerance together in our common home as one humanity, in the presence of the living God. Inspired as we all are by the music of Bach in the city of Leipzig, we conclude as he always did - and as you reformed so often remind us -: Soli Deo Gloria. To God be the glory! Amen