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Report of the general secretary to the Executive Committee, November 2018

Report of the general secretary to the Executive Committee, November 2018.

04 November 2018

World Council of Churches

EXECUTIVE COMMITTEE

Uppsala, Sweden

2-8 November 2018

 

Report of the General Secretary

1. Meeting in Uppsala

We are grateful to be invited and so generously hosted by our member churches here in Sweden and by the Christian Council of Sweden. With our executive committee meeting here 50 years after the 4th Assembly, we are reminded of how the Uppsala assembly gave new directions to what is today the WCC and the ecumenical movement. This is also the city and the cathedral of Archbishop Nathan Söderblom, who gave so many impulses to what later became the World Council of Churches, particularly through his initiative for an unprecedented gathering of church leaders and representatives in Stockholm in 1925 – for peace.

The commitment to the WCC by the Swedish churches and the many dimensions of our agenda in the Swedish churches have been remarkable and continue to be a great inspiration for us who have our daily work in the WCC, as well as for the those who carry the responsibilities in governing bodies. We benefit from your active participation in many of our committees and commissions. I mention here particularly the tireless and extensive work for the WCC by its President for Europe, Archbishop Emeritus Dr Anders Wejryd, as well as the other members of the central committee, Bishop Eva Brunne, Ms Celina Falk and Rev. Sofia Camnerin.

As a Norwegian, I also enjoy being the guest of “Söta bror” – our “sweet brother” – and sister! We admire everything that is bigger here than among your neighbours: your big houses, halls, cities, and churches. Also your hospitality is remarkable, as you have shown the world in so many ways – for example, to Norwegian refugees during World War II – but also in these most recent years to many who have knocked on your door for asylum or for work and a new home. You have also demonstrated your responsibility for the world and for people in crisis in so many ways. As a nation and as churches your contributions to justice and peace are formidable. Now we experience this again as the WCC meeting here, the fellowship of churches to which you are so strongly committed.

2. Anniversaries – Looking Backwards and Forward

I have often pondered the theme of the 4th Assembly, “Behold, I make all things new!” The formulation is a biblical quote from the Book of Revelation, chapter 21, not a book we often refer to in the “ecumenical canon” of texts we most often employ in our discussions and prayers. In English, the formulation seems archaic to me. The perspective is the eschatological horizon, the new heaven and earth. But I have always understood the outcome of the Uppsala assembly as turning the WCC toward a more modern approach to the world (it was 1968!) and urging the churches to focus more on the enormous challenges of this world.

A key to understanding how the assembly had an impact on the theology and the work of the WCC, is the word “anticipation.” The orientation toward the new became also an inspiration for transformation according to the new, the coming kingdom of God. Anticipation became participation, more than before. The hope for God’s making something new also meant contributing proactively to something new for the people who hunger and thirst for righteousness and peace now. The focus on hope for something new gave a stronger orientation toward participation and toward becoming the agent for change. James Baldwin, who on a short notice stepped in after Rev. Dr Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, strongly challenged the church representatives to understand that they could make a difference, for example, in South Africa and in the struggle against racism and against military dictatorship. So the significant Programme to Combat Racism was established sometime after the assembly.

The eschatological dimension of our faith. Sometimes I get questions about where the eschatological dimensions of our faith are expressed in our ecumenical reflections and our prayers. The anniversary year has given me some moments to reflect on this. One aspect of remembering 70 (or 50) years passing lies in the sense of our lives as limited and passing by. They made their great contribution then; many of them are gone now. We have our particular time in which to contribute, to make a difference. One moment to recognize this is when we in the beginning of every central committee meeting remember those who have died and gone before us into God’s eternal memory, into God’s reign and God’s care.

The ecumenical movement has been seen – and rightly so, I think – as emphasizing that we are called to live in discipleship here and now for the transformation of the world according to God’s will today. “Let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Lord’s Prayer reminds us always that this is the other side of the prayer, “Thy kingdom come.” The eschatological dimension of our lives, including life eternal, is both a matter of what lies beyond time and what is a matter of concrete qualities, of life in abundance, here and now. What unites the two dimensions are the characteristics and presence of the reign or realm of God.

Without the eschatological dimension, we might become simple materialists or pursue only an imminent, political agenda. Everything would then be limited to what we achieve in this world. The alternative, that is, focussing only on life after death, has been caricatured as “pie in the sky bye and bye.” For many, perhaps most, honest believers it has been a hope that kept them going through many tribulations and pains and losses, and that promise has given strength to be salt to the earth and light in the world. Still, it is a real risk that such a focus overlooks the needs of our neighbours here and now and those who come after us, if we are too focused on the life after this one. This was and remains a real challenge in some Christian faith communities. A much greater risk, however, is that the believer’s focus is turned from “heaven” to the “world,” yet not to the needs of others, but solely to our own health, prosperity, interests, even wealth.   “Why give such priority to stopping climate change when we believe that God will create a new heaven and a new earth?” The question was raised in an article I read recently. Well, what is the answer to that? Because God loves the world, because God loves the human beings living now and those coming after us.

There is a unity in love that also has an eschatological dimension. Love transcends death. We continue to love our loved ones even after they are gone, and their love remains with us as a treasure. Yet there is more to be said. We are called to be one so that the unity that is in the Trinitarian God should also be reflected in the unity among us: The mutual love in God should be the model for our unity, so beautifully expressed in John 17: “even as you Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me” (21). “I made known to them thy name, and I will make it known, that the love with which thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them” (26).

It is in this perspective that we read the reports of Uppsala, reflecting on the unity of the church in the light of the hope for something new. “The church is bold in speaking of itself as the sign of the coming unity of [hu]mankind.” As a sign and foretaste of the unity of humankind, the church is always called to express God’s love in Jesus Christ—not as a hope favouring any of us but a shared hope, a hope than should unite us human beings.  God wants the world to believe, to receive, to be renewed and united according to God’s love. We need a renewal of this commitment from the 4th Assembly in a time when so many forces are driving the world and humankind into divisions, polarization, even new forms of dictatorship and disrespect for human rights and dignity; when profit and power are driving motives more than care for our common home and all who live here. We must renew our calling, our drive toward justice and peace, and we must clarify even more why and how we are doing so as a fellowship of churches.

The assembly theme in eschatological perspective. That is also why I think the proposal for the theme for the 11th Assembly – “The love of Christ compels us” – which we will spend time discussing carefully here - brings us back to our common origin in Christ and therefore to the triune God who promises to make all things new. But it also connects us well to the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace as a way to describe the ecumenical movement. And it opens up another dimension of the ecumenical movement: as an alternative to the many other approaches to the world, also in the name of religion and our own Christian traditions: an open and inclusive, radical expression of love in our time.

Time is passing, and we with time. Yet we remain one with the many believers who came before us, those who have shown their hope as an anticipation that leads to their participation in the mission of God. Their faith and their hope give us hope, too. One of the leaders in the ecumenical movement who is now gone reminded me often that the martyrdom of those who kept the faith and the truth about the loving and coming kingdom of God, always remain the strongest proofs for the truth of our common faith.

One of those who have been working together with many of us in the executive committee and the central committee, was HE Metropolitan Prof. Dr Bishoy of Damietta from the Coptic Orthodox Church in Egypt. In the central committee in June, he reminded me again of the call to carry the cross given to us by Christ. He also reminded me to do what I could to care for the unity of the churches in the WCC, and particularly how his church family, the Oriental family, could be able to participate well in our work in the future. May God bless his memory among us.

The WCC does express and should express these signs of hope in different ways. But how can we express more clearly that this is a hope that is nurtured by and upheld by Christ’s love? We do it in many ways, in our daily work as churches and as a fellowship of churches, and even beyond the membership of the WCC.

The 70th anniversary. This anniversary year has brought us more information about the legacy of the WCC, the initiatives behind it, and the many important events and significant programmes from 1948 onward. The anniversary also has brought much more attention to – and expectations of – the contributions of the WCC. This is a very good result of the many efforts to make the anniversary inclusive, marked and celebrated around the world in many churches. The events in June have had a strong echo in many places. The communication about what happened has brought the WCC and its history and efforts and fruits to light in the churches and far beyond them. I have been privileged to participate in many events since June that have elaborated the work of the WCC and its calling today. They have been inspiring and encouraging, but also challenging in a good way. I am asked what is the situation now, where are you going? In Amsterdam on 23 August we had very special celebrations, of course. But there have been others: Discussions with doctoral students from many countries about the relationships among Orthodox churches and other churches, and their role in the WCC (in Pro Oriente in Vienna in July), celebrations and discussions in Jamaica, Barbados, Norway, and many other places.

Let me share some reflections from some of the encounters with member churches in the last months:

3. Visits to churches in the Caribbean

A visit by the general secretary of the WCC to member churches in the Caribbean region has been discussed and planned for a long time. I was in the region for 12 days, and I had the privilege of seeing our member churches in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Antigua. I also attended the first day of the consultation and addressed the group marking the 20th anniversary of the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women, in Kingston, Jamaica.

We had meetings with the leaders of member churches in all these countries, with the council of churches in Jamaica and in Antigua, with our members of the central committee in the region (who accompanied me for different parts of the visit), and with the Conference of Bishops in the Province of the West Indies (as they met in Barbados). I had the privilege to preach in the Baptist church in Jamaica, in the Anglican cathedral in Barbados and in Lebanon Moravian Church in Antigua; and I participated in vespers in the St Benedict Monastery in Port of Spain, Trinidad. I had extensive interaction with theological students and faculty in UTS in Jamaica, and met with the head of state (the Governor General) in Antigua, the Catholic Nuncio for the Caribbean Region based in Trinidad, and the Ethiopian Archbishop of the region (in Trinidad). I had several interviews with media.

This is, in terms of numbers, one of our smaller regions, and they are often seen together with the churches in Central and Latin America. They have their own characteristics, contributions and challenges, though, and have had their own regional council of churches: The Conference of Caribbean Churches (CCC). There are three issues from this visit I will bring forward in this report:

a. The significant contributions from this region to the worldwide ecumenical movement.

Several ecumenical events have taken place in this region, like the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011. The legacy from the WCC general secretary, the late Philip Potter, is honoured. I heard several references to how much WCC-based initiatives in the past have meant for them. Many contributions to the ecumenical movement for spirituality, mission, justice and peace are coming from these churches, even if they do not always have a lot of financial resources available.

The churches in the Caribbean are strong centres for worship, spirituality and formation. Some of them have schools. They are significant in size, relatively, in their contexts, and are highly respected and have influence in their societies. Visiting local churches also gives a further sense of what life in the church is like for ordinary members. They also have programmes for diakonia and addressing the challenges of the time in their region.

Historically, the churches that somehow were brought to the islands from other parts of the world, but that became the churches of the slaves and their descendants, became their own churches with their own profiles in their respective confessional families. They are holding their ground, in most places; but the fastest growing religious community seems to be the –Seventh Day Adventist Church. Many of these churches have very important experiences from the past, especially in relation to how the church contributed to liberation and fellowship and unity of the liberated and how the churches also have had a role in building the free nations. The strong communities of African descent have also nurtured and further developed different dimensions of African culture and spirituality there.

Music is a very important dimension of the culture and the life in the churches, as in most churches, but I have a sense that it has a very special role in these churches.

The challenges of today relate to very high figures for violence, particularly domestic violence, human trafficking, etc., the need to mitigate the effects of climate change and the many hurricanes, and these are addressed by the churches in different ways. My sense was that particularly in this respect they missed and need a stronger regional, common voice.

b. The revision of ecumenical structures and relationships

In all conversations with church leaders and national councils of churches, the situation for the Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC) was raised as a great concern. In some conversations there was also a concern about how the relationships to the WCC could be strengthened, how the WCC could be more visible and close to them.

Many of the questions related to contact with and participation in the life of the WCC could be addressed by offering more information about the programmes of the WCC and our many channels for information and interaction with programmes, staff and initiatives. There is a great appreciation for what is done, when they now hear about it. But the conversations also underscore the need to prioritize capacities and resources in relation to the work we do in communication. The communication strategy to share life in the fellowship through sharing stories and what the churches are doing, is confirmed in that sense.

The CCC has very weak organization at the moment, with very few activities and resources available for its work. This was mentioned and affirmed by all, including the general secretary of the CCC, Gerald Granado. There have been long delays in meetings of governance and plans for an assembly have been long postponed. There were explanations for this situation. Diminishing resources, diminishing capacities to work to get the resources available, but also diminishing interest from the churches when the work of the CCC faded away due to the same reasons. I observed a need and a commitment to change the whole approach to the joint ecumenical regional body from asking “What is in it for us?” to “Why do we need this ecumenical body for our common calling here in the Caribbean region” and to “What can we do to exercise our responsibility for the CCC and contribute to the work of this fellowship?” The questions were also raised as to what can the WCC do in this situation.

The conversations gave us an opportunity to reflect on the history, objectives, and the needs for renewal, but also on the WCC relations to the regional ecumenical bodies. I tried to bring into focus, though, that the churches themselves should define and express that the CCC is their body, take ownership of it, and open a new route toward a new beginning.

The need to raise their joint prophetic voice against violence, against gender discrimination and gender-based violence, against human trafficking, for good governance, etc., was expressed in many ways.

The WCC role in such processes is hopefully to give new momentum (e.g., through visits like this and other encounters) to the discussion; to support new practical initiatives among some of the member churches; to start a process for revision and renewal; and to define what are the visions, needs, expectations and potential contributions from the member churches themselves in the region. I also believe that developing tools and competence for more communication between the churches in the region could have a very positive effect.

c. The Just Community of Women and Men and the consultation in Jamaica, October 2018

The churches in Jamaica did a great job (on short notice) of hosting the consultation in October to mark the 20th anniversary of the culmination of the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women. This was happening as I visited Jamaica, and I could participate in the first day. This will be reported and discussed also in other ways, but I think it is relevant to address some of the issues in that consultation within the framework of my visit to the Caribbean.

The results of the Decade are many. It encouraged the churches to focus on the situation of women in the churches, in their communities, in society, in their families. It also encouraged churches to see, recognize and use the gifts of women in the churches, according to the rules and regulations of the churches, but also to revisit such rules and practices in light of the shared reflections.

I was encouraged to see that the gifts of women were recognized and expressed in the member churches I visited in different ways. In many of the churches there were now women in leadership positions, according to the rules of their churches about ordination and leadership. The president of the Jamaica Council of Churches is a woman, and also a former Bossey student, Rev. Merlyn Hyde Riley.

I was also encouraged to see awareness of how much gender-based violence happens in the societies of the Caribbean, even how many murders happen in families – most of the victims are women. The drastic and very worrying reality shows how urgent it is that the churches develop a strong voice and commitment to address gender-based violence. The violence against children in families is connected to this.

In this perspective, I see a strong call to the churches and to the WCC as a whole, but also the wider ecumenical movement, as we relaunch the Thursdays in Black Campaign. It has to do with care for justice, peace and the unity of humankind at its most critical and intimate point: in domestic life and among near relations, as well as in religious communities. We have also to make efforts as men to show that this is not an issue for women only. It is about changing morally wrong, sinful and very shameful tendencies of men exercising violence against women. The need for gender justice has its most urgent and obvious reasons here. A family, community and society where there is no justice or proper care to prevent such violence is no good for anybody, not for women, men or children.

Violence is one expression of injustice. There are, however, many other expressions that might lead to violence or acceptance of gender-based violence, which has to do with attitudes, practices. The Decade brought these issues – and many others – to the attention of us as a fellowship of churches. We need to keep this in focus as a basic element of justice and peace for all.

In this regard I am quite concerned when I see and hear a tendency in some of our ecumenical meetings to argue against a focus on gender justice. I hope this will not be a trend, and trust that we seriously reflect with proper sensitivity and care for one another on how to promote a truly just community of women and men in all our relationships and communities. This is what God has called us to do in the most fundamental setting of our faith and life: to love God and one another us ourselves. How could this not be the basis for everything we say and do about family relations, our life in the churches and in the communities?

In this context I want also to express how important it is that we as churches together in our ecumenical bodies make sure they are safe spaces for everybody, also safe in respect of harassments and different forms of violence. The respect for one another must express the love we are called to share with one another. This must be real and practical, and experienced by all. Even if the churches have different traditions and regulations about the role of women in the churches, this concern for how the churches can be spaces of respect, safety and care should not be taken off any table where we meet to address justice and peace. We should pay attention to the situation of persons and communities that experience exclusion and violence due to being different from others in their sexual orientation. I know these are issues where the churches have different opinions and rules about marriages and relationships, etc., but nobody can be excluded because of who they are and nobody should ignore violence against those who are more vulnerable than others in this respect. We have a very qualified and hardworking advisory group on human sexuality. It is moderated by President, Anders Wejryd, and we must now have a well prepared process for the reception and discussion of their report toward and in the central committee in March 2020.

4. Joint Ecumenical Efforts for Justice and Peace

The Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace continues as the overall perspective on our plans for this period, but also in many initiatives, visits and accompaniments to and with our member churches and ecumenical partners. These are reported elsewhere. I have been involved in some of them, and I want to share my reflections on two of them.

In July I was invited to address the assembly of the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC) in Kigali, Rwanda. This is a vital regional partner organization in the transition to the next phase of its life and work with a new president, Bishop Arthur Temple, a new board and a new general secretary, Rev. Dr Fidon Mwombeki.  The assembly focused on human dignity. This is connected to the needs for justice and peace, to human rights and human development, and how the churches together can make a difference in the continent of Africa, where the churches also have a hugely respected and highly significant role. Kigali also has a museum of the genocide, and the impressions from my visit there are still with me. How race can be used as a political force to divide and to rule was well documented, as well as the potential of the cruelty of human actions, and the examples of brave people trying to survive and to start a new future of justice and peace.

In August I led a delegation visiting Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was a joint delegation of high-level representatives from the WCC, the AACC and the Roman Catholic Church, and a follow-up to an invitation and plan developed led by Rev. Dr Sam Kobia, Rev. Frank Chikane (CCIA moderator) and Dr Agnes Abuom with the representatives from DRC during the AACC assembly. It was also a follow-up to a concern expressed in the conversations with Pope Francis as he visited us in June. The difficult situation in DRC of a delayed election has been discussed with our member churches and with the Church of Christ in Congo (ECC) several times, and it has become more and more urgent. Since then, the president of the DRC has announced elections in December 2018.

The meetings took place in a very good atmosphere and really developed and deepened the relationships between the Protestant churches and the Roman Catholic Church in the DRC. We developed a joint statement, approved by all participants, calling for free, inclusive, fair and peaceful elections. This was described by some of the participants as a breakthrough in their relations at the national level. The role of the churches in the political work and struggle in the DRC is quite significant, and we hope and pray that they together can make a difference in the demanding process of an election. In our conversations after the visit with Archbishop Gallagher at the Secretariat of State in the Vatican, he expressed their great satisfaction with this initiative and the reports from it – which had also been shared with the Pope.

Parallel to this delegation a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace team of women representatives from churches around the world visited churches and women organizations in DRC to learn about the situation of women, violence, rape and traumas from the violence in the country over many years, and discussed how to accompany them further.

The Nobel Peace Prize for 2018 has been awarded to Dr Denis Mukwege, who has tirelessly worked in the hospital to help women who have experienced severe gender-based violence – used as a weapon in the conflicts and war. This is a remarkable recognition of a unique and very significant work. I know quite a bit about him and his work through personal relations with those from Norway who have supported and contributed to his work, particularly through the Norwegian Church Aid. Another is Dr Wathne, a psychiatrist who has been working for many years with Dr Mukwege, helping the helpers of the victims (he is also the cousin of my wife, Anna). The Peace Prize focused on the situation of women in war and how rape and sexual abuse are used cynically, making women victims of the cruellest warfare. The dignity of human beings, the human right to protection, and the Christian call to promote justice and peace come together in this remarkable work. It becomes a strong call to politicians to take action to stop this barbaric violence. Dr Mukwege is himself a Pentecostal, but many ecumenical partners, particularly in the family of ACT Alliance, are working closely with him to support this work.

The visit to DRC and the other signs of ecumenical efforts in and with the joint ecumenical initiatives are important and can bring new and stronger dimensions to the work for justice and peace.

5. Ecumenical Diakonia, Cooperation and Consensus

The call for ecumenical contributions to burning issues of our time comes from many international partners, particularly in the UN. They acknowledge that the WCC and other church-based organizations have a huge potential and network, and a lot of credibility and responsibilities in the local communities. Our partnership with UNICEF has developed very well toward our own programme of Churches’ Commitment to Children. Our churches are really involved in this collaboration. One example: I was present at the launching of the Norwegian translation of the documents of this programme recently, and I could see the high interest in this theme among those responsible for education in the Church of Norway.

Related to the Ecumenical Initiatives we are organizing, we will see in our documents for this meeting important progress in the work related to HIV and AIDS in the EHAIA programme, expanding the arenas for the work toward younger students and schools. Many international partners continue to see this as a key programme in the efforts to end this epidemic globally. Many other significant initiatives are mentioned in our reports and plans; and we see the role of the WCC as convener, facilitator, and communicator. And we see that we are respected and recognized as such.

We also see how the WCC plays significant roles in advocacy for and with our member churches, in our statements and in the work we do for justice and peace in many international arenas. The CCIA commission offers a lot of advice and support to these efforts.

The WCC has the privilege of being together in our Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace and for ecumenical diakonia with many of our member churches, with national ecumenical partners, other churches, and the many strong partners in the ACT Alliance. We are grateful for the initiatives to explore our cooperation and complementarity. In the light of the assembly held here in Uppsala, I would express our recognition of the work they represent in many of the countries we also have designated as priority countries for the WCC. We see their capacities and commitments, and we want to develop further the complimentary roles we have in working for common objectives. Many of them are formulated in the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

I want to comment on two related issues at this point. First, it is important that ACT Alliance and the WCC have close and regular contact and cooperation on many issues, and that we define how we work together on advocacy. The ecumenical movement must have capacities to address the urgent humanitarian needs and to work for Sustainable Development. The division of tasks we have had in the past decades, will continue; we know that the WCC is not operational in the way it was in earlier times in terms of humanitarian aid and development, and not a funding partner for projects.

The most important field of cooperation and overlap is the field of advocacy. This needs to be discussed further also with the board of Act Alliance in the light of their new strategic plan. There are many important advocacy efforts nationally done by Act Alliance organizations.  We cooperate in the New York office in relation to the UN. ACT alliance with its members has both close relations to many churches and many resources and experts in many fields. They represent a lot of competence.  But it is also important to emphasize the mandate of the WCC on behalf of the churches, making our role unique and privileged in that sense. For some of the difficult processes toward finding consensus on important issues the WCC is better organized and equipped. We should avoid unnecessary overlap in our work, and also find the best way to use our total resources.

Second, the work that is done and will continue in reflecting on ecumenical diakonia has already brought significant results in developing more mutual recognition of one another’s work and strengthened the church identity in the work of diakonia in our partner organizations. More will be done in the follow-up of the decisions in the central committee to develop further the reflections and the important theme of ecumenical diakonia moving toward the next central committee meeting in 2020. I am very glad that there are commitments also from the leadership of the central committee to participate in the process in this next phase.

Interest in these discussions has increased after the discussions in the central committee meeting in June this year. We have to learn several lessons from this process and how it was handled in the central committee. It is very important that there is wide participation in our reflection processes on significant themes like this, and that there is a commitment from all involved to prepare such processes and documents toward consensus. The consensus model cannot be used as a kind of veto right in the meetings of the central committee. But we have to be prepared for those situations in which issues of a substantial character might need to be discussed further before they can be brought to a common decision. We should also be aware of the complexity of bringing long documents for decisions or approvals in the central committee. Many documents can serve well as a tools for collaboration, inspiration and reflection without having gone through a consensus process in the central committee.

There were proposals in relation to this and other issues discussed to refer the issue to the Permanent Committee on Consensus and Collaboration. That committee is important for the WCC and its work in consensus, particularly to consult on how to pursue processes and how to organize ourselves. In my understanding it is not meant to be a second chamber to define the decisions on issues of our programme works that are on our agenda. They should be discussed and pursued through the normal processes in the consultative bodies and governing bodies.

For me it is important that we see our discussions on ecumenical diakonia and advocacy for justice and peace primarily in the light of those who desperately need our shared commitment, advocacy and contributions. I trust that we will find ways forward for that in the WCC and with our partners in mutual respect for one another and a shared commitment.

6. Concluding remarks

We are in an intensive period of work in the WCC. The anniversary and the central committee meeting have brought a lot of positive attention to our work, and we are particularly encouraged to see that many of our member churches can be involved in the work in different ways.

We are also in a time when the challenges are growing, particularly in the wider political map of the world. There are worrying developments toward more polarization and hate speech, less respect for human rights and democracy, more violence and also attacks on religious groups and churches. We have to be alert to how we can be a true sign of another vision for unity in our world, gathered for the values that unite in our journey for justice and peace. In this situation it becomes more and more meaningful to continue the reflections on the implications of being in a leading role in the ecumenical movement, which in my understanding is gaining importance. The perspective I launched in my report to the central committee in June, on being an “ecumenical movement of love,” appears to be more and more relevant and demanding. The need for that becomes more and more apparent.

May God give us the courage and wisdom to continue to be such a movement, and may God motivate and guide us in our planning and work, in anticipation of the coming unity of humankind. Thy kingdom come!

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
General Secretary
World Council of Churches