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Letter of condolence for passing of Rev. Robina Winbush

Letter of condolence by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, expressing deep sadness at ultimely passing of Rev. Robina Winbush.

26 March 2019

“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” KJV Rom 8:38-39.

Dear Rev. Dr J. Herbert Nelson II,

It is with deep sadness that I write to express condolences on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC) at the untimely passing of Rev. Robina Winbush. The fellowship of WCC member churches grieves together with the Presbyterian Church (USA) at the loss of our dear sister in Christ.

Rev. Robina Winbush was a prophetic ecumenist who helped shape an ecumenical movement passionate for justice and unity. She had a bold vision for the church and for the world, which is visible in the churches she served – the Presbyterian Church (USA), the churches in the United States, the Reformed family of churches and the WCC fellowship of churches.

She was intensely involved in the life and work of the WCC. As a delegate to the Porto Alegre Assembly in 2006, which gathered under the theme “God, in your grace, transform the world”, she gave voice to what we experienced during that great event.

For as it is recorded in the official report of the assembly, “The participants gathered one last time under the giant worship tent at the east end of the campus to hear the Rev. Dr Robina Marie Winbush deliver the homily, titled “For the healing of the nations” based on Rev. 22:1-5. She used the imagery of a river, drawn both from holy scripture and from a poem by Langston Hughes, to speak of God’s nourishing river of life. The trees growing alongside that river, she said, produce “healing leaves”. “Would you consider with me the possibility that God has been whispering to our spirits throughout the assembly, ‘I am transforming the world’, asked the preacher”. She gave us hope and encouragement on that day and also for this moment of grief.

Rev. Robina Winbush served as a member the WCC central committee from the Porto Alegre Assembly to the Busan Assembly in 2013. During that period, she was a leader among the global network of Ecumenical Officers and helped to articulate the WCC vision for “Ecumenism in the 21st Century”. She continued to serve the WCC central committee from 2013 until now and also joined the Joint Working Group between the WCC and the Roman Catholic Church. She had just begun a four-year term on the WCC executive committee. Her wisdom, her passion, her testimony will be missed.

The hallmark of her legacy in the WCC will no doubt be her prophetic commitment to unity with justice, particularly racial justice and gender justice. She had a profound patience for reconciliation, but reminded us that there is no cheap reconciliation and warned us not to underestimate the conflicts that come with a clear commitment to justice and human dignity for all.

She believed in the future and nurtured one generation after another of younger ecumenists, making space for them where others might not. She was a mentor to many, showing extraordinary compassion for the lives of the people she encountered on her journey. She was a powerful preacher and spiritual rock.

It is hard to imagine our future, walking forward on the pilgrimage of justice and peace, without Robina. And yet, we are reminded that nothing in life nor in death can separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus. So too can we be assured that even in this moment, the love of God that Robina shared with the world continues to live in our hearts and is multiplied through our prayers and our actions. She continues to inspire and uplift us because we have been blessed to know her and to be known by her.

Her testimony to the Porto Alegre Assembly is a comfort and a reminder of what she knew to be true in Christ Jesus:

“Remember that the power and strength to be a leaf does not belong to you. It is a result of being attached to the tree of life whose roots are watered by the river of life that flows from the throne of God and the Lamb. When you grow weary and tired, rest assured that the river of life will nourish you. You will be reminded that you are connected to something far greater than your current reality, and the words of Langston will still speak to us: "I've known rivers. Ancient, dusky rivers. My soul has grown deep like the rivers."

May she rest in peace, may her memory be eternal and may her prophetic passion for the love of Christ live and reign in our hearts now and forever.

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
WCC general Secretary

Download : 19_3 Condolences Robina Winbush_Rev. Nelson_PC USA.pdf