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ELCA Churchwide Assembly

Greetings by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, to the ELCA Churchwide Assembly in Pittsburgh, PA, United States on 15 August 2013.

15 August 2013

Greetings to the Church-wide Assembly of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), Pittsburgh, PA, Unites States.

Presiding Bishop Mark Hansson,

Presiding Bishop-elect Elizabeth Eaton

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ!

Kjære søstre og brør i Kristus!

The God of life creates something new among you and around the world. As a member of the World Council of Churches, you belong to a fellowship together with 350 other Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran, other Protestant, Independent and Pentecostal Churches around the world. This fellowship needs you and your commitment to follow Christ's call to be renewed in your mission. We need and have a share in your resources, including the significant and sometimes costly experiences you have from your response to Christ's call to be one. Through the 25 years of being united from many churches into the ELCA and from living together you have seen both the blessings of and the challenges to being united.

It is very special for me to be here today, as a pastor of the Church of Norway, knowing that many from my people and their descendants have their spiritual home in your church; and, I hope and pray that they continue to pray and work in your united church.

God creates something new every day. Let me greet you with some of the most beautiful words of the Gospel, from the canticle of Zechariah as he praises God for his newborn child, with words which many Christians pray every morning: "By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace." Luke 1: 78-79

God has created something new already. As you celebrate 25 years for your church, and many Lutheran churches with you prepare the celebration of 500 years of Reformation in 2017, they - we - do so only by the tender mercy of our God. Fortunately, we live in a time of ecumenism, when we see how God unites as in a humble and grateful understanding of this tender mercy as the foundation of our churches. Only God's tender mercy can bring the real renewal, the dawn from on high. Particularly in times when we feel that the cross we are carrying is heavy, also the cross of being called to be one in our witness to Christ, we know that the cross shows that the God of life is with us in all shadows and reminds us that there will be a new morning through our risen Jesus Christ.

In November this year, we pray that God will renew and create something new with the World Council of Churches. The WCC will gather for its 10th Assembly, the widest and most comprehensive gathering in world Christianity when it happens. And your church will be there as well.

This time the dawn from on high will break upon us in the East, in Busan, Republic of Korea, under the theme, “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” The prayer is highly loaded with expectations--in Korea, for the reunification of a people, a land, and families divided by a war that never officially ended. The prayer for justice and peace has been raised from you and many of us for the peace of Jerusalem and all the peoples living there. You know how much influence your country has on the justice and peace in that region; and, your voice and your prayer, your support to the ELCJHL is highly significant.

Today we cry and pray with the peoples and our member churches of Syria and Egypt for justice and peace! The reality of the world is that most conflicts and injustices are happening within national borders. The prayer for justice and peace is the prayer that the kingdom of God will come among us where we are.

The need for these values of the kingdom of God, for justice and peace, I also see and hear in your beloved country. When you pray for God's renewal, you ask God most of all to open your eyes to renew your vision and your mission here in this country and around the world. The renewal of the church and the unity of the church are never primarily for the church itself, for ourselves, but for the mission of the church, for those who need the church the most, for those who might sit in different kinds of darkness or in the shadow of death. When we are renewed in our ministry to serve the other, we are renewed ourselves.

These days you elect your leadership, and I bring congratulations from the WCC to your next Presiding bishop, Bishop Eaton. Both in my work for the Church of Norway and in the World Council of Churches I have loved and been honoured to work with Bishop Hanson and have respected deeply his leadership in the ecumenical movement, particularly through the LWF. Now I look forward to the new day of work together with you, Bishop Eaton. May the tender mercy of God be upon you, as you are pointing to the dawn from on high for your church and with all the other member churches in the WCC!

The God of life is creating life, and we are praying that we might serve and protect and support this life. We need to be able to move forward, to new places where we are needed, but also where we already are. “Why do you only go to the wrong places?” a passport controller in Washington DC asked me at one entry to your country, browsing my passport. Because that is where our churches are, I answered. And where they, we are called to be.

There could be hardly any better wish for you, for your church, for your partner churches, for your country than this: May the God of life guide your feet into the way of peace!

WCC general secretary

Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit