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Philip Potter's 90th birthday

Tribute to Philip A. Potter, WCC general secretary from 1972-84, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, on 19 August 2011.

13 July 2011

Almost everyone I meet who has a strong image of or a strong opinion about the World Council of Churches links this to Philip Potter. First as a youth delegate at conferences and assemblies, then as a member of staff, and later as WCC general secretary, Philip has always brought high visibility to the Council. He was ever ready to open debates, to offer the WCC as an open space for ecumenical reflection and action and to make known his own positions.


More than that, he became an interpreter of the Christian tradition in a time when it was necessary to ask and consider new questions together, to make this tradition a common heritage of churches in all parts of the world. In his speeches and sermons, he exercised his role as a leader of the ecumenical movement, and he conveyed inspiration and insight. He interpreted the Christian faith and also strengthened the faithful through his challenging preaching and leadership.


It is appropriate and very much to be welcomed that some of his texts, particularly from his speeches and sermons, are now made available again for old friends and colleagues as well as for new readers. These texts possess the quality to renew and inspire both categories.


When I met with Philip recently, he received me warmly and welcomed me into his circle of memories, sharing the joy of the ecumenical movement with one of the younger "boys". He is reaching the milestone of 90 years, with a lower voice than before but still full of a deep sense of humour and wisdom. He remains, as ever, a credible witness to the vision of the kingdom of God with its true values of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17).


We give thanks to God for Philip's witness, and for the opportunity to give this witness a new expression. May the Holy Spirit bless these words, for our time.


Congratulations, and thanks,



Olav Fykse Tveit

General secretary of the World Council of Churches