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Greetings to the 12th meeting of the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD)

Greetings of the World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to the 12th meeting of the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in Bonn, 12 November 2017

14 November 2017

This text is also available in German.

Greetings of the World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to the 12th meeting of the synod of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) in Bonn, 12 November 2017


High Synods, Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:1-5)

I would like to preface my letter of greetings with these first verses from the Gospel of John. The living, life-giving Word of God brings light into the darkness. Christ as the living Word of God is the basis for all wisdom. This wisdom does not remain at a cool distance. It loves life. This wisdom gives strength and courage to act.

This kind of wisdom from the living Word of God gave the Reformers strength and hope. As a feast of Christ, it leads us to the Reformation Jubilee:

-       Even today, it lets us be encouraged by the wisdom of the living Word;

-       It allows us to make a strong commitment to justice and peace, not only for men but for all of creation;

-       In this way, we can deepen the unity for which Christ prayed.

For me, the church services in Lund and Hildesheim and then recently in Wittenberg were milestones on a pilgrimage of unity, to which we are called. We have learned to confront the burdens of the past and heal embittered memories. At the same time, we have gained new freedom. This has given churches worldwide hope that they can shape the future together. The churches of the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) can be proud of what they have accomplished!

I would like to extend my personal thanks to all of you who have contributed to this process in recent years. I see important signs pointing to a new awakening in the ecumenical movement – both here in Germany and in the relationship between the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Pope and the Roman Catholic Church worldwide.

Our cooperation in the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace has very practical consequences for people’s lives and the churches. The churches are jointly seeking peace in Palestine and Israel, Nigeria or Colombia, to give just a few examples. We are in discussions with Rome about the dangerous situation in South Sudan, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo. The WCC has taken several initiatives in support of the religious minorities in Syria and Iraq.

The President of Fiji has asked me to request all of you to advocate right now here in Bonn for a successful climate conference. He urges us to strengthen the voice of the churches in the Pacific and accept their spirituality. It is about the wisdom that enables us to preserve the life of all creation. We have stood up for climate justice, first in Paris and now here in Bonn. Against this backdrop, many today are calling for a “green Reformation” as a sign of hope against the fear and anxiety of our time. Fear and anxiety flourish where the environment mirrors our own life-destroying practices.

And now a few words about the church’s mission for peace: the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) received the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize. The award is a tribute to the joint role played by civil society and the churches. The WCC supports ICAN. Indeed, the Campaign has its offices at WCC headquarters. I will be representing the WCC and thus all of you at the Prize Award Ceremony, as a member of the ICAN delegation.

The EKD’s role within the World Council of Churches is also important for the future. In March next year, the World Mission Conference in Arusha, Tanzania, offers a further opportunity to reinforce the common theological foundations and practice with regard to mission. The Association of Churches and Missions has put together a strong delegation. Young people from Germany have also signed up for the Global Theological Ecumenical Institute that will take place in parallel to the World Mission Conference.

Both the EKD and the WCC have very concrete ideas on how to continue our cooperation on refugee aid, migration and integration. Our aim is to overcome widespread fear and uncertainty and examine prejudices in the light of reality. The churches have an opportunity to shape narratives and discourses, and hence policy. What is happening in Germany was and will be very important throughout Europe and worldwide.

The Evangelical Church in Germany has an important voice within the WCC.

Trusting in the wisdom of the living Word of God, I would like to urge all of us to move forward with our cooperation with greater determination and resolution. That is why I would also like to raise the important yet controversial issue of the commitment to peace and justice for Israel and Palestine and the status of Jerusalem. On both the international level and in Jerusalem, we are in talks with the churches and with Jewish and Muslim representatives. It is very important for us that the EKD play an active role in this situation. We need this wisdom combined with the courage to act. That is my wish for all of us – EKD and WCC alike.

I would like to thank the EKD and its member churches from the bottom of my heart for their extraordinary support and their confidence in the work of the World Council of Churches. This applies to you too, dear Council Chairman, Bishop Heinrich Bedford-Strohm and Bishop Petra Bosse-Huber.

Of course, I cannot end this letter of greeting without expressing our gratitude that the EKD has offered to host the next WCC Assembly in 2021. Regardless of the decision that will be taken at the WCC Central Committee meeting in 2018 in Geneva, we see this invitation as a special sign of the positive expectations that the EKD associates with the World Council of Churches.

We pray with the churches in Germany that we shall all find in Christ the courage and hope to continue firmly on the path to unity, justice and peace.