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Opening speech of Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit at the ACT Assembly 2018 in Uppsala

Opening speech of Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches at the ACT Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden on 29 October 2018

29 October 2018

Opening speech of Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches at the ACT Assembly in Uppsala, Sweden

Dear participants of the ACT Alliance Assembly,
Moderator, General Secretary,
Sisters and Brothers,

We are gathered here with hope. Hope is powerful. Because our hope is given to us from God.

When the World Council of Churches met for the 4th Assembly in 1968 here in Uppsala, the theme was “Behold, I make all things new”. Many things were new, or rather new then, in the ecumenical movement. Particularly that the churches started to see more clearly that together they were living in one world; what happened in one part of the world was related to the other parts, and that we could do much more together. For good or for bad. They were called in many ways to address together the many realities of the world that did not bring hope. The churches were called to anticipate the coming kingdom of God by participating in bringing hope of something new to the people living here and now.

One way to nurture this hope should have been the sermon at the opening service by Dr Martin Luther King. He did not come, he was assassinated 3 months before the Assembly. However, his dream, his hope, continued to live and got even more momentum.

As we gather here, we do so with the hope, the dream, of those who really need change, radical change, something new. We do so with the hope, the dream, that churches can take actions together, to give the right priorities, to put peoples first. Peoples’ needs, peoples’ hopes, peoples’ faith – that justice and peace should prevail – for all.

As we start the important work of this Assembly, let me express the hope of the World Council of Churches for this event that it will strengthen the ability to act better together as churches. Action of Churches Together is necessary, ACT Alliance is necessary to respond to our shared call to respond to the needs of our fellow human beings, and to the threats to our common home, the planet earth.

We have the same roots from the ground breaking ecumenical conference for Life and Peace in Stockholm in 1925, convened by Archbishop Nathan Söderblom. In 1931 he got the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to bring the churches together to work for peace and justice in the world. The joint roots are also from the turning point in Uppsala 1968. To be here in Uppsala these days helps us to see these sources for our common calling as one ecumenical movement.

When the members of the ACT Alliance now meet to discern together the way forward, showing the hope in action and putting people first, you do so in collaboration with the World Council of Churches and our 350 member churches. Many of them are also members in ACT alliance – like the Church of Sweden.

We should be proud of our roots, we should be proud of the vision and the dream and the hope that has brought us to our commitment and our capacities of today to address the needs of people. We are as churches and church-related partners called to be the salt and the light of the world. That is not to be triumphant or great in ourselves, but to share the hope for change, for truth to prevail, for what is the common good to be given priority.

In all of this, we are given our mandate in God’s love for the world. God’s love is for every human being, created equally, women and men, in the image of God. We are seeking the unity of love that comes through justice. Our faith is in the triune God who cares for all by demanding us to work for justice. It can not be either faith or justice, either faith or rights. God cares for the rights of all human beings.  No one should be left behind. All should have life in abundance. This is a wonderful call, it is the call to the one ecumenical movement of love.

In this we need to support one another and respect the different roles we have in complimentary tasks. I am proud to be here and to know something, not all, what precious and important work you are doing through the cooperation in the ACT Alliance. As you say it well in your Twitter Account: “ACT Alliance is one of the largest global justice networks, championing sustainable progress for the poor and marginalised in 140 countries.”

Let us hope, pray and work, that this assembly renew our ability to show hope in action - together.


Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit,
general secretary,
World Council of Churches