Photo: Prof. Elena Namli

Photo: Prof. Elena Namli

Hope is both an inspiration and a criterion for advocacy, reflected Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, in a keynote lecture offered at the General Nordic Conference on Systematic Theology in Helsinki. The conference took place from 7 to 10 January.

“The ecumenical work on advocacy—raising a voice together with those needing accompaniment for justice and peace—is a genuine task for a fellowship of churches who together express faith in the triune God of life,” he said. “This faith dimension of advocacy for justice and peace should convey hope. In my view, a commitment to convey hope should also be considered as a criterion for the critique of religion.”

At the conference, participants discussed ecumenical and interreligious challenges to traditional systematic theology in Nordic societies and beyond.

Advocacy should be about recognizing problems but also about finding solutions, Tveit said. “Advocacy work must be a substantively critical contribution, identifying hindrances toward a more just and peaceful world. However, it should also contribute to finding ways forward and solutions to the problems addressed.”

Key themes of the conference were God and secularism; Christ and ecumenism; reformation; and service and advocacy. Participants addressed these themes in the context of today’s highly pluralistic Nordic societies. In addition to secular ideologies of various kinds, a wide array of Christian denominations and world religions alike have become part of the Nordic socio-cultural landscape.

Particularly in this landscape, hope must be the characteristic message of the church, said Tveit. “The advocacy of the church can only be based on a Christian faith that has a prophetic, critical approach that is aiming at transformation and hope; not marked by fatalism, by indifference or cynical words of devaluation of others, but by love,” he said. “Hope is a quality of faith. And a necessary condition for hope is that it expresses itself in love for others, whoever and wherever they are.”

Read the full speech by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit: Service and advocacy: Matters of faith?

During Advent, WCC general secretary celebrates love, hope (WCC press release of 16 December 2015)