Held as part of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, those gathered touched many times on the theme of the special week, “Do good; see justice.”
A large part of the prayer and discussion focused on formally thanking Rt. Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, presiding bishop of the Church of Norway and former WCC general secretary, who offered a sermon during the prayer.
Tveit ended his term of service with the WCC as the COVID-19 pandemic was spiking. Staff were able to hold a farewell prayer online but, until now, were unable to say goodbye in person.
WCC central committee moderator Bishop Dr Heinrich Bedford-Strohm expressed gratitude to Tveit for serving the WCC for more than a decade. “Olav, through all his years as general secretary, has been not only a partner in dialogue for me but also a friend,” said Bedford-Strohm. “You have done a wonderful job and you have been a blessing to the WCC, to the church, but also to the world.”
The prayer was succeeded by a roundtable discussion with staff and Tveit sharing insights and reflections on three themes related to leadership, justice, and unity.
“This session is really intended to be a session of thanksgiving in the sense of recognizing Olav and all those who served with him,” said WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay.
Rev. Dr Kenneth Mtata, WCC director of Public Witness and Diakonia, asked Tveit: “From your experience as a global ecumenical leader and now as a bishop in a particular country, what does the leadership of the church provide to the world?”
Rev. Dr Kuzipa Nalwamba WCC programme director for Unity and Mission, asked, among other questions: “In terms of the future, what do you think we should be focusing on as a fellowship?”
Tveit answered these questions, and many others, with both insights and anecdotes. He also reflected on the theme from the WCC 10th Assembly in Busan “God of life, lead us to justice and peace,” and the WCC 11th Assembly in Karlsruhe, “Christ’s love moves the world to reconciliation and unity.”
He noted that both of these themes have a verb—or a sense of movement—and that very sense was at the core of his leadership over the years.
He recalled when he learned to ride a bike. “You never get balance for your bike if it doesn’t move,” he said. “I think that is also about leadership for any organization—that is crucial.”