Gathering in Hampton, Virginia. All photos, courtesy of Steven D. Martin/NCCCUSA

Gathering in Hampton, Virginia. All photos, courtesy of Steven D. Martin/NCCCUSA

In a message to those gathered in Hampton, Virginia (USA), World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit explored “Race, Repentance, and Reparation: An Ecumenical Opportunity.”

Tveit was joining a commemoration of 400 years since the arrival of enslaved African peoples to Jamestown, Virginia (USA).

“Racism in all its forms is the exact opposite of our values as Christians, as churches and as an ecumenical movement,” said Tveit. "This is contrary to all aspects of our work as a World Council of Churches.”

Seeing the many Christian traditions represented at the commemoration, Tveit reflected, “Racism is moreover contrary to our work for unity of the church.”

Racism is a sin that cannot be addressed only in one program, but must be combatted in all that we do, he added, and noted that it is “an ongoing concern of the worldwide fellowship of churches, indeed of the whole ecumenical movement."

Church leaders from various traditions gathered in Hampton.

“Today, 30 years after the collapse of apartheid, we see a new phase and face of racism in recently emboldened racist movements and political trends and ideologies like the white supremacy in the US, and in Europe, but also new expressions of the same poison in every part of the world,” Tveit said. And churches themselves are not without blame, Tveit insisted. “Apartheid, we recall, was fundamentally a religious heresy," he said. "Even today Christian politics and practice often prove unhelpful in the fight against modern racism.”

WCC moderator Dr Agnes Abuom (middle) attending the events in Hampton.

The moderator of the WCC Central Committee Dr Agnes Abuom spoke to the moment of marking 400 years since the arrival of the slaves. “Which image of a God could be used to legitimate such things to happen?” she asked, only to affirm that it was the faith in the true God of justice and grace that helped the African slaves to survive this dark period of human history.

Read full speech by WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit

Christian Unity Gathering - National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA

Four Leaders to be Honored at Christian Unity Gathering (NCCCUSA press release of 2 October 2019)