On 30 January, the Church Council of the Church of Norway appointed World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit as the new presiding bishop for the Church of Norway.
Among the 12 bishops, the presiding bishop is "a first among equals" (primus inter pares). He or she is a tenant of the Bishops’ Conference. The presiding bishop has the responsibility for the Cathedral of Nidaros together with the Bishop of the Diocese of Nidaros.
Tveit said he is looking forward to reconnecting with Trøndelag, where he spent a meaningful part of his childhood.
“A bishop should listen to others while unifying and uniting the diversity of our church under our common faith,” said Tveit. “As presiding bishop, a particular responsibility rests on you to be a representative for the entire church while also being a public figure. This means that disseminating your message in a favourable manner is sometimes more important than dominating the debate and getting the last word in,” the newly appointed bishop says.
Tveit added: "There is a lot at stake. We have a lot to do. The church ought to be seen and heard. The prophetic role of the church is often discussed in the ecumenical movement. In my opinion, it is a matter of being a clear voice, and of being both critical and constructive.”
He underlined: “The church, with its message and as a public actor, contributes to opinion formation and opinion exchange in society. I would like to take on the role as presiding bishop by contributing to the visibility and audibility of the Church of Norway, and by ensuring that the church makes good and objective contributions in the public sphere.”
Tveit wants a task-oriented church. “I have observed many ways of existing as a church and how the church can bear significance for people in different ways. I think this is useful in the Bishops’ Conference’s endeavours to develop and exercise spiritual and pastoral leadership in the church. I believe that my extensive ecumenical and international experience will be valuable as we work to acknowledge and develop the diversity of the Church of Norway, as well as how it relates to the large diversity of Norwegian society,” he says.
Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC central committee, conveyed her greetings to the new presiding bishop: “Greetings and congratulations. The Church of Norway has appointed a presiding bishop with extensive ecumenical experience and commitment. Rev. Dr. Tveit brings a wide range of ecclesial experiences, both global and regional, as well as networks that will keep and enhance the role of Church of Norway. Rev. Dr. Olav succeeds a leader who has set a precedent of collegiality and international contacts that will undoubtedly grow. We as members of the central committee are delighted to have a general secretary who goes back to serve in their church. This is an honor. Blessings to the leadership of the Church of Norway.”
Outgoing presiding bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien speaks at the press conference following the election of Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit as new presiding bishop. Photo courtesy of Church of Norway
In the rationale for his nomination, the Bishops’ Conference wrote: “Olav Fykse Tveit has extraordinary expertise and experience, making him very well suited for the position as presiding bishop. Through his service, Olav Fykse Tveit has attained a great deal of trust and made significant contributions to church unity and interaction across continents and faiths.”
Tveit’s inauguration will take place during the church synod in Trondheim on 26 April in the Cathedral of Nidaros. Tveit will step down from his post as the WCC general secretary at the end of March 2020 after serving two terms in office.
Tveit’s previous roles
In his home country, Norway, he served as a member of the board of directors and executive committee of the Christian Council of Norway, moderator of the Church of Norway - Islamic Council of Norway contact group and the same for the Jewish Congregation contact group. He also was a member of the Inter-Faith Council of Norway and a member of the board of trustees of Norwegian Church Aid.
Previous assignments include the position of secretary for the Church of Norway Doctrinal Commission, 1999-2000, and Church-State Relations, 2001-02. Tveit is an ordained pastor in the Church of Norway and has served as a parish priest.
As WCC general secretary, Tveit has led the fellowship of churches through such gatherings as the International Ecumenical Peace Convocation (Kingston, Jamaica, 2011) and the 10th Assembly of the WCC (Busan, Republic of Korea, 2013). He has also been instrumental in leadership of international consultations on such topics as climate change, peacemaking and refugee resettlement.
In 2002, Tveit was awarded a doctorate in theology from the Norwegian School of Theology/Menighetsfakultetet in Oslo for his dissertation on Mutual Accountability as Ecumenical Attitude.
In 2012, Tveit received the Friends of the Armenians Award for his advocacy worldwide. In 2013, King Abdullah II of Jordan presented him with the Al-Hussein Decoration for Distinguished Service in the field of inter-religious dialogue and cooperation in pursuit of peace among peoples.
In 2015, Hanshin University in Seoul, Republic of Korea, awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his vision of unity, justice and peace.
In 2018, Serampore College in India, awarded him an honorary doctorate in recognition of his ecumenical work.
Tveit has accepted an invitation from the Global Partnership to End Violence Against Children to serve on the organization’s board of directors. He also served as a co-president of Religions for Peace.