The Church of South India has witnessed the grand inauguration function of the Ninth Consultation of the United and Uniting Churches more than 50 years ago as India was attaining independence.
The consultation in Chennai, India, with the theme “Living in Tents (Heb.11: 5) the Pilgrimage of United and Uniting Churches”, was inaugurated by delegates from different continents who lit traditional Indian lamps.
World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit spoke at the inauguration worship on 25 November, praising the Church of South India as a “truly united church” at a service attended by more than 1,000 people.
“It is a great honour and joy to visit you here in the Church of South India - as a truly united church, one of those who really materialized the vision of visible unity of the ecumenical movement in the post-war and post-colonial period,” said Tveit in St George Cathedral.
The Church of South India said it is important to note that the historic formation of the first ever united church in the country - the Church of South India - took place in 1947 in this same Cathedral which celebrates its bicentenary this year.
The WCC general secretary noted that this was the same time as the World Council of Churches was established “as another concrete expression of churches relating to one another and searching visible unity in faith, witness and service to the one humanity for freedom, justice and peace”.
Also attending were Rev. Dr. Christopher Ferguson (general secretary, World Communion of Reformed Churches), Rev. Prof. Leo J. Koffeman (chair of the United and Uniting Churches Continuation Committee), Most Rev. Dr. G. Dyvasirvadam (moderator, the Church of South India), Most Rev. Dr. P. K. Samantaroy (moderator, Church of North India), Rt. Rev. Thomas K. Oommen (the deputy moderator, Church of South India) and Rev. Dr. Daniel Ratnakara.
“Unity can be a beautiful idea to bind us together on a principle of harmony. History shows that this idea easily also can be turned into a tool of power, of demanding uniformity, in terms of opinions, perspectives, identity and behaviour in a hierarchical or forced expression of controlled unity,” Tveit preached.
He observed that Jesus said Love is the most significant content of the unity of the Church and the love between his disciples is the sign of them being one.
“The long reflection on separation and belonging that is formulated so brilliantly in the Prayer of Jesus in John 17, from where we quote his prayer that “they all may be one”.