As he delivered the Inaugural Michael Huffington Lecture at Loyola Marymount University on 1 April, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit spoke on “Christ's love moves the world to reconciliation and unity,” the theme of the WCC 11th Assembly in 2021 in Karlsruhe, Germany.
In the lecture, titled “What’s love got to do with it?”, Tveit also poses additional questions: What is it that the churches want to say now? What is it that the world needs now?
The world needs love, the kind of lifesaving love that is a profound source of unity, Tveit said. “We are neither called to promote, nor to be a source of conflict and polarization,” he said. “That means that we cannot ignore tribalism, racism, nationalism, or any other form of exclusivism – if we are to be the followers of Christ in this world.”
Reconciliation and unity occur between people face-to-face, Tveit said. "Justice is needed to be able to proceed, but the guilty should not be brought to justice by making everybody guilty, collectively,” he said. “That is not justice.”
The world is not moving in love towards reconciliation and unity, Tveit admitted. “Even the communities of Christian faith are sometimes quite self-centred and themselves a source of division and even conflict – with a negative effect far beyond their own circles.,” he said. “In fact, now is actually a time when religion is one of the dividing factors in the world, or at least used and misused to divide, for other purposes than the strictly religious motivation.”
It is time to go back to basics, Tveit urged. “The message of Jesus Christ is exclusive in the sense that in a Christian church nothing else can define what the church is,” he said. “The ecumenical movement itself, its institutions and organizations, might provide a temptation to serve the interest of one’s own community and church, or even one’s own personal interests.”
For the first time in the WCC’s history, the term “love” will be included in a theme for an assembly. “The church is called to be the expression of this love in a broken and sinful world,” Tveit reflected. “How could the ecumenical movement, trying to unite the churches in this call and to bring forth the signs of the reign of God – that is, justice, peace and joy – into this world – how could this movement be something other than a movement of love?”
The WCC speaks truth to power, Tveit concluded: “We do so driven by love for all, and particularly for those suffering, occupied, colonized, excluded, non-privileged, marginalized, discriminated against.”