Greetings from Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, General Secretary, World Council of Churches
Dear Rev. Daniel Ženatý, Moderator of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren,
Respected members of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren,
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,
I greet you all in the name of the Triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, whom we all worship. I am honoured to participate in this celebration of the centenary of the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren (ECCB) at the invitation of its Synodal Council.
In this festive moment, as general secretary of the World Council of Churches, I convey the greetings and congratulations on behalf of the entire WCC fellowship. The fellowship of WCC rejoices today, together with one of its founding members, the Evangelical Church of Czech Brethren. As Paul says, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honoured, all rejoice together” (2 Corinthians 12:26).
Today is a day of rejoicing as we celebrate one hundred years of existence of the ECCB. Yet the history of your church is also one of suffering, struggle and marginalization, as during the periods of Nazism and communism and the Cold War that divided Europe and the world. In the publication, “100 Years: An Uncertain and Complicated Journey”, you offer an honest and respectful description of the challenges of these years. Challenges of the context in which you have been church, but also challenges within the church – most of them related to the wider political context of the church. This is a remarkable sign of accountability, that contributed to establish confidence for the future work of the church in this country and in the wider ecumenical family. Your history is a significant part of the history of the one ecumenical movement and of the WCC. It is important to see the nuanced and wider picture of a world in need of justice and peace, and the efforts of the churches to find their ways together in changing times. Even during the darkest days of your history, the ECCB has been able to witness the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to the Czech people in times of restriction and suppression. Even now, in the post-communist era, the ECCB continues to face various challenges. In spite of these challenges your church played and continues to play a crucial role in the highly secularized Czech society. The ECCB cares for those who are vulnerable in the Czech Republic, and its diakonia projects reach far beyond the church walls. When some ask their governments to close the doors for refugees, and particularly migrants from the Muslim family, it is important that churches call for responsibility for refugees and treat all people equally created in God’s image.
Your church continues to understand itself as an inheritor and promoter of the Bohemian Reformation from the 15th Century, which anticipated and in many ways prepared the way of the Reformation of 16th Century. You are at the same time ecumenical in nature, as a united Protestant church with former Lutheran and Reformed congregations. Your courage and prophetic vision to form and live out in a united church have inspired other churches from Europe and beyond to form similar unions and mergers. The World Council of Churches is grateful to all of you, to the leadership and the members of the ECCB, for being active and enthusiastic members of a global fellowship of Christians. I have had opportunities to visit you in my former role as member of the Executive Committee of the Leuenberg Church Fellowship.
Like the ECCB, the World Council of Churches celebrates a jubilee this year. The WCC was founded 70 years ago and is currently on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. This has been marked in many ways, particularly in Geneva with the central committee meeting, including the visits by the Ecumenical Patriarch and Pope Francis, and in Amsterdam in the 23August event.
Recently, in September 2018, you also organized a pilgrimage under the theme of Truth, in which WCC staff and representatives of other global churches participated. Ecumenical sisters and brothers spent time together, visiting historical sites of your church and of Czech Christianity, praying and reflecting together on what “Truth” means for the ECCB and for the wider Christian family. One of the companions who inspired the pilgrims was a sister of ECCB, Milada Horáková. I would like to take this opportunity to quote a fragment of the last letter she wrote to her daughter:
“Man doesn’t live in the world alone; in that there is great happiness, but also a tremendous responsibility. That obligation is first of all in not being and acting exclusive, but rather merging with the needs and the goals of others. This does not mean to be lost in the multitude, but it is to know that I am part of all, and to bring one’s best in that community. If you do that, you will succeed in contributing to the common goals of human society.”
Dear Rev. Zenaty, distinguished guests, dear friends. As we celebrate today your anniversary, let us express our shared commitment to walking together, praying together, and working together for truth, united in our faith and in a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. There remains so much to do.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)