From the World Council of Churches
By the general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
Stuttgart, 21 July 2010
Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body,
for we all partake of the one bread.
I Corinthians 10.17
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
It is indeed an honour and a privilege for me to bring to this Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation greetings on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC). The WCC is a fellowship of 349 Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant and United churches in over 120 countries. It provides the largest and most inclusive space in which we search daily for visible expressions of being one, in our common faith, life and witness in Christ. Many of you represent here members of the WCC fellowship. We give thanks for the Lutheran churches’ contribution to the fellowship of the World Council of Churches both today and in decades past.
“Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” These words from St Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (10.17) remind us that praying for the daily bread is also to pray for the sharing of the one bread. The communion you share as The Lutheran World Federation is given in the sharing of the one Christ. We need in the ecumenical movement more than ever the Lutheran insisting that we are one because we are sharing the one and same Christ, because we receive the same gift. Whatever happens in discussions about your communion or in our wider struggles for unity, let us never forget why we ourselves are in this fellowship of the church at all. Whoever we are. Wherever we are. Whatever we are. Though we are many, we are one through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the bread of life.
Therefore, the theme chosen to guide this Assembly in prayer and action is a theme that touches the heart of the gospel and therefore also the heart of our being one in Christ. It speaks to all people who share the one prayer that Jesus Christ gave us to pray. The supplication “Give us Today our Daily Bread” is a reminder that we are utterly dependent upon God’s gifts, the undeserved grace, for our whole life, physically and spiritually. When we pray for daily bread we acknowledge the body of Christ, the bread of life, given for our salvation, and we experience the hunger of justice that calls us into communion for actions of sharing. Thus, our call to be one is always both a gift and a calling, but as a Lutheran you know what comes first. We share because we have got a share in the one bread.
There are several reasons given for why churches are not fully sharing the one bread in the eucharist. In the light of your theme and the affirmation of the one bread, there are even more important theological and moral reasons why we continue to do anything we can do to come to the same table and have a common sharing of the one bread.
The Lutheran World Federation has offered many gifts. You have offered profound theological work. You have offered a deep, practical understanding of communion in Christ as a global, mutually accountable, just and caring fellowship – not focusing on size and power but on your common gift and the shared prophetic call. You are known for your commitment to peace with justice, to mission, diakonia and to ecumenical dialogue and interreligious cooperation. Let it be so also in the future. We need you. As a son of the Church of Norway and an ordained pastor in this church, it is also a personal joy for me to stand here before you and knowing that I also represent you and your gifts in my ministry in the wider ecumenical context.
We are called to be one in God’s mission in the world. It is as important today as it was to the churches gathered in Edinburgh one-hundred years ago. The Lutheran World Federation has been a faithful partner in God’s mission for unity and peace under the outgoing wise leadership of the general secretary Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko. You have not only led the LWF but you have been a dear and signficant leader in the whole ecumenical movement. I trust that this ecumenical commitment of the Lutheran World Federation will continue in the next years, and I look forward to work with my friend, the general secretary-elect Rev. Martin Junge. I trust that we will together steward our resources in collaboration and willingness to work together with the wider ecumenical family. Among other things I look forward to your participation in the preparations of our next Assembly in 2013 and to a common celebration of the gospel in 2017.
Here in Stuttgart there will be an historic moment of reconciliation between two families of churches that have been separated by the most painful of divisions – that of persecution. The Lutheran and Mennonite churches have been quietly fostering a dialogue that is rooted in the vision of transforming relations through the love of Christ, the source of our salvation and the promise of forgiveness. The World Council of Churches share in celebrating this act of reconciliation; it is an inspiration for the whole church.
We pray that God will bless this Assembly, so that it empowers you to receive, to share and to give the bread you have received.
The ecumenical movement is a movement of the cross, based on our common belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. We are participating in this movement when we do as Christ do, stretching out our arms to give, to give the bread of life to all.