Dear sisters and brothers in the Lusitanian Catholic Apostolic Evangelical Church,
Dear Bishop Jorge,
I send you warm greetings on behalf of the fellowship of churches represented by the World Council of Churches on the occasion of your Synod meeting. I regret that I am only able to be with you in spirit, and I pray that your reflections, work and decisions be enlightened and blessed by God's Holy Spirit.
"From Baptism to discipleship; the Church in Mission" - the theme that you have chosen for your synod meeting, inspired by the gospel of Matthew, resonates strongly with the theme of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism which was organized by the World Council of Churches in Arusha, Tanzania earlier this year.
"Moving in the Spirit: Called to Transforming Discipleship" was the theme of this conference, attended by more than 1,000 representatives from Protestant, Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Pentecostal, African-instituted and of course Anglican churches. In an "Arusha Call" published at the end of the meeting, the participants affirmed that, as disciples of Jesus Christ, we are both individually and collectively "called by our baptism to transforming discipleship: a Christ-connected way of life in a world where many face despair, rejection, loneliness, and worthlessness."
In my opening address to the conference in Arusha, I had the opportunity to reflect on discipleship as something that necessarily brings us together. Disciples are not called to be alone. As we are called to follow Jesus Christ, we are called to follow his example, entering into relationships of mutual attention and sharing.
In John 17, we can read how the gift of unity in Christ relates to our role as witnesses to Christ:
The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may be completely one, so that the world may believe that you have sent me and loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17:22-23)
The church following Jesus Christ is always together – because we are only church through this unity in the triune God. We are called together and we respond together.
It is significant that your Synod meeting takes place shortly after the feast of Pentecost, a time when we pay special attention to the gift of the Holy Spirit and its unifying power.
How to find the way the Spirit moves? Nobody knows where the wind is blowing, Jesus says (John 3). We cannot claim to know the direction of the wind, and we would be wrong to trust our own knowledge in order to find the direction the Spirit is leading us. But the ecumenical experience has taught us that we can open our hearts to the Holy Spirit by listening to the Word of God together and learning from one another.
In 2018 we celebrate the 70th anniversary of the World Council of Churches and the fellowship that is its heart and soul. This is an opportunity to mark the achievements of the past 70 years in working for Christian unity and action, and to look to the challenges ahead as a fellowship of churches responding to God’s call for unity, mission, justice and peace.
Among those church leaders expressing their joy and their commitment to our common journey at the occasion of this anniversary year has been the spiritual leader of the Anglican Communion, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. In a public lecture at the WCC's offices in Geneva, he spoke about the "wind of the spirit" bringing Christians together across denominational borders, often spontaneously and without ecumenical institutions or church leaders knowing about it. This "wind of the spirit," he said, "is blowing ever more powerfully. In many places it is becoming a hurricane."
As Archbishop Justin Welby rightly said, common prayer is one of the areas were the Spirit often blows with such force, bringing us together with friends from other Christian traditions.
Therefore, to conclude, I invite you to pray with me with the prayer formulated by the participants of the Conference on World Mission and Evangelism, at the end of the "Arusha Call":
Loving God, we thank you for the gift of life in all its diversity and beauty. Lord Jesus Christ, crucified and risen, we praise you that you came to find the lost, to free the oppressed, to heal the sick, and to convert the self-centred. Holy Spirit, we rejoice that you breathe in the life of the world and are poured out into our hearts. As we live in the Spirit, may we also walk in the Spirit. Grant us faith and courage to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus: becoming pilgrims of justice and peace in our time. For the blessing of your people, the sustaining of the earth, and the glory of your name. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.
I give thanks to God for your commitment in the Lusitanian Church to continue journeying together with disciples from other churches in Portugal in in the entire world in our common pilgrimage of justice and peace.
Yours in our Common Lord,
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit
World Council of Churches