SACC Johannesburg, June 7, 2017
In 1990, Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo finally met after all the years of imprisonment and exile. The meeting tolk place in Stockholm (!) where Oliver Tambo was treated after his stroke in London. At that time I was the C.E.O. of that hospital. I witnessed a most important moment in your history - and I was moved.
Now, I am deeply touched by being invited to this important and impressive gathering. I do speak here as one of the World Council of Churches presidents and as Archbishop emeritus of Church of Sweden. Both the World Council and the Church of Sweden have followed South Africa closely for many years and have been quite involved in dramatic times.
Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare. Jeremiah 29:7
That is a Bible quotation that comes up for many of us. So do also the words of Saint Paul: For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself”. Galatians 5:14
To love does not only mean to accept and to try to mend. It means to build. It means to support structures which uphold responsibility, transparence and accountability. It Aldo means to move into the situation of the hurt and downtrodden. It means to forgive - pwhen the call for forgiveness is genuine.
South Africa has a constitution. Most countries do. But you have a constitution that is known by the people and is loved by the people. You have a constitution which is supposed to mean a lot – and does mean a lot. Your elections are conducted under law – and the law is dependent upon the constitution. Your constitution governs. Your constitution was formed in a process involving many – so that it could serve and govern many.
You as churches accept and hail the constitution. It reflects values which we together recognize as serving humanity and God’s will with us and through us.
Now, when you are discerning the present situation in your land and your responsibilities as servants of the people living in your land and as servants of the Lord, you shall know that the ecumenical movement is with you. We are many who know that it is difficult to see, even more difficult to judge – and sometimes comparatively easy to act!
We are with you when you form a safe space for unburdening; we are with you when people opposed to your endeavors say that you are going beyond what is the task of churches. We are with you because we trust your courage, your caution, your care and wisdom – and your prayerful commitment. Therefore the ecumenical movement supports you when you are searching for the truth, honestly and thoroughly trying to see and to judge. We are also with you when you wrestle with the issues of how to act. The South African Council of Churches has a record of boldness and wisdom. May the Lord guide you and may you listen to what the Lord says to you, also by your fellow members of this meeting. “Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you.” “Love your neighbor as yourself.”