Ecumenical ministry expects much from United Methodists

While The United Methodist Church has given much as a member of the World Council of Churches, much is expected of it, said the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit.

Tveit is general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). He made that statement May 1 — Ecumenical Day at General Conference — during an afternoon press conference.

Tveit said he was pleased to attend the conference so he could express how important The United Methodist Church is to the “fellowship (WCC) as we now develop visions for the future.”

It’s an important member, he said, because of its contributions and commitments, but also because the nature of Methodism is a good fit with the WCC. He noted the strengths of connectionalism and history of relationship building over time as things change. He said the church also provides models of how committees and consultations work.

“You are experts on committees,” he said, prompting laughter from the audience.

“You also have a strong sense of how being a fellowship is a moral imperative” in serving the world in the best way, he said.

Those qualities of Methodism, in partnership with the WCC’s contributions, help promote a “call to unity for the world,” he said.

An ecumenical movement that fosters ongoing conversations with “those who have something to say” answers that call, he said.

“The World Council of Churches offers a forum to fulfill our call to discipleship and unity,” he said. “We expect a lot from this church (United Methodist) — its insight and spiritual and financial resources.”

The WCC was established in 1948. It comprises 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, according to its website. It represents more than 560 million Christians and includes Orthodox, Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, Reformed, and United and Independent churches.

Among its goals, the fellowship engages in partnership efforts around mission and evangelism, initiatives that break down barriers between people, and efforts that promote peace and justice. Its overarching goal is unity in faith, mission and service.

Tveit also shared several areas of focus for the WCC:

• Interfaith efforts with the Roman Catholic Church that produced a Common Christian Witness, a document focused on facing missional challenges together; and

• Cooperative efforts with churches in the Middle East that foster peace between Israel and Palestine and in Syria.

Tveit was guest preacher during the evening plenary session.

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