Tampa, Florida, May 2, 2012—World Council of Churches General Secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit addressed the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, lifting up the ecumenical movement as a way forward together for Christians beset by days of fear and uncertainty.
“You have affirmed that making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world is your mission,” Tveit said, referring to the theme of the General Conference. “You do so amidst many unknowns….This call to costly discipleship and mutual accountability is an ecumenical call,” he said.
Offering his sermon during a worship service that celebrated ecumenism, Tveit said he heard a “new ecumenical affirmation of mission” while traveling recently in the Philippines. “We need mission in and from the many margins,” he urged, “where Christ reveals himself in the reality as it is.”
At the margins, he indicated, he has heard the “painful and powerful” testimonies of those who face oppression. “As disciples of the church,” he said, “they offered a prophetic word for justice and peace against their fear, through grassroots advocacy, educational programs, and common prayer.”
Dr. Tveit called on Christians around the world to accompany Christian minorities in the Middle East, stating that without this presence, “the conviviality among peoples from different faiths, cultures, [and] civilizations, which is a sign of God’s love for all humanity, will be endangered.”
He spoke of the World Council of Church’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine/Israel and said it is meant to “encourage all in power to see and change what is the reality of so many ordinary people in their daily life: Occupation, fear, harassments, even violence. We cannot speak about balance where there is no balance, when one part is occupying, and another has been occupied,” he said.
“Jesus, who walks on troubled waters, would have us work together all the more as Christians and also with those of other faiths to calm the seas of the world,” Tveit said, referring to the day’s gospel reading from the book of Mark and lifting up the “essential kernels of the gospel—justice, peace, and love.”
Dr. Tveit underscored that while we may not fully understand the mystery of Christ or how to advance his love in the midst of uncertainty, we can do something. “The common journey causes us to recognize that we can move before knowing everything,” he said.
“What we do know are the words of our Savior to us as we struggle in the boat together, ‘Take heart, it is I; have no fear!’”