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“Among the many challenges that we face in the search for Christian unity is the need to overcome divisions and prejudices that exclude one another,” Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) said Wednesday, 24 August to the 22nd Pentecostal World Conference in Stockholm, Sweden.
In his greeting – the first ever offered by a WCC general secretary to a Pentecostal World Conference – Tveit highlighted the hope that comes with being invited to the conference and spoke of his personal experience with Pentecostal churches. He also expressed how the WCC and Pentecostals have a common call in God’s mission and need each other to fulfil this call.
“It is my deep conviction that the member churches of the WCC, some of which are Pentecostal, need the closer bond to the Pentecostal churches you represent,” he said to the group. “And it is my humble conviction that you need us. To be one is to give witness together to the cross and the resurrection of Christ, to follow God's call together to work for justice and peace in God's world, to obey God's commandment to be a good neighbour to all need us as whoever they are, wherever they live, whatever skin colour they may have and whatever religion they might follow,” he said.
Referencing the first letter to the Corinthians in the New Testament where the apostle Paul says there are many members in the church, yet one body, Tveit said, “I cannot say to any brother or sister in Christ that I have no need for you. We need each other because it is only together that we can grow into the one body of Christ.”
Acknowledging his Scandinavian roots, Tveit, who is Norwegian, said the Pentecostal movement has contributed much to the spiritual life of the Nordic countries and to his own faith journey. He said part of his ecumenical journey includes “being richly blessed” by family members who belong to Pentecostal churches and participating in the processes that led the Norwegian Pentecostal churches to full membership in the Christian Council of Norway.
Reflecting on the conference theme of “Equip Yourself, Others and the Church” as “a call for growth together in unity for God’s great mission,” Tveit said that the WCC and Pentecostal churches “will find new ways of witnessing to our unity in Christ and sharing in God’s mission. That you have welcomed me here today is one such sign of hope.”