During the World Methodist Conference (WMC) this week, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit invited his audience to explore with him how unity can transform the world.
Citing John 17, Tveit defined the gospel passage as not a call to prove that Christians can never disagree about anything but rather that faith in Christ is hope in God's salvation and future.
Ultimately, he said, this kind of faith brings a unity that puts people collectively on a pilgrimage of justice and peace. "They all may be one so that the world may have hope," he said.
Tveit spoke at an ecumenical dinner on 1 September. The WMC is a global gathering of the Methodist-Wesleyan family held every five years in a different part of the world. This year marks the 21st WMC held in Houston, Texas, USA, under the theme "One."
The passage in John 17, Tveit said, not only shows Christ praying that his community of disciples may be one in testament to relationship and love, but that in this oneness the gospel might profoundly transform the world. "If we were to consider the phrase in a slightly different way, 'that they may be one that the world might have hope,' how might our understanding of unity be deepened or changed?" he asked.
"I therefore pose the question: Are we united in hope?"
Certainly, Christians can and do disagree, he said. But they are called to be one so that the people of the world see a faith that becomes the hope of the world. "Hope is a criterion for what it means to be one in the faith in Jesus Christ," he said.
What if we consider hope as a human right? All have a right to this hope, Tveit said, "it is not a hope only for me, or only for some."
The WCC and its member churches have pledged to seek gifts enabling the fellowship, to discern the will of God, to teach together and to live sacrificially, serving one another's needs and the world's needs, he said, leading us to seek and cultivate hope. "This is how to live in unity and this is how to use unity to offer life-giving service in God's world."
World Council of Churches website
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