Potential WCC Head Recognizes Obstacles; Focuses on Unity

A candidate for the World Council of Churches' top post acknowledged recently the many obstacles keeping churches from joining the ecumenical body, but spoke optimistically about the potential to overcome the differences.

During an interview with a German newspaper, the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit of the Church of Norway (Lutheran) noted how Catholics and Protestants have grown closer than ever before, and said he believes a shared communion will one day be possible.

said he hopes Protestants and Catholics, Pentecostal and mainline churches, and Lutherans and Baptists can all work out their differences and worship together.

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The candidate for WCC general secretary also shared about his experience with the Christian Council of Norway, which in recent years has expanded its membership to Pentecostal churches.

Though he is unsure if Pentecostal churches will be members of the WCC because of differences in theological emphasis, Tveit said the two are both shifting their focus to where they have more in common.

"The Pentecostal churches are increasingly concerned about issues such as peace and justice, while evangelism and mission are again becoming stronger on our agenda," noted the ecumenical leader.

Tveit said he recognizes that Pentecostals and evangelicals commonly believe that the ecumenical movement emphasizes too much on political involvement.

"That is why they have problems joining it," he said.

But today, the Norwegian clergyman reported, "we certainly see things in a more nuances way."

"It's no longer 'either/or,' as it was even two or three decades ago," Tveit added.

Describing itself as the "broadest and most inclusive" organization of the modern ecumenical movement, the WCC is an ecumenical fellowship of 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.

Later this month, during the meeting of the WCC's main decision making body, the Central Committee, a new general secretary will be elected to succeed the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, who announced last February that he would not to seek a second term in office.

Vying for the spot are Tveit and the Rev. Dr Park Seong-won of the Presbyterian Church of Korea, who were selected by a search committee in June after a more than yearlong process.

The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches will meet from Aug. 26 - Sept. 2 at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

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