In this podcast we hear from the newly elected General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Norwegian pastor, Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

[display_podcast] This podcast made available from Vatican Radio

Norwegian theologian and pastor Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, 48, was elected 7th general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Thursday 27 August during its Central Committee meeting.

Youngest general secretary in 60 years

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Norwegian theologian and pastor Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, 48, was elected 7th general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Thursday 27 August 2009 during its Central Committee meeting. Tveit will be the youngest general secretary since Willem A. Visser ‘t Hooft who had led the WCC while it was in process of formation and following its founding assembly 61 years ago.

“This task I really feel is the call of God. I feel that we have a lot to do together”, said Tveit in his acceptance speech before the central committee. He stressed the spirit of unity that dominated the whole process and expressed hope that it will continue to reign in the common journey. Tveit encouraged the committee members to continue praying for him: “Please do not stop!”

“He impressed me very much with his speech to us,” said Dean Anders Gadegaard, a Central Committee member from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark. “It was both pastoral, personal and political at the same time, and that gives me much hope for the future.” Gadegaard said he sees Tveit’s election as part of an opportunity for the WCC to “have a kind of shift in generations in leadership”.

Since 2002, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit has been the general secretary of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations. Tveit is a member of the WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission and the board of directors and executive committee of the Christian Council of Norway.

“We entered into this process with most of us not knowing Dr. Park or Dr. Tveit”, said Father Leonid Kishkovsky, ecumenical officer of the Orthodox Church in America and a Central Committee member. “In the end, I was impressed with both of their speeches. Im happy with the outcome.” Kishkovsky said he believes Tveit brings a “good balance” of skills in a variety of areas. “It seems to me the blend is a good one”, he said.

“The atmosphere after this election is one of hope”, said Rev. Dr Emilio Castro, who was WCC general secretary between 1985 and 1992. “I am certain that in this process there were neither winner nor losers, but the ecumenical movement has been strengthened. I am convinced that the best years of the WCC are ahead of us.”

Tveit was one of two candidates standing for election to the WCC’s highest administrative post. The other candidate was Rev. Dr Park Seong-won, a Presbyterian theologian from South Korea. Tveit will replace outgoing general secretary Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia who in February 2008 informed the Central Committee, the WCC’s highest governing body, that he would not seek a second term in office. Kobia has served as general secretary since 2004.

What is the World Council of Churches?

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is the broadest and most inclusive among the many organized expressions of the modern ecumenical movement, a movement whose goal is Christian unity.

The WCC brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, representing over 560 million Christians and including most of the world’s Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches. While the bulk of the WCC’s founding churches were European and North American, today most member churches are in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East and the Pacific.

For its member churches, the WCC is a unique space: one in which they can reflect, speak, act, worship and work together, challenge and support each other, share and debate with each other. As members of this fellowship, WCC member churches:

  • are called to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship;
  • promote their common witness in work for mission and evangelism;
  • engage in Christian service by serving human need, breaking down barriers between people, seeking justice and peace, and upholding the integrity of creation; and
  • foster renewal in unity, worship, mission and service.