Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit in the Anglican Maori church, Auckland, New Zealand. © Tony Franklin

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, opened his ecumenical and interfaith tour of New Zealand and Australia on 6 October. The first stop was Auckland with a powhiri at Te Karaiti Te Pou Herenga Waka Maori Anglican church in Mangere. Tveit will visit the region between 6-17 October.

Tveit travelled from Auckland to Dunedin where he met with the city’s interfaith and ecumenical leaders at a reception given by the mayor of Dunedin, Dave Cull. Leaders from Anglican, Catholic, Coptic Orthodox, Presbyterian, Baptist, Islamic and Baha'i communities attended, including Anglican vicar general of Dunedin Rev. Alec Clark, Catholic bishop of Dunedin Rev. Colin Campbell and moderator-elect of the Presbyterian Church in Aotearoa New Zealand, Rev. Richard Dawson.

Dunedin’s interfaith community shared the city’s history of interfaith cooperation, and heard from Tveit about the WCC’s recent achievements in ecumenical and interfaith dialogue.

WCC visitors also took a tour of the earthquake-damaged city centre of Christchurch, and visited the Christchurch Methodist Mission’s Affordable Housing Initiative in Linwood. The general secretary gave a lecture at the Christchurch North Methodist Church on the WCC’s high-level peacemaking work in response to situations in Israel, Palestine and Syria.

On Sunday, 9 October, Tveit concluded his tour by preaching in Christchurch at a combined morning service in Knox Church, then again at an evening ecumenical service in Auckland’s Holy Trinity Cathedral, Parnell.

At Christchurch, Tveit described how, as the fellowship of the WCC prays and works for visible unity, they are called to find new ways forward. “We learn from the past, from the strength and the weaknesses of what has been, as we look forward to the only space where we can do something: The future,” he said. “Therefore, we also call our common life and work together in this period a pilgrimage of justice and peace. Seeking the way forward together, establishing the relationships that are named by the values of the kingdom of God, this is also a way to visible unity.”

David Coster, moderator of the Alpine Presbytery, said he learned from Tveit how the work of the WCC breaks down barriers to human understanding and brings about peace and justice. “Of special interest were the initiatives being taken by the WCC with regard to peace in Israel, Palestine and Syria,” he said. “It was encouraging to hear that these initiatives had been ongoing since 1948, giving the WCC credibility with all parties and governments involved in the ongoing conflicts.”

Rev. Dr Tony Surman, cathedral precentor of the Auckland Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, thanked Tveit for “his cultural sensitivity and the thoughtful and artful way he managed to relate the scriptures of the day with the theme of his visit – the pilgrimage of justice and peace.”

Surman added: “We feel privileged to have been a part of his speaking tour and wish him and all the staff and officers of the World Council of Churches success in reinvigorating churches around the globe in the work of justice and peace to which Christ calls us.”

This week, Tveit will travel to Australia, with stops in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Melbourne and Adelaide, where he will meet with heads of churches, interfaith leaders and community representatives.

WCC head opens NZ tour (Anglican Taonga press release of 7 October 2016)

Sermon by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit: The pilgrimage of healing, justice and peace (9 October 2016)

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