The World Council of Churches’ Central Committee has elected a new General Secretary (ever wonder about the Communist-style nomenclature?). He’s the Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, head of the Council on Ecumenical and International Relations of the Church of Norway (the Lutheran state church). According to the WCC:

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. 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!”

I’ve been looking to see what I could find on Dr. Tveit, but there isn’t much out there. He was called in to the Israeli embassy in Oslo last December so the Israelis could protest a letter about the conflict in Gaza that the Israelis said was “one-sided”–no surprise there. He has been in the forefront of efforts to improve Christian-Muslim relations in Norway, and two years secured a joint statement supporting the right of conversion between faiths, which may well have been a first on the part of Muslims. I’ve also found an interview he did earlier this month with a German newspaper. A couple of highlights:

Rheinischer Merkur: Are you looking to shared communion between Protestants and Catholics?

Tveit: Catholics and Protestants can get closer to each other than they have done until now. And I think that shared communion is possible. We have already arrived at a wide-ranging understanding about the sacraments. What divides us is the question of ministry through which the sacraments are administered. But we can work further if we really think it is important to bear witness through celebrating the sacraments together.

His optimism is charming, but with all due respect the problem regarding the sacraments is not primarily a question of ministry. For Rome, the problem has to do with the fact that full communion does not exist between it and the Protestant churches, and that in turn is the result of continuing, serious disagreements about core issues of doctrine. Until those are resolved (something that looks doubtful this side of the Second Coming), shared communion is essentially impossible from the Catholic standpoint.

RM: Has the ecumenical movement placed its emphasis too one-sidedly on political involvement?

Tveit: That is the image at least that Pentecostals and Evangelicals have of it. That is why they have problems joining it. Today we certainly see things in a more nuanced way. It’s no longer ‘either/or’, as it was even two or three decades ago.

RM: What do you think yourself about this?

Tveit: In Norway in the 1970s there was a debate as to whether the Church of Norway should continue to be a member of the WCC. Particularly the Inner Mission was against. I believe that the ecumenical movement has both to undertake the proclamation of the Gospel and be a political witness in the world. There must not be an either/or.

The “Gospel” that the WCC has proclaimed for decades now has been almost exclusively a political one. On the basis of this, I wouldn’t see that changing, but perhaps Tveit will surprise us.

There’s more. Take a look at the interview, and pray that God may indeed use the new GS to turn the WCC back to the gospel.

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