23 May 2019
As regional presidents of the World Council of Churches, we send special greetings to you and to the whole fellowship of churches around the world celebrating the birthday of the church on Pentecost.
This year we find special pertinence for the contemporary world in the story of Jesus’ earliest followers, men and women, on that momentous day.
Visited by the Spirit of God, a newly emboldened Peter attested to Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection to the crowds gathered in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost. The outpouring of the Spirit moved the followers of Jesus to prophesy.
In those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:18)
To prophesy is to tell the truth. No rank or class, no race or club, no gender, nor even any religion, has a monopoly on the truth. Even humble fisherman can rise to tell it.
And no falsehood or lie can withstand the sturdy witness to the all-inclusive, healing, indeed transformative love of God revealed to us in Jesus. In the end, all authorities must yield to truth:
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John and realized that they were uneducated and ordinary men, they were amazed and recognized them as companions of Jesus. (Acts 4:13)
These days, we need such prophetic witness to the truth—in our societies and politics, in ourselves and our churches.
Conversion—our falling in love with God— reveals values that illumine our understanding, broaden the range of our empathy, and even sharpen our perceptions. “The look of love” colors the whole world anew in the bright hues of ultimate truth and moves us to embrace it and commit to it.
In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
There are no guarantees of objectivity in science or politics or journalism. We must always search out the truth amid competing probabilities and uncertainties and even self-deception. Yet the deepest truths of our lives—the goodness of being, the dignity of all persons, the integrity of creation, the need for justice and peace–can be tested not only by the integrity of the quest but also by the authenticity of their proponents and, in the end, by the criteria of love.
You have made known to me the ways of life;
you will make me full of gladness with your presence.
Peter’s speech to the crowds and his plea to the authorities employed these plain tests of truth: Does it lift up and heal? Is it inclusive? Is it loving? Does it track with what Jesus has told us of God’s redemptive love for all?
We hear them speaking about God’s deeds of power.
At Pentecost, we witness the birth of the church amid a world of many languages and cultures. God’s truth, enflamed by the action of the Spirit, creates a loving community of truth to counter self-serving deceits of the powerful. The communion or koinonia shared by the fellowship of Christians embraces all peoples, all languages, the whole oikoumene, in love.
No “news” that caters to prejudice can be true. No “policy” that enflames hatred can be true. No “science” that denigrates human dignity can be true. No religious claim that incites extremism or terror can be true.
God’s vision of justice and peace is the nonviolent alternative to empire. Its all-embracing kinship prizes yet transcends differences, rebukes self-serving falsehoods, shames demagoguery, and battles oppression. It heals trauma and reaches out to the stranger and the marginalized. It is the prophetic boldness that stands up “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom 5:5).
In our lives and work as churches, and as churches joined in ecumenical fellowship, we pledge always to witness prophetically to the truths of human dignity, religious freedom, the integrity of creation, and God’s vision of justice and peace.
As a fellowship of churches in the world, imbued with the Spirit of God, let us always and together seek the truth, tell the truth, proclaim the truth, and live the truth!
Peace be with you!
The presidents of the World Council of Churches:
• Rev. Dr Mary-Anne Plaatjies van Huffel, Uniting Reformed Church in Southern Africa
• Rev. Prof. Dr Sang Chang, Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
• Archbishop em Anders Wejryd, Church of Sweden
• Rev. Gloria Nohemy Ulloa Alvarado, Presbyterian Church in Colombia
• Bishop Mark MacDonald, Anglican Church of Canada
• Rev. Dr Mele’ana Puloka, Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga
• H.B. John X, Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch and All the East
• H.H. Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
Anglican Church of Canada, News from General Synod, May 23, 2019