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Message of the Presidents of the WCC at Pentecost 2000
Since the dawning of Easter morning Christians around the world have been celebrating the glorious resurrection of Christ and Christ's undying love and mercy. Together we give thanks for these powerful redemptive gifts that bind us together as Christian brothers and sisters. We rejoice as the church continues to form and renew its life in Christ and to proclaim Christ risen to a world in need.
As we engage anew the ancient festival of Pentecost, we hold the Easter promise of resurrected life together with our summoning by the Holy Spirit to be the body of Christ. We acknowledge that the gifts of God in Christ inevitably bring us into fellowship and instruct us in the quality of our relationship. The Holy Spirit reminds us at Pentecost that we are not able to live for Christ independent of each other any more than we are able to be faithful to Christ without loving one another.
In the second chapter of Acts we hear again this foundational story of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, ever active in creation, made the risen Christ known to many and drew them together in community. Those gathered were both amazed and perplexed. The Spirit took them to a place beyond what was comfortable and expected to a deeper level of relationship. On that day the Spirit united persons across many boundaries of culture, race, and language such that Christ was central in the hearts of all. The witness of the apostles flowing from Pentecost would continue to take down many walls and make plain that the circle of Christ's love embraces rather than excludes. This vision of Pentecost beckons and compels us still as followers of Christ.
This vision of Pentecost has also eluded us. In this millennial year we continue to face the reality that we have defied the Spirit's gift of unity both in Christ's church and in God's world. We still must confess the ways that we have allowed our Christian faith and our silence to be used for means that lead to death instead of abundant life. We must admit that often we live as if Christ's grace and love for us can somehow be kept from persons we perceive to be different from ourselves. We continue to build walls instead of God's realm.
Yet fueled by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the church can shape a different future for the sake of the world. We can offer together an alternative to the deadly forces that would divide us as a human family in the name of greed and power. For when we hear and heed the summons of the Spirit, we become a sign of the eternal reign of God, a community extending the grace, hope, love, and justice of Christ. When we continue to practice our unity in the Spirit within the church, we create a gift of peace to extend to the world. Clearly, we live in an increasingly complex and global community. We must be more acutely mindful that our web of human relationship extends far beyond persons like ourselves to neighbors of other cultures and other faiths and to those who walk many other paths. We are not faithful to Christ when we ignore the demands for peace these relationships place on us and fail to respond with the love of God.
The Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost as the rush of a mighty wind. As all persons know from experience with storms, wind can be amazingly destructive. Yet wind is also an essential force in nature that brings new life. We pray that in this Pentecost season the Holy Spirit might blow down the walls that need to fall and fill us with new hope, courage, and faith.
Dr Agnes Abuom, Nairobi, Kenya
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 337, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.