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Message of the presidents of the WCC at Pentecost 2001
2001 has been a surprising year from the start, holding us in suspense with a succession of dramatic events, as though humanity were experiencing the pain of childbirth (to use the language of Paul), with the potential danger of death and yet the precious hope of new life. So we come once again to Pentecost, after journeying for seven weeks in the light of the unfathomable mystery and infinite splendour of our Lord's Easter resurrection.
It is with this vision of new life that we as Christians face the challenges of this new century which might otherwise overwhelm us. In particular, we rejoice in the knowledge that the ecumenical dialogue is alive among the broad families of Christian churches. Today more than ever before, churches, in spite of their differences, are called to be passionate in their search for unity, common witness and effective service, "that the world may believe". In this quest, we draw encouragement from the prophetic words of Joel, recalled by the Apostle Peter at Pentecost: "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. Even upon my slaves, both men and women, in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy" (Acts 2:17-18).
Considering the profound changes now confronting all of humanity, the famous exhortation from the Apostle Paul, so often read and quoted in our churches, provides the necessary guidance: "I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God ( what is good and agreeable and perfect" (Romans 12: 1-2, NRSV).
Pentecost today calls us not to spiritual pride, cheap triumphalism, or conformity; not to resignation, neutrality or fatalism, but to hope, commitment and constructive, transforming action which will open the way for a new civilization of the Spirit, of Justice and of Love. What other choice is there for us, as Christians, baptised in the Holy Spirit, but to turn to Christ for renewed strength and spiritual nourishment to follow this calling? Has He not received us into His Church and sent us out into the world to do His will?
As Christians, we must become ever more receptive to the biblical message, calling us to transform and renew our minds and to act as agents of God's will. As churches, we are called to counter the forces that would deny our humanity and divide us into opposing camps. The church, in the world but not of the world, must incarnate the gospel in its own spiritual life and in its works. We are convinced that the Spirit of God calls us to place our creativity at the service of God's purpose and to inspire, transmit and keep alive that vision in the generations that follow. It calls us to have faith in the new tomorrow that we are beginning to shape today.
Therefore, we pray: "Pour out your Spirit on all flesh, O Lord, that we and our sons and daughters, our young and old, both men and women, may be transformed and our minds renewed, that we may see and proclaim your will and be the builders of a new civilization, always in the light of your kingdom. Amen."
Dr Agnes Abuom, Nairobi, KenyaThe tradition of the Pentecost message from the presidents of the World Council of Churches (WCC) dates back to 1950. The message is a joint effort of the eight WCC presidents who represent the different regions within the WCC constituency. The first draft of this year's Pentecost message was provided by Bishop Federico J. Pagura from Argentina. "From our Latin American perspective it is essential to stress the renewal and recreative Spirit of Pentecost, not only in personal but also in social and historical terms and dimensions", explains Bishop Pagura.
The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 342, 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.