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Life Together

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, from the Sixth Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Vancouver, Canada. We represent four hundred million people of three hundred member churches. Among us women, young people and persons with disabilities are participating in larger numbers than before. Thank you for your supporting prayers. We are filled with praise to God for the grace given to us since our last meeting. In many places churches have grown in numbers and depth of commitment. We rejoice in courage and faith shown in adversity. We are humbled by those newly called to be martyrs. The Holy Spirit has poured out these and many other gifts, so that we meet with thanksgiving.
This meeting comes in a succession which began at Amsterdam in 1948 with the commitment to stay together. Since then we have been called to grow together and to struggle together. Here under the theme 'Jesus Christ - the Life of the World" we are called to live together. In the Assembly we taste that life. Our worship in a great tent which reminds us of the pilgrim people; the presence of Canadian Indians which has challenged us; our moving prayer and praise in many languages but one spirit of devotion; our struggles to face divisive issues; the songs of children - all are part of life together in the Christian family. The significant participation of guests from other faiths and of thousands of visitors speaks to us of the wider human community.

This engagement together in Vancouver underlines how critical this moment is in the life of the world, like the turning of a page of history. We hear the cries of millions who face a daily struggle for survival, who are crushed by military power or the propaganda of the powerful. We see the camps of refugees and the tears of all who suffer inhuman loss. We sense the fear of rich groups and nations and the hopelessness of many in the world rich in things who live in great emptiness of spirit. There is a great divide between North and South, between East and West. Our world - God's world - has to choose between „life and death, blessing and curse".

This critical choice compels us to proclaim anew that life is God's gift. Life in all its fullness reflects the loving communion of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is the pattern for our life, a gift filled with wonder and glory, priceless, fragile and irreplaceable. Only when we respond in a loving relationship with God, with one another and with the natural world can there be life in its fullness. The misery and chaos of the world result from the rejection of God's design for us. Constantly, in public and private, fellowship is broken, life is mutilated and we live alone. In the life of Jesus we meet the very life of God, face to face. He experienced our life, our birth and childhood, our tiredness, our laughter and tears. He shared food with the hungry, love with the rejected, healing with the sick, forgiveness with the penitent. He lived in solidarity with the poor and oppressed and at the end gave his life for others. In the mystery of the Eucharist the resurrected Lord empowers us to live this way of giving and receiving. "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies it bears much fruit" (John 12:24). Only the converting power of the Holy Spirit enables this way of life to be formed in us. Such a transformation is costly and means the willingness to risk even death in our Kingdom pilgrimage.

On that road we acknowledge our unfaithfulness. The division of the Church at central points of its life, our failure to witness with courage and imagination, our clinging to old prejudice, our share in the injustice of the world - all this tells us that we are disobedient. Yet God's graciousness amazes us, for we are still called to be God's people, the house of living stones built on Christ the foundation. One sign of this grace is the ecumenical movement in which no member or church stands alone.

The Assembly therefore renews its commitment to the ecumenical vision. The Lord prays for the unity of his people as a sign by which the world may be brought to faith, renewal and unity. We take slow, stumbling steps on the way to the visible unity of the Church but we are sure the direction is essential to our faithfulness. Since the Nairobi Assembly there has been movement in many places, new united churches, acts of common witness, local ecumenical projects. There is new theological convergence which could enable decisive steps towards one eucharistic fellowship. We especially thank God for the hope given to us by the "Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry" document and seek widespread response to it.

We renew our commitment to mission and evangelism. By this we mean that deep identification with others in which we can tell the good news that Jesus Christ, God and Saviour, is the Life of the World. We cannot impose faith by our eloquence. We can nourish it with patience and caring so that the Holy Spirit, God the Evangelist, may give us the words to speak. Our proclamation has to be translated into every language and culture. Whatever our context among people of living faiths and no faith, we remember that God's love is for everyone, without exception. All are invited to the banquet. Jesus Christ, the living bread, calls everyone who is hungry, and his food is unlimited.

We renew our commitment to justice and peace. Since Jesus Christ healed and challenged the whole of life, so we are called to serve the life of all. We see God's good gift battered by the powers of death. Injustice denies God's gifts of unity, sharing and responsibility. When nations, groups and systems hold the power of deciding other people's lives, they love that power. God's way is to share power, to give it to every person. Injustice corrupts the powerful and disfigures the powerless. Poverty, continual and hopeless, is the fate of millions; stolen land is a cause of bitterness and war; the diversity of race becomes the evil imprisonment of racism. We urgently need a new international economic order in which power is shared, not grasped. We are committed to work for it. But the question comes back to us, what of the Church? Do we yet share power freely? Do we cling to the wealth of the Church? Do we claim the powerful as friends and remain deaf to the powerless. We have tasks near home.

Injustice, flagrant, constant and oppressive, leads to violence. Today life is threatened by war, the increase in armaments of all sorts, and particularly the nuclear arms race. Science and technology, which can do so much to feed, clothe and house all people, can today be used to terminate the life of the earth. The arms race everywhere consumes great resources that are desperately needed to support human life. Those who threaten with military might are dealing in the politics of death. It is a time of crisis for us all. We stand in solidarity across the world to call persistently, in every form, for a halt to the arms race. The life which is God's good gift must be guarded when national security becomes the excuse for arrogant militarism. The tree of peace has justice for its roots.

Life is given. We receive God's gift with constant thankfulness. At the Assembly's opening worship a mother held up her baby at the Lord's Table. It was a sign of hope and of continuity of life. Sometimes we are almost overcome by the smallness and insignificance of our lives; then we feel helpless. But as we feed upon the bread of life in worship we know again and again God's saving act in Christ in our own lives. We are astounded and surprised that the eternal purpose of God is persistently entrusted to ordinary people. That is the risk God takes. The forces of death are strong. The gift of life in Christ is stronger. We commit ourselves to live that life, with all its risks and joys, and therefore dare to cry, with all the host of heaven: „O death, where is your victory?" Christ is risen. He is risen indeed.


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