Encouragement to "keep the dialogue going" between evangelicals and ecumenicals was the message given by World Council of Churches General Secretary the Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit during the opening of the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelization.
Speaking to some 4,200 delegates from nearly 200 countries, Tveit opened his message with a passage from 2 Corinthians 5, verse 18 about the "ministry of reconciliation," which Tveit explained is "what it is all about."
Christians are "called to participate in the one mission of God, we are called to be one, to be reconciled, so that the world can believe that God reconciles the world with Himself, through Christ," Tveit said, recounting the story of how he had received the verse from the dean of the Norwegian school of theology on his first day of studies.
Tveit went on to explain how he was invited by Lausanne Movement Chairman Doug Birdsall to give his greeting – a gesture that he viewed as a "sign of reconciliation."
"It was a sign of a shared mission – two evangelists sharing the gospel together," said Tveit, who is travelling with a selected WCC delegation.
The WCC head also drew parallels to the battle in South Africa with apartheid to the modern day challenges that the global church faces.
"Here we are reminded of the words of the former Archbishop of this town, Desmond Tutu, who said some years ago said, 'Apartheid is too strong for a divided church,'" Tveit said. "Let me add today – the needs of the world for reconciliation with God, with one another as human beings, and with nature – these needs are too big for a divided church."
Tveit also made note of the Edinburgh 1910 conference, the centenary observance of which is being celebrated this year, and referred to the Cape Town 2010 gathering as Edinburgh 2010.
"I've received great inspiration at how much we share a common vision for the holistic mission of God. I've been encouraged by how evangelicals, taking the call we have as the World Council of Churches as your own, to address the whole human being and the home of creation," the general secretary said.
"The distance between Lausanne and Geneva is not far, and it should not be," he continued. "Let us keep the road open, let us keep the dialogue going so that we can learn from one another, how we should do our mission, how we should do it showing respect for one another as members of the body of Christ, and how we can do it without humiliating other peoples of other faiths."
"I pray that God's blessing and guidance will be upon you these days, so that you can be strengthened in your ministry for reconciliation, for all this is from God," he concluded.
The Cape Town 2010 gathering is the third meeting of its kind addressing mission on a global scale. Pioneered by the Rev. Billy Graham, the first two meetings were held in Lausanne in 1974 and in Manila in 1989, drawing some 2,700 and 4,000 delegates respectively.