WASHINGTON: The National Council of Churches held its second annual Christian Unity Gathering, May 7-9, in Washington, DC with over 200 Christian leaders, scholars, activists, and ecumenists present from across the United States to focus on the NCC’s priority of interfaith peacemaking.
The NCC pursues two main areas in its ecumenical work: to build interfaith relations with an emphasis on peacemaking, and to end mass incarceration.
Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian Nobel Peace Prize winner, keynoted the Gathering and shared the powerful story of a mass movement of Christian and Muslims known as Women of Liberia Mass Action for Peace that helped end the Liberian civil war that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.
Ms. Gbowee stood at the Gathering as a remarkably clear voice for women across the globe. “Do one good thing every day that everyone else is scared to do,” Gbowee proclaimed. “It is time for the Church to be crazy… like Jesus was in the Temple.”
On the evening of May 7, more than 2500 people gathered at the Washington National Cathedral for a moving worship service sponsored by the NCC commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians and His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia spoke. The homily was delivered by Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches.
Also in attendance were US Vice President Joe Biden; His Excellency Serzh Sargsyan, President of the Republic of Armenia; and His Holiness Ignatius Aphrem II, Patriarch of Antioch and All the East, Supreme Head of the Syriac Orthodox Church.
Central to the Gathering was the work of the Council’s four Convening Tables. Ample time was allotted to these tables to plan and further their work in pursuit of Christian unity, advocacy for justice, interfaith relations and collaboration, and Christian education and ecumenical formation.
Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit addressed the Gathering during several key moments in the Gathering. Participating in a panel on peacemaking with Naeem Baig, President of the Islamic Circle of North America and part of the NCC’s long-standing Muslim-Christian dialogue, and Rabbi Gerry Serotta, Executive Director of the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington, Tveit spoke about the common theological convictions in Islam, Judaism, and Christianity that together form an interfaith imperative to work for peace and justice. He also stressed the necessity of Christian unity on behalf of all humanity, because it is only in unity that the Christian churches can ultimately proclaim the fullness of the Gospel. “Let us talk of a Christian unity that serves a wider unity of all people, all creation, unity for the sake of the world,” he proclaimed.