Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Liturgy for Ecumenical Pilgrims to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the World Council of Churches, Canberra, Sunday, 20 September 1998: address.



Download PDFDownload PDF

ADDRESS BY SIR WILLIAM DEANE

GOVERNOR-GENERAL OF THE COMMONWEALTH OF AUSTRALIA

ON THE OCCASION OF THE LITURGY FOR ECUMENICAL PILGRIMS

TO CELEBRATE THE 50th ANNIVERSARY OF

THE WORLD COUNCIL OF CHURCHES

CANBERRA

SUNDAY, 20 SEPTEMBER 1998

Today is a day of Thanksgiving, one that is being acknowledged by the churches around the globe which belong to the great Christian family of the World Council of Churches.

It is a day of particular significance for us in Canberra. The 50th Anniversary - the Golden Jubilee - is being especially celebrated in each of the 7 cities where previous Assemblies of the World Council have been held. The first of those cities was Amsterdam where, in 1948, in the words of the first General Secretary, “The creation of a World Council of Churches, which had seemed such an impossibly difficult task in the 1930s and which had seemed a hopeless affair in the dark moments of the World War, proved now to be such a simple and undramatic operation”.

Perhaps. But in its response to the yearnings among Christians everywhere for the fellowship of common witness - of what, in modem parlance, we call the spirit of ecumenism - the work of the Council has been profound in its impact upon the life of the Universal Christian Church as a whole and on the spiritual and material lives of men and women everywhere. As witness the fruits of the subsequent Assemblies: in Evanston, New Delhi, Uppsala, Nairobi, Vancouver and - unforgettably for us - in Canberra in 1991.

Now, of course, we are approaching the 8th Assembly, to be held in Harare this coming December under the theme Turn to God - Rejoice in Hope. Helen and I express our wishes for the successful outcome of that Conference, and in particular our fervent prayer that it will advance us further towards fulfilment of the vision of Christian ecumenism.

In saying that, I am conscious of the fact that today’s Liturgy for Ecumenical Pilgrims is being held at the Tent of Meeting, here on the site in the National Capital once reserved for an Anglican Cathedral. Today, that concept has been displaced by a broader vision for a new millennium and the second century of our nation, namely, a National Centre for Christianity and Australian Culture. It will be a Centre where the enduring truths of the faith and of human spirituality will be expressed and celebrated in a manner -

2

if I may use the words of the late Bishop Burgmann - “thoroughly baptised into the Australian scene, blown through by Australian winds, bathed in Australian sunshine, and even coated now and then with Australian dust”. That Australianness is central to the vision which inspires the planning of the new Centre and also, if I may be so bold to suggest, the individual experience that we Australians bring to the life of the Church in this country. Also central to it is our shared longing for true and lasting reconciliation between indigenous Australians and the nation of which they form such an important part.

And surely, as we approach the 2000th jubilee of the birth of Christ, we Christians should be looking at least as hopefully for full reconciliation, if not full unity, between us all at all levels of our respective Churches. For, in our hearts we surely all know that it is only by acknowledging past shortcomings and appreciating the essential community of all Christians and the pervading splendour of our Christian inspiration and of our shared mission of outreach to the disadvantaged that we will adequately discharge our obligations of charity - to use that word in its fullest sense - within the Universal Christian Church of the future.