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WCC General Secretary Pays Heartfelt Tribute to Philip Potter in LÜbeck

16 April 2015

At the funeral service of Rev. Dr Philip Potter on 16 April in Lübeck, Germany, the WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit described Potter’s life as “a pilgrimage of justice and peace.” He called Potter a pilgrim who moved forward with faith, hope and love.

Potter, the third general secretary of the WCC, who served in that office from 1972 to 1984, died on 31 March at the age of 93. Potter is known around the world for his leadership and contributions to the ecumenical movement, unity of the churches, and the cause of justice and peace.

“He moved, in his life and in his approach, always forward, closer to those who needed him and his leadership and closer to Christ. He not only moved himself, but moved the churches and the World Council of Churches,” said Tveit during his speech at Potter’s funeral.

Potter “moved hearts, challenging and comforting, collaborating and calling. This is what Philip Potter continues to do - to me - and to many of those who come after him,” added Tveit.

The “pilgrimage of justice and peace” is a call issued by the WCC 10th Assembly in 2013. The theme provides a vision for the work of the WCC’s programmes and activities.

Tveit said that this call resonates with the legacy of Potter. “We develop further his vision of the ecumenical movement as a movement of faith, always searching for how we can change the realities of the churches and the world through a transformation of justice and peace,” Tveit added.

Tveit also conveyed tribute to Potter from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, also paid a special tribute to Potter, which was shared by the WCC general secretary at Potter’s funeral.

“Potter remains for us a towering symbol of the ecumenical movement,” said Abuom.

She went on to say that “by retracing the life and times of Philip Potter in the ecumenical movement, we encounter the richness and depth of his own spirituality and discernment.”

“We are today witnessing a new historical moment of new problems and promises in the ecumenical movement. It would be so much more difficult to address these realities without the inspiration the new generation of ecumenists continue to draw from the wealth of knowledge and legacy of Philip Potter,” Abuom said.

“During the time of his leadership at the WCC, he drew from the ethical resources of a pilgrim church under captivity. He spoke and stood against blind obedience and absolute loyalty to the tyranny of racist regimes. Philip’s own narrative of pilgrimage was not just exemplified in traversing the globe from his origins in the Caribbean Islands and cross cultural relationships through marriage but also the lonesome struggle embodied in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“This self-giving and service to the Church and the ecumenical movement was at the heart of his mission and calling in this world,” said Abuom.

At the funeral service Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu preached, while tributes were offered by Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, former WCC general secretary, and Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega Suárez, former WCC president for Latin America and the Caribbean, among other church leaders.

The WCC will hold a special memorial service for Philip Potter on 18 May at 17.00 at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva, Switzerland.

Read full text of the WCC general secretary’s message at Philip Potter’s funeral:

Read full text of tribute to Philip Potter by WCC Central Committee moderator:

WCC celebrates the life and witness of Rev. Dr Philip Potter (WCC news release of 31 March 2015):

Submitted by:World Council of Churches
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