WCC kicks off global search for new general secretary

By staff writers
February 21, 2008

Presided by an African woman, with a membership that includes three young people, eight women, four Orthodox and a strong representation from the South, the search committee for a new World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary has set to work.

The WCC is the world's largest inter-Christian body, with Protestants, Orthodox, Anglicans and range of indigenous churches among its 349 members. It cooperates widely with the Roman Catholic Church and includes Evangelicals and Pentecostals.

The body has recently been involved in work towards a new global forum to create an even wider conversation among the churches, since there are many who will not affiliate formally to a conciliar ecumenical body.

The 18-member search committee was appointed by the WCC central committee late evening on 19 February 2008. The committee’s task is to screen candidates for the position of WCC general secretary. The current general secretary, the Rev Samuel Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, announced earlier at the 13-20 February central committee meeting that he would not seek an extension to his term, which ends 31 December 2008.

Ten of the search committee members were elected by the central committee through paper ballots. The member receiving the most votes, Dr Agnes Abuom, was appointed as its moderator. The executive committee proposed six more members under procedures designed to provide for regional, gender, church tradition and age balances. The two vice-moderators of the central committee serve as ex-officio members. [See a list of the committee members below.]

Some concerns were registered at the session in which the search committee slate was approved. One of them referred to the fact that 10 out of its 18 members are also members of the executive committee, which was perceived as a possible concentration of power. Another concern referred to the composition of the Orthodox representation, which lacked representatives from Slavonic Orthodoxy.

Before Kobia ends his term as general secretary in December, an acting general secretary will be appointed by the WCC executive committee at its meeting in September 2008. The acting general secretary will assume office as from 1 January 2009 until the new general secretary elected by the WCC central committee at its meeting in September 2009 takes office, likely by the end of 2009.

“[Samuel]Kobia has our full support to carry on his duties until the end of his term”, said WCC central committee moderator Rev Dr Walter Altmann, speaking at a press conference on 19 February.

At the last session of the meeting, the moderator reiterated the heartfelt gratitude of the central committee for Kobia's services to the Council. "My commitment to the WCC and the ecumenical movement is constant", Kobia said at that session. "Ecumenism is in my blood and bones, and whatever I do next it will be a continuation of what I have done over many years", he added.

The search committee met for the first time on the evening of 19 February, after the WCC central committee invoked God’s guidance for its work. At its first meeting the search committee looked at its work guidelines and at the job description for the general secretary position, which will be revised in consultation with central committee members. The central committee approved a timetable for the process.

After a thorough screening of candidates, the search committee should submit ideally one name to the WCC central committee for approval. At the most recent election of a WCC general secretary the search committee submitted two names and the central committee decided by vote.

The search committee members are:

Dr Agnes Abuom (moderator), Anglican Church of Kenya
Justice Sophia O.A. Adinyira, Church of the Province of West Africa, Ghana
Bishop Nareg Alemezian, Armenian Apostolic Church (See of Cilicia), Lebanon
Bishop Samuel Robert Azariah, Church of Pakistan
Rev Dr Moiseraele Prince Dibeela, United Congregational Church of Southern Africa
Bishop Sally Dyck, United Methodist Church, US
Metropolitan Prof Dr Gennadios of Sassima, Ecumenical Patriarchate, Turkey
Ms Anne Glynn-Mackoul, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, US
Ms Margareta Grape, Church of Sweden
Rev Gregor Henderson, Uniting Church in Australia
Rev Dr Margaretha M. Hendriks-Ririmasse, Gereja Protestan Maluku, Indonesia
Rev Carmen Lansdowne, United Church of Canada
Rev Sanele Faasua Lavatai, Methodist Church of Samoa
Mr Graham Gerald McGeoch, Church of Scotland
Mr Itayi Ndudzo, Methodist Church in Zimbabwe
Archbishop Dr Nifon of Targoviste, Romanian Orthodox Church
Rev Dr Ofelia Ortega Suárez, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba
Bishop Dr Martin Schindehütte, Evangelical Church in Germany

Two substitutes were also appointed:
Ms Outi Vasko, Orthodox Church of Finland
Rev Carlos Duarte, Iglesia Evangélica del Rio de la Plata, Uruguay

Committee members by categories:

Africa: 4
Asia: 3
Europe: 3
North America: 2
Pacific: 1
Caribbean: 1
Latin America: 0
Eastern Orthodox: 3
Oriental Orthodox: 1

Women: 8
Youth: 3

For more information on the central committee meeting, see:

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