The executive committee of the World Council of Churches has announced their decision to extend the contract of Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, the current WCC general secretary, through to the time when a new general secretary takes office.
A new WCC general secretary is to be elected at the Council’s central committee meeting to be held in Geneva, Switzerland from 26 August to 2 September 2009.
At the February 2008 central committee meeting a search committee was formed after Kobia announced he would not seek a second term as general secretary.
“By accepting this, Rev Kobia will bring continuity to the office while we go through the transition process of finding a new general secretary,” said the Rev Dr Walter Altmann, the moderator of the WCC central committee.
During this week’s executive committee meeting the search committee reported on responses they received from member churches on the current job description of the general secretary and conversations held with WCC staff on the role of a new general secretary.
Applications for the general secretary will be accepted as soon as a revised job description is released in October 2008, says the WCC.
There are known to have been some intense behind the scenes discussions over the future of the post, Kobia's role and indeed the future of the World Council itself in recent months.
The WCC has been the major body in international ecumenism (the cooperation of the churches in their common life and witness) over the past fifty years. But the shift in world Christianity away from the West, which has been its main funding base, has hit the WCC's often pioneering work.
In recent years there have been continual cuts and job losses. The shape of inter-church cooperation has also changed, with the emergence of less proactive 'churches together' organisations and a wider forum aimed at extending the involvement of evangelicals, pentecostals and others.
An observer told Ekklesia today that "life is difficult for the WCC, but its work on nonviolence, poverty, action against injustice and new patterns of mission has been very creative indeed. It still has an important role to play."