From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 08:40:08


                       IN GENERAL SECRETARY 
                 by Ecumenical News International 
YAOUNDE, Cameroon--Milan Opocensky, general secretary of the World Alliance 
of Reformed Churches (WARC), has been given an unqualified vote of 
confidence at the WARC executive committee meeting in Yaounde, Cameroon. 
The vote followed the publication of articles about him in a Dutch 
Christian newspaper, Trouw, in July. 
     One article in Trouw reported that documents from the Czechoslovak 
secret service, StB, suggested that Opocensky had collaborated with the StB 
to influence the World Council of Churches, one of many Christian bodies 
with which he had links at the time. 
     In a later commentary article, Trouw's managing editor, Jan Greven, 
agreed that a court in Prague had concluded since the fall of communism 
that Opocensky's name had been put on lists of StB collaborators without 
his knowledge and against his will.  But Greven drew a distinction between, 
on the one hand, dissidents who worked as gardeners and maintenance men, 
and, on the other hand, church officials in Czechoslovakia who were allowed 
to attend ecumenical conferences but were then required to report to the 
     During the communist era, Opocensky, a minister of the Evangelical 
Church of Czech Brethren, worked in Geneva as Europe secretary of the World 
Student Christian Federation and taught theology and Christian ethics in 
     Charges that Opocensky spied for the secret police were first make 
three years ago.  In 1992-3, courts in Prague examined his record, and 
declared that the charges were unfounded.   The post-communist Ministry of 
the Interior issued a certificate to this effect. 
     The executive committee of WARC, which met in Yaounde from July 26 to 
Aug. 1, issued a statement expressing "its complete confidence in the 
integrity and leadership of its general secretary". WARC links more that 70 
million Christians in 99 countries, in 198 churches of Presbyterian and 
Congregationalist tradition. 
     "Trouw's treatment of Milan Opocensky is Kafkaesque," a WARC spokesman 
told ENI.  "First it says he is a spy.  When he defends himself against 
that accusation, it changes the charge-sheet, and convicts him for a second 
time without a hearing. 
     "This way of proceeding is irresponsible, and damaging to the church's 
witness," the WARC spokesman said.  "It does nothing to promote healing and 
reconciliation in the churches of Central and Eastern Europe.  And it's bad 
     Speaking from Amsterdam, Greven told ENI: "I thing we [Trouw] did a 
normal journalistic job. And I think the reaction of WARC shows that this 
church organization does not know how journalism works. 
     "We got news about Dr. Opocensky's name being included on lists of 
names of the StB and we published that.  We didn't condemn him, we gave the 
     "We quoted Dutch church leaders speaking in support of Dr. Opocensky. 
     "We tried to start a discussion, here and in WARC as well, about 
whether someone like Dr.  Opocensky and people in other countries who had 
had links with the communist regimes should continue in their positions."  
     WARC's president, Jane Dempsey Douglass, told ENI: "We do not 
recognize Milan Opocensky in the picture presented by Trouw.  This 
executive committee has worked closely with him since 1989, when he became 
general secretary.  In 1993 we appointed him to a second five-year term. 
     "Milan Opocensky is a man of deep Christian conviction, with a 
compelling Reformed vision of the reign of God in church and society," said 
Douglass, who teaches church history at Princeton Theological Seminary, in 
the United States.  "We have complete confidence in his integrity, and we 
have been inspired by his leadership." 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home