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(ENS) World Council of Churches elects first African general secretary
Worldwide Faith News <email@example.com>
Fri, 29 Aug 2003 16:13:13 -0700
World Council of Churches elects first African general secretary
by James Solheim
(ENS/ENI) The Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC)
has elected its first African to serve as general secretary of the
342-member ecumenical fellowship.
The Rev. Sam Kobia of the Methodist Church in Kenya has extensive
experience in ecumenical circles. Currently director and special
representative for Africa on the WCC staff in Geneva, he was executive
of the WCC's unit on justice, peace and creation and directed programs
dealing with theological and social issues. He was also general
secretary of the National Council of Churches in Kenya and chaired peace
talks in the Sudan.
Kobia succeeds the Rev. Konrad Raiser of the Evangelical Church in
Germany who held the position for 11 years. The other candidate for the
position was the Rev. Trond Bakkevig of the Lutheran Church of Norway.
"I believe the 21st century if the century when spirituality will take
centre place," said Kobia in his acceptance speech August 28. "Today we
live in a world we recognize as a broken world, a world searching for
meaning in life and for security, yet a world in which many lead
meaningless and insecure lives. The answer is neither in politics nor in
economics," he said. Nor is the answer to be found in military might."
Underscoring the WCC's primary purpose "to call one another to visible
unity," he ended with an African saying: "If you want to walk fast, walk
alone. But if you want to go far, walk together with others."
African church leaders were jubilant with the selection. General
Secretary Ishmael Noko, a Zimbabwean who heads the Lutheran World
Federation, said that Kobia's competence "lies in the area of peace and
reconciliation" as well as in a "strong awareness of the dimensions of
church life in the southern hemisphere, with the great diversity of the
At a press conference at the end of the Central Committee meeting, Kobia
said that Africa is likely to be "the centre of Christianity in terms of
numbers" in this century. In his first press conference he said that
many of the independent and Pentecostal churches "want to join us and we
want to encourage them so they can contribute their own spirituality and
enrich the WCC and the global ecumenical movement."
Under his leadership the WCC will also be giving strong emphasis to
inter-religious dialogue and to concerns for the whole of the natural
environment, what he described as "cosmovision."
He concluded by observing that "religion is assuming a powerful place in
the affairs of humankind because the 21st century is dominated by the
politics of identity. The world will be talking about religion in a very
big way because so many identify themselves by their religion."
--James Solheim is director of Episcopal News Service. This article is
based on reports from Ecumenical News International.
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