8th assembly/50th anniversary

Together on Holy Ground
Central Committee, Presidents Elected
Slates are short on women and youth, by Jerry Van Marter

Amid numerous protests that women, youth and indigenous people were under-represented, the eighth assembly elected a new 150-member central committee to serve as the Council's chief governing body for the next seven years. Delegates also soundly rejected a proposed amendment to the constitution to have the WCC's presidents chosen by the central committee at its first meeting rather than elected by the assembly; subsequently, they also elected eight new presidents.

Bishop Melvin Talbert of the United Methodist Church in the USA, moderator of the assembly's nominations committee, expressed regret that the committee was unable to meet its goal to increase the number of women on the central committee.

The final slate elected by the assembly included 39.4 percent women and 14.7 percent youth (persons under 30). An earlier slate rejected by the assembly had contained just 33 percent women and just under 14 percent youth.

Talbert told the assembly that the effort to prepare a slate that would reflect the various balances specified by the WCC's rules -- among women and men, lay and ordained persons, regions and countries, and church traditions -- had involved the nominations committee in long hours of work and sometimes painful negotiations. He thanked churches that had agreed to the committee's request to replace men with women or youth.

Click here for the list of central committee members.

Complaints of under-representation were also voiced when the slate of presidential nominees showed six men and only two women. A delegate from Norway complained that the gains made ecumenically by women since the WCC's previous assembly in Canberra in 1991 "have been blown away". Nevertheless, the slate proposed by the nominating committee was elected.

The presidents of the WCC, elected by region, represent the interests of the churches in their areas to the WCC's central committee and are the chief interpreters of the work of the WCC in their regions. The new presidents:

  • Africa: Agnes Abuom of the Anglican Church of Kenya
  • Asia: Moon Kyu Kang of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea
  • Europe: Chrysostomos of Ephesus, Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople; Bishop Eberhardt Renz of the Evangelical Church in Germany
  • Latin America and Caribbean: Federico J. Pagura of the Evangelical Methodist Church of Argentina
  • Middle East: Mar Ignatius Zakka I Iwas of the Syrian Orthodox Church
  • North America: Kathryn Bannister of the United Methodist Church in the USA
  • Pacific: Jabez Bryce of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa/New Zealand and Polynesia
Click here for information about the WCC presidents.

Election of the new central committee

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order (ref. 7147-28)

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order (ref. 7146-18)

Photo by Chris Black/WCC
Click on the photo to order (ref. 7144-19a)

Eight New Member Churches

Membership in the World Council of Churches rose to a record 336 churches in Harare, with the admission of eight churches to full WCC membership:

  • Christian Protestant Angkola Church (Indonesia)
  • Christian Church of Sumba (Indonesia)
  • Harrist Church (Ivory Coast)
  • Council of African Instituted Churches (South Africa)
  • Reformed Church of Christ in Nigeria
  • United Church of Christ in Zimbabwe
  • Anglican Church of Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo (Democratic Republic of Congo)
Action on a ninth membership application, by the Celestial Church of Christ in Nigeria, was referred to the new central committee. Controversy arose over reports that this indigenous African church permits polygamy among its new members and clergy; and the assembly decided that more clarification and discussion were required before approving its request to join the Council.

The assembly also received national councils of churches in Samoa and Equatorial Guinea as associate councils, bringing the total number to 55. The number of international ecumenical organizations linked to the WCC rose to 25 with the addition of five more, including the World Young Women's Christian Association and the United Bible Societies.

Click here for a full list of member churches.

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