World Council of Churches Office of Communication
Press Release
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11 December 1998

WCC Eighth Assembly - Press Release no. 39

The 150 members of the World Council of Churches' Central Committee were elected Thursday night after Eighth Assembly delegates rejected a series of nominations from the floor and after an Orthodox woman nominee attempted to withdraw her name in favour of a Orthodox male priest.

Bishop Melvin Talbert, moderator of the nominations committee, expressed regret that it was unable to meet its goal to increase the number of women on the Central Committee, which governs the WCC between its seven-yearly Assemblies. This was partly because some churches refused to replace male nominees with female.

"In some cases there were those who explicitly stated that no woman would replace [men] in that position," Talbert said. "It saddens me to say that." He thanked churches that had ceded to the nomination committee's request to replace men with women or youth. The newly-elected Central Committee includes 39.4 per cent women, 14.7 per cent youth (persons under 30), 24.6 per cent Orthodox and 43.3 per cent laypersons.

Archbishop Aghan Baliozian (Armenian Apostolic Church) asked the Assembly to replace the nominating committee's female candidate, Silva Ghazelian, with Father Mikael Ajapahyan. The Assembly rejected the new nomination by a large majority.

At the end of the session, Moderator Soritua Nababan announced that he had received a note from Ghazelian withdrawing her name in favour of Ajapahyan. Talbert was visibly angered by the news. "Women are so oppressed they feel that must acquiesce to those who are in authority over them," he told the delegates. "It pains me."

Nababan suggested that delegates vote on whether to accept Ghazelian's resignation but withdrew the idea after the Very Rev. George Tsetsis (Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople) pointed out that the Assembly had already affirmed her nomination. "Whether she resigns is a matter for a future time," Tsetsis said.

There were also efforts to increase the number of young people on the Central Committee. Christian Liebchen (Evangelical Church in Germany) nominated 26-year-old Uta Brux to replace the Rev. Norman Shanks (Church of Scotland) on the Nominating Committee's slate. But the Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin (Church of England) pointed out that Shanks was Scotland's sole representative on the Central Committee and his nomination was affirmed by the Assembly.

After rejecting three other nominations from the floor, the Assembly voted overwhelmingly to elect the nominating committee's slate of Central Committee nominees.

Orthodox families of churches have the highest percentage on the committee, 24.6 per cent. Other breakdowns are as follows: Anglican, 10 per cent; Baptist, 4.7 per cent; Free, Pentecostal, African Instituted, 6.7 per cent; Lutheran, 8.6 per cent; Methodist, 10 per cent; Reformed, 22 per cent; United and Uniting, 6.7 per cent; and other, 6.7 per cent.

The Assembly approved the nominating committee's recommendation to ask the new Central Committee to review the nominations process to provide a fairer rotation of churches represented in its membership. This would include limiting the terms served by an individual, giving further consideration to the maximum number of seats available to any one church, and outlining procedures for nominating presidents of the WCC.

The new Central Committee members will serve until the Ninth Assembly of the World Council of Churches, expected to take place in 2005.

Contact: John Newbury, WCC Press & Information Officer
Press and Information Office, Harare
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E-Mail: WCC media

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches, now 339, in more than 100 countries in all continents from virtually all Christian traditions. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member church but works cooperatively with the WCC. The highest governing body is the Assembly, which meets approximately every seven years. The WCC was formally inaugurated in 1948 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Its staff is headed by general secretary Konrad Raiser from the Evangelical Church in Germany.