Inside Issue N°12 - October 2003

Samuel Kobia elected new WCC general secretary
Assembly theme focuses on transforming grace
A new configuration of the ecumenical movement
Accompaniment programme in Palestine and Israel marks first anniversary
Ten years old, EWSF looks ahead
Central committee members honour Raiser
Membership contributions: fair, transparent and objectively determined
"My peace I give you"
WCC finances: "modestly encouraging"
WCC speaks out on international affairs

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Samuel Kobia elected new WCC general secretary

WCC general secretary-elect Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia

On 28 August the central committee elected Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia as the new general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Currently WCC special representative for Africa, Kobia will succeed Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, and will take office in January 2004.

In his acceptance speech, Kobia said that the Council’s primary purpose as a fellowship of churches is “to call one another to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, and to advance that unity so that the world may believe”. To do that, member churches must not only work together, but also be seen to be working together. “Working together and walking together will help us stay together,” he said; for Kobia, this is “a spiritual journey”. Quoting an African saying, he suggested, “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to go far, walk together with others.”

Yet the World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary also noted that "The response from the churches against the war in Iraq has been an unprecedented manifestation of unanimity. The energy released bears witness to a spirituality that calls for peaceful coexistence of all nations and peoples… That energy must not be lost."

Asked whether he intends to bring any specifically African qualities to his new task, Kobia highlighted “the ability to celebrate life in the midst of death, and the capacity to hope in a situation that looks hopeless”. On what he will change in the way the WCC central committee operates, Kobia evoked his support for a “consultative, participative, listening approach”.

In interviews to the media, Kobia outlined three major priorities for the WCC in the years ahead. In addition to the emphasis on “working togeth-er”, he highlighted that “how to respond to a world that is becoming increasingly violent” is one of the big challenges facing the WCC. He intends to build on the work of the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence 2001-10, as well as on his own past peace-building efforts in Sudan and the Great Lakes region.

The third major concern for the WCC in the coming years, Kobia said, is inter-religious dialogue. While the 20th century was dominated by ideology, the 21st may well be dominated by the “politics of identity”, and “many people define their identity in a religious way”. He suggested that all religions must use their faith to “bring tolerance among people of different faiths and backgrounds, and in reconciliation and healing”.

Born in Kenya in 1947, Kobia is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Kenya. He and his wife Ruth have two daughters and two sons. He was responsible for the WCC Urban Rural Mission desk from 1978-84, and headed the National Council of Churches of Kenya from 1987-93. He helped reorganize the Zimbabwe Christian Council after independence, chaired peace talks for Sudan in 1991, and in 1992 chaired Kenya’s National Election Monitoring Unit. He returned to Geneva in 1993 to become executive director of the WCC’s Justice, Peace and Creation unit. He is the author of books dealing with social and theological issues in Kenya, and on the future of Africa. •

Assembly theme focuses on transforming grace

“God, in your grace, transform the world” is the theme for the ninth assembly of the World Council of Churches (WCC), to be held in February 2006 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Central Committee approved the theme during its 26 August-2 September 2003 meeting. The final wording of the theme in English, German, French, Spanish and Portuguese will be announced later this year.

The original proposal to centre the theme on God’s grace came from Latin America. Speaking to the press, WCC general secretary-elect Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia said that the main message of a plenary on Latin America during Central Committee had been to stress the importance of reaffirming human dignity in the midst of the harmful consequences of globalization.

Central Committee also approved a budget for the assembly of 6.3 million CHF. The ninth assembly will have 700 delegates. •

A new configuration of the ecumenical movement

Emphasizing the imperative to move the whole Christian community to a renewed common witness in the 21st century, Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser reaffirmed the need for a new configuration of the ecumenical movement in his last report (26 August 2003) as general secretary to the WCC central committee.

Such discussion about a new configuration is motivated in part by changing global realities, increase in bilateralism in society at large, growing competition over fund-ing, the need for more coordination among structures, and initatives and involvement from a wider range of churches, networks and organizations. However, Raiser emphasized, “We cannot be content with a pragmatic and function-al readjustment of structures to facilitate cooperation and render [ecumenical organizations] more effective.” Instead, “The aim should be to rally the partners again around a common set of values and atti-tudes, to sharpen the sense of a common mission.”

A consultation will be held 17-20 November in Antelias, Lebanon, to analyze the challenges presented by a changing world, identify key areas of change, and design a process of study and consultation that could lead to proposals being put to organizations involved, in-cluding the WCC itself at its assembly in 2006. Churches will be directly involved in the consultation, and will be enabled to take full part in the process.

Raiser notes, “The WCC takes this initiative not out of institutional self-interest, but in response to its constitutional mandate to further and maintain the coherence of the one ecumenical movement in its diverse manifestations.” WCC general secretary-elect Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia emphasized in his own remarks to the press following his election that the political and social situation has greatly changed since 1948 when the WCC was founded. Thus, “We need to find other ways of ensuring a wider ecumenical partnership,” he said. •



The presiding bishop of the Methodist Church in Southern Africa, Bishop Hamilton Mvume Dandala, was appointed general secretary of the All Africa Conference of Churches on 2 May 2003. The 51-year-old bishop takes over from AACC interim general secretary Melaku Kifle. The AACC has been evolv-ing a renewed vision and mission; Bishop Dandala joins the organization as it prepares for its eighth general assembly in November.

The Sudan Council of Churches’ 15th general assembly in May 2003 elected Rev. Paul Chol Deng as its new general secretary. Rev. Deng is an ordained minister of the Episcopal Church in the Sudan. He is taking over from Rev. Enock Tombe Stephen, who was SCC general secretary 1995-2003.

A co-president of the Ecumenical Movement for Human Rights in Argentina and one of the eight presidents of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Bishop Federico J. Pagura of the Methodist Church of Argentina was named to join the ranks of Argentina’s “outstanding personalities” by the na-tional parliament. An annual award, this distinction was bestowed on Bishop Pagura in recognition of his social and ethical work and his message to youth in a ceremony in parliament house on 22 August 2003.


The WCC has appointed Rev. Deborah DeWinter as its US desk officer, and Rev. Dr Laurence Konmla Bropleh as WCC-CCIA United Nations representative. A minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, DeWinter worked with the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (1991-96), NCCC-USA Church World Service Immigration and Refugee Program (1996-99), Lutheran Family and Community Services (1999-2000), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Resettlement Section (2000-02) and, most recently, Film Aid International, New York. Rev. Dr Laurence Konmla Bropleh has a D.Min from Wesley Theological Seminary/American University, Washington. After serving as a UMC pastor from 1991-97, he joined the church’s General Board of Global Ministries as regional executive secretary for sub-Saharan Africa. Most recently, he was director of African initiatives, and senior minister for the UMC Baltimore-Washington Conference. Both WCC staff positions are based in New York.

André Borisovich Bloom, Metropolitan Anthony of Sourozh, head of the Russian Orthodox Patriarchal Church in Great Britain and Ireland, priest and doctor, died on 4 August 2003 aged 89. Widely regarded as the best-known Orthodox leader in Western Europe, Metropolitan Anthony came to England in 1949. The heart of his life’s work was building up the Russian Orthodox diocese in Britain. Wishing to support the beleaguered clergy in the Soviet Union, he chose the controversial path of loyalty to the just re-established Moscow partriarchate, while being personally deeply critical of communism. Metropolitan Anthony was a member of the WCC central committee from 1968 to 1975.

As Matt Robson looks on, a farmer from Jayyous approaches a gate in the separation wall

Accompaniment programme in Palestine and Israel marks first anniversary

The farmers call it the “5000-star hotel”, but the reality is a stark reminder of the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on ordinary lives.

Matt Robson, a Quaker from the UK who serves as an ecumenical accompanier in Jayyous, in the West Bank, spoke of the impact a separation wall built by the Israeli government has on the lives of the villagers. One result is that it has separated the Palestinian farmers from their fields, with access through only one gate controlled by the Israeli Defence Forces. As the opening and closing times are unpredictable, farmers have had to take mattresses with them to the field, in case the gates are closed in the evening and they need to spend the night in the field, under the stars. As an accompanier, Robson has spent such nights with the farmers, and has waited with them at the gates, providing a calm-ing presence, as well as an international monitor of the situation on the ground.

Robson spoke at a press briefing during the 26 August-2 September World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee meeting, highlighting the one-year anniversary of the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI), launched within the 2002 focus of the Decade to Overcome Violence and its campaign to End the Occupation of Palestine: Support a Just Peace in the Middle East. The central committee recognized “the courageous witness” of the accompaniers, reaffirmed its en-dorsement of the programme, and encouraged member churches and ecumenical partners to actively engage in it.

The EAPPI mission is to accompany Palestinians and Israelis in their non-violent actions and concerted advocacy efforts to end the illegal occupation of Palestine. Salpy Eskidjian, programme executive in International Affairs, noted at the brief-ing that the EAPPI “adds another form of action in our efforts to prevent wars, overcome violence, resolve conflicts and advocate for justice and peace - it’s solidarity through physical presence”.

Information on the EAPPI is available on our website.
See also Resources.

Ten years old, EWSF looks ahead

“It was supposed to be a six-month project but it’s lasted 10 years!” exclaimed Carolyn Boyd. The coordinator of the World Council of Churches (WCC) Ecumenical Women’s Solidarity Fund (EWSF) in former Yugoslavia, Boyd was speaking in Geneva on 29 August 2003 at EWSF’s tenth anniversary celebration. A fund used by women for women in Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia, the EWSF seeks to promote human rights and rebuild the lives and empower those women and children who have been affected by war.
EWSF coordinator Carolyn Boyd speaking at the Fund’s tenth anniversary celebration
Initiated in 1993, it has supported over 280 projects, with beneficiaries numbering over 80,000. Women from all ethnic groups have been included in a wide range of self-help projects, from peace-building and training to health programmes and counsel-ling. Based initially on the prob-lems women themselves iden-tified to Boyd, the EWSF programme plans to increase its work in peace-building and conflict resolution, and address prejudice, injustice and unemployment - the main concerns of women who seek to regain control over their lives and build for the future. “The times have changed, but the needs remain.” •

Central committee members honour Raiser

In a farewell service and festive celebration, World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee members thanked Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser for his 11 years of service as WCC general secretary.

Draped in a farewell gift quilt from the Pacific, Konrad and Elisabeth Raiser listen as friends from the region sing an ecumenical song called “Pacifica”.

In a worship held on Sunday, 31 August, in the Ecumenical Centre’s chapel, the central committee moderator, His Holiness Aram I, expressed his great appreciation for Raiser’s ecumenical work marked, he noted, by quality, commitment and vision. H.H. Aram I described Raiser as a sensitive pastor, a brilliant professor, and a humble yet courageous man, with a deep sense of responsibility.

Later, during a festive celebration at the Ecumenical Institute at Bossey, representatives of each region shared words of appreciation, gifts, and songs with Konrad and Elisabeth Raiser, reflecting the extensive travel and visits to member churches the general secretary has made over his years of service.

Raiser retires at the end of 2003, having served as general secretary since January 1993. •

Membership contributions: fair, transparent and objectively determined

The World Council of Churches (WCC) central committee has decided on a new system for calculating membership contributions. Since 1995, all member churches had simply been asked to contribute to the Council, with a minimum contribution set at CHF 1000. As of 1 January 2004, the calculation will be based on the size of the church, and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country where it is located. Church size is determined by membership data submitted by the churches themselves. A minimum contribution is linked to size, and then lowered, based on a comparison between the GDP of the country concerned and that of the USA, the country with the world’s highest GDP. In specific cases where church members’ income is significantly lower than the national average, the church can request an adjustment. The new system is part of a campaign that aims to raise WCC membership income to CHF 10 million by 2006, the time of its ninth assembly. The new system, said finance committee vice moderator, Dean Anders Gadegaard, was developed in an effort to reach a method that is “fair, transparent and objectively determined for all members”. A letter explaining the new system is being sent to all member churches.•

“My peace I give you”

While the search for Christian unity is not limited to one week per year, the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity offers churches around the world an opportunity to focus on the goal of unity. It is usually celebrated 18-25 January, but is often scheduled around Pentecost in the southern hemisphere. Since 1968, official materials, prepared jointly by the WCC’s Faith and Order Commission and the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, include a biblical text and an introduction to the theme, a worship service, biblical reflections and prayers for the “eight days”, guidelines for organizers, and information on the ecumenical situation in a particular part of the world.

The 2004 theme is “My peace I give to you” (John 14:23-31), with a particular focus on the quest for peace in the Middle East. The gospel text is part of Jesus’ farewell discourse to his disciples before he is put to death. It was chosen by churches in the Middle East who, today, are “longing for peace more than ever before”, and who are convinced that, by undertaking this prayer ecumenically, Christians throughout the word will be standing in solidarity with the hopes and suffering of the people of this region. •

Materials for the 2004 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity are available on our website.

WCC finances: “modestly encouraging”

By focusing on its core programmes and carefully controlling its expenditure in 2003, the World Council of Churches (WCC) is overcom-ing the difficulties it has faced over the past two years. According to WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, forecasts are now “modestly encouraging”.

In 2002, the WCC faced a deficit of CHF 6.6 million. This consisted of a planned use of funds totalling CHF 5.5 million set aside for specific core programmes, and a reduction in reserves of CHF 1.1 million.

The expenditure budget for 2003 is CHF 46.2 million. Results to July 2003 are well within budget, reflecting the success of the measures taken the previous year, and gener-ating expectations of an oper-ational surplus at the year’s end, with the aim of adding CHF 1 million to reserves.

The WCC central committee approved an expenditure budget of CHF 42.3 million for 2004, and announced its intention to add CHF 2 million to reserves next year.

The WCC is launching a campaign to increase its income from member churches. At the same time, it will continue efforts to maintain the level of contributions from agencies and other sources. •

On the eve of the tenth anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, a sculpture “in-stallation” by Ghanaian artist and sculptor Kofi Setordji is on display at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. Wooden sculp-tures and terracotta masks call to mind the 1994 genocide in which nearly a million people were killed. It tells of the victims’ suffering, the silence of the international community and the deep division in Rwandan society. •



Recent Resources
Samuel Kobia
The Roots for a New Vision and the Calling of the Church in Africa

The general secretary-elect of the WCC examines the reality and potential of life in contemporary Africa, and calls for a transformation of human consciousness and community practices.
230pp., Risk Book Series, CHF.24.00, USD16.95, GBP10.95, EUR14.50

Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos)
Orthodox Christian Essays on Global Concerns

The author discusses Orthodox perspectives on human rights, dialogue with Islam, and the relationship between culture and the gospel, and provides an analysis of world religions.
Published jointly with St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood NY, USA
208pp., CHF.26.00, USD18.00, GBP15.60, EUR18.50

WCC YEARBOOK 2003 In two parts: the year in review 2002; address lists of member churches, national and regional ecumenical bodies, etc., and constitution and rules. 36pp. and 88pp., CHF.13.00, USD9.00, GBP6.00, EUR8.00 for both

ECUMENICAL ONSIDERATIONS for Dialogue and Relations with People of Other Religions
An up-to-date sequel to the WCC's 1979 "Guidelines on Dialogue with People of Living Faiths and Ideologies".
16pp., English, French, German, Spanish, CHF5.00, USD3.50, GBP2.50, EUR3.50

Eva Balslev and Sune Segal
The Humanitarian Consequences of Israel’s Wall of Separation

Written by two ecumenical accompaniers taking part in the WCC’s Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI).
32pp., single copies free

Two WCC videos have been nominated for the sixth edition of “Religion Today” film and television festivals in Trento and Assisi in October. They are
The Roots of Violence, a DOV-related video on peace and reconciliation in Sierra Leone, and Culture Shock, on a visit by two Kenyan girls to the Lutheran state church in Denmark. The first was produced in cooperation with Danish TV and the Ecumenical Council in Denmark, and the second was also a Danish TV production with WCC support.
The Roots of Violence, 28:40 mins, VHS/PAL, VHS/NTSC. Culture Shock, 28:26 mins, VHS/PAL, VHS/NTSC

The DVD Facing the Future, made following a leadership programme in Cuba co-spon-sored by the WCC and the World Student Christian Federation, includes several short videos on globalization, HIV/AIDS, gender, and Culture Shock.
127 mins, Regions 1 and 2

Per video/DVD: CHF29.50, USD19.50, EUR19.70 plus postage

WCC speaks out on international affairs

Major statements on “public issues” by the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee during its 26 August-2 September 2003 meeting in Geneva focused on Liberia, Zimbabwe, Iraq and Europe. The committee also drafted minutes on “The Responsibility to Protect”, on the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and on Cyprus.

On Liberia, the central committee expressed its appreciation for the work of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), its armed monitoring group ECOMOG, and the country’s religious leaders in promoting a peace agreement and a transitional government. Condemning the violence both of Charles Taylor’s government and of rebel groups, the statement urged member churches to support the Liberian Council of Churches’ work for peace. It called on churches and church-related agencies around the world, but particularly those in the USA, to provide humanitarian assistance and support to Liberian churches.

In a minute on Zimbabwe, the central committee acknowledged the socio-economic and political crisis there as a serious challenge to the country’s churches and the wider ecumenical family. For the committee, the government’s land resettlement programme has led to serious human-rights violations, and brought the country to the verge of ruin. It urged member churches to condemn acts of violence in Zimbabwe, and expressed support for the Zimbabwe churches’ efforts to redress land distribution in-equities.

In its statement on Iraq, the central committee called for the United Nations to be given the lead role in rebuild-ing the country’s institutions and infrastructure, and for withdrawal of occupying forces. It asked states to cancel the Iraqi debt, called on “the occupying powers” to provide “full reparations to the Iraqi people for damages caused by the unlawful use of military force”, and encouraged churches worldwide to support the people of Iraq “whose plight has not been given proper recognition” in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of their country.

In recognition of significant changes in that continent over recent years, a statement on Europe welcomed the EU’s recognition of the importance of the churches, and called for human rights, ethics and morality to be at the centre of EU development and security policies. •

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