Kenyan Methodist named new WCC General Secretary

Oct 2003    
The Rev Dr Kobia: First African churchman to be elected WCC General Secretary. -- WCC picture.

GENEVA — The Rev Dr Samuel Kobia, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Special Representative for Africa, has been elected as the new General Secretary of the WCC. He will succeed the Rev Dr Konrad Raiser, and will take office in January next year.

Born in 1947, the Rev Dr Kobia is from Kenya, and is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Kenya. He has degrees and diplomas from institutions in Kenya and the US. He is married to Ruth, and they have two daughters and two sons.

He has wide ecumenical experience. He has served as WCC Executive Secretary for Urban Rural Mission, and as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. He helped reorganise 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.

Thanking the WCC Central Committee for its confidence in him, he said: “To gain the capacity to inspire the world we need inner strength. Our strength lies also in our unity. As we reiterate that the WCC is first and foremost a fellowship of churches whose primary purpose 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’, we must work together and be seen to be working together.”

He concluded with an African saying: “If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to go far, walk together with others.”

In LONDON, The Methodist Church in Britain has expressed its delight at his appointment as the new General Secretary of the WCC — the first African churchman to take on this significant ecumenical role.

The Rev Peter Sulston, the Methodist Co-ordinating Secretary for Unity in Mission of The Methodist Church in Britain, said in a statement: “We express our delight at Sam Kobia’s election as General Secretary of the World Council of Churches from next January. He is minister of one of our partner churches, the Methodist Church in Kenya, and we rejoice at the honour he brings to his own church.

“He comes to the role at a difficult time because of both the internal problems of the WCC as it seeks to find a new way of working with much reduced resources and the challenges he has outlined in moving from the politics of ideology to the politics of identity.

“To be General Secretary at this time would be a daunting task for anyone. Dr Kobia will bring to it a clear mind, gracious spirit, skills as a negotiator and long experience of the World Council. He will bring too the particular gifts that come from his Methodist and Kenyan identity: a great respect for different traditions and a commitment to dialogue, not only between different Christian traditions, but also between people of different world faiths.

“He will very much need The Courage to Hope (the title of his forthcoming book). As we assure him of our prayers, our hope for his term as General Secretary will be that with his Methodist roots he will retain the characteristically Methodist optimism of grace and continue to see possibilities, not problems. We look forward to working with him in whatever ways we can.” — World Council of Churches Media Relations Office, Geneva, and Methodist Church Media Office, London.


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