Kobia to Step Down as World Church Body Head

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, has announced he will not seek another term as head of the 349-member ecumenical body.

The World Council of Churches central committee, which wrapped up its Geneva meeting on Monday, has approved the appointment of a search committee to appoint the next general secretary. The election of a new general secretary is expected to take place at the next central committee meeting in September 2009.

Kobia said on Monday that personal reasons were behind his decision not to seek a second term. The WCC central committee was to consider an extension to his current term, which ends December 31, 2008.

"The central committee received this news with regret but accepts the decision of the general secretary. We want to respect his decision and privacy," the Rev. Dr. Walter Altmann, WCC Central Committee moderator, said Monday night.

"We want to express the deep gratitude of the World Council of Churches for the dedicated services he has given to the council since becoming general secretary in January 2004."

Kobia, a Kenyan Methodist, was the first African to take up the post of general secretary of the WCC when he was elected in August 2003. He was formerly the general secretary of the National Council of Churches in Kenya.

In addition to being general secretary, Kobia had previously served as executive director of the WCC "Justice, Peace and Creation" unit and as director of the cluster on "Issues and Themes."

The WCC celebrated its 60th anniversary Sunday at Geneva's St. Pierre Cathedral. The Geneva-based ecumenical church body is an umbrella organization for about 350 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches, representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.