The Lutheran World Federation is expected to elect a new general secretary Thursday as its governing body opens a six-day meeting in Geneva.
The election, to be held during a closed session, will follow a report by the search committee and is among the highlights of this year's LWF Council meeting, which has as its theme "Upholding Human Dignity: Confronting Human Trafficking."
Though current LWF General Secretary the Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko was re-elected for a second seven-year term mandate in 2004, the theologian from Zimbabwe informed the council during its meeting last year in Arusha, Tanzania, of his intention to conclude his service as LWF general secretary on Oct. 31, 2010.
Following Noko's announcement, the 50-member council approved the search process and timetable for the next general secretary but has since been tight-lipped regarding the process, as has been the tradition of the worldwide Lutheran communion.
Some church members have complained about the lack of transparency in the search process, saying that it is not appropriate in today's modern era, as reported by the Finnish Lutheran weekly newspaper Kotimaa.
Ecumenical News International further noted that it might even be possible that the search committee cannot produce a name to the council on Thursday, in which case the process of choosing a new general secretary could be postponed.
During last year's council meeting, Noko had affirmed his commitment to continue "to work as faithfully and diligently" as he could to ensure a smooth transition.
As the first African to hold the position of general secretary in the LWF, Noko has been serving as the communion's chief ecumenical officer since 1994, spending much of the time relating to Christian world communions and communities of other religious traditions in addition to administrative responsibilities.
One of Noko's most notable accomplishments has been his role in leading the process that resulted in the October 1999 signing of the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification between the LWF and the Roman Catholic Church. Noko has also responsible for international affairs in contact with governments and political leaders.
In addition to regular business and the matter of a new general secretary, the agenda for this year's council meeting, which concludes Oct. 27, also includes recommendations for renewal within the communion and a proposed action with regard to the legacy of Lutheran persecutions of Anabaptists.
The council – which comprises the president, treasurer and 48 persons elected by the LWF Assembly, the communion's highest decision-making body – is responsible for the business of LWF and meets between the Assembly's once-in-six-years gatherings.
Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 79 countries all over the world representing over 68.5 million Christians.