WCC Committee Picks Candidates for Next General Secretary

The committee responsible for finding the World Council of Churches' next general secretary has announced the selection of two candidates who will vie to lead the ecumenical church body.

After three days of interviews and thorough discussions, the committee decided by consensus to propose the Rev. Dr Park Seong-won of the Presbyterian Church of Korea and the Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit of the Church of Norway (Lutheran) for election by the Central Committee during its meeting in August 2009.

"The search committee worked in a good spirit of cooperation and Christian fellowship," reported Dr. Agnes Abuom, the moderator of the search committee, which this week interviewed six "highly qualified candidates" identified at its last meeting in April.

"The candidates are both committed to the ecumenical movement. They come from diverse backgrounds and offer a variety of experiences, gifts and skills," added Abuom after the search committee's June 23-26 meeting.

Park, a professor of Theology at Youngnam Theological University and Seminary in Kyeongsan, South Korea, was previously executive secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) Department of Cooperation and Witness (1995-2004) and assistant to the WARC general secretary (1986-1990).

Tveit, meanwhile, has been the general secretary of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations since 2002. He is also a member of the WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission and moderator of the WCC Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum core group.

Whoever is eventually tapped between the two to succeed current WCC general secretary the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia will serve as the chief executive officer and a spokesperson for the WCC, which brings together 349 churches, denominations and church fellowships in more than 110 countries and territories throughout the world, including most of the world's Orthodox churches, scores of Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist and Reformed churches, as well as many United and Independent churches.

The ecumenical church body is expected in August to officially elect a new general secretary to replace Kobia, who announced last year that he would not seek a second term in office.

The search committee, formed at the February 2008 Central Committee meeting, has been engaged in the selection process for a new general secretary since Kobia's announcement and extended Kobia's term last September after dropping its plan to select an interim leader by then.

Kobia has served as the WCC's first African general secretary since January 2004, four months after his election in August 2003.

The Kenyan Methodist said last February that personal reasons were behind his decision not to seek a second term.