World Council of Churches to Elect New Leader

The largest ecumenical church body in the world will elect its new general secretary within the next week during a Central Committee meeting that opened Wednesday in Geneva.

Functioning as the main decision-making body of the World Council of Churches between assemblies, the Central Committee will meet from Aug. 26 to Sept. 2 to plan for the next WCC Assembly and to decide who will be its next leader.

Its current general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia, had announced last February that he would not seek a second term in office.

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Vying for the position are 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).

Dr. Park is a professor of Theology at Youngnam Theological University and Seminary in the southeastern province of Kyeongsan, South Korea. He was previously executive secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches' Department of Cooperation and Witness.

Park is a member of the WCC Central Committee and serves on the Ecumenical Committee of the Presbyterian Church of Korea.

Meanwhile, Dr. Tveit has been the general secretary of the Church of Norway's Council on Ecumenical and International Relations since 2002. He is a member of the Interfaith Council of Norway and a member of the board of trustees of Norwegian Church Aid.

Tveit is a member of the WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission and co-chair of the WCC Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum core group.

The candidates were selected by a search committee in June after a more than yearlong process.

The Rev. Dr. Walter Altmann, who is the moderator of the Central Committee meeting, addressed attendees on the opening day Wednesday and spoke about the significant events occurring this year and then tied them to the challenges currently faced by the organization.

He then listed three decisions to be made at the meeting that would hold "particular importance for the life of the WCC": the election of a new general secretary; the location for the next WCC Assembly, to be held in 2013; and directions related to the report of the working group on governance, accountability, and staff policy.

Altmann is the president of the Evangelical Church of the Lutheran Confession in Brazil and has served as moderator of the WCC Central Committee since 2006.

The WCC is an ecumenical fellowship of 349 Protestant, Orthodox, Anglican and other churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries.

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