April - May 2008

Kobia, leader of World Council of Churches, to step down

[ENI] - The general secretary of the World Council of Churches, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, has decided he will not seek a second term as head of the world's biggest Christian grouping.

"Kobia made his intentions known … stating personal reasons for his decision not to seek a second term," the WCC announced on Feb. 18 after almost nine hours of deliberations behind closed doors by its main governing body, the central committee.

"The central committee received this news with regret but accepts the decision of the general secretary," said WCC moderator, the Rev. Walter Altmann, in a statement.

The WCC committee was to consider an extension to his current term which ends on Dec. 31, 2008.

The WCC said the central committee had approved the appointment of a search committee for a new general secretary. Election of a new general secretary will come at the next central committee meeting in Sept. 2009, it stated.

Kobia was elected in August 2003 to lead the Geneva-based WCC, which now has 349 member churches, representing 560 million Christians worldwide, including the UCC. The Roman Catholic Church is not a member but has representatives on some WCC bodies.

Before the Feb. 13-20 central committee meeting, Bishop Martin Hein, a member of the WCC governing body from the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD), said the council was failing to make its presence felt sufficiently in the world. He suggested in an interview with the German Protestant news agency that the WCC had been unable to develop "visions and perspectives that are able to be communicated," and he said that Kobia was traveling too much outside Geneva.

The news agency also reported that the WCC had removed from its website details of a doctorate Kobia had received from a non-accredited institution, Fairfax University in the United States.

Born in Kenya in 1947, Kobia is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Kenya. Before becoming WCC general secretary, he was director and special representative for Africa on the staff of the WCC. From 1999 to 2002, he was director of WCC programs dealing with theological and social issues.

Kobia formerly served as WCC executive secretary for Urban Rural Mission, and as general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya, and helped reorganize the Zimbabwe Christian Council after independence. He chaired peace talks for Sudan in 1991, and in 1992 headed Kenya's National Election Monitoring Unit. He returned to Geneva in 1993 to become executive director of the WCC's unit on justice, peace and creation.

When he took the helm of the WCC in January 2004, Kobia was the first African elected to serve in the post.

Kobia is the sixth WCC general secretary, and the second Methodist to hold the position. Previous general secretaries were: W. A. Visser't Hooft, from the Netherlands (1948-1966); Eugene Carson Blake, from the United States (1966-1972); Philip Potter, from Dominica, West Indies (1972-1984); Emilio Castro, from Uruguay (1985-1992); and Konrad Raiser, from Germany (1993 to 2003).


The Rev. Ray Gibbons, who served for 25 years as director of the UCC's Council for Christian Social Action and its predecessor agency in the Congregation Christian Churches in America, died on March 18. He was 105 and was the oldest-ever resident to live at UCC-related Pilgrim Place in Claremont, Calif.

Gibbons, considered a pioneer in fostering social action by Christian congregations, is credited for developing and leading programs for racial, economic and social justice in the UCC. A passionate advocate for the poor, he worked to develop non-profit housing opportunities for low- to middle-income households. He also served as a leader in the National Council of Churches, serving on its general board and chairing multiple committees and departments, including the Committee on Civic and Political Life. He retired in 1969.

"Since every important public issue is exceedingly controversial, the question is whether the church is going to deal with important issues or not. But that's what God deals with," Gibbons said in a 1964 press release in support of federal civil rights legislation.

A graduate of Oberlin College in Ohio and Union Theological Seminary in New York, Gibbons also held a masters degree from Columbia University's Teacher's College. He served congregations in Maine and Massachusetts before beginning denominational work.


South Dakota Conference Minister Gene Miller resigned his position on March 8, following a fitness review in which his ministerial standing was suspended for two years and pending successful completion of a "growth plan."

"This action was taken with regret and with thanks for Gene's years of ministry among us," wrote Charles R. Frieberg, chair of the Conference's board of directors, in a letter to churches dated March 10.

In January, Miller was asked to take a leave of absence while the Conference looked into an alleged non-criminal complaint against Miller. At the request of the South Dakota Conference, the Western Association of the Missouri Mid-South Confererence conducted Miller's fitness-for-ministry review.

The Rev. Lynne Simcox has been appointed Acting Conference Minister. However, the board has appointed a search committee to begin searching for an Interim Conference Minister, who will serve for a minimum of 18 months, Frieberg said.


Susan Sanders, minister and team leader for the UCC's global sharing of resources ministry, has joined the board of directors of Heifer International, representing the UCC.

Founded in 1944, Heifer International - supported by many local UCC churches - works to end world hunger and protect the earth. Through use of livestock and training, Heifer has helped seven million families in more than 125 countries improve their quality of life and move toward greater self-reliance.

Sanders, who is the UCC's administrator of the One Great Hour of Sharing offering, also represents the denomination on the boards of Church World Service and the Foods Resource Bank. She is a member of Pilgrim Congregational UCC in Cleveland
Pastoral changes

Abbott, Mary N. to Malletts Bay Cong. UCC, Colchester, VT.
Bartlett, Harvey  Bradford, VT to Cong.,/United Brownington/Irasburg, VT.
Caldwell, C. Michael to Cong. UCC, East Corinth, VT.
Coy, Walter A. Canfield, OH, to First UCC, Warren, OH.
Dollar, Penny to Emmanuel UCC, Mountaintop, PA.
Elnes, Eric E. Scottsdale, AZ to Countryside Community UCC, Omaha, NE.
Frische-Mouri, Linda L. Indianapolis, IN to Evangelical UCC, Shelbyville, IN.
Hackenberg, Rachel G. New Berlin, PA to Grace UCC, Lancaster, PA.
Hinckley, Charlene D. to Lower Saucon UCC, Hellertown, PA.
Kone, Donna K. to Clague Road UCC, North Olmsted, OH.
Kuhn, Kathryn L. Lancaster, PA to Church of Apostles UCC, Lancaster, PA.
Porter, Thomas J. Hartland, WI to interim, Plymouth Cong. UCC, Burlington, WI.
Rinear, Kathleen L. Waupun, WI to interim, Saron UCC, Sheboygan Falls, WI.
Schenk, Leslie M. Cong. UCC, Conrath/Ladysmith, WI.
Schlieter, David L. Mineral Point, WI to New Horizon UCC, Farmington, WI.
Smith, Gregory K. to interim, First Cong., UCC, DePere, WI.
Steward, Lorri A. Plymouth, WI to Ebenezer UCC, Sheboygan, WI.
Sudemeyer, Paul A. Sterling, IL to Faith UCC, Milwaukee, WI.
Dutoit, Francois J. Montrose, CO to First Cong. UCC, Des Plaines, IL.
Grim, Larry W. Hacienda Heights, CA to First Cong. UCC, Santa Ana, CA.
Heil, Marcia J. Mendon, IL to St. Paul & St. Luke/Hope UCC, Alma/Cochrane, WI.
Hoover, Matthew S. to Trinity UCC, Mercersburg, PA.
Jarrett, Laura R. Jamaica Plain, MA to First UCC, Somerville, MA.
Jewell, John P. to interim, Cong. UCC, Brookfield, WI.
Kuhn, Linda J. to interim, Union Cong. UCC, Waupun, WI.
Landin, Kenneth C. East Falmouth, MA to Original UCC, Wrentham, MA.
Miller, Gail L. Maynard, MA to Union UCC, Groton, MA.
Peck, James C. to Cong. UCC, Chico, CA.
Seater, Robert P. Farmington, WI to retirement.
Werley, David to Christ (Little Moore) UCC, Danielson, PA.

Pastoral changes are provided by the UCC's Parish Life and Leadership Ministry.

Clergy deaths

Arnold, William J., 83, 1/12/2008
Bench, Robert E., 90, 2/9/2008
Beyer, Fred, 94, 2/24/2008
Bremer, Calvin H., 84, 1/30/2008
Fitzpatrick, Thomas M., 90, 2/3/2008
Gabler, Karl A., 74, 2/11/2008
Heckendorn, Ray J., 78, 1/20/2008
Irish, William A., 82, 2/15/2008
Kriete, Bruce G., 76, 1/17/2008
Rudy, Walter L., 77, 1/29/2008
Slater, Arnold, 102, 1/31/2008
Solly, William H., 93, 2/26/2008
Zillig, Leo D., 81, 2/20/2008
Zink, J.W., 85, 12/22/2007

Information on clergy deaths is provided by the UCC's Pension Boards.


Rev. J. Bennett Guess
Executive Minister, Local Church Ministries
700 Prospect Ave.
Cleveland,Ohio 44115