General secretary-elect brings African touch to WCC
October 2003

Kobia to take office in January; praised for long-term commitment to justice, spirituality

The Rev. Samuel Kobia, an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Kenya, has been elected general secretary of World Council of Churches (WCC). In January, Kobia will succeed the Rev. Konrad Raiser, who has headed the Geneva, Switzerland- based WCC for 11 years.


General secretary-elect the Rev. Samuel Kobia, pictured during the WCC's Central Committee meeting in August. Peter Williams | WCC photo
 

From 1978 to 1984, Kobia was WCC's executive secretary for urban rural mission, before returning to Kenya to serve as general secretary of its National Council of Churches. He helped reorganize the Zimbabwe Christian Council after the nation's independence, led peace talks for Sudan in 1991, and chaired Kenya's national election monitoring unit in 1992.

He returned to Geneva in 1993 to become executive director of the WCC's Justice, Peace and Creation unit.

He gained a diploma in theology at St Paul's United Theological College in Kenya, as well as a diploma in urban ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago. He has a master's in city planning from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1993, he received a doctorate's degree in ministry from Disciples-related Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis.

Bernice Powell Jackson, executive minister of the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries, was a member of the search committee that offered the names of two candidates, including Kobia's, for consideration by the WCC's Central Committee. The UCC is one of the WCC's 342 member denominations.

"The World Council of Churches will be blessed, I believe, by [Kobia's] message of hope to a world much in need of hope" Jackson said. "He brings to his new post ... a commitment to addressing the injustices of this world, a deep sense of spirituality and a love of the Lord."

In his acceptance speech, Kobia said, "To gain the capacity to inspire the world we need inner strength. Our strength lies also in our unity. As we reiterate that the WCC is first and foremost a fellowship of churches whose primary purpose is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and one Eucharistic fellowship, and [in order] to advance that unity so that the world may believe, we must work together and be seen to be working together."

Kobia concluded with an African saying: "If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to go far, walk together with others." He said he will try to offer a "consultative, participative, listening approach" as leader of the WCC.

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