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World church body names Korean, Norwegian candidates for top post

The World Council of Churches says it has identified two candidates – one a Korean Presbyterian and the other a Norwegian Lutheran – for the post of general secretary, which becomes vacant on 1 January.

The WCC said in a 26 June statement, the two candidates are: Rev Seong-won Park, a professor of theology at Youngnam Theological University and Seminary in Kyeongsan, South Korea and  Rev Olav Fykse Tveit, the general secretary of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations.

The new general secretary of the world church body will be elected during a meeting in Geneva from 6 August to 2 September of the WCC’s main governing body, its central committee, which convenes every 12 to 18 months.

The Geneva-based WCC has not in the past customarily publicly announced the final two candidates for the post of general secretary ahead of their formal approval.

At the last meeting of the WCC’s main governing body, the central committee, in February 2008, some members said they hoped the body could put forward a single candidate for the position.

The current WCC general secretary, the Rev. Samuel Kobia, a Kenyan Methodist, had announced in 2008 he would not seek a second term, and after his tenure was temporarily extended the WCC said he will leave the church body at the end of 2009.

Kobia was a director and special representative of Africa on the WCC staff when he was elected to his post on 27 August 2003 at a closed-door meeting of the WCC’s central committee. There, 134 voting members voted for Kobia ahead of Canon Trond Bakkevig, of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway. The vote was reportedly 78-52, with four abstentions.

The WCC’s search committee for a general secretary met from 23 to 26 June in Amsterdam under its moderator Agnes Abuom, a Kenyan Anglican, and it interviewed six candidates identified at an April meeting of the committee in Crete.

“After three days of interviews and thorough discussions, the committee decided by consensus to propose the following two candidates,” the WCC statement said.

Abuoum said, “The search committee worked in a good spirit of cooperation and Christian fellowship.”

The World Council of Churches promotes Christian unity and was founded in 1948. It is the largest ecumenical church grouping and consists of 349 mainly Protestant, Orthodox and Anglican churches representing more than 560 million Christians in over 110 countries. It works cooperatively with the Roman Catholic Church.

Rev Park was from 1994 to 2004 executive secretary of the Geneva-based World Alliance of Reformed Churches’ department of Cooperation and Witness. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church of Korea and has also served as a minister in Busan, Korea. He has a Doctor of Theology from the University of Bern in Switzerland and a Doctor of Ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary in California.

Park is a member of the WCC’s Central Committee, co-moderator of the Joint Movement for Covenanting for Justice known as “Oikotree” between the Council for World Mission, WARC and the WCC. He serves on the Ecumenical Committee of the Presbyterian Church of Korea. 

Rev Tveit has since 2002 been the general secretary of the Church of Norway Council on Ecumenical and International Relations. He was previously secretary for the Church of Norway Doctrinal Commission. He is an ordained pastor in the Church of Norway and has also served as a parish priest in the Haram diocese of Norway’s Møre area from 1988 to 1991. He was an army chaplain during his compulsory year of national service in 1987-88.

Rev Tveit is a member of the WCC Faith and Order Plenary Commission, moderator of the WCC Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum core group, a member of the board of directors and executive committee of the Christian Council of Norway and moderator of the Church of Norway – Islamic Council of Norway contact group and the same for the Jewish Congregation contact group. He has a Masters degree and a Doctor of Theology from the Norwegian School of Theology.

The WCC is one of the four ecumenical organizations that are founding members of Ecumenical News International. The others are: the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Conference of European Churches.

All articles (c) Ecumenical News International