Assembly elects new presidents, central committee
© Paulino Menezes/WCC
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A new body to lead the World Council of Churches (WCC) into the next decade was elected in Porto Alegre on Wednesday. Delegates at the WCC's 9th Assembly also endorsed measures designed to strengthen youth participation in the organization's decision-making.
The Assembly elected a 150-member central committee, which serves as the main decision-making body of the Council between assemblies. The Assembly also appointed presidents for each of the world regions and for the Orthodox and Oriental Orthodox churches.
During the Assembly, the WCC leadership and many delegates urged the Council to find ways of strengthening youth participation and of involving young adults in the leadership and decision-making of the church fellowship. Proposals for a new representative body for youth will be discussed on the last day of the Assembly.
The new 150-person central committee counts 63 women (42%), 22 youth (15%), and six indigenous persons (4%). 97 members of the committee are ordained (65%). The nominations committee worked with a pool of names put forward by the WCC's 348 member churches. A 25-person executive committee, a moderator and two vice-moderators will be elected by the central committee later this week.
The role of the WCC presidents is to promote ecumenism and to interpret the work of the WCC, especially in their respective regions. The presidents are ex-officio members of central committee.
The eight WCC presidents are: His Holiness Abune Paulos, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church; Rev. Prof. Dr Simon Dossou, Protestant Methodist Church in Benin; Rev. Dr Soritua Nababan, Protestant Christian Batak Church (Indonesia); Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba; Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ (USA); Mr John Taroanui Doom, Maòhi Protestant Church (Tahiti); Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania; Dr Mary Tanner, Church of England.
Additional biographical information about the new WCC presidents follows:
His Holiness Abune Paulos, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church
His Holiness Abune Paulos is the patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which has a membership of 40 million. He has served as a member of central committee and the Faith and Order commission, and attended the Nairobi assembly. He has participated in many international meetings, including the World Economic Forum and the World Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders at the United Nations, and has been instrumental in encouraging interfaith dialogue in Ethiopia. He has shown keen interest in youth, women's issues and HIV/AIDS, acting as patron of the national programme on HIV/AIDS. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to the protection and welfare of refugees, he was awarded the Nansen Medal for Africa by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2000.
Rev. Prof. Dr Simon Dossou, Protestant Methodist Church in Benin
Dr Dossou is an Old Testament scholar who did his theological studies in Porto Novo (Benin), Yaoundé (Cameroon) and Lausanne (Switzerland). He has been theological professor in the Yaoundé Faculty of Theology and in the Theological Institute of Porto Novo. Dr Dossou is currently president of the Protestant Methodist Church in Benin and chairperson of the Fellowship of Christian Councils and Churches in West Africa (FECCIWA). He is the author of many books and theological articles.
Rev. Dr Soritua Nababan, Protestant Christian Batak Church (HKBP)
Dr Nababan's international ecumenical involvement began with membership in the WCC's Youth Committee in 1961, followed by service as youth secretary for the Christian Conference of Asia 1963-1967 and as president 1990-1995. He has been involved at various levels of ecumenical work through the Communion of Churches in Indonesia (General Secretary, 1967-1984; general chairman, 1984-1987); the World Council of Churches (vice-chairman and then moderator of the Commission on World Mission and Evangelism, 1968-1985; member and then vice-moderator of Central Committee, 1983-1998); and the Lutheran World Federation (vice-president, 1970-1977 and 1984-1991). He has provided leadership to his own church, the largest Protestant church in Indonesia, serving as Ephorus (bishop) from 1987 to 1998.
Rev. Dr Ofelia Ortega, Presbyterian-Reformed Church in Cuba
Dr Ortega was the first Presbyterian woman to be ordained in Cuba. She worked at the WCC from 1985 to 1996, first as professor at the Ecumenical Institute, Bossey, and from 1988 as executive secretary for Latin America and the Caribbean in the Programme on Theological Education. She then returned to Cuba to serve as the rector of the Evangelical Theological Seminary (SET) in Matanzas for eight years, leading it to a multi-faceted ministry of social service and community involvement. Beyond her responsibilities with the seminary, she served as volunteer in the rural areas of Cuba during the national literacy campaign, as well as offering her gifts to the Ministry of Public Health.
Rev. Dr Bernice Powell Jackson, United Church of Christ
Dr Powell Jackson has served for the past 18 months as president of the WCC for North America, completing an un-expired term. She served on the national staff of the UCC for nearly twenty years, most recently as one of the five officers of the church and as head of Justice and Witness Ministries. During the 1980s, she was director of the Bishop Tutu Scholarship Fund in the US, where she worked closely with the archbishop. She has worked for more than three decades on civil rights, human rights and justice issues, and is a much-sought-after preacher. She is currently working on a book on God, religion and politics.
Mr John Taroanui Doom, Maòhi Protestant Church
Mr Doom became a deacon of his church in 1962, and served as its general secretary 1971-1988. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Pacific Conference of Churches 1966-1989, and principal of the Hermon Theological School, Tahiti, 1972-1977. He was a member of central committee 1976-1983 and of the Churches' Commission on International Affairs 1983-1989. In 1989 he became the WCC's executive xecretary for the Pacific, a post which he held until 2000. He is currently national co-ordinator of the Association of the Former Nuclear Site Workers of Moruroa (Moruroa e Tatou).
Archbishop Dr Anastasios of Tirana and All Albania, Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania
His Beatitude Archbishop Anastatios is professor emeritus of the National University of Athens and honorary member of the Academy of Athens. He was dean of the Theological School at the University of Athens 1983-1986. From 1981 to 1990 he was the acting archbishop of East Africa, where he organised and developed the Orthodox Mission in East Africa. He was moderator of the WCC's Commission on World Mission and Evangelism 1984-1991, and is currently one of the vice-presidents of the Conference of European Churches. He has served as primate of Albania since 1992, reconstructing the Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania from ruins and initiating important contributions in healthcare, development work, emergency relief, culture, ecology and peace-making.
Dr Mary Tanner, Church of England
Dr Tanner has contributed to the ecumenical movement in a variety of ways throughout the years. She has been a member of the WCC Faith and Order Commission since 1974, serving as moderator from 1991 to 1998. She has also been a member of the Special Commission on Orthodox Participation in the WCC since its inception in 1991. Dr Tanner has been involved in various ecumenical conversations on behalf of her church, including the Anglican-Roman conversation. From 1982 to 1998 she was active within the Church of England body which ultimately became the Council for Christian Unity, serving as its general secretary from 1991 to 1998.
Contact in Porto Alegre:+55 / 51 8419.216