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Two candidates shortlisted to head up World Council of Churches

Posted on: November 13, 2019 2:33 PM
Dr Elizabeth Joy and Prof Dr Jerry Pillay
Photo Credit: World Council of Churches

[ACNS, by Rachel Farmer] A South African theological professor and an international ecumenical leader have been named as the two candidates to replace the Revd Dr Olav Fykse Tveit as the next general secretary of the World Council of Churches.

Dr Elizabeth Joy of the Malankara Orthodox Church who is currently a Director of Churches Together in England (CTE) and the Revd Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, the Dean of Theology and Religion at South Africa's University of Pretoria, have been named as the two final candidates for the position.

Following searches and interviews by the WCC the two names have been sent to the central committee for the upcoming election. The final decision on the appointment will be made in March next year.

Dr Elizabeth Joy, who is a member of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in the UK, has served in a variety of leadership roles in the ecumenical world for the past 32 years. She is currently a director of Churches Together in England, where she works with a spectrum of more than 51 churches, from the Orthodox to the Pentecostal denominations.

Dr Joy says she is committed to working with churches and communities crossing social and cultural boundaries. “My vision is to promote peace with justice by changing differences seen as stumbling blocks to stepping stones to celebrate diversity,” she says.

Over the years she has worked with the Bible Society of India and as a national coordinator with the Christian Institute for the study of Religion and Society to promote women’s empowerment. In 2000 she became the General Secretary of the Student Christian Movement of India and in 2002 became the executive secretary for Mission Education at the Council for World Mission. She was the Deputy Secretary for Ecumenical Relations for UK Region with the Malankara (Indian) Orthodox Syrian Church across the UK, Europe and Africa; a role she held for almost four years.

Prof Jerry Pillay is currently the Dean of the faculty of Theology and Religion at South Africa's University of Pretoria. He joined the university in 2014 as head of the Department of Church History and Church Policy.

The professor has been involved in ecumenical organisations since his student days and following ordination in the then Presbyterian Church of Southern Africa (PCSA) he went on to represent his denomination in ecumenical bodies both inside and outside South Africa.

From 2004 to 2006 he served as the moderator of the general assembly of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa (UPCSA). He served as a trustee for the Council for World Mission until June 2012.

He has also been involved with the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) for many years and was its president for seven years.

Speaking during his time as President of the WCRC, he said: “My biblical conviction and theological training directed me to the need to be involved in global issues. Particularly, my experience in South Africa under apartheid alerted me to the necessity to be connected with other churches and faiths in addressing the evils and oppression of a political system which dehumanized the majority of black people in our country.”

He is currently spearheading a research project on African Christianity and development and researching African Christianity and what it means from a reformed tradition and perspective in Africa.