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Election of new World Council of Churches General Secretary delayed by Coronavirus

Posted on: March 10, 2020 2:40 PM
The two candidates nominated for the role of General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Dr Elizabeth Joy and Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, will have longer to wait before the election can take place.

The Moderator of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC), Dr Agnes Abuom, has announced that this month’s meetings of both the WCC’s Central Committee and its Executive Committee have been postponed. The Central Committee was due to elect a new General Secretary, to succeed Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, who stands down at the end of this month.

Dr Abuom, from the Anglican Church of Kenya, wrote to Central Committee members saying: “the decision is a prudential one, taking into account all relevant information and assessing the total risks for the participants, the WCC as an organisation, the integrity of a meeting of the governing bodies under these circumstances, and for the health of all involved in such a gathering, directly or indirectly.

“The decision reflects an abundance of caution about the possible difficulties members would encounter in travelling safely abroad and ensuring a quorum for decision-making, as well as ensuring the health of attendees and other participants.”

The Central Committee had been due to elect a new General Secretary. The final two candidates are Dr Elizabeth Joy of the Malankara Orthodox Church, a Director of Churches Together in England, and Prof Dr Jerry Pillay, the Dean of Theology and Religion at South Africa’s University of Pretoria.

Last week, Dr Abuom announced that the Central Committee’s leadership team had appointed Father Professor Ioan Sauca as Acting General Secretary. He will take up his temporary role on 1 April and continue until the WCC Executive Committee meeting in June. 

The Deputy General Secretary of the WCC, Father Professor Ioan Sauca from the Romanian Orthodox Church, will serve as Acting General Secretary from 1 April until the WCC’s Executive Council meeting in June.
Photo: World Council of Churches

Professor Sauca, from the Orthodox Church in Romania, has been Professor of Missiology and Ecumenical Theology at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey since 1998 and its director since 2001. He has served as a WCC Deputy General Secretary since 2014.

“Father Sauca is a senior colleague, well- qualified for this, and we will support and pray for him in these new responsibilities,” Dr Abuom said.

Dr Olav Fykse Tveit will be consecrated and installed as Presiding Bishop of the Church of Norway on 26 April. The Church of Norway is part of the Lutheran World Federation. Through the Porvoo Communion, it is in full communion with a number of Anglican provinces: the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Lusitanian Church of Portugal, the Scottish Episcopal Church, the Reformed Episcopal Church of Spain and the Church in Wales.