Home > Our World > News > News Archives by Date > News Archive 2008 > March 2008 > News - March 2008
Dyck joins search committee for new WCC leader

The Rev. Samuel Kobia participates in a news conference at the World Council of Churches Central Committee meeting. Kobia is not seeking an extension to lead
the ecumenical association after 2008. UMNS photos by Peter Williams,
World Council of Churches.

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
March 3, 2008

A United Methodist bishop is part of a World Council of Churches committee that will search for a new leader to succeed the Rev. Samuel Kobia.

The 150-member Central Committee is the WCC’s main decision-making body between assemblies.


Kobia––a Methodist from Kenya and the first African to lead the WCC––announced during the WCC Central Committee meeting Feb. 13-20 in Geneva that he would not seek an extension to his first term, which ends Dec. 31.

The 150-member Central Committee is the WCC’s main decision-making body between assemblies, which occur every seven years or so.

United Methodist Bishop Sally Dyck of Minneapolis is part of an 18-member search committee appointed to screen candidates to become chief executive of the ecumenical organization. The search committee met initially on Feb. 19 and will meet again in July in Germany.

Dyck told United Methodist News Service the committee will first review the job description and roles and responsibilities of the chief executive. "It feels like the world is changing and you need to be really clear about what you’re expecting from that role and, therefore, who can fill it," she said in a Feb. 28 interview.

Bishop Sally Dyck


The WCC executive committee will appoint an interim leader at its September meeting to serve from Jan. 1 until the new chief executive takes office, which is expected to happen by the end of 2009.

Other Methodists on the search committee are the Rev. Sanele Faasua Lavatai, Methodist Church of Samoa, and Itayi Ndudzo, Methodist Church in Zimbabwe.

Long discussions

Two United Methodists, Lois Dauway and the Rev. Larry Pickens, serve on the council’s executive committee and were present for long discussions regarding Kobia’s request that he not be re-nominated.

Dauway believes Kobia's request surprised most of the meeting's participants. "There was a concerted effort to ask him to reconsider his decision," she said. "We literally spent hours in that process. But in the end, he said that for personal reasons he chose not to renew his contract."

Kobia, 60, took office in January 2004, and the committee conveyed its appreciation for his leadership. "I think Sam knows how much his gifts and skills were appreciated," Dauway said.

Dauway said Dyck will be an asset to the search committee, not just because of her skills but because of her fresh perspective as a new central committee member. "She will raise questions, I think, in new ways," Dauway said.

United Methodist Lois Dauway (left) speaks with the Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson of the United Church of Christ USA during a break.


Pickens said he thinks Kobia had a desire to remain in the post but "there were some dynamics there that made that almost impossible." Kobia decided to do what he thought best for him and his family, Pickens explained. During the central committee’s last session, Kobia spoke of his continued commitment to the council and the ecumenical movement.

According to Pickens, Kobia has expressed an interest in getting back in touch with his Methodist roots and possibly enroll in a doctoral program at a United Methodist seminary. Ecumenical News International reported Feb. 14 that Kobia said he was shocked to learn that Fairfax University, in Baton Rouge, La.––from which he received a doctorate in 2004––was not accredited.

Pickens said he would work with Kobia to facilitate his interest. "I think he would be an asset to any of our seminaries," he added.

Celebrating 60th anniversary

As the World Council of Churches celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2008, the Rev. Walter Altmann, the WCC moderator, opened the central committee meeting with a renewed call to "visible unity" in the church.

"We live in a deeply changed world and with a profoundly changed religious setting today. But there is no need to change this basic commitment which has gathered the churches in the WCC fellowship throughout these 60 years," he told the committee.

In "The Power of One," her sermon at the body’s opening worship, Dyck noted that one of the WCC’s strengths has been its strong voice for justice, peace and reconciliation.

Kobia (from left), Jackson and Ecumenical Patriarch H.A.H. Bartholomew celebrate with youth at the WCC's 60th anniversary worship service.

"Yet how can we do that—what right do we have to speak—if we don’t demonstrate being one with each other?" she asked. "The power of One in Christ Jesus calls us to love one another and to make our mission to be in relationship with each other … starting with us here."

The Rev. Motoe Yamada, associate pastor of Wesley United Methodist Church in San Jose, Calif., and a central committee member, said she has been heartened by the formation of a special 25-member commission on youth for the WCC, which has adopted the name "Echos."

She met the four vice moderators of Echos during the meeting and said she has appreciated the support from Kobia, who once was a WCC youth steward himself.

Yamada, who is co-chairperson of the young adult task force for the WCC U.S. Conference, said she is excited that two of the search committee's top 10 vote-getters are young adults.

Action items

In other business, the central committee:

  • Celebrated the WCC’s 60th anniversary during a Feb. 17 Sunday worship service at St. Pierre Cathedral attended by top church and ecumenical leaders, along with government officials;
  • Welcomed the Independent Presbyterian Church in Brazil and the Lao Evangelical Church, the first WCC member from Laos, into full membership, bringing the council’s total membership to 349;
  • Named Kingston, Jamaica, as the host city for the council’s International Ecumenical Peace Convocation in 2011, a culmination of the WCC's Decade to Overcome Violence;
  • Approved statements on the crises in Kenya and Pakistan, the democratic electoral process and the use of cluster minitions;
  • Issued "minute" statements on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, global warming and climate change, and the need for "sensitivity and reconciliation in shifting society;"
  • Asked Kobia to send a letter of support to the Serbian Orthodox Church affirming efforts towards peace in Kosovo. 

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

Related Articles

WCC leader calls for end to violence in Kenya

WCC committee advocates for vulnerable people

WCC assembly elects Central Committee


World Council of Churches

WCC youth

Bishop’s Corner

Ask Now

This will not reach a local church, district or conference office. InfoServ* staff will answer your question, or direct it to someone who can provide information and/or resources.


*InfoServ ( about ) is a ministry of United Methodist Communications located in Nashville, Tennessee, USA. 1-800-251-8140

Not receiving a reply?
Your Spam Blocker might not recognize our email address. Add this address to your list of approved senders.

Would you like to ask any questions about this story?ASK US NOW

Original text