28 August 2003

Africa: Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia Elected As New WCC General Secretary

press release

The Rev. Dr Sam Kobia, currently WCC special representative for Africa, has been elected as the new general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Kobia will succeed Rev. Dr Konrad Raiser, and will take office in January 2004.

The election took place during a closed session of the WCC Central Committee in which the 134 voting members considered two candidates presented by the search committee: Kobia and the Rev. Canon Dr Trond Bakkevig.

In announcing the result, the Moderator of the Central Committee, His Holiness Aram I expressed "thanks to our common Lord" for his guidance in this important decision. He stressed that it was a very smooth, responsible and serious process and not a choice in the strict sense of the word.

Speaking to Dr Kobia, he said: "I am sure that you will accept this call, which we believe is from God, to serve the ecumenical cause". He also expressed deep appreciation to Dr Bakkevig for his commitment to the WCC and the ecumenical movement.

Thanking the Committee for its confidence in him, Kobia said, "To gain the capacity to inspire the world we need inner strength. Our strength lies also in our unity. As we reiterate that the WCC is first and foremost a fellowship of churches whose primary purpose is to call one another to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, and 'to advance that unity so that the world may believe', we must work together and be seen to be working together."

He concluded with an African saying: "If you want to walk fast, walk alone. But if you want to go far, walk together with others".

Born in 1947, Kobia is from Kenya, and is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Kenya. He has degrees and diplomas from institutions in Kenya and the USA. He is married to Ruth, and they have two daughters and two sons.

Kobia has wide ecumenical experience. He has served as WCC executive secretary for Urban Rural Mission, and as general secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya. He helped reorganise the Zimbabwe Christian Council after independence, chaired peace talks for Sudan in 1991, and in 1992 chaired Kenya's National Election Monitoring Unit. He returned to Geneva in 1993 to become executive director of the WCC's Justice, Peace and Creation unit.

He is the author of books dealing with social and theological issues in Kenya and on the future of Africa.

A press conference with Kobia will be held on Friday, 29 August at the Ecumenical Centre, beginning at 12:40 pm.

Samuel Kobia - Director and Special Representative for Africa of the WCC Biographical Information

Born in 1947, Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia is currently director and special representative for Africa, of the World Council of Churches (WCC). From 1999 to end-2002, he was the director of the WCC Cluster on 'Issues and Themes'. Dr Kobia is from Kenya, and is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Kenya.

He gained a Diploma in Theology at St Paul’s United Theological College, Kenya, as well as a Diploma in Urban Ministry from McCormick Theological Seminary, USA. In 1978, he obtained a Masters degree in City Planning (MCP) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA. In 1993, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Divinity by the Christian Theological Seminary, Indianapolis, USA.

From 1978 to 1984, Dr Kobia was WCC executive secretary for Urban Rural Mission. In addition he served as secretary of the WCC Africa Task Force. In 1984, he returned to Kenya to become director of church development activities with the National Council of Churches (NCCK), advising NCCK member churches on the formulation, implementation, management and evaluation of development projects. In September 1987 Dr Kobia was appointed NCCK general secretary. Returning to Geneva in August 1993, Dr Kobia took up the post of executive director of the WCC's Unit III - Justice, Peace and Creation. In 2000, he spent a sabbatical as a fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University.

Among his many social and political and ecumenical involvements, Kobia helped reorganize the Zimbabwe Christian Council after independence (1980-81), chaired the Frontier Internship in Mission (FIM) International Coordination Committee (1981-85), was vice-moderator of the Commission of the WCC Programme to Combat Racism (1984-91), helped found the Nairobi Peace Group (1987) and the Fellowship of Councils of Churches in Eastern and Southern Africa (FOCCESA), chaired peace talks for Sudan in 1991, and in 1992 chaired Kenya's National Election Monitoring Unit.

Along with Origins of Squatting and Community Organization in Nairobi (1985) - a revised version of his masters thesis published in book form, and Together in Hope, the official report (1990) of the NCCK conference on the mission and calling of the church in Kenya, Dr Kobia has written two books focusing on Africa. The Quest for Democracy in Africa (1993) considered the conditions under which democracy in Africa might succeed or fail; The Courage to Hope (scheduled for September 2003 publication) is a result of many years of collective struggle to come to terms with Africa's dilemmas.

Dr Kobia is married to Ruth, and they have two daughters, Kaburo and Nkatha, and two sons, Mwenda and Mutua.

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