African to Take Top Post at WARC

The Christian Century, September 8, 1999 | Go to article overview

African to Take Top Post at WARC


The World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) has appointed a theologian and pastor originally from Ghana, in west Africa, as its next general secretary. Setri Nyomi, 45, a senior executive with Africa's main ecumenical organization, the All Africa Conference of Churches, will be the first non-European general secretary of WARC, which was founded in 1875.

Today WARC has 214 member churches--Presbyterian, Congregational, Reformed and United--most of which are in the southern hemisphere. WARC was based in Edinburgh until 1948, and until then all general secretaries were Scottish. After the World Council of Churches was set up in Geneva after World War II, WARC moved its headquarters to the same city. Since then it has had two Swiss general secretaries, who were followed by Milan Opocensky, a Czech theologian who retires from the post next year after ten years in the position. The general secretary is the chief executive officer of WARC, which in its present form is the fruit of a 1970 union between the original Presbyterian alliance and the International Congregational Council.

The annual meeting of WARC's executive committee, which took place in Taipei, the Taiwanese capital, announced Nyomi's appointment July 5. According to a report by the search committee, WARC received 31 applications from four women and 27 men. After interviewing the short list of one woman and five men, the committee unanimously recommended the appointment of Nyomi.

In his opening address at the same meeting, WARC's president, Choan-Seng Song, a specialist in systematic theology and professor at California's Pacific School of Religion and Graduate Theological Union, declared that the ecumenical movement is out of touch with people in the churches.

Song said that since the 11-day WARC gathering in July was the last such meeting of the 20th century, "I decided to be very frank this time--we tend to be polite ecumenically." In his address, Song charged that mainstream church bodies such as WARC and ecumenical organizations have failed to respond to a growing spiritual awareness among ordinary people.

Referring to the financial problems faced by WARC and many confessional and ecumenical bodies, Song declared that perhaps the "financial coffer is empty because the spiritual coffer of our member Christians is empty. Or perhaps [WARC's] spiritual coffer itself, after more than a century, has become empty." Song has served as a staff member of both WARC and the World Council of Churches. Song stressed that his analysis was limited to his personal perceptions, and at various times during the executive committee meeting he praised WARC's staff in Geneva.

The main target of Song's speech was the "ecumenical mind-set," which he believes is far removed from both authentic spirituality and the day-to-day lives of the millions of Christians who attend services in churches involved in the ecumenical movement. …

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