Kenyan songs and African drums heralded the installation of Rev. Sam Kobia, a Methodist from Kenya, as the new general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
“Serving the churches and the ecumenical vision will sustain my life and work,” Mr. Kobia, the first African to hold the WCC’s top executive post, pledged at an installation service at the council’s Geneva headquarters.
In his sermon, Rev. Clifton Kirkpatrick of the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. quoted American civil rights leader Martin Luther King who once said that “eleven o’ clock on Sunday morning (when may U.S. churches hold their services) is the most segregated hour of the week.” Mr. King had been referring to churches segregated between black and white congregants, but Mr. Kirkpatrick suggested the saying could be applied more generally to the importance of ecumenism for churches segregated in separated denominations.
“The fastest growing segments of Christianity seem to be those least related to the ecumenical movement,” said Mr. Kirkpatrick. “The rise of fundamentalism in all religions is literally tearing the world apart through violence and mistrust.”
Born in 1947 in Miathene, Meru, Kenya, Mr. Kobia was elected general secretary of the World Council of Churches in August 2003, and took up his new post in January 2004.