World Council of Churches

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WCC general secretaries since 1948

WCC general secretaries since 1948: Willem A. Visser 't Hooft, Eugene Carson Blake, Philip A. Potter, Emilio Castro, Konrad Raiser, Samuel Kobia, Olav Fykse Tveit.

Willem A. Visser 't Hooft (1948-1966)

(*1900 Haarlem, Netherlands; † 1985 Geneva, Switzerland)
Netherlands Reformed Church/National Protestant Church, Geneva

A brilliant and visionary Christian leader from the Netherlands, Willem Visser 't Hooft was named WCC general secretary at the 1938 meeting where the WCC was first formed. He fulfilled this function until his retirement in 1966. A major concern for him was linking the ecumenical movement to enduring manifestations of the church through the ages. In 1968, the WCC 4th Assembly elected him honorary president of the WCC.
Click here to read a short biography.

Click here to read his address at the WCC's 1968 assembly in Uppsala: "The Mandate of the Ecumenical Movement"

Eugene Carson Blake (1966-1972)

(*1906 St. Louis, Missouri, USA; †1985, Stamford, Connecticut, USA)
United Presbyterian Church in the USA

Eugene Carson Blake served as WCC general secretary from 1966-1972. Previously, the talented administrator and ecumenical leader had served as stated clerk of the United Presbyterian Church in the USA and as president of the National Council of Churches in the USA. An ardent advocate of the civil rights movement, he helped launch the WCC's Programme to Combat Racism.

Click here to read his 1971 address: "Is it still a movement?"

Philip A. Potter (1972-1984)

(*1921 Roseau, Dominica; † 2015, Lübeck, Germany)
Methodist Church

Philip A. Potter, a Methodist pastor, missionary and youth leader from Dominica in the West Indies served as WCC general secretary from 1972-1984. A forceful speaker and leader of Bible studies, he insisted on the fundamental unity of Christian witness and Christian service and the correlation of faith and action.
Click here to read a tribute to Philip Potter.

Click here to read his address to the WCC's 1983 assembly in Vancouver: "A House of Living Stones"

Emilio Castro (1985-1992)

(*1927, Montevideo, Uruguay; † 2013, Montevideo, Uruguay)
Evangelical Methodist Church of Uruguay

Emilio Castro, a Methodist pastor and theologian from Uruguay who had previously served as director of the WCC commission on World Mission and Evangelism, was the WCC general secretary from 1985-1992. He achieved prominence among Protestant leaders in Latin America by virtue of his eloquent preaching and progressive views on Christianity and the social order.
Click here to read a tribute to Emilio Castro.

Click here to read his 1984 article: "Ecumenism and Evangelicalism: Where are we?"

Konrad Raiser (1993-2003)

(*1938 Magdeburg, Germany)
Evangelical Church in Germany

The Lutheran theologian Konrad Raiser was WCC general secretary from 1993-2003. He once described his ecumenical calling as a "second conversion". During a sometimes turbulent period for the ecumenical movement, he led the Council in a redefinition of its Common Understanding and Vision and in a fundamental review of the participation of Orthodox member churches.

Click here to read his 2003 address at the Ecumenical Kirchentag in Berlin: "The Way of Ecumenism: Gratitude and Commitment."

Samuel Kobia (2004-2009)

(*1947 Miathene, Kenya)
Methodist Church in Kenya

Samuel Kobia, an ordained minister of  the Methodist Church in Kenya, took up office as WCC general secretary in January 2004. Following his election, he called on the churches to "work tirelessly towards the healing of the world and the restoration of human dignity."
Click here to read a short biography.

Click here to read his 2005 address: "Ecumenism in the 21st century"

Olav Fykse Tveit (2010-2020)

(*1960, Norway)
Church of Norway

A pastor from the Lutheran communion, the seventh general secretary began his term of office in January 2010 following nine years as leader of the Church of Norway's council on ecumenical and international relations. Bringing wide experience in interreligious dialogue, Tveit had also served as co-chair of the Palestine Israel Ecumenical Forum core group and as a member of the WCC's Faith and Order Plenary Commission.

Short biography

Article by Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit to mark the WCC's 70th anniversary: "Walking Together, Serving Justice and Peace"

A special issue of the WCC journal The Ecumenical Review to mark the WCC's 70th anniversary includes these contributions as well as an appreciation of each of the WCC's past general secretaries.

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