World Council of Churches elects first female and African moderator

(Photo: WCC / Peter Williams)Bishop Mary Ann Swenson, United Methodist Church, USA (L) the new vice-moderator of the World Council of Churches Central Committee and Dr. Agnes Abuom, Anglican Church of Kenya the new moderator, the first female and first African in the position on November 8, 2013 in Busan, South Korea.

BUSAN, South Korea - The World Council of Churches' newly installed 150-member Central Committee has elected its first African and first women to the position of moderator

Dr. Agnes Abuom of Nairobi, from the Anglican Church of Kenya was elected moderator on November 8 after its first meeting following the Assembly, the highest governing body of the WCC which ended hours earlier.

Abuom was elected unanimously to the position, as the first woman and the first African in the position in the 65-year history of the WCC, the world church grouping said in a statement Saturday.

Two vice-moderators were elected, United Methodist Church Bishop Mary Ann Swenson from the United States and Rev. Gennadios of Sassima of the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

"My open prayer is that we shall move forward together, in the next years, despite our diversities that have the potential to divide us," Abuom said shortly after her election.

She said she wanted the WCC to "continue to remain an instrument for providing a safe space for all who can come and share their hopes, aspirations and visions, and prophetic voice."

Aboum said a prophetic voice is vital for "ecumenism in the 21st century and the Church in our world today."

She said says the model of consensus governance of the WCC "resonates very well with feminine decision-making processes," consultative and careful listening and seeking to understand the other person's perspective.

Abuom's areas of work include economic justice, peace and reconciliation.

Gennadios, who will serve his second term as the WCC Central Committee vice-moderator, is a professor of theology.

He served as vice-moderator of the WCC's Faith and Order Commission from 1998 to 2006 and he was a staff member of the Faith and Order secretariat in Geneva from 1983 to 1993.

He is involved in a number of bilateral dialogues involving the Orthodox, the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches among others.

In addition to being vice-moderator of the WCC Central Committee, Gennadios has served as a member of the presidium and of the governing board of the Conference of European Churches.

Swenson, who will also serve as the vice moderator of the Central Committee, was ordained to the ministry by the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church in 1973.

She also served as senior pastor of First United Methodist Church, Wenatchee, Washington from 1989 to 1992.

While a pastor in Wenatchee, she also served as president of both the Board of Directors of the Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Center, and on the Board of Directors of the North Central Washington AIDS Coalition from 1989 to 1992.

Swenson was elected as a bishop of the United Methodist Church by the 1992 Western Jurisdictional Conference. She now serves as president of the church's General Commission on Christian Unity and Inter-religious Concerns (GCCUIC).

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