South African pastor Jerry Pillay elected general secretary
A South African pastor elected general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC). Member of the United Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, Jerry Pillay, 57, was elected on Friday 17 June. As of January 1, 2023, he will replace Ioan Sauca, a Romanian Orthodox priest, who has been acting Secretary General since April 2020.
Dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria, Jerry Pillay thus becomes the ninth secretary general of the WCC, founded in 1948, which defines itself as a “community of 352 churches (mainly Orthodox, Chalcedonian and Oriental, but also Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist…) of more than 120 countries, representing more than 580 million Christians in the world”. The non-member Catholic Church is associated with the work of the WCC.
The new general secretary is the second representative of the African continent to be elected to this position after the Kenyan Methodist pastor Samuel Kobia (2004-2009). As the WCC statement points out, » the general secretary is the highest rank on the executive staff and has ultimate responsibility for the activities of the WCC and its staff”.
Jerry Pillay wishes to place his action in the light of the notions of justice and unity. « I believe that unity is the main mission of the WCC, which I believe must continue to work for visible unity, but also for Christian unity, which is so importanthe said after the announcement of his election. The witness of a divided church is weak, diminished, and fragile in the face of a deeply fragmented world. »
Promoter of dialogue
Furthermore, he explained that God invites us “to care for the poor and the marginalized (…) and to stand with the oppressed and their suffering”. “As a South African, I am uniquely placed to know that the WCC played a vital role in dismantling apartheid, standing with Christians in solidarity”underlined the pastor, South African of Indian origin by his » great great grandfather « .
On his story, Jerry Pillay explained that he had traveled to India several times to try to « reconnect » with its origins: “But, in reality, I feel deeply South African, even if I carry within me something of India. »
Asked about one of the burning issues currently under discussion at the WCC, namely the attitude to adopt with regard to Kirill, the patriarch of Moscow, a supporter of Vladimir Putin, the future secretary general defended the « dialogue ». “We need the Russian Orthodox Church (member of the COE, Editor’s note) take part in these conversations with us, assured Jerry Pillay. Because, without it, no exchange is possible. It is for this reason that we are not currently considering its suspension. »