URC minister elected as WCC president

The Revd Dr Susan Durber was elected as President of the European Region of the World Council of Churches (WCC) at its Assembly in Karlsruhe, Germany, on 5 September.

In total, eight new presidents were elected following a vote involving 574 delegates.

The presidents are ex-officio members of the WCC central committee, and Dr Durber has just stepped down as the WCC’s Faith & Order Moderator.

“I am moved, surprised and profoundly honoured to have been elected as WCC President for Europe,” Susan said.

“I have been involved in the work of the WCC since I first went to a world conference on faith and order as a younger theologian in 1993.

“This new role gives me a privileged opportunity to do what I love; to meet with people among different churches and to speak for an ecumenism that is grounded in relationships and in shared faith, that listens to the voices of all the people and that is committed to justice, peace and the healing of creation.”

According to the WCC constitution, the role of the WCC presidents is to promote ecumenism and interpret the work of the WCC, especially in their respective regions.

“As the churches and peoples of Europe face the very deepest challenges right now I will give my strength to the ecumenical movement in bringing a counter-cultural call for unity,” continued Susan.

“I cannot know in detail everything that this role might yet entail, but I am ready to serve as needed. I hope I can bring my experience in the WCC with the longing I hold that we find our true unity in the church, in humankind and in all creation.

“I am grateful for the support of my family, of our own united church, and of my many friends within the fellowship of the WCC.”

The WCC Assembly is the highest governing body of the World Council of Churches (WCC), and normally meets every eight years.

The seven other new presidents, who will serve in their new roles until the next Assembly, are:

  • Africa: the Revd Dr Rufus Okikiola Ositelu, of the Church of the Lord in Nigeria
  • Asia: the Revd Dr Henriette Hutabarat-Lebang, from Gereja Tora, a Reformed church in Indonesia
  • Caribbean and Latin America: the Revd Philip Silvin Wright, of the Anglican Cathedral Church of St John the Baptist in Belize City
  • North America: the Revd Dr Angelique Walker-Smith of the National Baptist Convention USA, Inc
  • Pacific: the Revd François Phiaatae, of the Maòhi Protestant Church in French Polynesia
  • Eastern Orthodox: H.E. Metropolitan Dr Vasilios of Constantia – Ammochostos, Church of Cyprus
  • Oriental Orthodox: H.H. Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Cilicia, at the Catholicosate in Antelias.

Susan is a retired URC minister who has served in several local churches, the last one in Taunton, and as Principal of Westminster College in Cambridge and Theological Advisor for Christian Aid.

She first came across the WCC as a theological student when Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry was published in 1982.

“We discussed it between the theological colleges in Oxford where I was studying.”

After attending the WCC Conference on Faith and Order in Santiago da Compostela 1993, she attended, a few years later, a consultation for theologians in Turku, Finland where they were inducted into the ecumenical movement and mentored by those with much experience.

Susan was then elected to serve on the Plenary Commission on Faith and Order and then the Standing Commission from which I worked as a co-moderator of the study group on Sources of Authority.

In 2014, Dr Durber was nominated to be Moderator of the Faith and Order Commission, she has also served as part of the study group, within the commission, on the work on the church – and has been part of the group beginning planning for a new kind of world conference, Nicaea 2025.

Susan has been a member of the theological study group of the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace and engaged in pilgrim team visits to Bangladesh, Winnipeg (by Zoom), women in North America (by Zoom), and Armenia, and has written articles for the Ecumenical Review and the International Review of Mission, as well as co-editing a book for the Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace with Professor Fernando Enns.

She adds: “The pilgrimage has particularly led me to reflect and write about white privilege and the legacy of colonialism.”

The Revd Sarah Moore, Deputy Clerk to the United Reformed Church General Assembly, who also serves as Sarah Moore, the National Synod of Scotland’s Transition Minister, has been been re-elected for a second term to the WCC’s Central Committee.

Main image: WCC Presidents 2022. Albin Hillert/WCC