Spring 2000
Volume 4 Number 4

by Kent Annan

"The major historical significance of my being the first African named general secretary is the affirmation that the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) is truly a world alliance," says Setri Nyomi, a 1991 Ph.D. graduate of Princeton Seminary, as he begins his five-year term. "I happen to be African, and I celebrate this coincidence for all people of African descent. But I am happy for our entire constituency, not just the African part."

Setri Nyomi, far left, is the first African general secretary of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches"I’m delighted that Setri is African," says Jane Dempsey Douglass. "Three-fourths of our Alliance churches are from Asia, Africa, and Latin America. I’m glad they will be represented on this level." Douglass — former president of WARC, current honorary member of WARC’s General Committee, and PTS professor emerita — has worked with Nyomi and thinks he will serve excellently in his new role.

In April, Nyomi assumed the top position of a vast organization. WARC is a network of more than two hundred Con-gregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, and United denominations. It links more than seventy-five million Christians in more than one hundred nations. Through councils and committees, WARC writes theological position papers, studies issues affecting church and society, sends delegates to address injustice in the nations of member churches, represents Reformed churches in bilateral dialogues with other Christian traditions, and holds consultations to discover how Reformed churches can minister together more effectively.

Its stated mission is "to strengthen the unity and witness of Reformed churches, to interpret and reinterpret the Reformed tradition, to work for peace, economic and social justice, human rights, and the integrity of the environment, to promote fully inclusive community, and to further dialogue with other Christian communions and other religions."

WARC’s history traces to London in 1875 with the formation of the Presbyterian Alliance, an ecumenical organization of forty-nine churches located primarily in North America and English-speaking Europe. The Presbyterian Alliance sought to strengthen its members and coordinate global and local missions. In 1970, the Presbyterian Alliance joined with the International Congregational Council (est. 1891) in Nairobi, Kenya, to form WARC.

How quickly the pages of history read; how important the turn of each event. Nyomi’s appointment is monumental — but not shocking — because it results from 125 years of global development. "My election as the first non-European marks a milestone in the realization of WARC’s history," he says. What started as predominantly white, European-American organizations with global visions have converged into an organization with 165 of its 216 member denominations from Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America, the Middle East, and the Pacific. WARC’s twenty-six-member executive committee reads like a United Nations roster. The current president is from Taiwan. The last general secretary was from the Czech Republic. Nyomi is Ghanaian.

The central office is now in Geneva, Switzerland — appropriate as this was Calvin’s city, a city of the Reformation, and WARC’s churches find their origins in the Swiss Reformation. Nyomi’s April 9th installation service was held in St. Pierre Cathedral, once the church of Calvin.


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