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Ecumenical News International, an award-winning agency reporting on religion and based at the World Council of Churches (WCC), has been temporarily closed and had its two top editors removed, one of them said on Monday. The decision, taken at a meeting of its executive committee last week, comes after the Geneva-based WCC cut the agency's funding and its former head criticised its coverage.
The suspension and leadership changes led to the resignation of the ENInews president and its treasurer, both senior figures in Scandinavian Protestant churches, a report by the agency said. WCC officials said the agency was not being closed but would resume some time in 2011 with one part-time editor. (Photo: Geneva, April 29, 2008/Valentin Flauraud)
Earlier this year the WCC, which has been ENInews's main funder and in whose headquarters the agency was based, said it was reducing its financial support for 2011 by over 50 percent.
The WCC is an umbrella body linking Protestant and Orthodox churches around the globe. An acting spokesman for the organisation told Reuters on Monday that the funding decision was "part of a broad redeployment of WCC resources" and had been a "key element in decisions related to the re-shaping of ENInews."
The Rev. Samuel Kobia has informed the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee that he won't seek a second five-year term after all. The WCC has just put out a statement that "buries the lead," as we say, by starting off saying it has appointed a search committee for a new head, to be elected in September. It then says Kobia had informed the Central Committee of his decision, citing personal reasons for not running again. His term ends in December.
“The central committee received this news with regret but accepts the decision of the general secretary. We want to respect his decision and privacy,” WCC Central Committee moderator Rev. Dr. Walter Altmann said Monday night, according to the statement. “We want to express the deep gratitude of the World Council of Churches for the dedicated services he has given to the council since becoming general secretary in January 2004.”
Only a few days ago, Samuel Kobia from Kenya was running unopposed for a second five-year term as general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) at its Central Committee meeting now being held in Geneva. The story seemed pretty ho-hum. Then the German Protestant news agency epd revealed he had a "digital doctorate" from a unaccredited diploma mill in the U.S. Now he's in danger of losing his job running the WCC, the global Christian grouping of 349 churches (mostly Protestant, Anglican and Orthodox) that represent more than 560 million believers around the world. Our correspondent in Geneva Robert Evans reports he may be on his way out. The rumour making the rounds is that we may hear as early as Tuesday that he will not be there much longer.
All because of a phony Ph.D? No, there's a lot more where that story came from. The epd also ran a scathing interview with Lutheran Bishop Martin Hein of Kassel, the top German on the WCC Central Committee, in the run-up to the meeting. He made it abundantly clear that the German Protestants, who contribute one-third of the WCC budget, had lost patience with Kobia. Here's a taste of what he said:
The Rev. Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), has had to drop his Ph.D in religious studies from his resumé because it came from a U.S. diploma mill that was never accredited and no longer exists. Ouch!
Kobia told a news conference in Geneva he had no idea that the Louisiana-based university had no right to award the degree he got in 2004 after three years of work via the Internet.