Samuel Kobia

Samuel Kobia (born March 20, 1947 in Miathene, Meru, Kenya), is a Methodist clergyman and the first African to be elected General Secretary (2004–2009) of the World Council of Churches (WCC),[1] a worldwide fellowship of 349 global, regional and local churches representing a Christian population of over 590 million people. In 2010, Kobia was appointed Ecumenical Special Envoy to Sudan by the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).[2] Kobia is married to Ruth, and they have two daughters, Kaburo and Nkatha, and two sons, Mwenda and Mutua.

Samuel Kobia
General Secretary, World Council of Churches (2004-2009)
Personal details
Samuel Kobia

March 20, 1947
Miathene, Meru, Kenya
DenominationMethodist Church of Kenya
SpouseRuth Kobia
ChildrenKaburo, Nkatha, Mwenda, Mutua
OccupationGeneral Secretary, World Council of Churches (2004-2009) General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Kenya (1987-1993)
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology, McCormick Theological Seminary, St Paul's United Theological College

Early lifeEdit

Sam Kobia grew up in a rural home in Meru, eastern province of Kenya, where he completed primary and secondary education under the British colonial system. His ecumenical career began with his studies at St. Paul's University, Limuru, Kenya), where he graduated with a diploma in Theology in 1971.[3]

Study and work abroadEdit

Kobia then moved to Chicago and enrolled in the McCormick Theological Seminary to study urban ministry. His interest in urbanization and its impact on African cities lead him to continue further exploration in this field. He applied and was accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology where he graduated with a Masters in City Planning (MCP) in 1978.[4] His thesis paper for his Master's is titled Origins of squatting and community organization in Nairobi.[5]

In 1978, after graduating from MIT, Kobia and his family moved to Geneva, Switzerland to take up the post of Executive Secretary for Urban Rural Mission at the World Council of Churches (WCC). Kobia spent most of his career at the WCC.From 1978 to 1984, he was executive secretary for Urban Mission at the WCC in Geneva, and served as secretary of the WCC Africa task force.[6] He would eventually head the international organization from 2004-2009.

In 1993, Kobia earned a Doctor of Divinity (honorary degree) from the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. In 2000, he spent a sabbatical year as a fellow at the Center for the Study of Values in Public Life at Harvard Divinity School, Harvard University.[7]

Return to KenyaEdit

In 1984, Kobia returned to his home country to serve as Director of Church Development activities at the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK). Three years later, in 1987 he was elected General Secretary of NCCK. He served as General Secretary from 1987-1993.[7] Under his leadership, the NCCK was vocal about the need for multi-party politics in Kenya and campaigned against repression during the Moi era.[8][9]

Global LeadershipEdit

From Kenya, he returned to Geneva, Switzerland in 1993 to serve as Executive Director of WCC's Unit III - Justice, Peace and Creation. In 2003 he was elected General Secretary; his election was received with endorsement by global peers.[10][11] During his acceptance speech he quoted the African proverb "If you want to walk fast, walk alone; but if you want to walk far, walk together".[12] In this spirit, he worked to promote greater unity in the ecumenical movement through collaboration and dialogue.[13]

In 2005, he rejected the accusation of anti-Zionism against the WCC and stated that anti-Semitism is a "sin against God and man" and "absolutely irreconcilable with the profession and practice of the Christian faith," quoting from the first assembly of the WCC in Amsterdam in 1948.[14] He has nevertheless been critical of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories, calling it "a sin against God".[15]

The same year, he paid a tribute to Pope John Paul II on behalf of his efforts for ecumenism.[16]

Kobia served as General Secretary for one term resigning in 2009.[17] Kobia's resignation come as a surprise to the Central Committee, who stated that he had their "full support" despite harsh criticism from Rt. Rev. Martin Hein.[18]

In 2010, Kobia was appointed Ecumenical Special Envoy to Sudan by the All Africa Conference of Churches (AACC).[2] Kobia has deep knowledge of Sudan having worked with the late John Garang in 1990 when the WCC set up peace talks between the mainstream SPLM/SPLA led by John Garang and the SPLM/SPLA United led by Riak Machduring. Kobia led the six-month-long talks, which were sponsored by the National Council of Churches of Kenya and the People for Peace of the Catholic Church in Kenya, with technical assistance from Nairobi Peace Initiative-Africa.[19] In this current post, he continues his role as peacemaker and global leader.

Selected publicationsEdit

Kobia has written numerous papers and articles on Africa, peace and ecumenism. His publications reflects his vision, his working experiences. He is the author of the following books:

  • Dialogue Matters: The Role of Ecumenical Diplomacy in the Run-up to the Independence of South Sudan (2013)
  • South Sudan: Free at Last (2011)
  • Celebrating Life: A Festa da Vida (2007)
  • Called to the one hope: a new ecumenical epoch (2006)
  • The courage to hope: the roots for a new vision and the calling of the church in Africa (2003)
  • Why you should vote (1992)
  • The old and the new NGOs: approaches to development (1985)
  • The origins of squatting and community organization in Nairobi (1978)

External linksEdit


  1. ^ "Rev. Dr. Samuel Kobia Elected As New WCC General Secretary". Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  2. ^ a b "AACC Declares 2010 a Special Year for Sudan". Worldwide Faith News (WFN). Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  3. ^ "Samuel Kobia, Rev". Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  4. ^ "Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia WCC general secretary 2004-2009". WCC. Archived from the original on 7 October 2012. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  5. ^ "Urban Studies and Planning - Master's degree". MIT. hdl:1721.1/16220. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |url= (help)
  6. ^ Christoph, Stückelberger (March 2018). "Samuel Kobia. Ecumenical, Passionate, Peacemaker". Ecumenical Review. John Wiley & Sons. 70 (1): 16–20. doi:10.1111/erev.12348.
  7. ^ a b "Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia". Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  8. ^ Aubrey, Lisa Marie (1997). The politics of development cooperation: NGOs, gender and partnership in Kenya. Routledge. p. 95. ISBN 978-0-415-15185-6.
  9. ^ Kleinberg, Remonda Bensabat (2000). Economic liberalization, democratization, and civil society in the developing world. Macmillan. p. 101. ISBN 978-0-312-23087-6.
  10. ^ "Former HDS Fellow Elected Head of WCC". Harvard Divinity School. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  11. ^ "How Sam Kobia Made It to the Helm of WCC". Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  12. ^ "Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia Elected As New WCC General Secretary". Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  13. ^ "Transforming the world together". WCC. Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  14. ^ "Ekklesia - WCC rejects anti-semitism accusations - news from ekklesia". 15 December 2015.
  15. ^ " - This website is for sale! - Gasoline Resources and Information". {{cite web}}: Cite uses generic title (help)
  16. ^ " - WCC NEWS: Samuel Kobia pays tribute to Pope John Paul II".
  17. ^ "Kobia issues final address as WCC General Secretary". Retrieved 12 June 2011.
  18. ^ "Kobia quits after CV query".
  19. ^ Sudan: Race and Religion in Civil War. Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs. 2011.