Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay
On 17 June 2022, the WCC central committee elected Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay as the general secretary to lead the work of the WCC as chief executive officer, including final responsibility for the work of the Council and its staff, and to speak on its behalf. He began serving as general secretary on 1 January 2023.
He is the ninth general secretary in the WCC’s history since the fellowship of churches was founded in 1948.
Pillay was previously dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria. A member of the Uniting Presbyterian Church in Southern Africa, he is from South Africa.
His interest in ecumenism began as he was growing up in Sunday School, when different churches asked him to write, produce, and act in plays. He also led a youth group of about 120 people in a Uniting Presbyterian Church, and recalled that young people came from every church in the area.
Eventually he represented the Uniting Presbyterian Church at youth conferences. Then he became, as a pastor, quite involved in ecumenical work. “Whenever I went into a particular area to pastor a congregation, if there was not fellowship of pastors in that area, I would start one,” he said. “I was instrumental in getting different pastors from different congregations together.”
When he became part of the leadership of the Uniting Presbyterian Church, he was appointed to serve on the WCC central committee, and was also appointed to the board of trustees of the Council for World Mission.
He also served on the National Executive of the South African Council of Churches for many years, and was the first President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches from 2010 - 2017.
His first formal engagement with the WCC was at the WCC 9th Assembly in 2006, where he served as a delegate from his denomination.
He brings to the general secretary position his desire for the churches to come together. “If we are true to the spirit, then we need to be working together,” he said. “That’s because God’s love does move us to transform and reconcile the world.”
With church unity as one of his absolute priorities, he also believes that churches need to offer guidance and direction to a suffering world. “We will be dealing with issues of justice, of oppression, of systemic violence, and so forth,” he said. “We don’t just gather to worship and pray and praise — which is a very important thing for us to do — but we also gather to transform the world to reflect the Glory, love and justice of God.”