“The excitement is that I feel that I’m where God wants me to be, that God has saved me for this moment,” Pillay said.
That feeling was magnified in the wake of an incident in 2017, when Pillay was nearly hijacked. “In fact I was shot at, and when I was down on the ground, I prayed to God: ‘Is this the end?’ God said to me: ‘I am not finished with you.’ ”
Being the general secretary is not just a job for Pillay—it’s a calling.
Previously dean of the Faculty of Theology and Religion at the University of Pretoria—a job he loved—Pillay always felt in spirit that God wanted him back in the church.
“So this is a very special day,” he said. “The installation itself means a great deal to me because it is the sharing of offering oneself in surrender to God,” he said.
There are many challenges in the world right now, Pillay reflected, and that means it’s an opportune time for the WCC to promote an alternative lifestyle.
“We can mobilize the world into seeing there are other ways,” he said. “These are the ways of peace, the ways of righteousness, the ways of living together as human beings sharing the same planet and serving each other as we serve God in the world.”
Pillay wants to lift the profile of the WCC. “I see the need to speak to non-governmental organizations, to speak with different religions, and to work with all these different stakeholders and ask: how do we create a better world for all people?”
He also acknowledged that the task of the WCC general secretary is not an easy one.
“I would like member churches to pray for me, to have the wisdom that is required, to have the health that is required to have so many activities and responsibilities,” he said. “I’ve been here a month and I will tell you every single day keeps you on your toes!”
He asked for prayers that the WCC may bring the change and impact that churches wish to do in the world. “Pray for guidance, pray for support, pray for the unity of Christians, pray for a world that is suffering and hurting, pray for the World Council of Churches to be able navigate through all these experiences to be the salt and the light in the world.”