Who will head the World Council of Churches as its new general secretary?

The decision will be made by the WCC’s Central Committee at a meeting that begins next week in Geneva. The sixteen men and two women on the nominating committee are pledged to secrecy. But speculation is rife, and most of its points to the best known ecumenical engineer in the Western Hemisphere, Dr. Eugene Carson Blake.

Endorsement of Blake has gained momentum. But he has refused to comment on widespread reports that name him as the most likely successor to the retiring W. A. Visser ’t Hooft, general secretary of the WCC since it officially began in 1948 and even before then in a provisional status. Insiders say Blake will take the job if the 100-member Central Committee votes decisively to make him the offer. In the current ecumenical era, the position could become the most prestigious in the non-Catholic ecclesiastical world.

This is the Central Committee’s second attempt to fill the post. Earlier it had assigned the responsibility of selecting a nominee to its fourteen-member Executive Committee, which came up with the name of the Rev. Patrick C. Rodger. Although he had been head of the WCC’s Faith and Order Department, Rodger, a Scottish Episcopal priest, was relatively obscure.

His nomination was made public long before the Central Committee voted on it, and some felt it had been released in such a way as to appear tantamount to election. The resulting controversy split the World Council badly. The Central Committee voted a year ago to take no action on the Rodger nomination and appointed a special nominating committee to consider more names. Rodger is technically still in the running, but few give him much chance.

The present nominating committee ...

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