Divinity alumni elected to key posts in World Council of Churches

Yale Divinity School alumni leaders from around the world gathered last month for the World Council of Churches (WCC) 10th Assembly in Busan, Republic of Korea.

The Reverend Chang Sang ‘70 M.Div. and Gregory Sterling, dean of the Yale Divinity School

The Reverend Chang Sang ‘70 M.Div., an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, was elected as the WCC president for Asia, one of just eight presidential positions. A respected scholar in New Testament studies, she was a founding member of the Korean Association of Women Theologians.

Throughout her career, Sang has been a strong advocate and promoter of women’s rights. She is past president of Ewha Women’s University and has also served on various committees for reconciliation and reunification of the Korean peninsula. In 2002, President Kim Dae-jung appointed Chang to be the first woman Prime Minister of the Republic of Korea.

Also at this year’s assembly, four Divinity alumni were elected to the WCC central committee: Sharon Watkins ‘84 M.Div., general minister and president of the Christian Church; Angelique Walker-Smith ‘83 M.Div., executive director of The Church Federation of Greater Indianapolis; Geoffrey Black ‘72 M.A.R., general minister and president of the United Church of Christ; and Silishebo Silishebo ‘94 S.T.M., chaplain for the Council of Churches in Zambia.

The WCC conference is “the most important ecumenical meeting of Christians in the world,” said Greg Sterling, dean of the Yale Divinity School (YDS), in an interview with Notes from the Quad.

“Diversity in Christianity exists on a scale you don’t recognize when you think of diversity within the U.S.,” he added. “As much as we have a heterogeneous population with people from different parts of the world, the WCC was very heterogeneous in ethnic identity, in languages, in cultures — it’s refreshing.”

The WCC was founded in 1948 after World War II in an effort to bring unity to Christianity. Comprised of 345 churches in more than 110 countries, it represents over 500 million Christians, including most of the world’s Orthodox churches; many Anglican, Baptist, Lutheran, Methodist, and Reformed churches; and several United and Independent churches. The organization convenes every seven years to elect a central committee that governs between assemblies.

Walker-Smith served as the host of a daily 15-minute news program during this year’s assembly and moderated a session one day. “She’s very talented,” said Sterling. “We have some very important alumni who have places of influence in Christianity.”

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Amy Athey McDonald: amy.mcdonald@yale.edu,