Medan, Indonesia: The Moderator of the Christian Conference of Asia (CCA), Archbishop Willem T.P. Simarmata officially announced that the CCA’s Executive Committee had unanimously voted to re-elect the CCA General Secretary, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, for a second term.
Dr Simarmata made the announcement at the opening session of the Congress of Asian Theologians (CATS)-IX held in Medan, Indonesia, where more than 130 Asian theologians and church leaders received the news with applause.
A cross-section of representatives from different countries were invited by the CCA Moderator to come to the dais and wrap Dr. Mathews George Chunakara with a traditional ‘ulos’ as a symbolic expression of extending their congratulations. The ‘ulos’ is a meticulously handwoven traditional textile of the Batak people of North Sumatra in Indonesia, and is usually presented as a symbolic ceremonial gift to respected people on special occasions.
A special prayer was offered by church leaders representing the CCA’s member churches from different Asian countries.
Dr Willem T.P. Simarmata stated that the decision of the re-election of Dr. Mathews George had been unanimous.
The CCA Moderator elaborated upon the decision-making process, saying, “According to the CCA’s constitutional provisions, the Executive Committee has been vested with the authority to elect or re-elect the General Secretary of the CCA. All Executive Committee members who met in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, were of the firm conviction that Dr Mathews George was dedicated and capable in continuing to lead the CCA. His vision, determination, and certitude are clear and evident.”
Dr Simarmata further explained the process of the decision making. “Prior to the Executive Committee meeting, the officers of the CCA held a detailed interview with Dr Mathews George and evaluated four years of his work and performance. Dr Mathews George was given the opportunity to share his future vision and strategic plans for CCA, and he clearly elucidated his foresight and strategy. The officers, being fully satisfied with his work and commitment for the CCA, then presented the recommendation at a closed-door session of the Executive Committee meeting for further deliberation and action,” he said.
Dr Simarmata added, “During the process of arriving at a decision, I opened the floor for comments from the Executive Committee. Every single member of the Executive Committee commended the excellent work that Dr Mathews George has been doing for the CCA so far, and agreed that his re-election was in the best of the CCA’s interests. There was no question of, or negative opinion against his re-election for a second five-year term starting from June 2020. Being understood the fact that we need his vision and service for the CCA in the coming years, the Executive Committee unanimously voted in favour of Dr Mathews George’s second term.”
Dr Simarmata extended his warmest congratulations to Dr Mathews George. He shared, “Dr Mathews has several achievements to his credit. I congratulate him and I will support him in the future, as I have always done. I pray for his continuing success, and hope to see the CCA being elevated to even greater heights during his second term at the CCA.”
Dr Mathews George Chunakara was unanimously elected as the tenth General Secretary of the CCA in February 2015, at a meeting of the CCA’s General Committee held at the Assumption University in Bangkok, Thailand.
Dr Mathews George enters into an illustrious legacy of re-election, as this is only the third time in the CCA’s 62 years of history that a General Secretary has been re-elected for a second term.
Rev. Dr D.T. Niles (Sri Lanka), the first General Secretary of the CCA, had also served for two consecutive terms for a decade from 1957 to 1967. In 1981, Bishop Yap Kim Hao (Singapore) was re-elected for a second term and held the office of the General Secretary until 1985. Since then, all subsequent General Secretaries have served only one term each.
Dr Mathews George Chunakara, a lay member of the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church in India, has served the Asian and global ecumenical movement in various capacities during the past three decades; including his tenure in CCA as an Executive Secretary for Indo-China Concerns, International Affairs and Human Rights from 1993 to 2000; Asia Secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland; as well as the Director of the Commission of the Churches on International Affairs of the WCC from 2000 to 2014.
The CCA underwent a major programmatic restructuring after Dr Mathews George assumed his responsibilities as General Secretary. He has since been initiating several innovative programmes and activities during the past four years, which was acknowledged by the CCA’s Executive Committee, as well as CCA’s member constituencies.
In response to a question about his future plans for the CCA and its programmes, Dr Mathews George Chunakara said that he would continue to initiate and implement programmes that would help in revitalising the CCA and the Asian ecumenical movement. “We live in a situation that poses innumerable challenges in Asia every day, and the CCA has a major role to play in coordinating and facilitating the programmes and activities that will respond to the emerging challenges as part of our prophetic witness and mission in Asia,” he said. The CCA General Secretary added that he hopes to continue to live up to the trust that has been placed in him, directed by divine guidance.