The World Council of Churches (WCC) is celebrating the life and legacy of Archbishop (Ephorus) Willem T.P. Simarmata, who was the moderator of the Christian Conference of Asia. He passed away on 17 June at a hospital in Medan, North Sumatra, in Indonesia. He was 68 years old.
Archbishop (Ephorus) Willem T.P. Simarmata, moderator of the Christian Conference of Asia and member of the WCC central committee since 2013. Photo: Plaisir Muzogeye/UEM
29 June 2022
The Christian Conference of Asia organized an online memorial service on 29 June.
During the service, WCC acting general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Ioan Sauca expressed great sadness at receiving the news of Archbishop Simarmata’s passing. He had served on the WCC central committee since 2013.
“For us, Rev. Dr Simarmata was a leader of the largest member church of WCC in Indonesia Batak Christian Protestant Church—Huria Kristen Batak Protestan,” said Sauca. “He was an international ecumenical leader, as the moderator of the Christian Conference of Asia during past seven years and the present moderator of the United Evangelical Mission.”
His life and work not only influenced the spiritual life of people, as his leadership extended to the secular realm, Sauca noted. “He was currently a member of the House of Regional Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia (Upper House),” said Sauca. “As a truthful, accountable and inspiring leader, he was a shining example of exemplary leadership to people all over the world.”
Sauca extended condolences to Archbishop Simarmata’s family members and friends. “Let us celebrate Rev. Dr Simarmata's life and let us emulate his inspiring life,” said Sauca.
Archbishop Simarmata was the Ephorus (supreme head) of the largest Protestant church in Indonesia, the Huria Kristen Batak Protestan (HKBP), from 2012 to 2016.
A prominent leader of the Asian churches and the modern Asian ecumenical movement, Archbishop Simarmata was elected as the moderator of the Christian Conference of Asia at its 14th General Assembly of the CCA held in 2015.
Christian Conference of Asia general secretary Dr Mathews George Chunakara, said that Archbishop Simarmata’s unexpected death was a great loss to the Asian ecumenical movement.
“He was a very fine human being, and was pastoral in his approach,” said Chunakara. “He dealt with everyone in a true spirit of nobility.”
Chunakara added that Archbishop Simarmata consistently stressed the need for following the Christian social call of stewardship and care of creation and also promoted gender equality and the wellbeing of the marginalised and vulnerable groups in his communities.
“His deep commitment and passion enabled him to strive for communal harmony by developing strong interfaith relationships, especially with the Muslim majority in his country, for the common good,” said Chunakara. “This was widely recognised by the people in his country and it was for precisely this reason that he was elected to the country’s parliamentary bodies in recent times.”
Archbishop Simarmata was associated with the Christian Conference of Asia since the early 1990s, and was ordained as a pastor in 1983. A funeral service took place on 21 June at Samosir Island, North Sumatra. He is survived by his wife, H. Lersiany Purba, and five children.