WACC Laureates are individuals who have significantly upheld WACC’s vision, mission and principles in one or more of the following ways:

  • Having demonstrated a long involvement in Christian communication
  • Having had a long association with WACC
  • Having made a significant contribution to the development of Christian communication by encouraging and supporting initiatives in communication
  • Having made a contribution to the field of Christian communication as a communication practitioner
  • Having made a contribution in the field of research, administration, or education
  • Having been active in the promotion and growth of WACC

The following people are present and past Honorary Life Members of WACC. The citations were written at the time the awards were made.

Pfr. Hans Hodel (2013)

Hans Hodel, Swiss theologian and President of INTERFILM 2004 to 2013, began his career in a teacher training school for religion, ethics and media in Bern and, from 1987 to 2003, was film commissioner of the Swiss Protestant Churches. As Jury coordinator of INTERFILM from 1989, and later as its President, he inspired and oversaw an ecumenical presence at many film festivals including Berlin, Cannes, Locarno, and Montreal. Founded in 1955, INTERFILM became an international network for dialogue between church and film, promoting appreciation of cinema’s artistic, spiritual and social significance and calling attention to the relevance of theology and religion for cinema. Hans Hodel continued that tradition, establishing and guiding a series of annual seminars on the theme “Faces of Europe - Europe’s Face” exploring social and theological dimensions of film. He also worked hard to encourage a rapprochement with the Orthodox Church in Eastern Europe. Over many years WACC has maintained close ties with INTERFILM, which for many people is personified in Hans Hodel as a communicator of enormous integrity and dedication.

The Rev. Carlos A. Valle (2010)

Carlos Valle, a Methodist minister from Argentina, was WACC General Secretary 1986-2001. Previously he served on the Executive Committee of WACC’s Latin America Region, WACC’s Board of Directors and as a pastor in Methodist congregations in Argentina. A former President of INTERFILM, the Protestant film organization, Valle was a staff member of the ecumenical theological school, ISIDET, in Buenos Aires, where he taught various courses on communication, especially film and theology. As WACC General Secretary, Carlos Valle worked to strengthen cooperation and commitment between the World Council of Churches and WACC and onvened the first meeting of senior communication leaders in European churches and ecumenical organizations. Upon retiring, Carlos returned to Argentina to serve as a chaplain to students at ISIDET in Buenos Aries, where he continues to write on issues related to communication, to work for his church, and to take an active part in promoting communication rights and social justice. Carlos Valle has written several books, published in both Spanish and English. They include Comunicación es evento (1988), Comunicación: modelo para armar (1990), and Communication and Mission: In the Labyrinth of Globalisation (2002).

The Rev. Dr. William F. Fore (2010)

A minister of the United Methodist Church, Bill Fore was President of WACC (1982-90), and oversaw the difficult transition from the old WACC to the model we now work under which was formally adopted in 1986. For many years he served as the Executive Director of the Communication Commission of the National Council of Churches, USA, where he became recognized as a leader in the field of communication policy and regulation. He is often remembered as saying, if you want to know where the real communication issues are to be found in regulatory matters “follow the money”! In the course of time Bill taught at Yale Theological Seminary and when he retired he also taught communication at the United Theological College in Bangalore, India. Not content to reflect on past achievements Bill launched a website that would publish articles, papers, and research documents related to communication and theology. Two of his best known books are Television and Religion: the Shaping of Faith, Values and Culture and Mythmakers: Gospel, Culture and Media.

Mrs. Shirley Whipple Struchen (2010)

A lay person within the United Methodist Church, Shirley Struchen has worked as an ecumenical Christian communicator all her career. An employee of United Methodist Communications, Shirley was instrumental in introducing the use of satellite downlinks for sharing information important to improving church and community life. Her greatest success was to hold a satellite seminar on youth and gun violence with two weeks of the infamous Columbine High School shooting massacre in 1999 in which hundreds of hospitals, police stations, community centers and churches throughout the United States joined the seminar to learn from experts on kids and guns, violence in the schools. Shirley is equally well known in the ecumenical world for her pioneering work as a co-creator of the Television Awareness Training programme. She was also an active committee member of the Communication Commission of the NCCUSA and in 2002 took on the task of becoming a television producer for the NCC’s quarterly television programming, co-ordinating at the same time access to religious broadcasting on the major US television networks by the Roman Catholic, Southern Baptist, and Jewish faith community of the USA. Shirley played a pivotal role in both the RCC2000 and RCC 2010 interfaith communication congresses, serving as coordinator for both events. Along the way Shirley Struchen found time to serve on the WACC North America Executive Committee, on the WACC Board, and to be an active participant in WACC Congresses.

 The Rev. Ed Willingham (2010)

A Baptist minister, Ed Willingham worked for three decades with the Council of Churches of Detroit and Windsor (a USA/Canadian border city alliance), first as communication officer and eventually as executive director. During his years at the Council, Ed became well know on both sides of the border and to this day takes some pride in celebrating religious, civic and cultural events in both Canada and the USA. Ed Willingham served as one of the North American representatives on the WACC Central Committee from 1973 through 1978. In 1974 Central Committee met in Switzerland and discussed a merger with the WCC’s Literature Group, and in 1975 they met in London to create the ‘new’ WACC - the WACC we know today.  Ed Willingham deserves to be honoured especially for his work with the North America Broadcast Section of WACC. Present in Toronto at the founding meeting of a group of North American ecumenical communicators which decided to form NABS-WACC, as it was to be known, Ed was the executive director of NABS for nearly 30 years. During that time NABS held yearly conventions of one-week duration in which ecumenically minded communicators from the faith communities of Canada and the USA gathered for inspiration, information, renewal and most importantly fellowship. This annual gathering was recognized as the largest annual ecumenical event held in the world. For many broadcasters it also became a source of personal support and discernment. Ed continues to keep the network alive through a monthly newsletter in which past attendees report on current travels, life experiences and professional developments.

Dr Cees J. Hamelink (2008)

Cees Hamelink is an internationally recognized expert on mass communications and communication rights who for many years advised WACC on matters of policy. Director of the Communication Research Unit of the Department of Studies of the Lutheran World Federation in Geneva, Switzerland (1971-76), he was responsible for initiating research projects in developing countries, supervising and assessing ongoing projects and organizing scholarly meetings for policy formulation. In 1977 he became consultant to the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and supervised research projects carried out by the Latin American Institute for Transnational Studies (ILET) and was Research Fellow of the Latin American Institute for Transnational Studies, Mexico (1978-1990). He was Associate Professor for International Communication at the Institute of Social Studies, The Hague, The Netherlands (1980-93), Extraordinary Professor of communication and international relations at the University of Amsterdam (1984-93) and from 1995 professor of communication science, chair of international communication in the Faculty of Social Sciences (Department of Communication Science), University of Amsterdam. His numerous books include Cultural Autonomy in Global Communications (1983), The Technology Gamble (1988), Trends in World Communication (1994), The Politics of World Communication (1994), Preserving media independence: regulatory frameworks (2000) and The Ethics of Cyberspace (London, 2000).

Ms Margaret Gallagher (2008)

Margaret Gallagher (Ireland) is an independent researcher and writer specialising in gender and media. She started her career at the BBC (London), before moving to the Open University where she was Deputy Head of the Audiovisual Media Research Group. For the past thirty years she has been a free-lance consultant, and has carried out research, training and evaluation projects for the United Nations and its agencies, the European Commission, international development agencies and broadcasting organisations. Widely published on women, media and development, recent works include Gender Setting: New Agendas for Media Monitoring and Advocacy (Zed Books, 2001) and Who Makes the News? Global Media Monitoring Project 2005 (WACC, 2006). She serves on the editorial boards of International Communication Gazette, Feminist Media Studies, Media Development, Communication for Development and Social Change, and Communication, Culture and Critique. She is a member of the Governing Board of the Panos Institute, London.

Rt. Rev Horace Etemesi Shitandi (2008)

Horace Etemesi is the Bishop Emeritus of Butere Diocese of the Church of Kenya (Anglican Communion). He trained at St. Paul’s United Theological College, Limuru, before becoming manager of Uzima Press, Nairobi (1975-88) and served as chairman of the Kenya Publishers’ Association (1978-88) and of the Bible Society of Kenya 1987-89). He was a member of WACC’s Central Committee (1979-88) before joining its staff as regional coordinator for Africa and Latin America (1989-94). In 1994 he was appointed diocesan bishop. Now retired, he lives in Shikoti (a village in Western Kenya) on his farm where, with his wife Fran, he has built an interdenominational chapel for a congregation of 60 members. He is the author of The Birth of Christ (Let’s talk about it).

Fr Michael Traber (2006)

Michael Traber was born and educated in Switzerland. In 1956 he was ordained into the Bethlehem Mission Society from where he went to the USA to study sociology and mass communication at Fordham University and New York University (1956-60). He gained his PhD in mass communication. The Bethlehem Fathers’ close ties with Southern Africa led Mike to work in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) as director of Mambo Press and editor of the critical weekly newspaper Moto (1962-70). Mike joined the WACC staff in 1976 as director of its fledgling Periodicals Development Programme and editor of its quarterly journal Media Development. Mike worked for the democratization of communications and to validate the concept of communication rights for all. Similarly, he put his intellectual weight behind the systematic study of the connections between theology and communication. Mike also worked closely with Dr Robert A. White, director of research at the Centre for the Study of Communication and Culture (London) to edit a series of monographs on ‘Communication and Human Values’. He was also President of IDOC, Rome, working closely with its executive director, Heinz Hunke. In 1984 at the suggestion of Hans W. Florin, then WACC’s General Secretary, Mike drafted eight propositions about communication which, after discussion by its Central Committee, became the Christian Principles of Communication. In 1995, on his retirement from WACC a book on The Democratization of Communication was published in his honour, containing contributions from colleagues working in the global field of mass communications. Fr Michael Traber (1929-2006)


Rev. Dr Albert D. Manuel (2005)

It would be unusual to visit a well-established communication house in Africa, Asia or Latin America that would not at some point in its development have come under the influence of Bertie Manuel. A WACC employee from 1973 through 1992, Bertie came to the organisation via the Agency for Christian Literature Development (ACLD) – the successor agency of the Christian Literature Fund. After the ‘new’ WACC was formed at the Skyway Hotel (London) in 1975, Bertie served WACC as director of the newly formed Print Media Development Unit (PMDU). In later years Bertie became Regional Coordinator (Asia) and Director of Project Evaluation, notably promoting his love of print media by initiating a series of workshops and seminars in different regions on content analysis, production techniques, creative editing, financial management and marketing. Some quotes from correspondence from Bertie to his supervisors reveal the nature and style of his work-related travel: ‘...a few appointments in Africa. One had to do with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Addis Ababa, then a workshop/seminar for African children’s literature at Nairobi, Feb 1-7 and the third, immediately following the seminar in Nairobi, in Kampala, Uganda, a Chairpersons’ Seminar on Management.’ Bertie was also known in Latin America. Former WACC General Secretary Carlos Valle recalled that Bertie, while visiting Latin America, had coined the phrase ‘mañana theology’ which could mean putting aside responsibilities for another time, but which could also mean working for a better tomorrow. Bertie’s foundational work for WACC included its long-term involvement in the Frankfurt Book Fair. Albert D. Manuel (1925-2007)

Dr Beverly J. Chain (2005)

Beverly Chain fought tirelessly for gender awareness in WACC. Her leadership within WACC was based on years of experience in communication and a firm belief that WACC would only model its values fully when WACC fully supported women in communication. The governing documents that guide WACC’s work today were written when Beverly was on Central Committee and reflect that tenacious determination. What else would you expect from someone whose biblical vision is drawn from Micah 6:8, ‘...what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?’ Beverly's career began with a degree in journalism, followed by a Master of Arts degree in film and TV writing, leading eventually to a Doctorate in communication and education from Columbia University, New York. Her studies included some courses in theology and her career has always been with the church. She served as a United Methodist missionary in Brazil (CAVE) both using and further developing her journalist skills. As an author Beverly wrote a book for teens, 12 short stories focussed on Latin America, and has contributed many articles to magazines and newspapers including the New York Times and USA Today. Her gift to the world of communication has been the gift of time, energy and creativity as Director of the Office of Communication for the United Church of Christ, USA, as well as the numerous activities related to ecumenical communication. She has served on the NARA WACC executive, on the WACC Central Committee and within the USA has served on the National Council of Churches Communication Commission which she chaired for two terms, and numerous ecumenical communication groups. Beverly’s career association with WACC spans over four decades.

Canon Kevin J. Engel (2004)

The Rev Canon Kevin Engel left high school at a young age due to World War II, but eventually studied at night school to gain matriculation as well as accountancy studies. Eventually he earned a first class honours postgraduate Diploma from Moore Theological College, later Certified Practicing Accountant, and became a Fellow, C.P.A. in 1990. Ordained in the Anglican Church, Sydney Diocese, Kevin, with Dorothy Engel, served two parishes in Australia before travelling in 1954 to Tanganyika (now Tanzania) with the Church Missionary Society. He served as the English-language Pastor in the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Dodoma. Founder and manager of Central Tanganyika Press for 16 years, Kevin also organized literary campaigns, managed bookshops, and served as Education Secretary and in many other ecclesiastical diocesan appointments, concluding with serving as Chancellor of the Diocese (1965-71). His contribution to the African Church was recognized in 1965 when he was made a Canon of the Cathedral of the Holy Spirit, Dodoma. Ever a ‘founder’, Kevin joined Bishop Alfred Stanway in starting the Australian Christian Literature Society (ACLS) in 1972. Through various such agencies Kevin provided training and consultations over the next 27 years in more than 40 countries. Kevin attended the Malta meeting of WACC’s Central Committee in 1976 and continued to have an association with WACC Regional and Central Committees until 1999, at which point his decade of service as the WACC Treasurer came to an end. Throughout his considerable volunteer service to WACC, Kevin found time to serve as General Manager of 14 Christian bookshops in Australia. Many other committees and boards at home and around the world, especially in the field of Christian publishing, have benefited from his skills, insights, experiences and faith.

Ms Murri Selle (2003)

Murri Selle was born and educated in Bavaria, Southern Germany, and studied languages in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (1958-61). Further formation included journalism and political science studies in Munich (1962-67). Upon completing these studies, Murri became Director and Editor of International Information Service ‘Vereinigung für christliche Publizistik’ (Association for Christian Communication) and her career in Christian communication was launched. Radio programmes and newsletters were sent to 350 radio stations, newspapers and universities worldwide. During this time, Murri was also an Assistant to Robert Geisendörfer, Commissioner for Radio and Television of the Protestant Churches of the Federal Republic of Germany, and WACC-Treasurer. The association with WACC continued ever after, and saw Murri travel worldwide as a member of Central Committee and a strong voice for broadcasting and for women in communication. She worked closely with the Lutheran World Federation, the European Group for Television Programmes, and many other secular and religious media institutions. Murri was Secretary of the WACC-Europe Region for nearly three decades, organizing and promoting its International Christian Television Festivals, and she also served as Secretary of WACC Global (1990-93). Until her retirement in 2001, she helped create the prestigious ‘Robert Geisendorfer Prize’ for radio and television given by the Protestant Churches in Germany.

Dr Ezekiel Charles Makunike (2002)

Ezekiel Charles Makunike has managed to pack more into his years than many could achieve given two lifetimes. The story of his creative and exemplary service in the field of communication begins in 1957 when, as a Headmaster, his winning essay ‘Why I want to Study Journalism and How I Would Use it to Help Africa’ led to a scholarship to study for a B.A. in political history and a Diploma in journalism at Nagpur University, India. This was followed by an M.A. Degree in Journalism at Syracuse University, New York in 1969. Zeke served as a working journalist and editor with a number of Methodist publications in the United States, and was then appointed the first African Director of the Africa Literature Centre’s Journalism School at the Mindolo Ecumenical Foundation in Kitwe, Zambia. Serving an ecumenical and international community, Zeke taught and influenced a great many African journalists who today regard him as their journalistic father. Zeke’s skills were highly regarded outside the Church as well, and in 1981 he was named by the Government of Zimbabwe to be the Founding Director of the Zimbabwe Institute for Mass Communication. His professional career and personal commitment to justice and human rights, together with his studies in political science and journalism, prepared him for service to his country as he developed that new Institute. His national role also returned him to the international community where he related to UNESCO, the International Press Institute, and the EEC. His mission in life has been to transform an idea into reality. Ezekiel Makunike (1929-2012)

Edwin H. Robertson (2007)

Edwin Robertson was one of the founders of WACC and served as an Associate Director in its early years. After the 1939-45 War, Robertson was a senior officer in the British Control Commission for Occupied Germany. He realized that the broadcasting industry was highly developed technically, but that production had been subordinated to the State. He vividly remembered that experience when he joined the staff of the BBC in 1949 as Assistant Head of Religious Broadcasting. A few years later, in consultation with a senior colleague, he planned a conference of European broadcasters to work out objectives and methods for religious broadcasting in the context of the latest technical developments. It was held in Chichester, England, 9-13 October 1950 and the Rt. Revd. George Bell was the host. That conference created an informal group of professionals in religious broadcasting that led to the eventual birth of WACC. From 1956 he spent six years in Geneva as study secretary of the United Bible Societies (whose history he wrote and published in 1996) and consultant to the World Council of Churches and the International Missionary Council. From 1964, as executive director of the World Association for Christian Broadcasting (WACB), he was responsible for the mass media training of students from around the world and, together with the Evangelical Alliance and the Roman Catholic Church, he set up the churches’ advisory committee for local broadcasting. Robertson wrote several biographies including, when he discovered that the only serious account of the life of Bishop Bell neglected his involvement with Germany and Bonhoeffer, Unshakeable Friend: George Bell and the German Churches (1995). Edwin H. Robertson (1912-2007)

Dr Wim Koole (1999)

Wim Koole, a theologian from the Netherlands, has known WACC since the early years. Like Edwin Robertson, Koole was involved when WACC was called the World Association for Christian Broadcasting (WACB). As executive director of IKON (the Dutch ecumenical broadcasting organisation), he took part in a WACB-organised meeting of television professionals in 1962. Prior to working at IKON, Koole had been the General Secretary of the YMCA in Amsterdam for eight years. When he entered the world of television, it was love at first sight. In his own words, ‘I was invited to become a member of the preparatory committee of the first UNDA/WACC Christian Television Week in May 1969 in Monte Carlo. For many years I was involved in the organisation of those weeks. Thanks to the half yearly exchange of programmes and information between programme makers, an international network of like-minded people developed. In the meantime IKON was offering young talents a chance to develop their ideas. We enjoyed trying out all kinds of television formats rarely used in religious broadcasting; comedy, pop music, cabaret, musicals, and stories for younger and older children. The Dutch churches were not always so happy with the results, but the prizes we won at festivals were a real solace and help. In 1989 I retired from IKON after 28 years, with the ambition to show the Churches that Christian communication can be present on television in a most intimate way, basing my case on my thesis “Television: the consoler”. We also created an information network called the Co-production Connection, which I ran for seven years. It grew into an intercontinental newsletter to inform about new programmes related to religion and society. I wrote two more books about religious television, and now run my one-man company – Video Ergo Sum, the ironical expression of my love for television, to which I still contribute as a senior adviser. Wim Koole (1929-2009)

Rev. David W. Briddell (1998)

‘David has tremendous appreciation for all kinds of people, cultures, religious expressions. He has a gift for friendship that transcends political and class barriers, colour and custom,’ Betty Thompson once said of David Briddell. Such a glowing tribute from a friend and former colleague says a great deal about what Briddell achieved as director of Intermedia, the National Council of Churches’ agency for international communications (1978-93). During this time he travelled extensively, assisting churches and other agencies in their Christian communications and adult education ministries. Briddell, who retired in 1993, was a United Methodist Minister for 40 years. One of his main passions is film. It was Briddell, perhaps more than any other person, who paved the way for black filmmakers and producers in the United Methodist Church. He believed in letting people tell their own stories: ‘If you’re going to do some resources about the black community, a black filmmaker could perhaps enter that community differently and have insights that a white filmmaker could not have.’ To this end, Briddell was one of the major forces behind WACC’s work in indigenous communications, and he continues to provide both WACC and the Board of Global Ministries with consultative services.

Dr Pauline Webb (1998)

When Dr Pauline Webb was a teenager she felt her career prospects were hindered by being a woman. ‘Even as a journalist, the only two avenues as a woman were cookery and fashion,’ she recently commented. Now Webb, with a long list of achievements next to her name (including four doctorates), must feel she has overcome many of the barriers in her path, helping to pave the way for women worldwide. ‘It’s always worth working for your dream,’ she said. ‘Things can happen.’ Many things have happened, and continue to do so. Even now, in retirement, Webb has just been appointed president of WACC-member Feed the Minds. In 1979 she proved herself wrong by becoming the Organiser of Religious Broadcasting at BBC World Service, with no cooking utensils or sewing machines in sight! ‘It was here that I found my heart was in broadcasting,’ she says. Prior to that Webb spent 27 years working for the Methodist Church. During this time Webb campaigned strongly for the rights of women, saying: ‘I just could not see that being a woman had anything to do with not being fit for the ministry.’ She was also active in bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa, and received an invitation to the home of Nelson Mandela in 1991. Webb was vice-moderator of the World Council of Church’s Central Committee (1968-75) and a member of the WCC’s Communications Committee (1983-91). In 1989 she was a keynote speaker at WACC’s Congress in Manila.

Ms Betty Thompson (1998)

‘Betty Thompson has been a prophetic force in religious journalism for more than four decades.’ So wrote Alma Graham in 1995 in the New World Outlook, which Thompson used to publish. Before her retirement in 1994, Thompson worked for 39 years as a journalist, editor, author, and administrator; a communicator with international and ecumenical concerns. ‘I knew Mother Teresa before she was a star and Desmond Tutu before he was a bishop,’ she once confessed. After a decade with the WCC in Geneva, she spent the next 30 years at the Methodist Board of Missions in New York where she excelled herself in a number of positions within the Communications Dept. Thompson also served on WACC’s Central Committee and North American Executive Committee. In her retirement year, Thompson was acknowledged by the United Methodist Association of Communicators as their Communicator of the Year. That same year also saw her receive the coveted Lipphard award for distinguished service to religious journalism. In her acceptance speech Thompson stated: ‘As the traces of religion disappear from the mass media and culture, the task of church communicators becomes more challenging.’ In all her work Betty Thompson has set high standards for meeting these challenges, and these remain a source of inspiration today.

Dr Doris E. Hess (1995)

Doris Hess is one of the pioneers of WACC. Before it existed, she worked to establish links among communicators and to build institutions to serve them. She served on the organizing committee that brought the Agency for Christian Literature Development (ACLD), an affiliate with the World Council of Churches, and the World Association of Christian Broadcasting into a single agency. During her decade as a missionary of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines (1951-61), she was a champion for church involvement in communications and adult basic education. Her perspective has always been to consider issues from the perspective of local people. Convinced that communication is crucial to mission, she returned to the United States to study, receiving her master’s and doctoral degrees in communications from Syracuse University. As a member of the staff of the World Division of the United Methodist mission agency, Doris traveled constantly developing communications and adult basic education work across the world for nearly thirty years. Her last assignment was as assistant general secretary for functional ministries linking communications, education, global justice, evangelism, women’s work, and youth work. Doris left her imprint on the communications curricula of three universities in the People’s Republic of China and in 1977 she sponsored special training at the Africa Literature Center at Mindolo for 30 young women. They now hold a variety of senior media positions across Africa. In 1983 she was chairperson of the First International Women in Media Consultation held in Beirut, Lebanon. She served on the board of the International Women’s Tribune Centre and her leadership in the ecumenical arena included the Education Unit of the World Council of Churches and Intermedia of the National Council of Churches, USA. Following her retirement she volunteered in 1990 to work to prepare the Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Canberra, Australia. That assignment was cut short by illness. She also assisted WACC prepare for its international conference on Women Empowering Media held in Thailand in 1993. Doris E. Hess (1925-2009)


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