Due to continuing restrictions, this year's meeting of Switzerland-France-North Africa Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church took place in a hybrid format - about 100 people were present in Thun (Switzerland); the remaining members participated online.
Hybrid church (physical and online).
The Annual Conference Board wants to encourage the process toward a hybrid church. What congregations do in their chapels and churches does not lose value because of this. However, experience with an online presence has shown that in this low-threshold way people can be addressed who would otherwise probably not dare to take the step into the chapels or churches.
How to deal with what we have?
The UMC is rich: in people, in money, in knowledge and experience, in real estate, in structures. A process has now been adopted for the UMC in Switzerland to help in the use of these resources. It is not a matter of a higher authority telling local churches what to do, nor is it a matter of comparing them with one another. Rather, it is about equal criteria regarding the impact of the church's work - and about local churches asking themselves the questions based on their own development: What helps us to really do what Jesus intends us to do? And consequently, how do we best use our "wealth"? Where is it important to expand? Where are we stuck, and it is necessary to rebuild? Where is it also necessary to let go and reduce something?
From For to With
Quite a few activities in the local churches are, by their very nature, for other people. The Annual Conference Board has encouraged local churches to think more about finding ways to develop and carry out activities with other people. Not least, this involves transforming people from consumers to co-participants and co-responsible parties. This also includes working with open and committed people who do not belong to the church.
Who belongs to the church?
The Theological Committee presented a document with thoughts on belonging to the UMC. For example, is it possible and helpful for the mission of the church to separate this affiliation from an associational membership in the association UMC Switzerland? How can the affiliation to the UMC be designed so that people who are searching for meaning and ultimately carry the longing for God within themselves can also dare to take this step? How can people who cannot yet answer the questions about professing membership, but who already participate in the life of the local church, express their will to belong in a more low-threshold way?
A colorful church
Is there room in the UMC for people who stand on the foundation of faith in Jesus Christ and want to take the Bible seriously, but who think differently about questions of human sexuality? Under the title "Kaleidoscope", the Annual Conference Board proposed to the members a way to enable as many people as possible to stay together. It is not about people having to change their personal attitudes. Nor is it about wanting to create unity by having everyone think alike on an issue. Rather, the goal is to preserve the unity given by Christ - even where people think differently on an issue. The time until General Conference 2022 shall be used to hold conversations and prepare a way for people with different convictions to feel respected and integrated.
- New District Superintendent for the Bern District (Switzerland): Brigitte Moser
- New District Superintendent for Algeria and Tunisia: Freddy Nzambe.
- District Superintendent for Belgium and France (as of January 1, 2022): Grégoire Chahinian
- District Superintendent for French-speaking Switzerland (as of January 1, 2022): Etienne Rudolph
- In the closing service Markus Allenbach and Chae Bin Kim were ordained elders.
Compiled by: Urs Schweizer, Assistant to the Bishop, Zurich (Switzerland)