FSPC Women’s Conference discusses Reformed confessions

The Women’s Conference of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC) met in Bern to discuss the “Confession Workbook”, which all are invited to comment on by this summer.

“Confession: An opportunity for a post-patriarchal church?” was the title of the Women’s Conference of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC) which met in Bern on April 4, 2011 with extensive discussions in response to the FSPC “Confession Workbook”. This publication presents a selection of confession texts, asking readers to consider the place that these texts are to have in Reformed churches in the future. The discussion process will extend through June 2011. Since women form a majority within the Reformed churches of Switzerland, as the conference organizer Simone Weil put it: “Our contribution is therefore very important.”

In his talk at the conference, Pierre Bühler, professor for systematic theology at the University of Zurich said that confessing means being “God’s witnesses to the world.” He added that Reformed confessing is distinguished by the fact that there is no final or obligatory collection of confessions: “Confessing is in itself more important than the determination of any particular confession.” Bühler explained that tensions could arise between one’s own confessional profile and ecumenical openness.

“For a long time, what was said in confession was less important to women than the act of confessing itself,” said Regine Munz, professor for systematic theology at the University of Basel. Confessions, she added, always involve inclusion and exclusion, expressing what is irreconcilable with one’s beliefs. Every confession is thus a “public act of providing information about oneself.”

“How can concerns specific to women be brought into this process?” asked Judith Wipfler, the moderator of a program about religion on Swiss radio station DRS2, during the panel discussion. Susanne Graf-Brawand, a member of the confession initiative group, said that it was important for women to become involved in the public discussion within the FSPC and not to practice “noble reserve” instead. FSPC council member Daniel de Roche spoke of how the Reformed churches of Switzerland had the opportunity to “find common ground” in the confession project.

The Women’s Conference closed with a statement on the consultation process for the confession project. The delegates agreed that there must continue to be freedom of confession. The goal should be a choice and not an obligatory confession. This choice should, moreover, be both developed by women and have feminist confessions to choose from. The diversity of confession in terms of singing, dancing, acting, or remaining silent should also be taken into account.