The Church Federation is becoming the “Protestant Church in Switzerland PCS”

A national Synod, a “Day of the Church” and a new name: The Swiss Protestant Church Federation is sending the draft of a new constitution for consideration.
Peter Schmid, Kristin Rossier, Gottfried Locher

The protestant cantonal churches wish to intensify their cooperation and more and more to address their concerns together to the public. These are two main aims of the church federation’s draft constitution, which is being presented to the public today at a media conference in Bern.

„Unity in variety. That is the aim of the new constituton. The cantonal churches remain independent, yet together constitute the Protestant Church in Switzerland. Protestantism finally gets a voice that can be heard across the country. That strengthens the churches in their own locality. That is what a federal church looks like and that is how we shall meet the future,“ says the President of the church federation, Gottfried Locher.

Together with the new constitution the church federation will also receive a new name. In future it will be known as “The Protestant Church in Switzerland PCS”. The new name underlines the fellowship and community of the protestant churches with each other and takes account of the new significance of the PCS for church law.

The constitution foresees church government by a Synod, Council and President.

A new annual Synod will be established at national level. This is the forum where relevant questions will be debated and strategies developed. The members will be elected by the cantonal synods. The Council, with nine members, represents the interests of the churches before federal authorities, national institutions and international organizations and takes responsibility for witness to the Gospel in national and international dimensions. The President, finally, represents the protestant church externally and internally and is particularly responsible for its visibility.

In addition, in future the “Day of the Church” will be celebrated every second year along with the national Synod. The aim is to create a national public occasion for the church membership to express itself on social themes and take part in shaping the Synod’s strategies.

Peter Schmid, Vice-President of the Council, says on this: “The new constitution strengthens Swiss Protestantism through the clear, threefold division of responsibility for leadership and the further development of the democratic tradition. The opportunities for participation are being extended.”

The Council is inviting all church circles to join in a broad debate on the new constitution. The draft will go to the member churches in June in the framework of a consideration procedure. At the same time the Council is making the draft available to the whole church public as well and inviting it to express views. An internet online forum will be opened on 17th June at www.sek.ch/verfassungsrevision, where all interested can share their opinions.

“The revised constitution is a welcome occasion to open an important discussion on the future role and shape of the Protestant church in Switzerland,” says Kristin Rossier Buri, Vice-President of the Council.

The consideration procedure lasts until 30th November 2013. The draft, revised on the basis of the feedback, will then be discussed by the delegate assembly of the church federation, with approval anticipated in the summer of 2015. The new constitution should come into force on 1st January 2016.

In the summer of 2011 the delegate assembly had commissioned the church federation to revise its constitution, because the federation’s existing legal basis was not adequate to today’s demands. It is a statute of association and basically dates from the period after the First World War. The new constitution establishes a clear foundation in church law for the Protestant Church in Switzerland. Aspects relating to rights of association will be regulated in a separate statute.