Reformed Churches establish Swiss-wide diaconal institution

During its fall session, held November 3 and 4 in Bern, the Assembly of Delegates (AD) of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches passed a resolution to establish a Swiss-wide social welfare institution (“Diakonie Schweiz”) and increased funding for providing pastoral care to asylum seekers. Jean-Marc Schmid (BE) was elected AD President for 2015-2016.
Photo: Thomas Flügge, FEPS

Creating a Swiss-wide diaconal institution
The situation of the diaconal institutions on the national and regional levels is increasingly confusing. In 2011, this assessment led to a project to pool and interconnect the diaconal institutions (“Motion Diaconia”). In the resulting reorganization model, the existing diaconal institutions will be consolidated on a national level. Yesterday, the project was presented to the delegates and accepted by them. The strategic management of the Swiss-wide diaconal institution will be taken over by a council of those members of the cantonal church executive authorities who are in charge of diaconal services.

Resolution to the Federal Council
The Delegates also addressed two motions from the ranks of the churches. They unanimously passed a resolution by the Reformed Churches Bern-Jura-Solothurn. The Delegates call upon the Federal Council to significantly increase the refugee quota for persecuted Syrians and UNHCR-registered refugees from other Middle Eastern countries and other world regions to a total of 5000. For the first time since the Second World War, there are more than 50 million refugees all over the world. The churches and their parishes must do their part and offer their hospitality to refugees.

In accordance with a motion by the Protestant-Reformed Church of Canton Basel-Landschaft, the FSPC Council was commissioned to advocate for the observance of the Swiss Constitution and international humanitarian law, which according to those submitting the motion are being violated and questioned more and more frequently, and to clearly state its position regarding this issue.

Pastoral care for asylum seekers
The 2014 Summer Assembly of Delegates had decided to continue the solidary partial funding of pastoral care services for asylum seekers in the federal centers for 2015-2018 and to extend the scope of receiving member churches. Yesterday, the Delegates agreed to increase the funding to CHF 350‘000 for 2015. The main reason is the high number of refugees currently taken in by the reception and processing centers, emergency shelters and temporary federal centers, resulting in significant additional strain for the churches and their pastoral care services.

Elections of AD presidency and vice-presidency
Jean-Marc Schmid of the Reformed Churches Bern-Jura-Solothurn (BEJUSO) was elected President of the 2015 and 2016 Assembly of Delegates. Schmid had been Vice President of the FSPC AD since 2011. “All too often, the church is reduced to the parish level alone. But this level is not enough. That’s why I am pleased to be working on a broader level,” said Schmid, who is also the parish pastor of Court. The elected Vice-Presidents are: Claudia Haslebacher (BE), pastor of the Protestant-Methodist Church, and Annelies Hegnauer (ZH), communication expert of the Swiss Church Aid (HEKS) organization.

The AD approved the 2015 budget including the member contributions of the FSPC member churches. The Council was also commissioned with finding alternatives to the current method of calculating member contributions.