Rekindling relations between the Protestant churches of China and Switzerland

A delegation led by Gottfried Locher, Council President of the Federation of Swiss Protestant Churches (FSPC), visited Shanghai, People’s Republic of China from November 16 to 24. The delegation met with its Chinese partners and renewed their Memorandum of Understanding that has linked the two countries since 2005. A framework for cooperation on the 2017 Reformation Anniversary was also established.

At the East China Theological Seminary in Shanghai (left center: FSPC Council President Gottfried Locher; right center: President Rev. Xue Bin Shen)

With the renewal of their Memorandum of Understanding, the Protestant churches of China and Switzerland have underscored their intention to cooperate in educational matters and post-doctoral theological education in particular. This will allow church leaders to acquire modern and ecumenically-oriented theological approaches. The rapid growth of the Chinese church has made it more difficult to maintain the same course while bringing about a sense of unity and cohesion within congregations.

Chinese participation in the Reformation Anniversary

Protestant Europe is gearing up to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017, with the FSPC working closely together with the Evangelical Church in Germany (EKD) to that end. The FSPC would also like to establish a large presence in Wittenberg, the center of the festivities, in 2017. The suggestion for the two churches to begin working together on preparing a Chinese presence there as well was met with great enthusiasm in Shanghai.

Years of relations

Switzerland’s Protestant churches have already been maintaining contacts with the Protestant churches of China since 1985. The church in China views itself as a church in development. The denominational distinctions usual for us in Europe are not made there to the same extent. The question of unity is just as important in China as it is for us in Europe, both within Protestantism and outside of Christianity. China’s rapidly growing Protestantism is working to develop a contextual theology in the midst of a Chinese culture that is thousands of years old.