Fraternal Address at the Synode of
June 7, 2013, St. Gallen,
by Rev. Dr. Dölf Weder, President of Executive Council
Dear Brothers and
Sisters in Christ,
it gives me great pleasure to welcome you all here in the Canton and
City of St. Gallen.
We are a comparably
small protestant church her in the north-east of Switzerland. We have some
110’000 members in 52 parishes. They cover the city of St. Gallen, a
number of urban towns and agglomerations, as well as some really small
communities in rural areas. Our smallest parish counts 159 members only.
You come from all
around the World. And you have come here to work as a worldwide brother-
and sisterhood in Christ, to discuss important topics of Mission in
I convey to you the
warm regards of the Executive Council of the Protestant-Reformed Church
here in the Canton of St. Gallen. May our Lord be with you in all your
discussions. May He grant you wisdom in your decisions and bless all your
important work back home.
It is not by chance
that our Council decided to invite you here for your Mission Synode 2013
Our Church has a long standing history and tradition of supporting Mission
and Dialogue in a worldwide dimension.
Mission and Dialogue Are
Essential Parts of any Church's Mission
Dialogue are simply an essential part of any Church’s identity and
mission. There is no Church without Mission and Dialogue. That we can see
already in the texts of the New Testament.
I myself am also
personally very much influenced and shaped by international work. I was
employed during 17 years by the
YMCA, the worldwide
Christian youth organization; 10 years as its Secretary General for
Working with and
traveling in around 50 countries during that time, greatly influenced my
view of the World, and deeply shaped my personal Christian faith and life.
You simply think, believe and act differently after such experience.
Being in open and
honest dialogue and interaction with Christian sisters and brothers all
over the world is so important and enriching for all of us – and even more
so in today’s ever globalizing world.
But Mission is more
than changing the thoughts and believes of human beings only. – It always
has been more.
It’s not only about
thinking and talking. It’s also about practical action – always has been.
In Christian faith,
words and deeds go together. “Walk your talk”. I add: “And sometimes talk
about why you walk”.
Mission is about
mutual sharing one’s resources. Resources are believes and thoughts.
Resources are people and money. Resources are agricultural knowledge, are
human rights and community building know-how. And a lot more.
In earlier times,
Christians in the Western World were not always enough aware that Mission
is not a one-way exercise – but mutual sharing.
I’m not even sure
whether all of us Northerners are enough clear about that today - I
But when looking at
our secularized, so called Christian societies here in the North, one
simply must become aware how important the faith and the Christian
commitment of the Christians in the South have become for our Churches
We here in the
Western North need you, dear Sisters and Brothers in the South!
We need your
commitment. We need your faith. We need your way of believing. And we need
your challenging us.
It is quite on that
line, that your Board proposed you today an interesting change in your
constitution. Besides the already existing Continental Assemblies for
Africa, Asia and Latin America, a new one for Europe shall be established.
In future, four Continental Assemblies shall together, – and with equal
rights – shape the identity and direction of mission21.
German, Swiss and
other churches have been called to get involved and actively participate
in this participatory process. Our St. Gallen Church already has decided
to do so.
There are some other constitutional
matters you have to decide on today: legal matters and changes because of
developments in society’s understanding of what kind of activity is
considered charitable and of public interest here in Switzerland.
Churches, sometimes are forced to adapt to changing realities around them.
In my opinion that’s not really a problem in this case.
Rooted in Faith, Caring for People
What really matters
is that we remain true to our identity and mission in all our actions.
And what is
essential for our identity and mission? - Both as a Mission organization
and as a Church?
I want to answer
this question by quoting the Vision Statement of our St. Gallen Church:
We want to be a
Church “nahe bei Gott – nahe bei den Menschen” -
„close to God –
close to the people“.
In my opinion, this
also very well summarizes the essential task of any Mission organization:
To be rooted in the faith in God and Jesus Christ. And to be close to the
real people in their everyday life.
These two things
belong together in Christian faith. They are inseparable. You cannot be
close to God without caring for the people around you. And you cannot
really understand the people around you and care for them, if you do not
see them in the light of God’s love for them.
Jesus Christ lived
that in a way we can never reach. But he opened us our eyes for God’s love
and for the needs of our neighbors.
Dear friends, dear
Sisters and Brothers in Christ, I wish you that you in your personal
lives, as well as responsible persons for Mission 21 may be “close to
God – close to the people”.
And I wish you that
you have fruitful discussions and take wise decisions during your stay
here in St. Gallen.
We fully support
you. May God bless you.