Christ: the center of faith and head of the Church. Bishop Patrick Streiff placed this at the center of the opening sermon of this year's meeting of the Czech Republic Annual Conference. He, Christ, creates the oneness of the members of the Church - and not uniform convictions. Bishop Streiff invited those present, therefore, to orient themselves again and again to Christ. He did not choose the theme of unity by chance, since the Annual Conference was faced with the momentous decision to separate from The United Methodist Church and found an autonomous church because of the question of how to deal with the topic of human sexuality.
Friday afternoon and Saturday morning offered the representatives of the parishes and social-diaconal organizations the opportunity to present their work to the new bishop Stefan Zürcher in partially illustrated reports. The work of two institutions in Pilsen, for example, which offer professional street work, contact centers for homeless and addicted people, rehabilitation programs or prevention work in schools, is impressive. Well networked with various public agencies and other private institutions, they can count on their support.
On Saturday afternoon, the proposal for separation from the denomination and the formation of an autonomous Methodist Church in Czechia was presented to the members of the Annual Conference for discussion and decision. In a joint agreement, the pastors had previously agreed to continue to use the traditional wording in the definition of marriage. In a respectful atmosphere that also gave space to voices of dissent, those present discussed the motion on separation that went beyond that. With a two-thirds majority, the Annual Conference decided to form an autonomous church in a process lasting several years, in which all levels, from the Annual Conferences to the Central Conference to the General Conference, must take a stand. The new Bishop Stefan Zürcher expressed his sadness about the decision, but also made it clear that he would respect the decision and support the further process as far as possible.
In his sermon at the closing service, Bishop Zürcher invited the conference congregation to take courageous and hopeful steps in the uncertain and challenging future. Just as Jesus held out his hand to the sinking Peter, he also held out his hand to the church and its members today. During the service, Bishop Streiff and his wife, Heidi, were bid farewell with a big thank you, and at the same time Bishop Zürcher and his wife, Valérie, were welcomed with bread and salt. The 2023 meeting of the Czech Republic Annual Conference ended with the commissioning of Filip Gärtner as a probationary deacon and with Holy Communion.
Urs Schweizer, assistant to Bishops Streiff and Zürcher, Central Conference of Central and Southern Europe, Zurich.
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