From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Autonomous churches to join Swiss, French United Methodists

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Thu, 13 Jun 2002 14:24:59 -0500

June 13, 2002        News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212) 870-38037New York

By United Methodist News Service

The United Methodist Annual (regional) Conference of Switzerland/France has
agreed with a request from an autonomous group of French Methodist churches
to join the denomination.

Meeting in early June in Basel, Switzerland, the conference delegates voted
to integrate the Methodist Church in France into the United Methodist Church
during the next three years, according to the Rev. Peter Siegfried, a
conference member and an executive with the United Methodist Board of Global

Representing nearly 1,000 members in nine congregations, the majority of the
churches are in the Cevennes Mountains in Southern France, along with one in
the Rhone Valley and one in Paris. 

The Methodist Church in France has had occasional mutual visits with United
Methodists for years, Siegfried said. Two years ago, the denominations
created five joint commissions to study such issues as theology, worship,
ministry, evangelism, youth work and social issues. "The outcome showed,
clearly, that the two groups had an excellent coherence in all the main
questions," he reported.

The Rev. Pierre Geiser, the French church's vice president, told conference
delegates that the time had come for his church to end its isolation and
make a clear decision for fellowship with other Methodists.

Historically, the Methodist Church in France traces its roots to the former
Wesleyan Methodist Mission developed by British Methodists. Because of
economic struggles in the 1930s, the British church decided the French
Methodist congregations should be united with the French Reformed Church.
Six of what were then about 25 congregations refused the union, becoming an
autonomous Methodist body.

The Episcopal Methodist Church also had a mission in France, which was given
up during the economic and political crises of the 1930s. Some congregations
joined the French Reformed Church, but others, along with the former United
Brethren Church in Alsace, became connected with the Episcopal Methodist
Conferences in Germany and, after World War II, Switzerland. In recent
years, United Methodists have opened two new mission stations and
congregations in southwestern France.

Siegfried said he personally was pleased that after many years of
fellowship, enough confidence had been built for the two groups to come
together. He believes the union also strengthens French-speaking Methodism
in Europe.

"It is a decision which has mission as its goal," he told conference
delegates, noting that France has been a "vast mission field" for years. "It
is a sign of hope if we join together in this ministry God calls us to do."

Besides its congregations, the French church brings seven Christian
bookshops, four senior retreat centers, and a retreat and vacation center to
the conference. Siegfried said the annual conference probably would have to
reorganize its districts, possibly dedicating one district to
French-speaking congregations - 20 in France, four in western Switzerland,
two Cambodian congregations and the United Methodist ministry in Algeria and

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United Methodist News Service
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