Mission 21 is to become more international. And the ministry should be even more committed to empowering women and young people. These are two aspects from Mission 21's Synod 2023 on the theme of "Reconciliation". The synod was conducted online. Only the concluding service took place in person, as a simple celebration in the Zinzendorfhaus in Basel.
About 40 delegates from Mission 21 met for Synod 2023 from June 29 to July 1 on a meeting platform on the Internet. The meeting time of 2 - 4 p.m. (Switzerland) meant that delegates participated at completely different local times of the day, depending on where they dialed in. Despite the limitations of the online format, this synod developed into an engaging exchange on the theme "Reconciliation in a world of violence: theological reflections and practical experiences"
The increasing crises worldwide found expression in the reports of the African, Asian and Latin American delegates. They gave accounts of increased domestic violence, human trafficking or food shortages due to armed conflicts or the consequences of climate change.
Reconciliation and calls for increased engagement
There were also encouraging examples of reconciliation in action. The account of the Nigerian delegate Anthony Ndamsai remains particularly present. He told of two theology students who prevented an angry group of Christians from killing two young Muslims on suspicion of "spying". After intense discussions, the two students were able to convince the group that their plan was wrong.
The combination of Christian values and persevering commitment ran through the positive examples - as well as through the wishes expressed for increased commitment. For example, the women's delegates were pleased with the progress made in projects against sexualized violence. They also argued that Mission 21 needed to name structural causes more clearly and address them more forcefully.
The youth delegates also called for Mission 21 to focus even more on empowering young people: In working against climate-damaging behavior, empowering women and protecting sexual minorities, and for the advancement of disadvantaged young people.
In order to anchor the board more internationally, a working group was commissioned to revise the statutes as of 2024. The tasks of the board are to be redistributed and the election of members from Africa, Asia or Latin America is to be made possible.
Changes in the Board of Directors also took place this year: Two long-standing members, Vice President Karl F. Appl and Hans-Joachim Zobel, stepped down; they were thanked and bid farewell. Frieder Vollprecht was re-elected as representative of the Herrnhut Mission, and Bärbel Schäfer, Dean at the Ev. Landeskirche Baden (D), was newly elected to the Board.
There was also a new election for the Business Audit Commission: Sibylle Andermatt stepped down after seven years. Annette Geissbühler-Sollberger, former director of the NMS Bern school, was newly elected on the proposal of the board.
Final service as guests of the Herrnhut people
After the online meetings, the closing service offered the opportunity for personal encounters. Invited to the Herrnhuter Zinzendorfhaus in Basel, Mission 21 concluded this year's synod with a simple celebration. As a guest, Jean-Luc Blondel, president of the missionary organization Département missionnaire (DM) in western Switzerland, delivered a word of greeting. DM is celebrating its 60th birthday this year. Blondel brought a birthday cake to the occasion, which was distributed at the aperitif that followed.
The 2024 Synod will again take place digitally at the end of June. Apart from a few minor technical limitations, the online synod has proven its worth. The format helps keep the costs of parliamentary meetings low. It can also avoid flights and make a small contribution to slowing global warming.
Text and photos: Christoph Rácz