Swiss podcast straightens image of Christianity


Central Europe

Norbert Schaefer, PRO

Church service in the MovementPlus free church. Photo Facebook, BewegungPlus Burgdorf. Kirche die bewegt.

Free churches do not have a good reputation in Switzerland. A podcast from the Schweizer Radio und Fernsehen (SRF) –translated as Swiss Radio and Television– uses the example of the free church "MovementPlus" to show that the Christian faith is not always backward.

The reputation of the free churches in Switzerland is terrible. The term free church "inevitably aroused mistrust" in her, SRF editor Maya Brändli, says. In Switzerland, terms such as "backward", "narrow-minded", and "dogmatic" are associated with free churches.

For the SRF podcast "Perspectives", the journalist got her own picture of a free church from Christian Ringli. Ringli is one of eight radio preachers at the Swiss broadcaster and pastor of an independent church. "When I say I'm with a free church, I can also say: I have athlete's foot," says Ringli about the image of the free churches in Switzerland.

Pastor Christian Ringli. Photo Facebook, BewegungPlus Burgdorf. Kirche die bewegt

When Brändli visits the "BewegungPlus" (Movement-Plus) free church in Burgdorf near Bern, the reporter, who set off with "a bit of scepticism", is very soon surprised. "Unlike in many regional church events, the members here appear to be very diverse" and a "well-proportioned cross-section of all age groups," she soon notes.

Around 30 congregations in German-speaking Switzerland belong to the "MovementPlus" free church. The journalist likes the flat hierarchy and the fact that there is room for opinions and discussions are expressly encouraged. The Free Church was founded in Bern in 1927 and has accordingly experienced "numerous theological changes of shade". Today, around 5,000 members belong to the Pentecostal charismatic community association.

"Openness and intellectual flexibility"

The journalist listens critically to the community in Burgdorf. She also asks tricky and uncomfortable questions. For example, why God does not intervene in Ukraine. Ringli refrains from trying to sugar-coat life in any way. The journalist agrees. "My trust is growing; my scepticism is shrinking," she notes. She also wants to know how the independent church views homosexuality. And how the free church thinks about sex before marriage.

The pastor says that Free Church members are constantly nailed to such questions. The issues are discussed in his community. However, theological narrowness, for example, in sexual ethics, has undoubtedly contributed to the bad image of the free churches.

Building of the "BewegungPlus" (Movement-Plus) free church. Photo BewegungPlus

Brändli is "impressed" by the social commitment of the church but thinks it talks "too much about God." The journalist, therefore, wants to know from the pastor whether there is a need for "such a God" in today's world. Ringli replies that God should not "become the projection of a wish." He continues: "I believe in a God because my life and what I've experienced makes sense in the light of this belief."

In the end, the journalist attests to that podcast Pastor Christian Ringli and his colleague Matthias Wenk's "high willingness to discuss and reflect", "openness and intellectual flexibility", as well as "courage to self-criticism and reflected faith."

This article is translated by CNE.news and was published in German on Pro-Medienmagazin on August 10th, 2022.



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