8th Bishop of the Swiss Church elected

The new bishop of the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland (Christkatholische Kirche) is Frank Bangerter. This was decided by the National Synod on 24 May in Aarau, consisting of both lay and clergy members, in a veritable ‘election thriller’. The 61-year-old Bangerter has been a pastor in Zurich since 2010 and lives in Grenchen with his partner. The solemn consecration of the new bishop will take place on 14 September in Bern.

The National Synod in Aarau has made its decision: Frank Bangerter is the new bishop of the Christian Catholic Church in Switzerland. The 61-year-old was ‘simply overwhelmed’ by this election and the trust that had been placed in him. ‘I am touched and deeply grateful,’ said the new bishop. At the same time, this also entails an enormous responsibility. ‘I stand for an Old Catholic Church in Switzerland that is open and courageous. For a church that does good, as we already do in many places – but that also talks about it,’ said Bangerter. If you do this credibly, authentically and with enthusiasm, then the church also has the opportunity to grow and become attractive to more people. He made it clear: ‘As a bishop, I will campaign for reforms.’

Frank Bangerter grew up in Lyss. Because his husband, with whom he has been in a long-term partnership, is from Grenchen, they also live there. The newly elected bishop: ‘The Old Catholic Church has two achievements, the ordination of women and marriage for all, which I see as undisputed potential. We can and want to express even more that we are an open, liberal church in the Catholic tradition. We are close to life, we do not exclude people who are divorced, we recognise diversity in terms of sexual orientation and lifestyles.’

Decision in the sixth ballot

Those entitled to vote in Aarau were the lay delegates of the parishes as well as the members of the clergy – and in the case of the election of the bishop, also the members of the Synodal Council, who are usually not entitled to vote as the executive. A two-thirds majority is required to be elected bishop, which meant that Bangerter and the two other nominees, Christoph Schuler, pastor in Bern and Grenchen, and Lars Simpson, like Bangerter a pastor in Zurich, were neck-and-neck. Schuler withdrew after the 3rd ballot and Lars Simpson announced his withdrawal after the 5th ballot. Frank Bangerter then achieved the necessary number of votes in the formally required 6th ballot.

Since the resignation of Bishop Harald Rein at the end of November last year, the episcopal seat of the Christian Catholic Church in Switzerland had been vacant. The then 66-year-old stepped down after 14 years in office. The solemn consecration of the new bishop will take place on 14 September in Bern. The bishops of the International Old Catholic Bishops’ Conference will be travelling to Switzerland for this festive occasion, led by Bernd Wallet, the Old Catholic Archbishop of Utrecht, as the main consecrator. At the end of 2023, the Old Catholic Church in Switzerland had 12,137 members in a total of 28 parishes.

Text and photo: christkatholisch.ch