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Bishop Bolleter will take post with World Methodist Council

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Bishop Heinrich Bolleter is the new Geneva secretary for the World Methodist Council.
Dec. 8, 2006

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

A United Methodist bishop who has provided leadership to church members in countries spanning from Algeria to Albania is the new Geneva secretary for the World Methodist Council.

Bishop Heinrich Bolleter, who retired in May as episcopal leader of the Central and Southern European Conference of the United Methodist Church, will begin his part-time position Jan. 1.

The Rev. George Freeman, the council's chief executive, said Bolleter was chosen for the position "because of his wide ecumenical experience in Europe," depth of knowledge about the church and linguistic skills.

As bishop, he oversaw United Methodists in France, Switzerland, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and all the Balkan states, along with Tunisia and Algeria.

Freeman expects the bishop "will help to interpret to the council what's happening in the ecumenical movement" and explain the council's positions and programs to others. "We are very excited to have him in this position and look forward to the way that our participation in the ecumenical life will expand under his leadership," he added.

In March, Bolleter was honored by the Republic of Austria for being a "bridge builder" in Europe, particularly for his ability to build connections with Eastern European nations.

Bolleter, who grew up in Zurich, was ordained an elder in 1969 and elected bishop in 1989. He lives in Aarau, Switzerland, about halfway between Zurich and Geneva, to be closer to his three children.

He told United Methodist News Service that he will represent the council at specific ecumenical events, such as central committee meetings of the World Council of Churches and meetings of the World Lutheran Federation and Reformed Alliance. He said he "will help to interpret the World Methodist Council's views to the other congregational families."

Interfaith issues also are a concern. "I think we have been awakened in Europe to the presence of Muslims in our societies," Bolleter explained. This presence requires dialogue not only at the state and organizational levels but also at the local level, he said. "We have to see the people, to visit with the people, to be more open to share our different views and our different cultural backgrounds."

Protestants in Europe, he said, have developed their own patchwork religious life. Although many identify themselves as Christian, they are not active in the faith. "The churches are in a situation where they have to prove they can really serve the people," he noted.

Bolleter said he will work closely with the Rev. Robert Gribben of Australia, the new chairperson of the council's ecumenics and dialogue committee. One of his concerns is that "the voices of Protestants from the South" be heard by European Protestants.

The bishop also will continue to have some United Methodist obligations. His successor, Bishop Patrick Streiff, has asked him, at present, to continue oversight of United Methodist congregations in Croatia and Albania, according to Bolleter. "These are situations where we have new church development, and many new things are on the move," he said.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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