Sooper Franc KO's Calvinist Global HQ in Geneva

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in ,, at 12/02/2012 02:38:00 PM
John Calvin before the Geneva Council, 1549
On the Sabbath day, I guess it's time for another weekend feature. For, after a long while, we have another instalment of religious political economy ("RPE"). John Calvin should be exceedingly well-known to students of social science as Max Weber's Exhibit A in the transition to a Protestant Work Ethic from Catholicism (and what we can only presume to call, ah, the Catholic Sloth Ethic by way of comparison). That is, material success was taken by Calvinists as suggestive that their destination lay beyond the Pearly Gates and not the Gates of Hell.

Now, the Swiss have traditionally been more tolerant of differences in opinion and dissenters throghout their history, so it was perhaps inevitable that Calvinism with its zero-fun, hair shirt outlook would be welcomed in Geneva--a town that has since been associated with sybaritic accoutrements alike the world's finest chocolates and wristwatches. In time, Geneva as the "Protestant Rome" even became a target for the separation of church and state. Yet, it bears remembering that the arrival of Calvin in Geneva in the mid-sixteenth century was much-lauded by those partial to him as an epochal event not only for the faith but also for the city:
On the very day of his arrival Calvin presented himself to the Council. During this session the general programme of his duties was determined; he returned home with a well-developed plan of activity; his desire was to establish in Geneva a State of which God Himself would be Head and the citizens of which would have to strive to lead a life in the closest possible conformity with the precepts of the Gospel. This idea has been called theocracy. It is indispensable, in any attempt to understand Calvin and his writings, to remember that he remained true to this principle all his life, and that any of the mistakes for which he may be reproached today are based on this system...

The founding of the College and the Academy marked an important date in the history of Geneva. The poor, modest city became, so to speak, the Protestant Rome. The running of its schools became a model for a large number of other academies. Thenceforth the young students of Europe flocked to Calvin's Academy.
So, where's the RPE here? A few months ago I talked about how the Swiss franc was becoming incredibly strong as a result of the Eurozone crisis. Safe haven capital flows and all that jazz. Swiss authorities have thus been compelled to intervene on behalf of its export industries alike the aforementioned food producers and watchmakers, but it's not only them who have been hurt. Geneva was already one of the most expensive cities in the world to begin with, and this dubious distinction has only been exacerbated by the mighty Swiss franc. Somewhat unsurprisingly, the Calvinist umbrella group the World Communion of Reformed Churches recently decided to pull the plug on its Geneva headquarters because foreign donations did not stretch very far in (converted) CHF. From the press blurb:
The Executive Committee of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) has voted to relocate its offices from Geneva, Switzerland to Hanover, Germany. The results of the vote taken via email were announced today by WCRC President Jerry Pillay...
The move comes in response to concerns about the cost of running an organization in Switzerland. These include staff salaries and the high value of the Swiss franc. Most WCRC membership fees and donations are made in Euros or American dollars that have dropped in value in the past several years against the strong Swiss franc. The move to Hanover is scheduled for the end of December 2013. The new offices will be located at the Calvin Centre owned by the Evangelical Reformed Church of Germany where the Reformed Alliance has its offices. WCRC has a seven-member staff. 
And so here ends 463 years of close association between the Calvinist Church and the city of Geneva. A financial crisis on Europe's periphery that has resulted in a remarkably strong Swiss franc has done what centuries of bloody conflicts in continental Europe have failed to do. Then again, the euro isn't exactly a wimpy currency either, so it does make me wonder if they could have chosen a lower-cost location than Hanover, Germany in line with their ascetic philosophies. Hungary, anyone?