Skip to comments.A Grief Observed- On Being a Priest in a Dying Church
Posted on 02/16/2005 4:52:16 PM PST by sionnsar
[I think those who have left ECUSA, or are considering, will understand this unhappy piece. How worse can things get? Clearly worse than we have seen. --sionnsar]
Even if the title A grief observed had not already been employed, I would use it, for what I have written is about a grief, the dying and perhaps eventually even death of a loved onethe Church of Sweden, in which I was ordained a priest almost thirty-five years ago. It is a grief observed, as if I were standing apart at a distance from what actually happens. It is as if I were no longer involved in the painful process, but looked at it from the outside, as if it were happening to someone else, or is that just something I keep telling myself in order to ease the pain? My view is not that of the detached historian. It is a personal and partial account of a lost love. Everyone who would like an exposition of the history of the last fifty years in the Church of Sweden or an unbiased report of what is happening now, will be disappointed. I leave that to journalists or historians, who are much better equipped for that task than I am. The exact dates, the years, the committees, the decisions, the programs, the personsI leave it all to the footnote lovers and archive moles. The only thing I can say is: I was there, I saw it with my own eyes and that is bad enough.
Sweden is, as everybody knows, probably one of the most secularized countries in Western Europe, if not in the whole world, judging from polls of what Swedes believe and statistics of their church attendance. Every now and then there are, of course, reassuring reports published claiming that people are more religious than they seem to be on the surface, and they would probably be even more religious, had not the church been so excluding in its dogmas, so exclusive in its outmoded services, not to mention its antediluvian morality. We need a broader, more inclusive, less excluding concept of religion, it is repeated with deadening monotony. And the answer to that, which also needs to be repeated, is that religion is not nessarily equated with Christian incarnational, sacramental belief . A hundred years ago every Swede knew by heart the definition of a Christian. I am called a Christian because I am incorporated into the body of Jesus Christ through baptism and with this body/congregation, believe and confess him to be my Saviour and Redeemer.
How many would today profess themselves as Christians in the words of the first paragraph in the Exposition of Martin Luther`s Small Catechism. Ten percent? Fifteen? God knows. And yet eighty percent of the Swedish population still formally belongs to the former State Church, still paying the annual church tax, or as it is called now, the parish rates, which amounts to roughly 1,25 percent of one´s (which includes the mandatory 0,25 percent for the maintenance of cemeteries). And as usual, those who pay set up the programme for those who play At my ordination, thirty-five years ago, the percentage of those of the Swedish population who belonged to the Church of Sweden was even higher than ninety. It belongs to the story that you could not leave the Church of Sweden until 1951, if you did not enter into another church or religious community, approved by the King. Being Swedish meant belonging to the State Church, not primarily believing in God. One country, one people, one king, one [nominal] faith [with certain accepted exceptions]. State Church, Christian Church, Civil Religion? And today, three years after the disestablishment, the formal, but in practice not real, severance of the bonds between church and state, what have we got? And the answer is: not a salt but a mirror of the contemporary Swedish society. Belonging versus believing. The history of the Church of Sweden explains a lot of its present plight, but there is little comfort in that knowledge.
Since my fifteenth year, the year of my baptism, I have been a communicant member of the Church of Sweden. I have gone to communion regularly for forty-five years in what I thought was the real church. During these years I have at the inside lived with and through all the changes that have taken place, I have seen them being prepared, I have heard the arguments, listened to the debates, seen the campaigns, encountered the propaganda, the threats, the intimidations, the promises, the deceits, the lies, the marginalization and the elimination. I have seen how the church has changed, how is has been occupied and been taken over from the outside and the inside. I have seen all the small steps leading to where the Church Sweden is now. And I have not been able to stop it. Together with many others I have been in the burning oven. And I have had enough. You have lost, as an English friend and prominent member of the Church of England said to me over the lunch table at a fashionable fish restaurant in London in December last year.
Am I depressed or even dejected? Yes. Am I overweight due to inertia, lack of exercise and comfort eating? Yes. Is my blood pressure too high. Yes. Am I sick and tired of being a priest (as I who have Catholic preferences would say) or pastor (as others of a more Protestant turn of mind rather would have it) in a church, which may no longer be a real church, infiltrated and occupied as it is by leftist church politicians and liberal revisionists. Yes! And adding up to that, I am also pushing sixty, which means that I am out anyway. But, on the other hand, as Polycarp said about the mob at the stadium in Smyrna responding to the Proconsul who, would release him, if he swore by the genius of the Caesar: Away with the atheists! and Eighty and six years have I served him [Christ], and he hath done me no wrong; how then can I blaspheme my king who saved me? Individuals may waver, battles may be lost, but in the company of such cobelligerents the war is not lost. Or as Kaj Munk, the Danish Lutheran pastor, slain by the Nazis, said: Kill us on Good Friday, and we shall rise on Easter Day!
I know all that, I have preached about it. Theoretically, I know about the conditions of the Christian life and the uncompromising steadfastness of the martyrs, of the valour of persecuted Christian of all times. It is one thing to preach it, another to live it. Can I compare my situation and that of my fellow traditional Christians with theirs in the same day? No, of course not. Martyrdom is a serious business, and it is not something you choose for yourself. The real martyrs, the red ones, had to make a choice between denying their faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord or being killed.
There may be a struggle for the traditional Christian faith going on in Sweden, but no one has so far been put in the position of a choice: denial or death. Its is, therefore, in my opinion next to frivolous when the Bishop of Stockholm, one of two women bishops of the Church of Sweden, Caroline Krook, in an interview in a leading daily newspaper introduces the theme of martyrdom in connexion with Christian traditionalists: My opinion is crystal clear: those who do not approve of the ordination of women must leave the Church of Sweden. Those who do not want to share worship communion with women priests have excluded themselves. [ ] The problem with these priests is that they want a severance payment at the same time as they want to be martyrs. There is no rule in the Church of Sweden which states that martyrs should have a golden parachute. What the bishop says is to my mind nothing but a subtle example of powertalk as it in effect implies that dissidents should be true to the cause of their dissident to a degree that they would be prepared to jettison their lives, at least their livilihoods or rights, or otherwise their dissent would not be credible and thus not honourable (which it is not considered anyway).
That is nothing but an insolent infraction, as these priests want nothing but a fair treatment like any other employee in a company (and the Church of Sweden is more an more becoming like a secular company or a public authority) which unilaterally changes the conditions of employment and alters the basic direction of its policy and production. If you want to stay, then you have to obey. If you don´t obey, then you have to go. Empty-handed! Basically, is not that the logic of ethnic cleansings? The Shepherdess has spoken, and the political and religio-political establishment and the mass media with few exceptions speak with the same voice. Or in the explicit words of Ulla Johansson in the editorial in the magazine Broderskap Brotherhood), the mouthpiece of the Christian Socialists: Throw out the church hooligans.[ ] What can one demand of men of the church? Considering task and position the one who wants to be a priest or a bishop must at least live up to the belief in the equal rights and value of all people.
Neither there, nor in the message of love does the opposition to the ordination of women fit in. It must be better that those who oppose the ordination of women have to leave the church than those who share [the belief in] the message of love announce their resignation from the church. The Church of Sweden has to stop talking drivel. It goes without saying that those who cannot think of working together with a woman or ordain a woman should not hold an official office in the Church of Sweden.
Throw out the church hooligans! Martyr? No, I would not even mention the word in its time-honoured sense, considering what is going on with Christians all over the world today, but the fact is, nevertheless, that is that there is a group of people in the Church of Sweden that is more than unwelcome, a group of people that has been marginalized systematically for decades, and in that sense these people bear witness to what is going on in a modern Western society which once served as a social model. Young theology students are as a matter of routine asked if they have any reservations against the order of the ordination of women, and it scrupulously checked during their training that they partake in a communion service, celebrated by a women priest receiving communion from her.
It means that there is quite a number of young men, who obviously have a divine calling to become priests, but are rejected by the church authorities. Priests, already ordained, cannot become rectors (kyrkoherde, senior pastors, let alone deans or bishops) if they do not sign a formal declaration that they are prepared to cooperate in all capacities with other priests regardless of their sex. That decision was passed by the General Synod one year before the disestablishment, and is now a regulation in the new Church Order. The enforcement of this regulation is carried through in a meticulous way, which is proved by the fact that the election of the new Bishop of Gothenburg was postponed, when suspicions arose about one of the candidates, who had not expressed himself clearly enough on the matter of ordination of women and non-ordination of dissidents. He had certainly signed the paper, but it did not seem to be enough, so he had to have a special examination by the Board of Responsibility of Bishops [Ansvarsnämnden för biskopar] before he obtained a pass as a candidate. The mentality behind this route of action is clearly expressed by the Bishop of Växjö, Anders Wejryd, who in an interview in a respected scientific paper answered the journalists´ questions about freedom of speech and freedom of thought for priests on the issue of the ordination of women. No, he said; one does not have the right of a private interpretation of the issue of the ordination of women, none that one makes public. It is a matter of loyalty.
So I , who, out of loyalty with the Word of God and the Tradition of the Church, do not dare or even secretly wish to entertain a private interpretation of the issue of the ordination of women, find myself in the somewhat schizophrenic position, that I should not have been ordained (which also goes for my ordaining bishop, Sven Danell of Skara), had I applied for ordination today; nor should I today have been eligable for the position as rector of Rasbo, a position which I have held since 1980. But as the Bishop of Uppsala diocese (some years ago Uppsala Archdiocese was divided into two: the Archdiocese, the town of Uppsala and Sigtuna with the Archbishop, and the remainder, Uppsala diocese, with its bishop), Dr. Ragnar Persenius, wrote in a letter to me last year: All churches make decisions about matters of content and make changes in the church orders with consequences for those who have commissions in the church. The consequences are largely determined by the way in which individuals, priests, co-workers, and those belonging to the church, interpret the decisions and understand their personal situation. He is at the same time reassuring me that The Diocese does not refuse [to recognize] you as priest or a rector, no matter how the new regulations about ordination and promotion in the Church order is applicable in your case. I have read that sentence many times, without really understanding what it means which may be due to the fact that I am only an ordinary parish priest), but, eventually with some effort,I have arrived at two possible interpretations: either it is a contradictio in adjecto and thus nonsense, or it is some kind of newspeak or powertalk, i.e., a definition of the world as those in power want to define it in order to exercise their power, and thus a lie. In my lighter moods I have taken it to mean: laws and regulations cannot have a retroactive applicability--not even in the Church of Sweden (which some people obviously regret).
Rejected and non eligible in principle, if not yet in practice, that is my position. In an interview in a recent issue of the Diocese Magazine a leading church politician, the First Vice-Chairman of the Diocesan Executive Committee, politically chosen, Rolf Forslin, a deacon, representing the Social Democratic Party, bluntly states: If it doesn´t suit them, let them start their own business; one has to be hard on those opposing the ordination of women. It used to hurt me whenever I came across a statement like that, or whenever I thought of it. On the wall of my chaotic study I had on the one side of the Mother of God the open letter which testified that I was an ordained priest in the Church of Sweden and on the other there was a copy of the regulation stating in cold legal prose that persons like me would not be ordained or promoted. It was there on the wall as a constant reminder until I one day decided to take it down. I do not know if it was due to the salutary influence of the Glykofilousa, but it was as if the violation one day gave way for a soothing insight: the new emerging church of Sweden does not want priests like me. I was of another kind. It was not a stigma, it was a distinction, a badge of honour. But it still hurt. At the last Convocation of priests, held in the People´s Palace (almost too symbolic), when the Church of Sweden was still a State or a National Church, I obediently showed up wearing my black formal cassock as prescribed in the old regulations for Priest Convocations, and when I met a women priest, who with a forced smile greeted me with the words: So you have dared to show up!, I calmly retorted: This is also my church. But as the proceedings went on and Archbishop Hammar in his purple shirt, golden pectoral cross and non hierarchic cardigan asked us to sing along in a chorus echoing Saint Bridget´s prayer: Show us Lord, your way, we will walk in your truth and went on by telling us how wrong the church had been throughout the centuries, how truth was to be found in the walking and how he in a few days time would visit Rome taking the opportunity to teach the Pope these insights, then I realized that I and all the things I had stood for in the Church of Sweden had lost. I had lost and they had won, but when I saw what the victory was like, it struck me full force that I did not want to be among the winners! The Church of Sweden as it now presented itself was not longer my Church, not mine as if I had own it, of course not, but mine as I once found her and she had embraced me. No, this is not any longer my church.
How, then, did the Church of Sweden once become my church? In the the small town, located on the South Swedish Highland in the Province of Småland, in which I was raised, there were two squares: the Big Square with the elms and the fountain where a little bronze boy was playing with a dolphin and where the Salvation Army used to have their revival meetings on Sundays evenings during the summer; and there was the Small Square, the South Square, also with a fountain but no statue, yet with one Free Church building - a Pentecostal chapel, a Salvation Army Hall and a Swedish Alliance Mission chapel - at each corner with the exception of one, where there was a furniture shop (Småland is a woodland and, hence, there are, or, at least, were, a lot of furniture factories in my home town). The fourth Free Church, however, was not far away. The red brick building of the Baptists was located just a block away. On my to school I had to pass these chapels, and before I reached my destination, the Junior High School and later the Gymnasium, I had to pass three more churches, a Metohodist church with a real tower, but with no church bells, a huge Mission Covenent church and lastly the big church, built in red bricks, overlooking the town with a high tower, clocks and real tolling bells - the Evangelical Lutheran National churchthe Church of Sweden.
Denominational Christianity was never far away in my boyhood in the fifties. My parents were Free Church Christians, and belonged to the Mission Covenant Church, and, thus, it was natural for me to attend Sunday school in that church, which I, however, never joined, as I in my early teens engaged in local religious pilgrimage of my own. On Sundays I used to attend services in the different churches: Methodist, Pentecostal, Baptist, Salvation Army, Alliance Mission. I observed, listened, and learned, and what I learned, I think, was a deep and lasting respect for the Word of God, transmitted through simple but dedicated preachers, a love for Jesus as the living Saviour in the hymns and in the prayers. Yet, I also encountered the dogmatic and cultural narrow-mindedness that brushed off allmy queries with: "Once you get light on this, you will think the way we do!" In retrospect I can see the truth in this answer, but I also realize that its relevance is largely dependent upon whom or what this person represents. In the encounter with various Christians with different interpretations of the Christian faith - e.g. in the understanding of Baptism or Eucharist - in spite of a shared foundation, an awareness of theology as a coherent, interrelated system arose, an awareness that has never really left me. There is also something which I brought with me from this pilgrimage between churches and chapels: a lingering flavour or scent of what I believe to be true faith and spirituality, which I find and recognize or do not find or recognize in churches and theologies of today. The flavour or the scent that accompany the presence of of the Holy Spirit?
There were many churches in the town where I grew up, but where was the realChurch? In the big church with the tower and the tolling church bells at the age of thirteen or fourteen I gradually and eventually found my spiritual home. When the priest at the altar pronounced the forgiveness of sins or proclaimed that Christ was truly present, visibly and tangibly in the eucharistic elements in the communion service, that was simply a new language to me. I went to communion for the first time. It was also in connexion with a communion service that I later received what I think was my call to the priesthood. The two priests who had been serving at the altar were leaving for the sacristy, one carrying the chalice and the other the Missal, and I suddenly knew, as if someone had told me: "That is your place!" I can still se their chasubles. It was surprising, because I wanted to become a doctor or a writer. A priest or pastor? Never! At that time together with a friend of mine, who also became a priest in the Church of Sweden and a Doctor of Theology, the Rev. Kjell Petersson, Rector of Ryssby, I regularly attended prayer meetings that were held in a Pentecostal lady´s home. We had met these ladies when the Christian school group once visited the Pentecostal congregation (a visit criticized by many), and they invited us to join their prayer group. So on Sunday mornings I went to the services in the Lutheran State church and sang all the Passion hymns from the Lutheran Orthodoxy recognizing the flavour and the scent, and in evenings I went to the revival meetings of the Pentecostal church or prayed with the ladies, who spoke in tongues and prayed for us young strange State Church brothers who wanted to become something as strange and questionable as priests in the State Church.
At a retreat center, Old Hjelmseryd, I first met High Church spirituality and theology in the Church of Sweden. Initially, liturgical Christianity was something quite foreign, even repugnant to me, but I soon recognized the flavour and the scent that I had learned to know before. It was the same Spirit who was present at the Mattins, Vespers and Compline as in the prayer meetings with the old Pentecostal ladies, and when the priest on Easter Morning preached and proclaimed the resurrection of Christ - He is alive and present, the grave is empty, and he is active here and now as the Risen Lord - I was finally convinced that the liturgical, petrified, dead State Church of Sweden, so much ridiculed and criticized by Free Church people, atheistic Socialists and freethinking Liberals, was a real church, if not the real Church.
I became an ardent and dedicated churchgoer. Sunday after Sunday, year after year. I followed the Church Year: Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Easter, Whitsuntide, all the green Sundays after Holy Trinity, Saint Paul and Saint Peter, the Sunday of the Transfiguration, Saint Michael´s day, All Saints to the Last Judgement or the Sunday of Christ the King. By constant use the hymns, the liturgy, the texts, the prayers became mine, a part of me, and I also felt a sense of family and a strange tenderness for the little old ladies and the old white-haired men with sticks with whom I knelt at the communion rail: "The Body of Christ, given for thee. The Blood of Christ, shed for thee". For us.
And yet, after the service, when the communicants had left the church, in swarmed all those who would attend the baptismal service which was held after the High Mass. They did not show up for Mass. They just swarmed in after the end of the service. Chatting, laughing, making a lot of noise! There seemed to be no connexion at all between those two groups of people. It was as if there were two churches, one being visible under the pulpit and around the altar, and another which occasionally materialised at baptisms, weddings, confirmations and other solemn occasions. Especially confirmations amazed be. I knew many of these confimands from school and their parents, and there is no exaggeration to say that quite a lot of them never ever showed any sign of any Christian belief or any religion whatsoever. But at fourteen they were confirmed all of them. Class by class at school.
Sweden was a Christian country, we lived in a Christian society. Or did we? A society which in my case meant a town governed by the Social Democrats and the Trade Unions, in a country in decades ruled jointly by Trade Unions and Social Democrats, who originally wanted a separation between Church and State, but later changed their mind and became the staunchest upholders of the State Church system in order to democratize" it from within by taking over the theological education, ruling the church from the inside by politically chosen local church boards, by politically nominated, chosen delegates to the Church Synod and electors for the election of bishops. And when the Church had been sucessfully domesticated, modernized and socialized, then the bonds between Church and State could be severed. This is also what eventually happened in 2000. It was more or less at shock to me when I learned that the parish, in which I was baptised, confirmed, in which I regularly attended the services and went to communion, was run by politcally chosen people, whom I seldom or never had seen worshipping in the congregation. There seemed to be not only the State Church and the Free Churches. Also, there seemed to be at least two, or perhaps even three, "churches" within the Church of Sweden: that of the politicians, that of the belongers and that of the believers.
One Sunday in the Spring of 1960 some churchgoers after the service told me that this was a black day, a day of grievance for the Church of Sweden. I did not know why, and when they told me that three ladies were being ordained priests that Sunday, I simply did not understand the point. So what! I knew that some of my High Church friends were against the ordination of women and told me that is would a disaster for the Church. The reform was presented as one of church order and not one of doctrine, and its aim was, as it was said by its advocates, to reach out to people alienated from the church. Only later did I realize what had really happened at the Sunday. Gradually, I also realized that those who took their Christian faith most seriously were those who opposed the novelty. The flavour and scent which I had learnt to recognize was simply more detectable around and among these people. As a student still in the Gymnasium, I attended Bible studies, in which ordinary parish priests occasionally stated their reasons for being against the reform. If I remember correctly, they predicted that in the long run there would not only be ordained women, but this reform would lead to a different view of the Word of God and hence God´s revelation.
Now, they said, man was in command of the Bible, free to interpret it the way he, she or the spirit of the times wanted, and as a consequence of this, there would be a new understanding of the priesthood to begin with. They predicted that insolubility of marriage would wane with a new understanding of marriage and what it meant to be a man and a women, there would be a new way of looking at the Creation and the order given in it, a new way of understanding human sexuality, that same-sex relationships in the end would be accepted, and there would even be blessings of same-sex relationships, marriages, and as the crowning event: the understanding of God the Father would be replaced by God the Mother. It sounded like some dystopic theological science fiction. The priests, the names of whom I do not even remember, expressing these opinions were, of course, criticized by their more moderate colleagues: "You are surely painting the Devil on the wall!" In a retrospect of forty years, I cannot but admire the clearsightedness of these "pike-jawed faithpolicemen" - a common derogatory characterisation of these High Church or Traditionalist priests, routinely used by the man who was later to become the bishop, or as he rather preferred to call himself, Diocese director, of Stockholm. Ingemar Ström, who died recently. These priests, at that time there was quite a few of them, were with a saddening regularity chased through the columns of the local newspapers and tabloids, otherwise filled with tear-jerking accounts of how poor ordained women were being harassed by those reactionary, women hating, loveless dogmatic black-coats.
Becoming a priest in that Church? Of course, there was a "conscience clause" for those who did not go along with the reform (as there in the beginning, but only in the beginning, will be one once the blessing of same sex partnerships will be mandatory). This was not something, however, that the Government had endorsed. It was jus a part of the preparatory discussions before the changing of the law, making it possible to ordain women to the priesthood or opening the way to the priestly service as it was phrased. A priest in the Church of Sweden was in a way a civil servant, and there could be no exceptions for the church: all positions in society must be open to people regardless of sex. Everything else would be discrimination. Or would it?
What was the Church of Sweden? A state function? A communio or congregatio sanctorum with a self understanding of its own? The conscience clause had stated that the reform must not be understood in a way that prevented young men called to the priesthood not being in favour of the ordination of women to be ordained. Becoming a priest? I was quite uncertain, so a tossed a coin at the Army hospital where I was confined for a couple of days when I was doing my recruit training during the summer after my graduation from the Gymnasium. King--that side of the coin meant secular studies: Swedish and Literature. Crown--the other side of the coin signified the Crown of Life: Theology. And the Crown came up. Frivolous? Yes, perhaps, but it also reveals some of the bewilderment of the young conscript.
Studying theology in Uppsala where some of the professors were still upholders of the old theology, was a treat. To me the study of the History of Christian Thought was like opening a window with fresh winds and huge vistas. The old, all too familiar, quip: "once you get light over this, you will think the way we do", acquired a new and deeper meaning. Still, I did not know what to do with the experience when the two priests left the altar. I read books by Bo Giertz and Gunnar Rosendal, two leading church theologians, and was led to believe that the Church of Sweden was the real Church in Sweden, under attack, besieged, embattled, yes, but worth fighting for. Or? After my graduation from Uppsala University the World Council of Churches granted me a one year scholarship to the ultraliberal Union Theological Seminary in New York. That proved to be one of the best years of my life, because it helped me to sort out what I did not believe and what I really believed. At Union I met years ahead all those concerns, ideas and fads, which eventually much later would hit Sweden. At Union I arrived at a Classic Christian belief - that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all. Having met the whole intellectual, philosophical and theological smorgasbord of a Liberal American Seminary, I came to the conclusion that the Church of Sweden was catholic enough, given the circumstances. My judgment might have been blurred by the distance and by nostalgia, but my American experience induced me to apply for ordination once I returned.
After a semester of practical training, in which the only thing I learned was how to fold and glue my manuscript for the weekly sermon, I was ordained in Skara Cathedral 1969 by a bishop, who had not voted for the reform of 1958, a good and God-fearing man. This was to be his last ordination, and his successor, a man who had changed his views on the disputed issue when the mitre and the crook came within sight, was also present at the altar. The Sunday of the ordination was the Fourth of Advent "The Lord is near" and the Epistle was taken from Philippians 4:4-7. Rejoice in the Lord always. After the Prayer Book reform this Sunday later became a Mary Sunday "The Mother of the Lord". I have always regarded that change as an encouraging act of God. The only thing I can recall from the Ordination Service was the heaviness of the hands of the bishops and of the priests on my head at the imposition of hands. It was as if they were handing over a burden. Now, I also remember that the chasuble I wore was red. It reminded me of the fire of the Holy Spirit, but it also made me think of blood, the blood of the martyrs, and it frightened me. Burden, fire and blood - priesthood! Martyrdom, Rejoice in the Lord! and the Mother of God.
My first year as a young unmarried priest in an ordinary small town parish with a close encounter of the first degree with ordinary State Church religion was more or less a disaster in spite of the unforgettable memories of ordinary Christians in the remote villages (one has to be careful with the Word of God), so I more or less fled to Uppsala and higher studies in Dogmatic Theology. At this time I had come across a book, written by some High Church renegade who, bluntly denied that there was an apostolic ministry in the Church of Sweden and contended that being a priest was just a practical delegation from the congregation to perform religious functions on its behalf. A delegation from the church? Which Church? That of the church politicians? That of the more or less indifferent belongers? I could not think of anything more revolting. A delegation from the pious old people? Fair enough. But what about the institution and commission of the Lord? The historical continuity? So there was no real priesthood with apostolic succession after all in the Church of Sweden? And the most humiliating of all was that I could not even live up to the standards of this non-existent ministry.
I Uppsala I finally found the subject for my doctoral studies: The theology of the Anglican Bishop and the Cantabrigian New Testament exegete, Booke Foss Westcott. At that time I hoped and believed that the Anglican Church, with which I had fallen in love, could be the bridge between the Church of Sweden, the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. With my background with the many different churches in the town of my boyhood, the visible unity of the Church in love and truth was the vision of my life as a priest and a scholar. I finally completed and defended my dissertation while being an ordinary married parish priest with a growing family.
Alongside with my studies in Uppsala, I had also worked as a chaplain at a boarding school and a Retreat Center. During these years I also came in contact with the charismatic revival which rolled over Sweden like a wave at that time. For three years I did ordinary parish work, so I can say that I knew the Church of Sweden from the "factory floor". I knew how ordinary people lived, what they thought and talked about.
Every now and then the questions about the ordination of women flared up. It seemed as if there was going to be an understanding between the two groups, when the bishop of Stockholm, Ingemar Ström, orchestrated a campaign in the biggest most secularized newspaper, that led to the dumping of all that had been negotiated and agreed upon. The result was that the conscience clause was abandoned and that the Equality Laws were in full effect in the Church, the Church of Sweden being just another ordinary workplace in society. It was also stated that no one henceforth could oppose the ordination of women, if he wanted to become a priest. There were to be no more separate ordination services for those who did not accept the reform. Miles of printed propaganda, letters to the editors, cartoons against those who opposed the ordination of women appeared in journals, magazines and newspapers. Everybody had an opinion, and most were against or outright hostile against those women-hating oppressors. "Women-haters" was the word. Racists and sexists are are terms of a more recent origin. It culminated in 1982 when the bishops issued a letter which bluntly stated that no one opposing this reform could in the long run serve in a trustworthy or credible way as a priest in the Church of Sweden. I have felt the hurting impact of that blow ever since (even if I later have come to the understanding that I do not want to serve as priest in a manner that the present official Church of Sweden considers trustworthy or credible).
At that time I had returned to Uppsala and became the Rector of Rasbo, a parish with four medieval churches and about 4000 inhabitants just outside Uppsala. In 1982 there was also a big reform on the way to the severance of the bonds between Church and State, which was bound to come, even if many resisted it. In this reform the bishops lost their seat in the General Synod. They could be present, but did not have the right to vote, if they were not chosen by and thus representing a political party. The General Synod had in in practice become a politically chosen congress of church politicians, dominated by the Social Democrats. This happened above my head while I was teaching, preaching, praying, baptizing, absolving, celebrating the mass, performing marriages and burials, visiting people in mourning and bereavement--ordinary priestly parish work. And I could do nothing about it.
The Free Synod was formed in order to liberate, maintain and renew the Church of Sweden. I joined, not because I really believed that it would succeed, but I saw no other way. It was my duty, and deep down I really prayed, hoped and believed that there was something in the Church of Sweden that could be liberated, something that was worth preserving and something that could be renewed. It was like seeing a boat with a rudder flapping to and fro. And I, who had always been an onlooker at a distance safely in the background, suddenly became a regional dean of the Free Synod.
The Free Synod was met with questions and suspicion, but even more with overt hostility not only from the Socialist and Liberal press which instinctively struck at and vilified the Synod or anyone or anything that resembled it, its leaders and its members. The hostility also come from the Bishops and the religio-political establishment. Seen in a retrospect the Synod proved to be a failure, and one reason for this failure being that the inbuilt tension between the catholicizers and the confessionalists never really was resolved. It was not enough to be a champion of the Bible and opposing the politicization of the church, the ordination of women being one of its symptoms. It is always easy to unite against something; it is much more difficult to rally people for something. The Synod never attracted enough people, even if there were many, especially priests, who expressed their sympathies in private, to have an effective impact. It is sad to say, but it proved to be a lame duck remaining in the margin of the church. The official church never yielded an inch. It took ideas from the Synod, presented them as its own, but never gave the Synod any credit. In another sense the Synod always remained in the center of massmedia smearing and defamation as its members were depicted as the ecclesiastical equivalents of racists, sexists, homophobes, neonazis and pedophiles.
Kvinnoprästmotståndare--opponent ofthe ordination of women--is still one of the worst things you can say about a person in Sweden. The Charismatics, a fair fair number of whom were sympathetic, even members of the Synod, did not engage in what they considered to be church politics. The Evangelicals never bothered (or sympathized in passive silence) as recognition by the State Church was high on their agenda, and having their own organisations and doctrinal concerns, the politicization of the church and the ordination of women were not of any interest for them as long as they could freely gather around the Gospel, promote personal piety and evangelize. They also succeeded in getting recognized by the Church of Sweden as a loosely organised diocese; there are also Evangelicals who have become bishops, but reality has in the end caught up with the Evangelicals. Now, they have to address the contemporary issues, not in the questions about the ordination of women, but in the guise of the lesbitransgay agenda.
During my more than twenty years as rector of an ordinary suburban and yet rural parish outside Uppsala, leading a normal priestly and family life in one of the most secularized areas in Sweden, an area about which scholars say that it was never really Christianized in spite of all the magnificent one thousand year old runic stones with crosses and medieval church buildings, I have witnessed how the Swedish Church slowly and gradually has changed with small but constant steps. Some changes have been for the better, at least in the beginning: better liturgies, some new good hymns, progress in ecumenical dialogues especially with the Roman Catholic Church. But there has also been the continued progression of tearing down the classical Christian faith, moral and praxis. The other day in the mail I got a copy of the tevised Prayerbook with the inclusive language purged Collect Prayers, which are to be used mandatorily from Advent this year. Almost gone are all Lord, King, Father, Son, Almighty, heavenly, everlasting, holyeverything that is considered patriarchal, sexist, non egalitarian, i.e., a great part of the ordinary Biblical language. The old way of addressing the Holy Ghost has been replaced by a wording that can be interpreted in a feminine way. In the Mass book there are already prayers in which God is addressed both as Father and Mother. If I had told my friends ten years ago what you would find in the liturgical books, what you would encounter in Uppsala Cathedral and what you may find in the religious newspapers of today, opened haphazardly, they would probably have accused me of painting the Devil on the wall as the priests were accused of it in my teens when they prophesied about the future.
Thirteen years, ago when I returned after a one month´strip to Canada and the U.S., I met with the Archbishop, Dr. Bertil Werkström, at his office to report to him what I had observed and experienced. I told him about the progress in Ecumenism, about practical cooperation between Lutherans and Catholics, something which really interested him as he soon was going to meet the Pope when he was visiting Uppsala during his Scandinavian trip. I also told him about the Gay and Lesbian agenda, about Feminism and about Inclusive Language being in my view the verbal and conceptual crowbar with the help of which the traditional Christian faith could be broken up. After my report, the Archbishop looked at me seriously and said: Its it really that serious, and I responded: It is much worse, and in ten years we´ll have it here. It was true. Now it is here for everyone to see.
Some years ago an openly Lesbian photographer, Elisbeth Olsson, exhibited her photographs in the Cathedral on large screens. People were shocked by seeing naked bodies in the church. I did not attend the exhibition, and even if I had, the disply of a naked body per se in a church building would not have offended me. What God has created is never obscene in itself. It depends upon what one makes of the nakedness and how it is presented. It was only when a I saw a representation of Last Supper with Jesus in the middle with high heeled ladies shoes visible under the table, surrounded by leather - and chain-clad men of various fashions and styles, that I reacted. I did not mind the company, I did not mind Jesus being depicted the way he was (except for the red shoes) identifying with sinners, but once I realized what he held in his right hand, the message hit me with full force. Jesus did not hold a piece of bread in his hand. He held a powder puff. The message was not that his body was to be broken on the cross as the bread was broken with and for these people; what he held in his hand was the emblem of a self-referring Narcissism - looking himself in the mirror powdering his cheeks in order to please the onlookers as a sexual object. He was not the imago Dei, the loving One, the Original, after whom people around that table should be fashioned. He was nothing but Man trapped in his own fashionable image, defined by others, an object of desire in the eyes of others like him.
When the exhibition took place, the emblematic ideological significane of this action was obvious. The Church has always been one of the most powerful moral transmitters against practised homosexual relationships, and conquering the Cathedral of the Archdiocese of the National Swedish Church and transmitting the lesbitransgay message, would be the ultimate victory for the proponents of this agenda. The battle, however did not stop there; the campaign went on successfully. Parliament is now discussing a new gender neutral marriage legislation, and there is also a legal fight for the rights of homosexuals couples to adopt children. A law against defamation or incitement to hatred against homosexuals has also been passed, and there is now an ombudsman (HomO), who is supervising and even inspecting the observance of this law, not least among the churches and religious groups. Publicly reading or telling what the Bible or the Koran have to say about homosexuality is still permitted, though.
Last year in Uppsala Cathedral there was a blessing of a Lesbian couple - one priestess, incidentially Archbishop Hammar´s sister, and a woman who had recently defended a dissertation on Feminist Theology - who had contracted a partnership at the Mayor´s office. The blessing took place within the framework of a Mass, celebrated by the women Bishop of Lund, Christina Odenberg. When the medias got wind of this, the Bishop in an article in Church Times categorically and with anger denied that there had been a blessing, until one program from this service surfaced (all the others having mysteriously disappeared), on which it was printed: Mass of the Way with the Blessing of a Partnership. Blessing or not, permitted or not yet permitted according to the canons and rituals of the Church of Sweden, all this is of no consequence as it is already here, and it is here to stay.
The Bishop of Stockholm, the second woman bishop in the Swedish episcopate, Caroline Krook, states in an interview in one of the biggest newspaper that the bishops of Stockholm have been trailblazers. "We were early in ordaining priests who were openly homosexuals and today quite a number live in open partnerships". About homosexual "marriages in Church" she says: "Marriage is one thing, partnership is something else, but both can be blessed". There is ample room for practising homosexuals in the diocese of Stockholm, and they are many. Not unexpectedly, there is no room for those who oppose the ordination of women.
A year ago once again Uppsala Cathedral got in the international public eye, when the same dean, a woman, Dr. Tuulikki Koivunen Bylund, who invited the Ecce Homo photo exhibition, this time opened the Cathedral for a Memorial Manifestation for an immigrant Kurdish woman, shot dead by her father for not complying to the rules of the family thereby violating "the honour" of the family. She wanted to live just like an ordinary young Swedish woman with a boyfriend, a job and life of her own. Being a Moslem, at least nominally, there could, of course, be no Christian burial, but a memorial service of a general religious character was held, in which the name of Jesus or the Trinity was never mentioned. According to the local newpaper fifteen thousand white carnations adorned the church. The importance of the occasion was made evident by the presence of the Crown Princess and the Minister for Equality Affairs. The picture women, all dressed in black carrying the casket out of the Cathedral, headed by another women, also entirely dressed in black, clasping a big photograph of the victim, was momentous. The picture was like an icon of a saint of a novel cult, as if the Cathedral had become the shrine of a new martyr. Certainly, the killing was an indefensible crime. No one is contesting that. The death of the young woman by the hand of her own father was nothing short of a tragedy. No one is denying that. The Church was showing due compassion. No one is criticizing that. But this event, as it was staged, also became a powerful ideological marking and manifestation of a particular agenda, and I surmise that I was not the only one who had difficulties how to tell where mourning and compassion ended and ideological exploitation and ambition began.
In a recent article in a national Sunday newspaper a journalist asked two confirmands outside a church after a service:Why do you still belong to the Church of Sweden. Are you a Christian? The answer one of the two confirmands gave was this: I don´t believe in God. I´ve been to church mostly because I am curious! And from my knowledge, I could have prompted Because I follow my mates, and confirmation is a tradition in our family. The only things that have changed over the years is that the numbers of confirmands have declined (in the last ten years the numbers have dropped 20% and the average is now around 40% of all fifteen year old), and those who are now attending confimation classes do not do it for the presents as in many cases before. That is, at least, one step forward. I do not know what this young confirmand did not believe in, and, even if I am not inclined to take his no as a final answer, I have enough respect for his no not to turn it into a veiled yes of some kind. A sound curiosity, however, is something that the Holy Ghost, the Spirit of Truth, can do quite a lot with. With confirmands it is all right with a low and tentative Christian profile, but in the case of an archbishop this will not do.
According to the Swedish archbishop, Dr. Karl Gustaf Hammar, it does not seem to matter what you believe: you don´t have to believe anything particular to be a Christian or to be a member of the Church of Sweden (which is not really true, as a journalist in one of the biggest tabloids recently pointed outyou must believe in the ordination of women). There seems to be an annual custom now that the Archbishop makes a statement in the press at the great Christian Festivals. Last Christmas (and before that it was at Easter) the message was this: you dont have to believe in the Virgin Birth or the Virginal conception (Mary was a theological virgin - a way of expressing that Jesus was very special). You dont have to belive that Jesus walked on the water (thats a metaphorical way to express that he has authority over the powers of chaos). Neither do you have to believe that he was the unique Son of God (because that was a common mythological way of referring to religious or politically important people at that time there were many sons of Godbut God´s love somehow was displayed in a concentrated way around Jesus). Nor do you have to believe in the saving significance of Christ´s death (because nobody today understands the underlying ideas of expiation and sacrifice, and we do not look at things that way now). What he has to say about the Resurrection, when pressed on the matter, is that it is necessary for the Christian faith, but I think it would not, according to Dr. Hammar, be necessary to believe in a bodily resurrection. It is the encounter with Jesus that really matters. Whatever that was. Subjective visions? Jesus resurrected in the hearts of the disciples? Ordie Sache Jesu geht weiter (while his body in fact is rotting away in a forgotten grave somewhere)?
When the Roman Catholic Bishop Anders Arborelius and the Pastor of the biggest Pentecostal congregation in Stockholm, Sten-Gunnar Hedin, recently published a joint Jesus Manifesto, in which they stated the traditional Christian faith about Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of a Virgin, risen from the dead leaving the grave empty, and expressed a confidence in the Bible as the Word of God, archbishop Hammar responded that he wanted more space around Jesus; he did not want to enclose Jesus in the narrowness of dogmatic definition creating barriers and thereby excluding people. Earlier in his career he had been talking about myths, but he has given that up because he was misunderstood, as he says; now he is talking about poetry: the Christian faith as poetic truth. What is going on, really? What does he want to convey? Putting it bluntly: is he saying: stay and pay, you don´t have to believe those old tales in a literal way. No, I do not think he is primarily saying that; I think Dr.Hammar, who happens to be the 68th archbishop of Uppsala, is not only a committed 68 leftist (he has infuriated even the Liberals with his outspoken leftist views) but also a pious and sincere man: he is from his theological presuppositions just saying publicly what the teachers at the theological faculties and seminaries have been telling the students for the last hundred years (and for that the local Liberal newpaper is commending him doubt being the root of Western Civilization), resorting like so many others of that persuasion to the kind of mysticism which seems to be the residue when the Word of God has been deconstructed and the divine Revelation has become illustrationrather than incarnation. Is anyone surprised?
Dr. Hammar´s religious poetry and the Roman Catholic Bishop´s and the Pentecostal Pastor´s Jesus Manifesto (which of course have been labeled and libeled fundamentalist), both in the public eye and ear of one of Europe´s most secularized countries at the same time! Suddenly the Swedish newspapers and magazines were literally flooded with letters to the editor and articles about the Christian faith and especially about Jesus. That is remarkable. There had, of course, been regularly- recurring storms about the ordination of women or rather furious attacks on those who still do not believe in the reform, on those who are routinely depicted as religious fundamentalists and talibans (snake-handling hillbillies is a term that does not belong to the Swedish abusive religious imagery and probably never will, because it would be deemed offensive to the snakes by all the religious environmentalists). Now, at last, the scope has suddenly broadened. The debate is not about women priests or bishops or the blessing of same sex relationships: it is about the centre of the Christian faith: Jesus Christ! Who is he? What did he say and do? What is his significance for us today? What is Christian faith? What does it mean to be a Christian?
As in all religious debates, the usual frontlines form. There is the massive Liberal lineup. There is also the collegial backup with some exceptions from the other bishops. The questions remain the same from the great debate fifty years ago on Christian faith, initiated by a professor of Practical Philosophy in Uppsala, Ingemar Hedenius, who asked the fundamental questions about Jesus: was he born by a Virgin, did he perform miracles, did he rise bodily from the grave, does his blood take away the sins of the world? Yes or no? And the fundamentalists of the Church of Sweden at that time answered yes, and were hopelessly out of the game, whereas the academic theologians evaded the questions, stating that they were wrongly posed, as these dogmatic statements were neither true or false. They were true for the eye of faith. True as poetry and music are true to the reader or istener? Is not that what Dr. Hammar et consortes are saying?
In the debate some fifty years later, however, something has happened. The public apologetic task has been taken over by the Roman Catholics, and the humanised religion, which Professor Hedenius advocated, is now firmly rooted in the Church of Sweden and defended by its official representatives. But the Liberal kind of religion, for which Dr. Hammar is only the figurehead, has been challenged, again by members of the academic community, this time an Assistant Professor in the History of Ideas of the University of Lund, Svante Nordin, who presents himself not as a confessional Christian or believer in any other religion, nor as a militant atheist, when he writes: The Church of Sweden as it appears in the days of Archbishop Hammar has probably as little to do with the Christian belief in a historic sense as let us say the politics of [the Social Democratic] Prime Minister Göran Persson has to do with Karl Marx. I do not think it could be said in a better and more clarifying way. Is the religion of the official Church today actually the Sunday version of the Social Democratic weekday ideology. The pink church! Or putting it in another way: the new tutti frutti universalist religion of humanitarianism and human rights. That is certainly not my church.
But what does one do with such an insight? Leave? For what? A life as a private man writing poetry which will be torpedoed in the Church Times? What, then, about my ordination vows? Conversion? Where? Becoming a Roman Catholic. With the Anglican theologian Claude Beaufort Moss, the author of a well known introduction to Dogmatic Theology, I cannot see that there is conclusive evidence for a belief in the infallibility of the Pope, his Universal Jurisdiction, Purgatory, Indulgencies, the Immaculate Conception of Mary (but I gratefully accept the Pope´s invitation to further studies and dialogue in Ut unum sint).
Becoming an Orthodox? Yes, but where is the Orhodox Church in Sweden. Starting a new business, as the deacon Forslin so generously suggested, adding a third or fourth confessional Lutheran Free church to the microscopic ones already existing, fighting against each other? Becoming a Swedish branch of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod? Joining the Nordic Catholic Church together with the Norwegians, being an Old Caholic church (with all its problems), affiliated with the Polish National Catholic Church in the U.S.A,? Forming a Mission Province (whatever that may be) as a successor to the Free Synod with controverted bishops consecrated by Baltic or African Lutheran bishops? Claiming to be the real Swedish Church, the only legitimate continuing Swedish hurch.?
The traces of the Free Churches deter and discourage. It is a way that has been tried for one hundred and fifty years in Sweden, and it did not work then and it will not work now. If I, for the sake of argument, left the Church of Sweden, joined a new church of some kind and returned to Rasbo which I think I should be obliged to do) in order to evangelize, preaching and celebrating the Eucharist in the Sport Hall, people of this parish would no doubt ask me why I am not in the real church, the stone church with the real graveyard, the church with icons of Christ, of the Mother of God, of Saint Olof and of Saint Bridget, with altars with inserted slabs of stone engraved with five gilded crosses, stones that you yourself had installed and told us that they represented Golgotha here in our parish; they would ask me questions why I am not in the real church when I preach what they always have heard me preach, saying the prayer we have always prayed together, singing the hymns from the ordinary hymnbooks we always sang, celebrating the Eucharist with the same liturgies as I did before. Why are you not in the real church, when you have not changed your theology or your praxis. I do not have a good answer to their questions. I am confused and wavering, I readily admit that, but who would not be confused in a confused age. Only idiots would be sure what to say and what to do. And prophets. And I am, at least, not a prophet.
Nobody knows what the future holds for the Church of Sweden. There are, of course, congregations scattered all over the country where there is a genuine Christian life, I am not doubting or denying that, and they will survive in one way or another, but taking the Swedish Church as a whole, will there eventually be a collapse and the Bridgettine nun, Mother Hesselblad´s prayers in the end will have been answered: the recatholization of Sweden; or may something concrete and viable for the future come out of the talks, initiated by Archbishop Hammar as a result of a motion submitted to the General Synod by the Rev.Yngve Kalin about the status and future of the minorities (which in an ecumenical perspective really are the majority) within the Church of Sweden. As a signatory of the Charta Oecumenica and as a member of the World Council of Churches, in which the Orthodox have insisted on respect for the traditional faith and those who hold it, the Church of Sweden stands under a obligation. It may be that this round of talks is nothing but another diversion manoeuvre, but there are also signs that more considerate persons realize that in view of the future, the Church of Sweden cannot afford to loose or throw out some of its most dedicated priests, laymen and laywomen. What I hope for, which may be totally unrealistic, is a recognized non-territorial diocese (similar to that of Evangeliska Fosterlandsstiftelsen) with a bishop or bishops (there is the rub) in association with but in impaired communion with the Church of Sweden, based on its original confessional fundament: the Bible, the three Ecumenical Creeds, Confessio Augustana which is Catholic in its substance and Ecumenical in its intention, and Archbishop Laurentius Petri´s Church Order of 1571. This non-territorial diocese would have the freedom to carry on the ecumenical dialogues that have begun with the Roman Catholic Church and also establish a closer contact with orthodox opposition groups within the Anglican Communion. Dreams in the blue?
In the meantime, what shall I do? Resign at the age of sixty-two, turning my back on the Church of Sweden in its present form and condition? Stay and pray, teach and preach, celebrate the Eucharist in the local congregation until I am 65 (if I live that long) or until someone literally throws me out as a church hooligan or taliban? I do not know. At my installation twenty-three years ago I promised before the altar of God, before the then Archbishop Dr. Bertil Werkström and before the whole congregation, that I would undertake the office of a pastor for the congregations of Rasbo, Rasbokil, Tuna and Stavby, and as this commission has not been revoked, is that what I am going to do until further notice? Staying and praying without communion with a real bishop, having become some kind of an emergency congregationalist, not of my own choice; trying to follow, teaching and preaching a tradional Christian belief and morality as good as I can, being some kind of private Catholic. I perfectly well know that you cannot be such thing as an emergency congregationalist or a private catholic. It is impossible. But I also know that the criticism of the theological and ecclesiological backseat-drivers including my own demons--a private solution to an ecclesiological problem-- does not exactly help in this dilemma. Thus, is the only possible way forward, being stuck in the present circumstances, staying until further notice, staying and praying, preaching, celebrating the Eucaharist, praying with the congregation Regard his [Christ´s] eternal and perfect sacrifice with which thou hast reconciled the world with thyself . Let us all through the Holy Ghost be united into one Body and perfected into a living sacrifice in Christ. The anamnetic and epicletic body of believers in the process of being transfigured into the Body of Christ, realizing what it in essence already isis that where the real Church is to be found? Is this perhaps also essentially in line with what Confessio Augustana expresses in Article VII: One Holy Church will remain for ever. Now this Church is the congregation [or as I would rather say, communion] of the saints, in which the Gospel is rightly taught and the sacraments rightly administered. And for that true unity of the Church it is enough to have unity of belief concerning the teaching of the Gospel and the administration of the sacraments. A typically Lutheran answer with all its weaknesses and strengths in a broken, provisional situation.
Staying until further notice and praying. For what? For the resuscitation of a dying church? That is too little. For a miracle? Even the resurrection of a dead church? Lazarus, come forth!
2004 © Folke T. Olofsson
So, pastor leave that Church and find your way HOME to Jesus Christ. YOU can do it.
of exercise and comfort eating? Yes
For what it's worth . . .. The Bible says to sow seeds. you can't do that sitting on your rear feeling sorry for yourself. A guy named Jesus showed us the way, and it wasn't exactly peachs & cream for him.
I agree with both of you -- but I don't fully understand the nature of the promise he made. Is it as binding as, say, a wedding vow (ought to be), but without at least the relief of a separation? I do not know.
I've seen some of what he saw in my old church, and the grief of leaving, of even considering leaving, is very real. (But at least once having left, it is behind one.)
"Apparently, the CHURCH OF SWEDEN IS THE CHURCH OF SWEDEN not of Jesus Christ."
The Church of Sweden was a Lutheran church before it sold out. There is nothing Lutheran, nor Christian, about it now.
The American ELCA is following down the same path.
Next August a number of Lutheran Churches will leave the ELCA over its abandonment of Scripture at the behest of the homosexual pressure groups. The ELCA powers-that-be will be grimly and self-righteously indifferent to the grievous wound they have caused to the body of Christ.
Excellent yet sad article.
Very interesting, especially because I have good friends who went to Sweden last year as missionaries with the Vineyard Church. They are hopeful about their mission, but say the situation there is dire. IIRC, they said that only 4% of the population attends church, and that is mainly the elderly. On top of that, consider that many of the attendees may not even be Christians. Church is viewed as an old fashioned thing that's no longer in style.
The out of wedlock birth rate in Sweden is sky high because marriage is practically irrelevant -- couples choose to live together instead of marry. "Stay at home moms" are almost non-existant -- our friends say every mom they know works outside of the home, and that Swedes are perplexed by the idea of staying home (some of this is due to their outrageous tax rate, I am sure). Sex among the unmarried is treated casually, more as "healthy exercise" than anything else.
Our friends are, however, seeing a lot of conversions amongst the immigrant population, who were long abused by native Swedes. So it's not all bad, but it's bad for Western Europe in general, which, IMO, has long since discarded God.
Ping to the Swedish Ping List.
Ping to the Lutheran Ping List.
Good article but sad, a good blueprint on how things can happen here (and are happening) if we don't watch out He better watch, the Swedish PC police will get him. B-(
All of this talk about the "decline" of the church (any church; mine happens to be Roman Catholic), the decline of belief and trust in God, is bantered about by people who have no concept of history.
Right now, yeah, sure, it's cool, it's hip, it's trendy, to be a "rational" person--to disbelieve anything that cannot be "explained" in the cerebral morass of the human mind.
If it cannot be "explained," it does not exist.
Been there, done that, seen that.
I doubt it is going to happen any time soon, but based upon the known tendencies of mankind throughout the ages, I have no doubt that some day, sooner or later, something is going to happen, and people will come to their senses, and the churches of Sweden (and everywhere else) are going to be jampacked to the rafters, all these pious non-believers suddenly realizing that God exists, and God is here.
You've been through the mill, it looks like! I was first LCA then ELCA, now ???
Sad, because it was the classic conservative Lutheran theology which attracted me. No sooner did I join, than they began to try to be "relevant." Sheesh.
But his story... what a heartache...
Besides, I found it fascinating to read the whole thing. I can empathize with so much of what Olofsson says.
Me too. I saw the earlier stages of this in ECUSA in the early 1980s, which is part of the reason I left ECUSA a few years later. It was only a year or two ago when, courtesy of the Traditional Anglican ping list founder ahadams2, I took a look at what had been going on back there since, and was shocked.
I miss the gentle love of the ALC and I object to the liberal relativism that permeates the ELCA. If the ELCA continues down the pathway to perdition, it will do so without us.
"For Me and My House, We will serve the Lord!"
It is sad. The Lutheran churches once were gold in the crown of the King, but having succumbed to secular temptations they have reduced themselves to dross.
You are probably right, but western Europe is going to go through a very long dark age before that happens. Hopefully America can avoid the abyss into which the western euros are rushing headlong.
...They predicted that in the long run there would not only be ordained women, but this reform would lead to a different view of the Word of God and hence God´s revelation...Now, they said, man was in command of the Bible, free to interpret it the way he, she or the spirit of the times wanted, and as a consequence of this, there would be a new understanding of the priesthood to begin with. They predicted that insolubility of marriage would wane with a new understanding of marriage and what it meant to be a man and a women, there would be a new way of looking at the Creation and the order given in it, a new way of understanding human sexuality, that same-sex relationships in the end would be accepted, and there would even be blessings of same-sex relationships, marriages, and as the crowning event: the understanding of God the Father would be replaced by God the Mother. It sounded like some dystopic theological science fiction.
Reminiscent of Gary North's excellent book, "Crossed Fingers: How the Liberals Captured the Presbyterian Church."
However, the Word abides forever and all whom Christ came to gather will be led safely home.
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world." -- John 16:33.
Machen's book "Christianity and Liberalism" was an early warning cry. Too bad it went mostly unheeded by the denomination.
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be make salty again? It is no longer food for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men." (mt. 5:13)
The way of the world. Sadly. For now, anyway.
I remember liking your homepage. Anyone who begins theirs with bagpipes has got to be thinking clearly...and lyrically. 8~)
Lyrically, I will accept. But "clearly"? The Spanish word for bagpiper, "gaitero", also connotes "a wild and crazy person." My experience of the breed (self excluded, of course, because I am also an engineer *\;-) confirms the correctness of their definition.
(Sadly, my Swedish piper friend's piping days are long since past.)
Staying until further notice and praying. For what? For the resuscitation of a dying church? That is too little. For a miracle? Even the resurrection of a dead church? Lazarus, come forth!
2004 © Folke T. Olofsson
Sad, very sad.
Those folks are lost sheep and are in need of the Shepherd: Yshua
It points out that our relationship is to be with the everlasting all-loving G-d,
who offered his Son as sacrifice for our sins and not with any of mans organizations.
I think Folke confuses the meaning of the word church:
Ekklesia: a group of called out ones in this case for G-d.
As opposed to a group of people who are called out for Man who call themselves a church.
NAsbU Mark 12:32 The scribe said to Him, "Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM; 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE'S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."
In His Forever Grip