Comments: Ecumenical comments from the CofE

....Seems like it's time to move to Sweden...

Posted by k1eranc at Sunday, 12 February 2006 at 6:39am GMT

. . . or better yet, the world's values look more like Sweden's (and miraculously, the *Church of Sweden's*! :-D)

A question for our conservative friends: does not the Church of Sweden's response honestly look like the answer to "What Would Jesus Do?"

Thanks be to God!

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Sunday, 12 February 2006 at 10:40pm GMT

On current demographic trends, it looks like the Church of Sweden (ASA c. 2% of the population and aging) will be extinct in 20 years. Most young people in Sweden never show up in church and have virtually zilch knowledge of Christianity. Meanwhile, the Hammar family (the Archbishop's lesbian sister, now 'married' to a divorced woman, and his brother) are squabbling over who will get to take over the family business.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 12:22am GMT

And you think they would be flocking to join conservative churches, do you, Peter? I don't think so.

Good for Sweden - at least they live in the real world not the pretend one which conservatives wish to create, given their dislike of this one!

Posted by Merseymike at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 11:13am GMT

The threats implicit in the FOAG report bear a strong similarity to those more clearly leveled at the CofE by the Primate of Nigeria.

I suppose it is just possible that the CofE could find itself almost completely isolated, abandoning some while at the same time finding itself abandoned by the others.

I find the report itself strange, one would hardly think the CofE is struggling within itself on this issue, that there is a lively debate and once again we see the document Issues in Human Sexuality waved as if it had real force, when it has none.

The third issue of so called reparative therapy is the most bizarre. We are told:
“it runs the risk of condemning at the same time responsible therapeutic ministries suitable for certain kinds of case, and of begging some of the important underlying questions of principle.”

I had not realised that the CofE had formally endorsed these “therapeutic ministries” in such a way that to forswear them becomes a matter of ecumenical importance.

The Swedish Church has clearly decided that it should not endeavour to fix what is not broken and this is in perfect accord with its first two statements. The final statement from Sweden makes no more of human sexuality and same-sex partnerships than it says, while the decision to improve on a liturgy for these partnerships shows the Swedish Church intent on making the best of their existence by setting them within the discipline of the Church and placing expectations on them. How sensible.

It seems that the FOAG has “initiated a major piece of work. This will look at the questions of what it means for the Church of England to be in communion with another church and how that communion might be affected by different approaches to ethical issues.” I wonder who commissioned this piece of work from them and who will be its authors?

Posted by Martin Reynolds at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 11:47am GMT

Ah yes, the extinction posts, I always like those.

Posted by RMF at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 5:08pm GMT

Merseymike, it's not about living in the "real" world. It's about preparing ourselves for the world to come...or is that the "pretend" world you think conservatives wish to create?

Posted by Tom at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 10:48pm GMT

Merseymike: No, for several reasons I don't subscribe to the simple minded view you appear to attribute to me, viz. 'traditional theology means people will flock to the church'. First, Sweden is a deeply secularized society in which most people have little knowledge of Christian faith. To reach them, it will take years of sacrificially preaching the Gospel of salvation by the Cross of Christ (rather than the thin gruel of 'I'm OK, you're OK' that passes for Swedish Lutheranism today). Every step the Church of Sweden takes to bless the secular order - to ingratiate itself with the people - only convinces the people of its irrelevance. Second, Jesus never promised his message of dying to ourselves and taking up our cross in discipleship would be popular. on the other hand, the Pentecostal churches are still quite lively in Sweden and the Roman Catholic Church is growing. So there are people in Sweden who do take the traditional faith seriously (even in the Lutheran Church). But the Church of Sweden itself is a strangely Erastian organization, with elected political parties deciding its policies. Its adoption of homosexual 'marriage' is simply a reflection of its secular political character.
But surely these are not issues that should bother a Quaker?

Posted by Peter Bergman at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 10:51pm GMT

Peter, I think in your posts is quite detectable an uncharitable and needlessly confrontational pose. Maybe you could adopt a new one.

Posted by rmf at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 11:36pm GMT

The Gospels clearly state that the Kingdom is at hand. It's here if only people starting living as Jesus taught. The fixation of some that it's all about getting some prize in the "next life," need to reconsider and re-read sacred scriptures. The Kingdom of God is starts here (some say it started with Christ birth. Imagine Heaven came to Earth as a tiny child. Does that sound like "the next life?")

Posted by BobPenn,Rite I at Monday, 13 February 2006 at 11:53pm GMT

What you call "thin gruel", Peter, I would call the Bread of Life (Christ's Body).

But better even thin gruel, than the toxicity of "I'm OK, you're going to hell"---which seems the best translation of the conservative Bad News gospel. :-(

Posted by J. C. Fisher at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 3:46am GMT

I thought I was being 'robust' rather than 'uncharitable', rmf. The death of Christian Sweden is a very sad matter, especially as it was self-inflicted: the country never had to endure Nazi or Communist tyranny. I'm not a prophet nor a son of the prophets, but I imagine that the people of Judah didn't like Jeremiah's and Ezekiel's 'extinction posts' either. But both of them saw beyond the Lord's chastening judgment to His restoration. It isn't good to cry 'peace, peace' (i.e. shalom, shalom - 'All is well!') when things are very different. And as Mark Steyn would say (uncharitably?) to post-Christian Europe: 'It's the demography, stupid!'
If you can see how an elderly church, largely past child-bearing and not converting the wider society to its point of view, is going to survive and flourish in the next 20 years, I would be glad to hear how. But I am not holding my breath.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 10:37am GMT

I suppose there is something to be said for consistency. What, I'm not sure.

Posted by RMF at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 1:35pm GMT

"On current demographic trends, it looks like the Church of Sweden (ASA c. 2% of the population and aging) will be extinct in 20 years. Most young people in Sweden never show up in church and have virtually zilch knowledge of Christianity.”-- Peter Bergman


Growing up in the 1950s I remember the controversy when the Church of Sweden ordained women priests. Some people said the same thing then that Peter says today. Half a century later, the Church of Sweden is still chugging along, alive and well. My guess is that 50 years from now, the CofS will still be chugging along, witnessing for Christ, when the opponents of women’s and gay ordinations are history.

Posted by Kurt at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 2:27pm GMT

Kurt: 50 years ago there were twice as many people in the Church of Sweden - and more than twice as many in the Church of England and other churches in Europe. Ecusa was also about twice the size it is now, when US population was c. 160 million. Since c. 1962 the demography of thse churches has gone relentlessly south. Your 'guess' is only valid if the famed Nordic air will grant very great longevity to its people. Otherwise you're whistling past the graveyard. With very few children in its ambit and most Swedes growing up agnostic and indifferent, current projections are that the Church of Sweden will have largely died out in 50 years. There are only two ways for a church to grow: have children (lots of them!) and retain them; or convert non-believers. The Church of Sweden is doing neither.
In fairness, it should be pointed out that this isn't unique to Sweden; the same trends are found throughout the Nordic countries, where the indigenous population is indifferent to their state church while the Muslim immigrant population grows. Poor set-upon Denmark is a perfect case in point.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 8:09pm GMT

"My guess is that 50 years from now, the CofS will still be chugging along, witnessing for Christ, when the opponents of women’s and gay ordinations are history."

Peter seems to be drawing on demographic trends rather than doomsaying in the "we're all going to hell in a handbasket" fashion.

In any case, whether you come from a liberal or conservative perspective, I don't think it's possible to be as sanguine as you are about the future. The kinds of political and economic crises our world will face over the next few decades, as our populations face ever poorer and more scarce sources of energy, are likely to propel our societies toward ideological extremes. What kind of church will withstand this is an interesting question, but it seems to me that the acceptance of female church leaders (with which I personally agree) or the encouragement of same-sex sexual relationships among those with same-sex attractions (with which I personally disagree) will both seem like rather insignificant points in this changed world context.

Posted by nathan at Tuesday, 14 February 2006 at 9:20pm GMT

Maybe, Peter. But I think that Muslim immigrants are just as likely to secularize as anyone else; their children or grandchildren, anyway. Many already are worried about secular influences on their children in the West.

I’m less concerned than Nathan because I have never expected that Christianity should be a majority religion or philosophy. We are often at our best when we are a minority of the population witnessing for Christ.

Posted by Kurt at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 4:21pm GMT

Kurt: I think you are a little sanguine about how Europe is actually developing; Nathan is nearer the mark. No one could have been more 'secularized' than the train bombers of London on 7/7, prior to their radicalization. Step by step the social and public order is changing across Europe, as Islamic mores, fashions, anti-Jewish politics, marriage customs and sexual insecurities are being institutionalized. In a way that Europeans still don't understand, Islam is really more about 'politeia' than about religion. It's about law (sharia), not spiritual communion with God (barring a few Sufis). Christians can be told by the cultural elite to shut up and endure public blasphemy on stage and TV in the name of 'free speech' but no one seriously says this to Muslims, even over some fairly mediocre but generally on the mark cartoons. Why? Because Europe is TERRIFIED of Islamic violence.
Your assumption (hope?) that Europe's Muslims will become as slack as its ex-Christians is presently belied by all the contemporary evidence. Islam is a pan-civilization, and Europe is being drawn into the vortex of its quarrels - including its quarrels with secularism, Jews and Christianity. Europe is in significant demographic decline; the indigenous population is aging and being replaced by 'new Europeans' and immigrants who have no affection of loyalty to its past. Why else do you think record numbers of Dutch people are emigrating to Canada and New Zealand?

Posted by Peter Bergman at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 5:21pm GMT

Oh dear, we now have the evangelical islamophobes out to play as well.

Posted by Merseymike at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 6:54pm GMT

Actually, Peter, given Europe's history of violence toward minorities, I would be more concerned about what might happen to Muslims if Europeans get too terrified of them.

Posted by Kurt at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 8:24pm GMT

Merseymike: yes, mark me down for 'Islamophobic' if by that you mean 'against Islam', especially in its aggressive, imperialistic forms. I don't know if Quakers have any views on Islam, but you're a peaceable people on the whole. Not too many Quakers in the Dar ul-Islam, though, so maybe it's a question you Quakers haven't faced up to yet. But Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants in Islamic lands have a long and bitter experience of dhimmitude.
Kurt: if you mean growing violence between indigenous Europeans and Muslims, yes, I'm pretty sure that is going to happen, and not just from the far right, who seem to do most of the running on this question in Europe. The cartoon censorship and the attempt to browbeat Denmark will produce quite a backlash from more moderate secular groups.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 9:51pm GMT

So Mike, how does the Quaker service compare so far to your experiences in the CoE? How do you find it?

Posted by RMF at Wednesday, 15 February 2006 at 10:45pm GMT

My last contribution to this thread before it wanders completely OT:
I do not like labeling people nor with being labeled myself, least of all with journalistic neologisms ending in '-phobia', the point of whcih seems to be rhetorical rather than precision of thinking. 'phobia' is used in DSM-IV and elsewhere to refer primarily to a form of mental illness: a strong, persistent, abnormal fear or dislike of something or some people. The crossover into popular speech does little to help understanding, particularly if one thinks his opposition is rational and informed.
I think it interesting that British journalist Polly Toynbee (no friend of Christianity, AFAIK) was recently nominated as 'Most Islamophobic Media Personality'. Perhaps the same would be said of Ayaan Hirsi Ali - though her fears seem pretty rational to me.
Finally, a recent comment from a joutnalist on the odd attitude of the secular liberal-left on Islam today:
'Anyone who undertakes serious analysis of Muslim disaffection is held guilty of Islamism, a hybrid word that can only be a euphemism for racism, since indifference to all religion and a cheerful ignorance of Islam have long been characteristic of the West, Islamist fellow-traveling springs from a very contemporary cocktail of emotions, irrationalities, and fear; fear of the potential accusation of Islamophobia; from anti-Americanism; from self-hatred; from deep-seated complusion to salvage something from the break-up of multiculturalism; and finally from some fluid sense that if extremist Muslims mean what they say, it is only a cost-free insurance policy to side with them.'
Swedish social attitudes - including Swedish Lutherans - have generally reflected most of these impulses. But now they have their work cut out for them, especially in Malmo.

Posted by Peter Bergman at Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 12:46pm GMT

Honestly, honestly! My LAST LAST post on this thread: a link just in confirming that the Church of Sweden has just posted the biggest loss of membership among Lutheran churches (200k) - which is what I was saying all along about demographics.
http://www.christianpost.com/article/intl/141/section/lutheran.numbers.grow.worldwide.shrink.in.global.north/1.htm

Now I'll go off and fix myself a smorgasbord ....

Posted by Peter Bergman at Thursday, 16 February 2006 at 1:39pm GMT
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