WHAT happens when a church is completely taken over by progressive activists who toss the gospel out of the window and instead jump on every passing liberal cause? When that happens the church begins to interpret Jesus in its own way. We need look no further than the Church of Sweden to see the inevitable result.
In a move which could have been scripted for Monty Python, a congregation of the church tweeted that Greta Thunberg had achieved divinity.
The tweet read: ‘Announcement! Jesus of Nazareth has now appointed one of his successors, Greta Thunberg’. The account, operated by the Limhamns Church in Limhamn, near Malmo, had previously tweeted several times in outspoken support of climate activism.
Posted on December 1, 2018, the tweet has re-emerged in the wake of Greta Thunberg’s speech before the United Nations Climate Conference in Madrid in December 2019. During the conference, in her trademark ‘How dare you’ stance, she denounced world leaders and sounded the alarm about climate change during a speech which went viral.
‘My message is that we’ll be watching you,’ Thunberg warned a room full of world leaders. ‘You all come to us young people for hope, how dare you? You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words and yet I’m one of the lucky ones . . . We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you?’
While some Swedish Twitter users found the notion of a church tweet claiming Thunberg to be a successor to Christ as simply ridiculous, others found the suggestion offensive, if not blasphemous.
‘Time and time again I ask myself: when was the Swedish church kidnapped by left-wing extremists?’ one wrote.
Many denounced the tweet. One asked sarcastically, ‘Should you now abandon the celebration of Jesus’s birthday and start celebrating Greta Thunberg’s birthday instead? After all, we members must know who is the Saviour we should worship and pay homage to.’
Following the backlash following the tweet’s original publication, the church responded by posting a second tweet suggesting ‘success’ could be interpreted in more than one way. Shortly afterward, the entire account was abandoned, with a sign-off message defending the original celebration of Thunberg and suggesting in typical liberal fashion that everyone has a right to interpret Jesus in their own way.
It said: ‘Dear Twitter, If we have hurt someone we apologise, it has never been our meaning. Our meaning has been to talk about Jesus Christ in our own way. Now we leave the arena. Thank you for your commitment, joy and debate. God bless you! Jonas Persson, ward pastor.’ The tweets have not been deleted, but the account was true to its word and has remained inactive.
Although it ceased to be the state church in 2000, the Church of Sweden remains the nation’s largest church. Evangelical Lutheran in polity, it is the world’s third largest Lutheran church. Liturgically it is ‘high church’, having retained priests, vestments, and the Mass. Theologically it is ultra-liberal, particularly with regard to the questions of climate change and homosexuality.
When Gerd Eva Cecilia Brunne was consecrated as Bishop of Stockholm in 2009, she became the first openly lesbian bishop in the world. Controversy followed when she attempted to have the Seaman’s Mission in Stockholm remove the crosses inside its building in case they caused offence to any Muslim seamen who might wander in to pray.
It should come as no surprise that its liberal theology is having its inevitable results. The Church of Sweden is steadily shrinking with an annual loss of 2 per cent of its members. Although claiming a membership of 5,899,242 accounting for 57.7 per cent (year end 2018) of the Swedish population, this gives a false picture of the health of the church.
The high membership numbers come about because there is a long tradition of citizen membership. It was only in 1951 that Swedes were allowed to leave the church. Until 1996 all newborn children, unless their parents had actively cancelled their membership, were automatically enrolled as church members. This has led to a situation where only approximately 2 per cent of church members regularly attend Sunday services.
In the absence of enforced membership it is becoming clear that the days of the Church of Sweden are numbered. ‘Go woke, go broke’.