What is the significance of church history in a post Christian society characterized by multiculturalism, globalization and increasing religious pluralism? How shall researchers, educational institutions, politicians and churches act in order to establish a research and education that benefit both churches and society as a whole?
These important questions are currently being discussed in many parts of the world. They will also be adressed in this session, but in a specific perspective – namely by relating them to the changing conditions in the Northern European countries. These societies are undergoing profound transformations. They have during the past 400 years been characterized by a strong link between the state and a nationally unifying Lutheran church. This system is currently being dismantled. The Lutheran national churches in the north are now trying to stand on their own feet. This is described as a painful process by some, and as a liberating change by ...view middle of the document...
Until 1996 all citizens of Sweden were automatically born into the Church of Sweden (if one of the parents was a member of the Church). Paradoxically, Sweden is often described as one of the most secularized countries in the world (Jänterä-Jareborg 2010). A specific religious pattern has been developed, where many members make use of the rites of the Church in important life situations (marriage, funeral, baptism) , but only 3 percent of the members regularly attend worship ceremonies (http://www.eurel.info/).
The Church of Sweden was disestablished January 1st 2000. The transformation of the Swedish state to a nonconfessional and secular status was considered a necessary part of handling the contemporary challenges religious diversity, freedom and tolerance. The Curch of Sweden was thereby transformed from a state church to an independent “faith community” (Jänterä-Jareborg 2010; Bäckström, Edgardh, Pettersson 2004).
Fourteen years have now passed since the “divorce” between the Church of Sweden and the Swedish state. The Church of Sweden membership is declining – but still around 67 % of the population belongs to the church. Moreover, the church is going through a transformative identity change. The former concept “folk church” has been kept but is now being filled with partly new content (Eriksson, Gunner, Blåder 2012). One of the main questions that the Church of Sweden is dealing with is how to reach people in order to raise awareness of the Church's faith and life.
This session contains three presentations/papers. Their common purpose is to highlight important and current debated aspects of the role of church history within an academical and an ecclesiastical environment. The first two papers are written by two academic researchers, Nordbäck and Sarja, currently working at the Church of Sweden research unit. They will discuss these issues from a combined ecclesiastical and academical perspective. The third paper is written by a academic researcher, Gunner, who has a deep knowledge in history of the independent churches besides the Church of Sweden. She will switch perspecticve and discuss the issue of the session by focusing on the rest of the free lutheran churches in Sweden. How is their story told? Who is telling it? What happens with their heritage?