The Church of Sweden is urging its clergy to use gender-neutral language when referring to the supreme deity, refraining from using terms like “Lord” and “He” in favor of the less specific “God.”
The move is one of several taken by the national Evangelical Lutheran church in updating a 31-year-old handbook setting out how services should be conducted in terms of language, liturgy, hymns and other aspects.
The decision was taken Thursday at the end of an eight-day meeting of the church’s 251-member decision-making body, and takes effect May 20 on the Christian holiday of Pentecost.
A former state church, headquartered in Uppsala, some 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of the capital, the church has 6.1 million baptized members in a country of 10 million. It is headed by a woman, Archbishop Antje Jackelen.
6.1 million baptized members? Maybe that’s true, but that figure is profoundly misleading. Sweden is one of the most irreligious nations on the planet:
Almost eight out of ten Swedes are either “not religious” or “convinced atheists”, according to a new global study that concludes the Nordic nation is the least religious in the West.
Swedes’ beliefs contrast dramatically with the vast majority of most other nationalities on the planet, with more than six out of ten people surveyed across 65 different countries describing themselves as “religious”.
The study was carried out by polling firm WIN/Gallup International as part of its 2014 End of Year Survey, with the data on religious beliefs released on Monday.
A total of 63,398 people were questioned, with only China, Hong Kong and Japan appearing to have a greater proportion of atheists than Sweden.
“It’s a little bit surprising because we have a lot of members,” Gunnar Sjöberg, head of communication for the Swedish Church told The Local.
“But then to be a member is not just to do with your personal beliefs. Many Swedes are supporting the social work we are doing, so that is one reason we have a lot of members. People know we need the church in Sweden even if they are not believers,” he added.
Here’s some informative material from the Swedish government about religion in Sweden. Did you know that 45 percent of all Church of Sweden clergy are female? And that today, a majority of those studying to be ordained in that church are women? Hmm. More:
Christianity and the church may have maintained ritual and cultural importance in Sweden, but this has not prevented the country from becoming one of the world’s most liberal societies. In some areas where religious and social conservatism often prevail, such as the right to abortion, no serious debate exists in Sweden. Living together and having children without being married is also socially acceptable, and recent statistics suggest that more than 40 per cent of first-time parents in Sweden have children before getting married.
The Church of Sweden has often accompanied liberal social change rather than obstructing it. For example, in 2009 the church decided to begin performing same-sex marriage ceremonies as Sweden legalised same-sex marriage in the same year. At the end of 2014, 5,356 women and 4,212 men had married a person of the same sex.
I’m not sure why Pope Francis is working towards reconciliation with these post-Christian nominal Christians. True, Swedish Lutherans are by no means the entirety of world Lutheranism, but how do you separate these unambiguously and dangerously heretical ones from the more orthodox ones, given that many of them are in communion with each other? Can any of you readers who understand the ecclesiological intricacies involved shed some light here? It seems obvious that the Catholic Church could never have intercommunion with a body like the Church of Sweden, and yet, this Pope does not rule it out — indeed, he encourages moving forward towards it.
UPDATE: A spokeswoman — er, spokesperson — for the Church of Sweden calls this “fake news.” Seems to me that she’s spinning. Maybe some news reports claim (as she says they claim) that the Church of Sweden has banned the male pronoun. That’s not what the Telegraph‘s report says — and that’s the one to which I linked. From the story reporting the “fake news” claim:
“It’s not true,” repeated Sofija Pedersen Videke, head of the Church’s service of worship committee, which was heavily involved in the work on the new handbook before it went before the Church Assembly.
The Church Assembly, a 251-member decision-making body, voted on Thursday with a large majority to update the handbook, which includes the Church’s aim to use language that is “more inclusive”.
“The old handbook is from 1986 and the new edition is much more in line with the Swedish Bible translation made in 2000,” Pedersen Videke told The Local. “God is beyond ‘she’ and ‘he’, God is so much more.”
“We want variation when it comes to how you express yourself, just like in the Bible.”
Some of the updated language includes three alternatives for the words to use at the start of worship services, including one which is gender-neutral: “In the name of the Father and Son, and the Holy Spirit,” “In the name of God, the Father and Son, and the Holy Spirit”, and “In the name of the triune God”.
The Church Assembly also agreed to use the female grammatical gender for the Holy Spirit, as it the case in Hebrew as well as in the 2000 Swedish Bible translation (‘den heliga anden’ as opposed to ‘den helige ande’).
“Everyone who wants to call God ‘Lord’ can remain calm. It is still there in many places in the new handbook. We have replaced ‘he’ with ‘God’ in one place, that’s all,” Pedersen Videke told The Local.
From this, it sounds like they’re making Trinitarian orthodoxy optional. Tomorrow, they’ll forbid it. That’s how this stuff always goes.