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In Swedish, please!

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Resist

Hyssna, October 27, 2005

Dear Friends,

The Church Assembly – which voted itself the right to interpret the faith, confession and doctrine of the Church of Sweden – proclaimed today that relationships between same-sex couples that are registered with the civil authorities can be blessed in a public worship service or church ceremony.

No other church in the entire world has such a decision making process as the Swedish church. Here the political parties of society have taken over the decision making body of the church, the "Church Assembly." If necessary, they actually can run over the small remnant of the Office of the Ordained Ministry and the remaining Doctrinal Board as well. But, that was not necessary this time. In recent years no one could become a bishop who did not "answer correctly" questions about homosexual life. This is shown with terrifying clarity in the Doctrinal Board’s statement, in which all references to Biblical revelation and the Christian doctrine of Creation were rejected as ‘biblicism.’

Today’s decision thus surprises no one. The groundwork has been carefully prepared with great logic and skill over the past decade. Each partial decision about the homosexual issue was barely given time to go into effect, when the next partial decision was taken and so forth. What was possibly surprising was the demonstration of despotism that was only too obvious in the day’s debate. The majority’s leading spokesmen, by and large, kept silent and refused to discuss any kind of objections. These included everything from the church’s obligation to the biblical revelation, its view of marriage and of creation, and its ecumenical relations. Not to mention the disruption within the church that will be the inexorable consequence of the decision!

Not even a request for a return of the proposal for further study, supported by 87 members, was given any attention. Why this hurry? I am convinced that there were at least two reasons. The Social-Democrats, the Folk Party (liberals) and Left Party (former communists) needed this decision in the Church in order to be able to proceed with their agenda to change society’s marriage laws during the next parliamentary term. At the same time they felt the power eroding under their feet. The political party control of the Church is increasingly questioned. This is demonstrated not the least in the Social Democrats’ failure in the most recent church election. Despite an intensive smear campaign and great financial and personal efforts, they actually lost votes.

Thus a new paragraph is introduced into the Church Order, effective at the end of this year. The chapter heading "Marriage" will get an addition, "and Blessing services." A Rite for this is to be established hastily by the Church Board. Rites for official worship services are included in the Church Handbook that is usually viewed as an expression of the faith, confession and doctrine of the Swedish church. The bizarre situation is that there will soon be a Rite that has to be viewed as an official church act, and so part of the Church Order, even if it is not (yet) included in the Handbook. An alteration of church teaching, or if you want, a new doctrine, has sneaked in through the back door. It is also telling that the new Prayer book is adapted to be able to incorporate this innovation.

But we are going to resist the new order. We do not recognize it. We do not believe in it. We are not going to comply. We are not going to defend it. We will tell the story how it happened. We will work to have it repealed. We are going to seek support from ecumenical partners here at home in Sweden and abroad.

We are going to continue to reveal the fragile foundation of this new order and persevere in showing how the word of God should be read, understood and interpreted. The Church has always read the Holy Scriptures with the guidance of the Holy Spirit and has been able to interpret what is at the center and what is at the periphery, what is mandated and what is adiaphora. This is not an isolated ethical issue. It deals with the basic order of creation: God’s creation of human beings as man and woman and His purpose with creation.

We are convinced that the democratic assembly of the Swedish church is mistaken. It has gone beyond its area of competence and thus lacks legitimacy to pass a resolution like this. We do not trust the promises given that no priest should be forced to act against his conscience and perform a blessing ceremony against his conviction. We remember other promises the church did not keep – why should we believe this one?

St. John writes in his second letter: "If anybody does not keep within the teaching of Christ but goes beyond it, he cannot have God with him. – If anyone comes to you bringing a different doctrine, you must not receive him in your house". (2 John: 9-10)

It is not so difficult to understand that many this evening ask whether they are able to remain and work in a church that so obviously is on a collision course against God’s own revealed word, and what the church has been teaching for over 2000 years. I have noticed it in telephone calls and emails.

Now we need time for reflection and consultation. In some of my previous letters "Hiding prophets" and "Dig wells" I was thinking about our situation. I arrived at the conclusion that as long as we do not have a clear marching order from the Lord, we should stay as long as possible. Today it has been demonstrated that the church is at war with herself and, particularly now, we should stay and bear witness about biblical faith and confession to our confused church.

We should constantly point out that we are no strange minority. We confess and defend the catholic heritage of our church. It is shared by millions of Christians all over the world. Perhaps we have to find unconventional solutions to survive. More resolutions will be passed that are against us, resolutions that even question our right to work in the church.

After the resolutions today, I am sure many priests and deacons struggle with the question of whether it will be possible for them to remain in the organization. Perhaps they will have to leave their employment or will choose to do so. But, no church bureaucracy can remove our ordination from God. The deacon is there among people as God’s servant and the priest continues to be God’s priest, serving His people also at his home altar.

When we recognize that our space for action becomes increasingly smaller as a result of church political decisions, our resolve not to give in increases. Things like this should not happen in a church. By treating a large part of its members this way, a church is heading for disaster.

I am convinced that the future will mean privation and many sacrifices, with different solutions for different people. But our responsibility and our calling is to witness to the apostolic faith in the Swedish church as long as at all possible, and faithfully and patiently to "fight hard for the faith which has been once and for all entrusted to the saints." (Jude 3).

Our calling is to preserve and save what can be saved, as a remnant carrying the seeds for a new harvest. There is drought and spiritual starvation all over the country. Our calling is the restoration on the apostolic foundation of the entire Swedish church and the preservation of a trickle from the rich spiritual wellsprings given to us. This is still our calling tomorrow – the day after this disastrous resolution by the Church Assembly.

MAY THE LORD PROTECT AND KEEP US ALL.

Yngve Kalin

Chairman, Church Coalition for Bible and Confession

2005 © Yngve Kalin

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2005-10-27