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Powerlessness and perserverance

Hyssna, Tuesday in Holy Week 2004.

Dear Friends,

When writing his first letter to the church in Thessalonika, the apostle Paul recalls his previous visit to that city. He remembers how God gave him and his co-workers the courage to preach the gospel in face of great opposition. They had been forced to intervene and admonish. Paul points out that they were "not deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone." "It was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts." (1Thess 2:2 ff).

When confronted with opposition from people who would not accept his words and actions, St. Paul approaches the issue using two parallel trains of thought. He examines his motives and purposes – why he acted the way he did – and points out that God is the judge "who can read our inmost thoughts." The point is not to please people but to give them an opportunity to reflect and examine themselves – and then also a chance to show courage and willingness to be faithful.

Lately I have had many conversations with brothers and sisters who are worried about the media campaign that started last Sunday (April 4), a campaign against anything in the Swedish church that refuses to conform to uniformity and forced equality and wants to stay true to the old foundation. Many feel ill and disoriented, not knowing what to believe or think. Many experience sadness, a complete inability to act and uneasiness about what might happen next and where next "bomb" is going to explode. What is really the truth behind all this now circulating? The media are quoting each other and have created a witch-hunt atmosphere. New journalists are jumping on the bandwagon and try to do so-called follow up stories, leading in whatever directions.

There is a concept used sometimes called "in-freezing," related to "burn-out." It is a paralyzing feeling of exhaustion and paralysis. It is a process you are unable to control, and it locks up a person hands and feet, mind and soul. Behind this is a sadness and feeling of powerlessness and disappointment. I describe this as I recognize it in many of the persons I have talked to these last days. There is good reason to raise a large warning flag – what is happening to many may have devastating long-term effects in the life of many. If you recognize this in yourself, seek out your spiritual advisor or priest or good reliable friends immediately. We are exposed to attacks of unusual magnitude and need each other and the each other’s support and prayers more than we realize ourselves. Maybe this is what God wants us to learn by permitting us being tested this way. He wants to force us closer together and test our love and care for each other. Some people have also experienced their integrity and honor being questioned more than others. Do not let us forget them.

But we need to examine our own hearts as well. What have we said and what have we done? Let God examine our hearts and let us ask for wisdom and how to proceed without losing our foothold. Mistakes have been made and words have been said in interviews that should not have been said. It affects us all.

But it is also important to know what really is behind all this. The media is making such a big affair of it. They are using it in an attempt to push us even further out into the margins. That is why I want to share with you some facts. Today I have used my time to research these facts, and I hope it will help to melt the ice blocks we have been frozen into, at least a little.

THE GOTHENBURG BIBLE SOCIETY was one of many similar associations in the Gothenburg Diocese, some of which have been liquidated, like the Diaconal Association. These organizations have their roots in the 1800s and reflect how voluntary activities were organized at that time. The Bible Society had its next to last documented meeting on February 3, 1983. In year 1990 the activity of the Society in principle had come to an end, even if an informal meeting was held then. When Bishop Bertil Gärtner retired he informed the diocesan office about the existence of the Society – but during the era of his successor, Bishop Lars Eckerdal, no initiative was taken to re-awaken the Society. There was a treasurer, but he fell ill during the 1990s.

In 2002 the question came up what should happen with the Society. The old chairman Bertil Gärtner called on 9 people to discuss the issue on May 6. Most of the participants - or all of them? - had been engaged in the activities of the Society in the past. No updated membership list could be found. An accountant firm reviewed the accounts and was asked to continue to handle them. The chairman of the meeting stressed the importance of using the money in accordance with the By-Laws of the Society, i.e. for distribution of bibles, parts of the bible and hymnbooks within the Gothenburg Diocese. Grants were given to Åh Diocesan Center 250,000 Kr, Helsjön Folkhögskola 250,000 Kr, Lärjungagården 100,000 Kr and Örtagården 100.000 Kr, and Vasaskolan 200,000 Kr, and L.M. Engström’s Gymnnasium 400,000 Kr. The remaining money, about 2 million Kr, was given to Församlingsfakulteten (The Free Theological Faculty for the Parishes). All grants were confirmed in writing as received and were earmarked for studies of the Bible. On Nov. 4, 2002 the Society was dissolved, then lacking any money. (The Society was founded on the same day in 1813.)

It is not difficult to find faults with the handling and the dissolution of the Society. But it is obvious that the purpose was to find a termination in agreement with the intentions of the Society. Gärtner acted as the last chairman of the Society, and when it was dissolved there were no more assets to be transferred to the diocese. It is also highly remarkable that the Åh Diocesan Center and Helsjön Folkhögskola had voiced no reaction to the unexpected gifts. Both of them had close contacts with the Diocesan Office.

This is what the radio program Kaliber calls a secret support of those opposing ordination of women. Bishop Lars Eckerdal calls it "pitiable," in spite of having had eleven years in which he could have acted. This is also what the Archbishop K.G. Hammar calls "dubious, unscrupulous and immoral" from his elevated position in Uppsala. He then forgets that in 1999, behind the back of the Church Assembly and without the approval of the Church Central Board, he arranged for the transfer of 10 million Kr from the Kyrkofonden (The Church Fund) to the Endowment Fund of the Lutheran World Federation in cooperation with Carl Gustaf von Ehrenheim who was the chairman of the Endowment fund at LWF, and also the chairman of the Church Assembly and member of the Board of the Church Fund.

THE REVELATIONS ABOUT THE OFFERINGS to "the opponents of women ordination" are based on an inquiry in 32 parishes, carefully selected by the journalists for having priests known for their opposition to women’s ordination.

Offerings to an organization called Nordisk Östmission (Nordic Mission to the East) are quite common in large parts of the diocese and all the parishes were checked if any offerings were given to this organization. Of course, all the parishes in the selected group were found to be regular contributors to NME and this proved that many parishes were giving support to organizations disloyal to the Church of Sweden! (On its web page Kaliber explains that NME would be a worthy cause were it not for its support of priests working in the foreign countries who were known for their opposition to the ordination of women.) The few parishes that offered money to the Församlingsfakulteten and Lutherstiftelsen were specially mentioned as well.

Of course it is possible to discuss what causes are worthy of an offering. But the purpose of the investigative reporting is obvious in today’s Borås Tidning. In its eagerness to dig up a story the journalist has added to the black list organizations founded on "classical Evangelical Lutheran doctrine", for instance Evangelical Literature Mission, SELMA and META (Sic!). The list will probably grow when more journalists feel called to contribute to the cause.

There are different possible scenarios for the future. A media drive usually blows over, but easily starts up again at the point "where it left off." There is very little real chance for us to be permitted to deny and explain. Our possibilities are severely limited. I think we should be restrictive in participating in interviews. What we now are going through is possibly a rehearsal of more and worse to come. We have to exercise wisdom.

I think we are doing ourselves a disservice by collecting provocative offerings without proper explanations at our general worship services. That is not the place where we should take a stand, even if we follow the book and do nothing wrong.

We have a considerable informational task ahead of us. I think we should talk with the faithful about the real crisis of the church and channel the gifts and contributions outside the formal systems. Many of the causes for offerings, mandated from the top, are of doubtful value anyway, and we do not want to support them. There are no blessings with money collected and received in doubtful ways, even if it is a cause we support. It only shows that we have difficulties in setting our priorities and deciding what causes we are willing to support.

"It was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts."(1 Thess 2:2 ff).

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

Yngve Kalin

Chairman

Church Coalition for the Bible and Confession.

2004 © Yngve Kalin

 

To Yngve Kalin's Webpage

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2004-06-17