40 / CHRONICLESnLetter FromnStockholmnby Eric BrodinnThe Church in Sweden’s WelfarenStatenAs this is written, the annual Council ofnthe Church of Sweden is meeting here,nproceedings which will last to the end ofnthe month of August. As the namenimplies, Sweden has a state churchnwhich is Lutheran in confession. Itsnorigin, like that of the Church of England,nwas based on the whim of a king.nIn the case of England, it was HenrynVIII, who wanted a new wife. In thencase of Sweden, it was Gustav Wasa,nwho wanted the church riches for hisnexchequer.nGustav Wasa was the first king ofnSweden after it became fully independentnfrom Denmark. In 1527 he decidednto join in Luther’s reformation andnbreak with the Church of Rome, bpt hisndecision involved political and fiscalnreasons more than moral or theologicalnones.nThe nature of the state church wasnfurther confirmed in 1686 by the absolutenmonarch Charles XI. Thenconstitution of 1809 stated that thenmonarch was acting as “Head of thenChurch and Defender of the Faith.”nThe king and his family, as well as thenMinister of Ecclesiastical Affairs, havento be members of the state church.nThere is no requirement that they believenin God; however, both these issuesnhave caused some problems in Swedennin the last 50 years. In 1982 the councilnrelegated to the parliament the exclusivenright to pass all legislation and thusnconfirmed with finality the integrationnof the church into the political system,nalthough 450 laws already exist whichndetermine the Church’s relationship tonthe people and the state.nWhen on August 20, 1986, thenchurch council reconvened, it did sonwith a processional from the old parlia­nCORRESPONDENCEnment building to the nearby Storkyrkan,nthe first time it had done so in 10 years.n(Significantly, the procession did notntake place in the opposite direction.)nThe procession was led by ArchbishopnBertil Werkstrom, the Minister of EcclesiasticalnAffairs, and includednSweden’s other 12 bishops and 251ndelegates, 91 of whom attended thencouncil for the first time and a majoritynof whom were laymen. To have beennelected delegates, they need not havenbeen baptized, confirmed, or even activenmembers of the state church.nThe initial message to the delegatesnfrom Archbishop Werkstrom was hardlynpositive. “While statistics can be poorntestimonies of spiritual realities, there isnalso a great risk in underestimating theirnimportance or ignoring or suppressingntheir evidence. When church attendancenin a single year declined byn900,000 and the collection by fivenmillion crowns, these are signs whichnmust be interpreted with a great deal ofnserious concern,” said the Archbishop.nThere are a number of other statisticalnindicators which reveal that there is anfundamental malaise in the Church ofnSweden today. “Most of us have notnhad definite feelings about thesentendencies . . . but the picture is, unfortunately,nrather uniform. The increasenof Communion-takers of the lastnfew decades has stopped. Baptismsnreached their lowest ebb in years . . .nand there has been a decline in thennumber of confirmation and churchnburials,” the Archbishop continued.nThere are a number of evident reasonsnfor these developments, but it isnunlikely that the church meetings arengoing to deal with these fundamentalnissues in any great degree. Churchnleaders have had other more weightynconcerns. For example, a committee hasnalready spent 13.5 million crowns overnthe hymnal Psalm-hook, weeding out,namong other things, hymns and songsnwith overly “patriotic” or militantnthemes.nThe fundamental problem, ofnnncourse, is the nature of the statenchurch. By its political linkage, it hasnbecome something other than thencommunity of believers united by anconfession of faith which it was meantnto be. It has instead become anotherninstrument of political power. Whennthe socialist and labor movements arrivednon Sweden’s political scene in then1880’s, they directed their campaignnagainst “the Throne” (monarchy),n”the money-bag” (the capitalist system),nand “the bishop’s staff’ (the statenchurch). But once they gained parliamentarynmajority in 1932, they soonnturned the church into another agentnof political power. By controlling itsnboards, publications, and seminariesnand by its power to appoint bishops, thengovernment made the church a secularizednarm of a socialist, egalitarian, andncollectivized state. The Socialist DemocraticnParty soon dropped its insistencenon “separation of church andnstate” (as it has also not insisted onngetting rid of the monarchy, in recognitionnof the indisputable popularity ofnthe royal family of Charles XVInGustav).nThe collective allegiance to the statenchurch can take bizarre forms. Let usnsay that a Turkish Muslim or an ItaliannCatholic moves to Sweden to work. Henis automatically signed on the rolls ofnthe local Lutheran State Church congregationnwhere he lives. (He is also,nnot coincidentally, signed on the rollsnof the union representing his place ofnwork, and this union most often willnalso collectively and compulsorily joinnhim to the Socialist Labor Party tonwhich he has to pay dues, although, asna foreigner, he cannot vote.) It is truenthat one can “opt out” of both the statenchurch and the Socialist Party membership,nbut that involves both somenknowledge of Swedish bureaucraticnprocedures and the risk of harassmentnfrom fellow workers.nAs both Swedes and foreigners becomenacquainted with the less bureaucraticnways to opt out of church mem-n