Sweden

Politics and religion joined hands in early missionary enterprises; when Louis the Pious sought further domains, the missionary he chose was Anskar* (801-65). Failing in Denmark,* the latter turned to Sweden. King Bjorn gave permission to preach and build a church, the first in Scandinavia. Few Swedes responded, and the work faded for a time, but in the latter tenth century Christianity became established with bishops. Early in the eleventh century, King Olof Skotonung was baptized and established an archbishopric at Skara (1020). Later, under Svenkers (1130-55), paganism was overcome with the help of Cistercian monks from England and Germany, one of whom-Stephan-became first archbishop of Uppsala. Soon the Swedish bishops became subordinate to Rome.

For Sweden, as elsewhere, the Reformation was bound up with political reaction to foreign power-in this case, Denmark. Christian II attempted to subdue Sweden and murdered eighty of its leaders in 1520 (“The Stockholm Blood Bath”). The young Gustavus Vasa* gathered a peasant army, drove the Danes out, and was crowned king in 1528. All sympathizers with Christian fled, including Archbishop Tolle. Denuded of ecclesiastical leadership and finance, Vasa appropriated the possessions and revenues of the church.

Lutheranism came through Olavus Petri* (1480-1552), who taught at the cathedral school in Strangnas, becoming friendly with the archdeacon, Lars Anderson (1450-1552). Vasa met both men and invited them to Stockholm, Petri as preacher, Anderson as chancellor. Rome disapproved, whereupon Vasa applied for the consecration of four bishops-elect, adding that Sweden was unable to pay the customary annates. If the request were denied, the bishops would be consecrated by “Christ the only and highest pontiff.” Two bishops who still protested their loyalty to Rome performed the consecration, thus maintaining the “apostolic succession.” The rift with Rome was complete; 1527 saw the first national Protestant church established, in Sweden. Reforms included abolition of compulsory confessions, clerical celibacy, and preaching aided by a Swedish Bible as an important part of worship.

Lars Anderson, Olavus Petri, and his brother Lars Petri (1499- 1573), later archbishop of Uppsala, played a significant part in the reforms. Olavus prepared a Swedish hymnal and a Swedish Mass, in all of which Luther was a prime influence. They saw that the principle of the Peace of Augsburg,* that rulers could determine religion, was reversed in Sweden, where faith was decided by the people. Restricting Vasa's power caused a rift between king and bishops, but his plan to restrict episcopal power was defeated by his death.

Thereafter there were many attempts to change church structure: Eric XIV introduced Calvinism; John III sought a rapprochement with Rome; Charles IX introduced Calvinism again. All failed, and the country remained Lutheran.

In 1638 commercial and evangelical interests in the Indians produced a Swedish colony in Delaware, and until 1791 the Church of Sweden continued to send clergy and finance. After 1815 and the humiliations of the Napoleonic Wars, there was a reaction against eighteenth-century rationalism, aided by Pietists and Moravians. Two theological trends appeared: Lund stressed the Church and became the center of High Church tendencies, Uppsala stressed a subjective and philosophical view of Christianity, discounting the Church. Furthermore, through the work of George Scott, an English Methodist, Bible and tract work developed; Sunday school and foreign missions were concentrated on, and the result was the Swedish Mission Covenant in 1878, bringing together most free churches.

With the religious revival, a church council, the Kyrkomote, came into being in 1863. Lay organizations and evangelism grew. In 1894 the World Student Christian Movement was inaugurated in Sweden. The Evangelical National Institute, formed in 1856, became a leading missionary movement. Nevertheless the effects of the nineteenth-century theological debates in Europe were evident; ideologies such as Marxism were being accepted; and noticeably in industry men were forsaking the faith. Having said that, it remains true that Protestantism was more vigorous in 1914 than in 1815.

Sweden made a distinguished contribution to the ecumenical movement through Nathan Söderblom.* Among those who reacted to nineteenth-century liberalism were the scholars Gustav Aulén* and Anders Nygren.*

J. Wordsworth, The National Church of Sweden (1911); C.H. Robinson, Anskar, Apostle of the North (1921); H.M. Waddams, The Swedish Church (1946); B. Sundkler, Nathan Söderblom: His Life and Work (1969).