Monday, September 7, 2015

Slippery Slope: The Swedish Church's Long Slide Toward Sodom

Joanne Holm
Greenville Seminary is richly blessed to have a delightful friend and staunch supporter in Sweden, octogenarian Joanne Holm of Västerås (about 100 kilometers west of Stockholm), who follows our work closely and shares the seminary's perspectives on virtually every issue. 

Recently, this outspoken grandmother who spent some earlier years in the United States applauded the seminary's Statement on Biblical Marriage and President Joseph Pipa's leadership in calling for prayer and fasting over the U.S. Supreme Court's legalization of same-sex marriage. She has expressed concern over one usually conservative Lutheran denomination in America that is now showing signs of liberalization on this subject, at least in some districts of the church reportedly trying to formulate new "recommendations."

"Well, I'd like to ask a question. With the absolute clarity we have in the Scriptures that homosexuality is a sin, just how long does it take to issue a recommendation?" she wrote to us recently. "And I'd like to ask, where in the Bible does it say we can bless sin in a worship setting in the congregation? I'm outraged! I'm angry! Blessing sin!

"Every believer, every congregation will have to declare an allegiance to the Scriptures or to the State — the pinch of incense," she wrote.

She recounted in a message to the seminary in August how the Swedish Lutheran Church (the official national church) gradually, over the past 70 years, tracked the state's growing tolerance and approval of homosexuality and lost it's biblical moorings on this and other issues. Here is the timeline she shared, as a warning to other denominations taking "soft" positions on homosexuality, especially in the wake of the ruling of the Supreme Court, the majority bloc of which Mrs. Holm refers to as "the Lawless Five."

In 1944 Sweden de-criminalized homosexuality.

In 1950 the RFSL (Swedish Federation for Lesbian and Gay Rights) was founded.

In 1951 the Swedish Lutheran Church supported the State's de-criminalization of homosexuality, but at the same time, the Church Bishops stated that homosexual practice was against God's Word. During the 1950's homosexuals were seen as a moral threat to society.

In 1960 the Church ordained the first woman to the ministry.

In 1968-1979, Krister Stendahl, Swedish theologian and New Testament scholar, was dean of Harvard Divinity School. He led "reform" on women's ordination, gay and lesbian rights, including ordination of LGBT persons to church office. He pushed ecumenicism among denominations and other religions. He did not believe in the soul's immortality.

In 1972 the Church, despite theological opposition, began to accept homosexual relationships — if it was a loving and committed relationship. Shades of Matthew Vines, that early! Eighteen years before Vines was born. Also in 1972, Sweden adopted the first sex-change law in the world.

In 1977 the first large gay march was held in Stockholm.

In 1984-1988, while Stendahl was Bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm, he permitted same-gender blessings.

In 1988-89 the Church was discussing blessings for homosexual partners, and the Church decided that living in a registered homosexual partnership was no hindrance for ordination to church office.

In 1995 the State legalized registered partnerships.

In 1997, in a discussion among six theologians and religious leaders, Stendahl argued that the sin of Sodom was a folk story, and to make a Biblical ethics story out of it was not very wise.

In 1998 the first EuroPride march was held in Stockholm.

In 2003, when the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, an open homosexual, was consecrated Bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church, Stendahl was one of the co-consecrators.

In 2004 Caroline Krook, the Bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm, a woman, was guest speaker for the opening ceremonies of the Gay Pride Parade and promised to work for gay marriage in the church. She believed that Jesus was not the only way to God, that other religions were also ways to God, and she did not believe in hell.

In 2005 Retired [American] Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong visited Sweden on a speaking tour. His presentations were based on his book, A New Christianity for a New World, published in 2002, translated into Swedish. One of the heresies he pedaled was the homosexual lifestyle.

In 2007 Church pastors joined the Pride Festival and began holding "rainbow church services."

In 2009 after a series of proposals and discussions, the Swedish Parliament legalized homosexual marriage. It was firmly stated that no pastors could be forced against their theological convictions to marry a same-sex couple. In the same year, the Church did a turn-around, and decided to marry homosexual couples and establish a marriage ceremony.

Antje Jacklén
Today, in 2015, Antje Jacklén, a woman, is the Archbishop of the Swedish Lutheran Church and the first to hold this highest position. She believes in evolution, that the virgin birth of Jesus is a myth, and she supports same-gender marriage. The Bishop of the Diocese of Stockholm, Eva Brunne, is also a woman, living in a registered lesbian partnership.  

I've mentioned the female clergy because, to me, it's interesting to see the progression of homosexual acceptance, female clergy, Krister Stendahl's influence, and also John Shelby Spong, all mixed together in the sodomite brew. History is not a straight line. It's also interesting to note how several basic doctrines are denied, not just the law on sodomy.

About the title of Spong's book, the first three words, "A New Christianity..." should have been enough to set off alarm bells, making one think of Galatians 1:8, where Paul, speaking of someone preaching another Gospel, writes, "let him be accursed." Also 2 Corinthians 11:4. 

GPTS has ties to the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in England and Wales, a small denomination with two congregations in Sweden — in Tranås and Stockholm.