What Liberates and Limits a Bishop and an Archbishop in Church of Sweden?
At the WCC assembly in Porto Alegre 2006 I spoke on a seminar on sexual rights. I said what I wanted to say but was afterwards receiving comments like “how daring”, “what will your church board or general synod say” etc. I realized then that I hadn’t even thought about that. Bishops of Church of Sweden enjoy a considerable freedom. Church of Sweden (CoS), in which Antje Jackelén has been a bishop since 2007 and Archbishop since this last summer, has a very different background than Churches in the U.S. One could say that the church built the state about 1 000 years ago and the church was the agent for education, health and welfare for centuries. In education it lasted into the twentieth century. Among what has lasted for the bishops, despite the gradual and rather definite division of church and state in 2000, is a public position. One could think that the bishops in at state church and a post-state church would have been supporters of the present politics or stern opponents to the modernization of society and that being the reason for being public. Not so, at least not for the last 60 years.
I will go somewhat deeper into examples of this and then look at structures that liberate and limit the freedom of bishops – and looking at personal characteristics which might have sought for when searching for bishops in CoS. When disestablishment of the church took place from around 1980 up until 2000 several structures had to be set up that were supposed to secure the democratic structure of the church – but at the same time leave freedom for those serving as deacons, priests and bishops, to be true to a reasonably personal interpretation of the vows they had given when ordained/consecrated. So what are the limits and what structural and traditional factors may have formed this fairly wide frame? Could any of these be of interest for churches in different contexts?