The Church of Sweden
The Diocese of Växjö is part of the Church of Sweden, which is an Evangelical Lutheran community of faith, the local manifestations of which are its parishes and dioceses, supported by its national organisation. It is an open national church, which, working with a democratic organisation and through the ministry of the church, covers the whole nation. At the Reformation the Church of Sweden followed a moderate Lutheran line. The churches remained much the same (in terms of their architecture and fittings), bishops continued in charge of dioceses and the liturgy changed only in certain respects. As a national church (folkkyrka) the Church of Sweden embraces the whole country. It is not a gathered church, ministering only to those who actively belong. Every part of the country is in a parish with its own parish church. Every fourth year elections are held for all the decision-making bodies of the Church, at parish, diocesan and national level. Alongside this democratic element is the episcopal structure which the Church of Sweden has inherited from the past. There are 3,500 churches in this vast but sparsely populated country. Sweden has 8.8 million people, and more than 80 percent of them are (at least nominally) members of the Church of Sweden.
How the Church of Sweden works
There are approximately 2,500 parishes. Every parish employs a priest and a musician, and often also a deacon (deacons are a defined order of permanent ministers within the Swedish Church and not simply “apprentice priests”). In smaller, rural settings these officers may be responsible for services and pastoral care in several parishes. Other people may be employed according to the needs of the parish (e.g. church workers, teachers, vergers, sextons, office personnel, children and youth leaders, cleaners). There are 13 dioceses in the Church of Sweden. Each is led by a bishop, whose tasks include ordaining candidates to the priesthood and diaconate, and holding regular visitations in every parish. The bishop is elected. S/He is assisted by the chapter (domkapitlet) and by a diocesan synod (stiftsstyrelse). The Church has no suffragan bishops or archdeacons. The dean of the cathedral is the bishop’s deputy in the diocese. At national level the church is led by the Archbishop of Uppsala (currently Anders Wejryd, who was, until 2006, Bishop of Växjö). The Archbishop represents the Church of Sweden in international and ecumenical matters. In its financial affairs of the Church of Sweden has long been connected with the state. All members are liable to pay church dues, collected by the state and handed over to the church to finance all its operations, including the maintenance of its historic buildings. Additional state funding is also available for this, but expert agreement must be obtained for any restoration or alteration. The church dues are made up partly of the parish element, decided in each parish for its own members, and partly of the diocesan contribution; the size of that is decided by the diocesan synod. The same arrangement now applies to all other registered faith-communities (e.g. the Roman Catholic Church).
Church and State
The Church of Sweden was, until recently, an established church. Until the 19th century it was the only church recognised by the state and its affairs were regulated by parliament (riksdag). Meetings for other kinds of worship were strictly prohibited with a few exceptions in favour of certain immigrant communities. During the 20th century the close connection of Church and state was loosened. The present situation is controlled by a radical set of laws, which came into force on 1st of January, 2000. The Church of Sweden was then declared a “faith-community” which, like the free churches, Roman Catholics, Jews, Moslems, etc. could register as such with the state and have their church dues collected by the state along with income tax.
Follow this link to find a brief history of the Church of Sweden.
Access the English pages of the Church of Sweden web site here.
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