How God preserves His church

We were on our own for several days in Copenhagen, so on Sunday we attended a service of the Church of Denmark.  Gabriel had invited us to a congregation in fellowship with the LCMS, but the service was at 4:30 p.m., and we had to meet up with our hosts around then.  We had earlier come across a magnificent church (“the Marble Church”) near the palace (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden are all constitutional monarchies, like England).  We thought we would go to a service there.  So we set forth from our hotel for a trek of probably just over a mile or so.

When we saw it as tourists, we saw a sign that the building would be closed to the public during services, so we hoped that they would let us in.  We were graciously received by the usher.  There was a far bigger crowd than I was expecting, around 100 people.   We were given an English translation of the liturgy.  We could have probably followed it without the translation, since it was the basic service that we had in the United States.  The tunes of the hymns were some of the same that we sing.

There were certainly differences.  Pastors there wear a black gown with a cool 17th-century-style ruff.  There was no offering, since the government and church taxes support the churches financially.  (They did have a box that you could put coins in as you leave, which I think is an ancient practice, before the advent of pews and passing the plate.)  They also had no confession and absolution.  (I was told later that liberal congregations tend to leave out that part of the service, while conservative congregations retain it.  Later, in Norway, we went to an Inner Mission service, which did include the confession of sins, though not an absolution from the pastor.)  [Read more...]

Conservatives in liberal churches

The state churches in Scandinavia are theologically liberal, sometimes to an extreme.  For example, in the Church of Sweden the world’s first lesbian bishop called on a congregation to remove its crosses to encourage Muslims to pray there.  Read this.  Notice, though, the opposition to her remarks and how the bishop has no authority over the congregation, since it was established by a “mission” organization.  The point is, there are conservative Christians with orthodox pastors and congregations within those state churches.

When I was in Denmark, I met a number of pastors from the Church of Denmark who came to my lectures.  They were in tune with what I was saying.  I was told that many towns had a conservative congregation along with a liberal congregation, with the former typically filled with worshippers with the latter being almost empty. [Read more...]

State church

Richard Neuhaus once said that the habit of associating Lutheranism with Germany–then blaming Lutheranism for what’s bad in German culture–is misplaced.  Germany has always had a mix of many religious traditions:  not just Lutheranism but Roman Catholicism, Calvinism, anabaptists, etc., etc.   If you want to see Lutheranism’s cultural influence, he said, look at the Scandinavian countries, whose only church, pretty much, has been Lutheran.  More than Prussian militarism, he said, you could argue that Lutheranism helped inspire the Scandinavian welfare state.  (More on that welfare state later!)

I met a member of the conservative theological faculty at the University of Aarhus who studied at Concordia Theological Seminary in Ft. Wayne, IN.  He fondly recalled the classes of Dr. David Scaer, who told him, “I love Denmark.  Everyone is Lutheran.  Even the cows are Lutheran.”

And yet, the Scandinavian state churches, with their near religious monopoly, have become extremely liberal in their official hierarchy.  I don’t know about the cows, but the churches are not always confessionally Lutheran any more.  And yet, there are confessional Lutherans in the country, not just in Inner Mission, but in the state church.  I’m going to run a series of posts telling about some of the paradoxical things I’ve learned about the church situation in Denmark (where I spent most of my time) and the other Scandinavian countries, in the course of which I’ll also pose some questions that you can help me with. [Read more...]

Denmark requires all churches to do gay weddings

Denmark passed a law requiring all churches to perform same-sex weddings.  Not just the state Lutheran church, all churches.  The news story on the subject has another interesting detail:  The government “church minister” who supervises the state  church and who pushed the law against Christian opposition is an agnostic.  Can you see this happening here, with anti-discrimination laws being applied to churches?  [Read more...]

Danish law mandates church weddings for gays

Denmark has passed a law requiring the state Lutheran church to hold church weddings for gay couples.  It allows pastors who don’t believe in gay marriage–from one-third to one-half of the clergy–to opt out, but bishops must provide a replacement pastor to preside over the wedding.

It isn’t clear to me from the news stories how this will affect other church bodies than the state church.  Reuters says, “The new law permits homosexual marriages in the Evangelical Lutheran Church as well as churches of other faiths, depending on those churches’ own rules.”  So are Roman Catholics, who have “rules” against this sort of thing, excused?  Or must they allow gays to use their facilities for church weddings, though they are not obliged to perform the ceremony?

Still, this shows that the assurance that churches won’t be forced to perform gay weddings, should gay marriage be legalized, may well last only as long as the government wants it to. 

Is it realistic to think that once gay marriage becomes the law that churches who don’t go along won’t eventually be targeted as discriminatory and forced to go along?  Or is this simply the jeopardy of a state church, with American traditions of religious freedom able to resist that kind of legal mandate?

New Danish law lets homosexuals wed in church | Reuters.