Another Ecumenical Breakthrough: Swedish Megachurch Pastor Converts to Catholicism

Ulf Ekman

The pastor of Sweden’s largest non-denominational megachurch shocked Christians in his own community and around the world this weekend, by announcing that he is entering the Roman Catholic Church.

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Several times in the last month, I wrote about bold initiatives in ecumenism, most notably the exchange of greetings and blessings between Pope Francis and evangelical pastor Kenneth Copeland, brokered by Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer.

Perhaps I spoke too soon, though—for this latest surprise is just as remarkable in the Christian world, once again pointing toward a quest for unity which would have seemed impossible just a few years ago.

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Ulf Ekman, founder of the Word of Life Church in Uppsala, Sweden, in a long sermon on Sunday explained to his followers how he and his wife Birgitta had experienced the gentle yet firm tug from Jesus to join the Roman Catholic Church. There are two ways to get into the water, he said: first, like Peter, hearing the call of Christ and jumping in to answer; and second, like Jonah, hearing God’s call to go to Nineveh but fearful, taking off in a boat headed in the other direction. Only when he was thrown overboard by sailors on the ship did he end up in the water.

Elkman spoke candidly about his fear at embarking on his new journey. “Fears,” he said, “are the open mountains overshadowing the beautiful landscape our Lord wants to show us.”

In a statement on his ministry website, Pastor Ekman explains the quest for unity to which Christ called the Ekmans, and Ekman’s personal 10-year journey toward conversion. From that statement:

During the last ten years, Ulf and Birgitta have had contact with catholics and catholic faith, mostly internationally but also in Sweden. This has made them reflect more on the catholic faith and on the spiritual life they have seen in their catholic brothers and sisters.

- For Birgitta and me, this has been a slow process were we have gone from discovering new things, to appreciating what we have discovered, to approach and even learn from our fellow Christians, Ulf Ekman says.

- We have seen a great love for Jesus and a sound theology, founded on the Bible and classic dogma. We have experienced the richness of sacramental life. We have seen the logic in having a solid structure for priesthood, that keeps the faith of the church and passes it on from one generation to the next. We have met an ethical and moral strength and consistency that dare to face up to the general opinion, and a kindness towards the poor and the weak. And, last but not least, we have come in contact with representatives for millions of charismatic Catholics and we have seen their living faith, Ulf Ekman explains.

- All this has been both attractive and challenging. It really challenged our protestant prejudices, and we realized that we in many cases did not have any basis for our criticism of them. We needed to know the Catholic faith better. This led us to the realize that it was actually Jesus Christ who led us to unite with the Catholic Church, Ulf Ekman says.

In the following video (which is translated into English), Ukman explains his decision to a spellbound congregation at the church which he founded 30 years ago.   There is a hearty applause at the end of the announcement, but reports indicate that the news has been met with “anger to sadness and confusion.”

Here is the video link from the March 9 service at Word of Life Church.  Pastor Ekman’s specific comments about Catholicism begin at the 25:00 mark.


  • Manny

    The video wouldn’t play for me, but from the write up I have to admit it choked me up with emotion. It is so heartening to see not just protestants, but protestant ministers, understand the fullness of the Catholic Church. I doubt he’ll ever see my comment, but welcome!

    • kathyschiffer

      Hmm… Let me see what I can do about that video, Manny. It’s priceless!

    • Manny

      OK, I got to see the video. Amazing. And I loved the singing at the beginning. This was more impressive to me than that video clip with the Pope for that other protestant group. The Protestant Bishop in that other video actually slandered the Church before he came to the video, which I suspect was for the audience, signifying an unsincerity. But this pastor was completely up front and embracing.

  • Tony de New York

    Thx b 2 GOD!!!

  • Merle Guzman

    welcome home to our formerly lost protestant brothers and sisters. once you were lost, now you are founded. it is an AMAZING GRACE!

  • Sister Mary

    This was so beautiful! What a testimony of a man of prayer and also his wife being a woman of prayer. They are a couple who pray, listen and follow. God bless Ulf Ekman, founder of the Word of Life Church in Uppsala, Sweden! Welcome and may we cradle Catholics learn from you!

  • TreeOfLifeSword

    Welcome home to the Church Jesus Christ established. May The Lord and His Blessed Mother be with the pastor and his wife.

  • Ramm397

    It is a very easy transition from one protestant denomination to another…The NO is not the Catholic Church ..At
    the apparitions of Our Lady of La Sallete, France on September 19, 1846, the
    Blessed Virgin Mary predicted that one day: “Rome will lose the faith and
    become the seat of the Antichrist… the Church will be in eclipse.” Sacred Scripture predicts that in “the holy
    place” itself there will be “the abomination of desolation” (Mt. 24:15), and a
    deception so profound that, if it were possible, even the elect would be
    deceived (Mt. 24:24). The New Testament
    tells us that this deception will happen in the very heart of the Church’s
    physical structures, in “the Temple of God” (2 Thess. 2:4). It will arise because
    people receive not the love of the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:10). The Great Apostasy at the end of the world will
    be so horrible that Jesus says: “But yet the Son of man, when he cometh, shall
    he find, think you, faith on earth?”

    • Adrian Johnson

      How is this relevant to the conversion of a good and brave man guided by the Holy Spirit to the Catholic Church . . . . ?

      • Tressa

        It isn’t. But interesting and timely nonetheless.

  • JoanO

    Welcome! You have been truly blessed – may you go from strength to strength in grace!

  • Manial

    I am Catholic because the Holy Spirit guided me to the one true Church. No apologies, no excuses. It seems impossible for me to believe that God wants thousands of different churches. If one is truly open to the guidance of God there is no doubt where your faith will rest. This story is more sensational than you or me but Christ is calling each and everyone of us to Him through our Mother, the Holy Catholic Church.

  • DeaconJohnMBresnahan

    Welcome home to Ulf and Brigitta

  • anna lisa

    This is beautiful.