This week, the Church of Sweden elected Antje Jackelén as the new archbishop of the 6.5 million member Lutheran Church. You can read an article about it here.
This is a historic election for the Church of Sweden for a number of reasons. Jackelén is Sweden’s first female archbishop, and she joins the ranks of other female presiding bishops like those in the Episcopal Church and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. For Sweden, this is not a bold move as they have had female bishops for a number of years. While Lutherans of a conservative strain bemoan her election on the basis of gender, there are even more serious concerns raised by Lutherans both in and outside Sweden.
Jackelén has said things that are clearly out of step with the historic confession of the Church for the past two thousand years.
On 1. October the candidates for archbishop were asked a number of doctrinal questions. She was asked if she thought Jesus presented a truer picture of God than Muhammed. With her evasive answer, Jackelén was seen as someone who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) choose between Jesus and Muhammed.
She also said that the Church of Sweden has more in common with other religions than with other Christian churches, that the Virgin Birth must be understood metaphorically, that hell doesn’t exist and that the Biblical texts should not be taken as truth.
While not listed in the articles I’ve read, I suspect she also rejects the validity of the resurrection of Jesus. The rejection of the resurrection is usually the first doctrine jettisoned by liberal Christians, and it would be hard to believe that someone who views the virgin birth Jesus as a metaphor does not hold the same toward the resurrection on Easter.
Rejection of one of these doctrines would raise red flags among Christians, but this whole domino effect of rejecting doctrine after doctrine raises serious doubt regarding Jackelén’s confession of the faith and those who elected her to the office of archbishop.
Corners of the 21. century Church have slid far down the slippery slope. Those like Jackelén who toss aside the historic confession of the Church to be culturally sensitive and politically correct appear spineless when compared to the first Christians who were persecuted and martyred for their faith in such things as the Divinity of Jesus and His resurrection on Easter.
The Church faces many cultural and religious challenges around the world. She still faces persecution and martyrdom for her faith in Jesus. It would be easy to take the route Jackelén and others take, for it is a path of comfort and little conflict. The rough path is the path that follows Jesus; it is a path that leads to suffering and the cross, but ultimately a path that arrives at the resurrection and eternal life in God’s presence. Those who follow Jesus do not reject the Church’s doctrines for any reason but remain faithful to them, to Jesus, in good times and bad. Jesus will not forsake us and that is why we stand faithful to Him and the confession of our Christian faith.