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What is happening to the Anglo-Catholics in the UK feels awfully like a re-run of what happened in Sweden about a generation ago.

For those who are interested, I give below some facts from the 8-volume History of the Swedish Church. It takes us up to the mid-1990s.

What would be interesting to know is what has actually happened to the High Church faction since?  Has it exited in large numbers to the Roman Church?  Has the issue of women priests raised a barrier between the Roman Catholics in Sweden and the Swedish Church?J Or could it be (a suspicion only), that in fact the Roman Church in Sweden is quite strongly dominated by female religious orders, and that this produces lots of dialogue situations which the RC authorities, without exactly encouraging them, do nothing to prevent. Has also the Orthodox Church played a role here: or are the Orthodox communities, as here in Belgium, still largely national ghettoes for first-generation refugees, with little impact on the local religious scene? 

If anyone can provide me with some good information (in Swedish or English), I'd be interested and grateful.

For the record: the first women priests were ordained in 1960, under enormous government pressure (the Swedish Church was a that time still established, and priests essentially civil servants), the ball having been set rolling just before World War II by the women’s movements (NOT by the church itself!) and continued after the war by the government under the heading of gender equality. With the Swedish church close to a split after the first women’s ordinations, a conscience clause (samvetsklausul) was introduced: bishops could not being required to ordain women against their conscience, priests too could refuse to be placed in situations against their conscience. Initially, a priest’s vows were not interpreted that a man who opposed women’s ordination could not be ordained. An individual church community could state that it did not want a woman priest. For a time it was possible for priest who so wished to be ordained in male-only ceremonies.

But the writing was on the wall. The Kyrklig Samlingkring Bibeln och bekännelse, a rainbow movement of opponents to women’s ordination from both the Low and High church around bishop Bo Giertz, and the Arbetsgemenschap för Kyrklig förnyelse, the mouthpiece of the High Church movement, were increasingly cold-shouldered by the bishops from the 1970s onwards. By 1983 the Bishops’ Conference had clearly stated that one could not be ordained if one did not accept other priests' (i.e. women's) ordination and sacramental actions (…vi kommer att prästviga endast dem som inte underkänner giltigheten i andra prästers vigning och sakramentala handlingar in vär kyrka). A harder formulation followed in the 1994 Church Assembly (Kyrkomöt), and as Ingmar Brohed notes in volume 8 of ‘Sveriges kyrkohistoria’ (p. 290): ‘after this decision no candidate was priested who did not promise to accept in every way the Church Assembly’s decision, nor could anyone who did not accept women as priests take up a pastoral position in a leadership role’. The first woman bishop followed in 1998. 


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October 2015

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