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The Church of England and the Church of Sweden

Report of the Commission Appointed by the Archbishop of Canterbury

In Pursuance of Resolution 74 of the Lambeth Conference of 1908
On the Relation of the Anglican Communion to the Church of Sweden.

Milwaukee: The Young Churchman, 1911.

Appendix I.

Sketch of the history of the Swedish Church
by Chancellor E. R. Bernard

For the purposes of this report the period of the Reformation and the subsequent development of the Swedish Church are the matters of real importance. It will, therefore, only be necessary to deal with the origin of Christianity in Sweden and the Roman period just so far as they have an evident bearing on the later history. Such importance may properly be attached to the share which English missionaries had in the conversion of West Gothland, an early home of the faith in Sweden, and the baptism of Olof Skötkonung at Husaby by the Englishman Sigfrid or Sigurd in 1008 A.D. Just as in England the relative importance of the Roman and the Celtic missions has been a matter of debate, so it may fairly be urged that the Roman missions begun by Anskar, and continued under the direction of the Archbishops of Hamburg-Bremen, did little more than prepare the ground for the work of the English priests. To this day Sweden looks on England as a mother rather than as a sister Church. The result was a period of practical independence of Rome, which was not closed till the Synod of Linköping, 1152 A.D., which was summoned to meet the papal legate, the Englishman, Nicholas Breakspeare, afterwards pope under the title of Adrian IV. This, the first Swedish Synod, consented to the payment of Peter's-pence as an acknowledgment of the papal supremacy, a tribute which had already been submitted to in England for two hundred and fifty years. There can hardly be said to have been any real organization in the Swedish Church before this Synod. If it brought dependence on Rome, it was welcomed as also bringing independence in regard to Hamburg, and was undoubtedly a real step in advance, not unlike in its effects to the Synod of Whitby. The point to notice is that the period of submission to Rome and close relations with the pope was incomparably shorter in Sweden than in England. The date of Whitby, 664 A.D., has to be compared with that of Linköping, 1152 A.D. Another important analogy between England and Sweden deserves notice. The part played by the English Church in bringing about national unity has of late been the theme of historians. Mr. Patterson, speaking of the work of Theodore, says: "It is unquestionable that the unifying of the Church prepared the way for the unifying of the State. Englishmen were members of the one Church before they were members of the one State." So Holmquist writes of Sweden during this period, "Political institutions were only in germ, the most important organization of the land was the ecclesiastical province. The judicial institutions and the fully developed organization of the Catholic Church were to become the types of the newly developed State" (Holmquist: Schweden in Hauck's P.R.E., ed. 3, Vol. XVIII., p. 21).

From this time forward the history of the Swedish Church is so closely interwoven with the political history of the country that it is impossible to treat it without such an explanation of the political conditions as cannot be attempted here. It can only be said that between the years 1300 and 1520 A.D. the prelates possessed great wealth, power and influence, and allied themselves with the nobility who were at that time obtaining privileges and accumulating strength. The union with Denmark went on through the fifteenth century, but with considerable interruptions, and the real power was in the hands of the nobles and not of the kings. The prelates were for the most part in the Danish interest, and when Christian II. of Denmark, after defeating Sten Sture the younger, and crushing all resistance, came to Stockholm to be crowned in 1520, he employed his ally, Archbishop Gustavus Trolle, to demand the holding of an ecclesiastical court which condemned to death as heretics the leaders of the national party, nominally on the ground that they had dethroned and imprisoned the archbishop as a traitor. Eighty-two persons suffered in the "Stockholm blood-bath," and among them two bishops, a proof that the national movement against the Union was not unrepresented in the Church.

But Gustaf Vasa, when he came to power, looked back on the Danish intrigues of the prelates and their opposition to Sten Sture. He saw the danger to his throne from their excessive power, and was convinced that to obtain peace in the land their might must be broken. There was besides the exhausted treasury, with its debt to Lübeck, which the plunder of the Church would relieve. Such were the motives which disposed him to listen to the teaching of the reformers whom he first met at his coronation at Strengnas, though it would be unfair to say that he did not ultimately embrace that teaching with full conviction of its truth.

Though it cannot be said that there was any national movement of dissatisfaction with the old faith and the old ritual, yet the Reformation was native in its origin. Olaus Petri, its leader, his brother Laurentius Petri, the wise Archbishop, and Laurentius Andreas, were all Swedes, and their purpose was not to establish a foreign form of religion to be called Lutheranism, but to reform their own national Church. The impulse had come from Wittenberg where Olaus had studied, but it was not till seventy years later, when all the important changes had been made, that a Lutheran standard of doctrine, the Augsburg Confession, was adopted at the Upsala Möte, 1593.

A brief sketch must be given of the measures by which Gustaf Vasa carried out his policy of reducing the political power of the Church and clearing the field for the work of the religious reformers. The parliament of Vesterås, after some resistance, yielded to the king; and assented, first to the so-called "Recess," by which the episcopal and other ecclesiastical revenues were largely reduced, and the bishops were deprived of their castles and the estates surrounding them. All lands which had come into ecclesiastical hands since 1494 were restored to their previous owners. The other, simultaneous measure known as "Ordinantia" dealt with details, both as to Church revenues and administration generally. It was not till two years later that a Synod, not a parliament, met at Orebro to further reformation in doctrine and ritual. Its directions were cautious and tentative. It sought to explain mediaeval usages rather than to abolish them, and was guided, as Cornelius says, by Gustaf Vasa's often repeated principle of instructing first, and reforming afterwards. The next years produced Olaus Petri's Kyrko-Handbok, the first order of service in the vulgar tongue, and in 1531 Olaus published his Swedish Mass, which, however, with wise forbearance was not ordered for universal use. It was not printed in one volume with the Kyrko-Handbok till 1614. The character of these books and their influence on subsequent practice will appear elsewhere in this report. The next important step was the consecration of Laurentius Petri (brother of Olaus) as Archbishop in 1531. By 1536 all the bishops were of the reforming party. The later years of the great king's reign fell under the sinister influence of Peutinger and George Norman, who sought to conform the Swedish Church to the pattern of German Lutheranism. The policy which they promoted tended to transfer all decisive authority in the government of the Church from the hands of the bishops to those of the king and certain trusted officials of his choice. The king was thus alienated from the leaders of the Reformation who had enjoyed his confidence. Both the foremost men of the original movement, Olaus Petri and Laurentius Andreae, were tried and condemned to death on the charge of concealing their knowledge of a conspiracy, and barely escaped with their lives. The king refused to give the bishops their proper title, and would have them called ordinaries or superintendents. But Archbishop Laurentius Petri lived through these perilous times, and with Bothvid Suneson of Strengnas preserved the historic episcopate. A second parliament at Vesterås in 1544 forbade the retention of the mediaeval usages tolerated by the Synod of Orebro, such as invocation of saints, holy water, and masses for souls. It also made the crown hereditary in the Vasa line. This prohibition may be regarded as the final act of breach with the medieval system, though as yet no standard of reformed doctrine had been formulated, nor any Church law to take the place of Canon law, and of appeals to the pope.

The next thirty-three years between the death of Gustaf Vasa in 1560 and the Upsala Möte in 1593 were also a period of imminent danger for the Swedish Church. First under Erik XIV. Calvinism, which was favoured by the king, sought to obtain a footing, but failed. Then came the efforts of Romanism to recover its lost ground under John III., who desired to bring about a reunion of all the Churches on the basis of primitive doctrine and usage, but was never (as was formerly asserted) received into the Roman Church. His successor, Sigismund, lost his crown in the attempt to bring back Sweden to the Roman obedience. Lastly, Karl IX., who saved his country from Sigismund's attempt, and took his place on the throne of Sweden, was much more of a Calvinist than a Lutheran, and the danger from that quarter to doctrine and Church order was serious and persistent.

Such was the course of events in outline. It will now be necessary to trace them in somewhat fuller detail, if only to show that it was the want of equilibrium between pressure from different sides during this period of danger, which brought home to the Swedish Church the necessity of alliance with Continental Lutheranism and adoption in some measure of its symbols. For throughout this period there was no doctrinal standard legally binding beyond the vague formula that "the pure Word of God was to be preached."

Under the weak rule of Erik XIV. the Church slipped out of the grasp of royal power which Gustaf had exercised, and thus Laurentius Petri was able to draft in 1561, and finally in 1571, with King John's sanction, to issue his Kyrko-ordning, a careful sketch of the constitution of the Swedish Church, but not in the form of a body of law. The Kyrko-ordning contained among other things directions for the election and consecration of bishops, and the constitution of cathedral chapters. It was accepted by a Synod at Upsala in 1572. The endeavour of John III. to strike out on the basis of his own patristic studies a via media between Rome and the Swedish Church as he found it, was embodied in his Kyrko-ordinantia and his Liturgy (Röda boken), which was founded on the Roman Missal. The opposition of the clergy to the king was fostered by Duke Karl, and everywhere the demand was heard for a council to restore unity of faith and worship to the divided Church. John III. died in November 1592, and Duke Karl took advantage of the new king, Sigismund's, absence in Poland, to summon as regent the famous council which met at Upsala in February, 1593. At this the Augsburg Confession was read article by article, and, together with the three creeds, acknowledged as embodying the faith of the Swedish Church. Moreover, Laurentius Petri's Kyrko-ordning was re-affirmed, and King John's Liturgy set aside. The importance of the Upsala Möte lay not only in its decisions, but in the precedent it established of the right of a clerical and lay Church assembly to decide its own affairs apart from the parliament. And it decided them without regard to the religion of the reigning monarch (Sigismund) or the desires of the regent (Duke Karl). Whatever was the case in other countries where the Reformation prevailed, Sweden at least is free from the charge of subservience to the crown at this crisis. It may be added that without the Upsala Möte Gustaf Adolf's work would be inconceivable. The Möte may, therefore, claim with some justice to have been a turning point not only in the history of Sweden, but in that of Europe. Though the Möte mainly consisted of bishops and clergy summoned in due proportion from the several dioceses, yet members of the Riksråd and other laymen were admitted to it. Duke Karl himself kept in the background, and gave freedom to the meeting to elect its own president. The resolutions were sent forth and signed in the provinces by nearly 2,000 persons of distinction, thus pledging the nation at large to the action taken. As the Bishop of Salisbury has said, "There are few if any parallels to the Upsala Möte in religious history. The freedom and unanimity of the action could only be possible in a nation so much accustomed to the idea and practice of self-government by a large popular assembly, and so ready to be swayed by enthusiasm in making great decisions at critical moments of its history." The Swedish word Möte ought properly to be retained to describe it, as it was neither a synod nor a council in the usual ecclesiastical sense of those terms. All through Swedish history Church councils are frequent, not like English Convocations concerned also with the granting of subsidies, but purely with ecclesiastical affairs, and the importance of such councils was confirmed not long since by the law of 1863 as to their constitution and powers.

Next followed the attempt of King Sigismund, by force and fraud, to restore Romanism. His failure and his subsequent dethronement remind us forcibly of the similar attempt of our own James II. It was, however, succeeded by a Puritan reaction to which our history at that particular date gives no parallel. The visitation of Archbishop Abraham which followed with its violent uprooting of such mediaeval usages as still lingered, and its severity towards resisting clergy, receives the approval of so able and impartial a writer as Professor Hjärne (Svenskt och Främmande, p. 31 ff.) as a necessary stage of progress, a necessary preliminary to the ultimate union of the Protestant forces under Gustaf Adolf. The reign of Duke Karl (as Karl IX.) was occupied, so far as the Church was concerned, with his endeavour to gain ground for his semi-Calvinistic views and his long resistance to the requirement of his parliament that he should accept the Augsburg Confession and the resolutions of the Upsala Mote. The failure of the king to succeed in any degree was largely owing to the wisdom and patience of Archbishop Olaus Martini, to whom perpetual gratitude is due. The doubt as to his consecration expressed by Cornelius has been conclusively set at rest by fuller investigation. The Swedish Church emerged victorious from the strife. But it is due to Karl IX. to own that his unfailing toleration to his opponents in a matter on which his convictions were so strong, shines out brightly in an age of bitter intolerance and persecution. And to him was due the deliverance of his country from the great wave of Catholic reaction surging over Europe, of which Sigismund and his claim were the representatives so far as Sweden was concerned. Karl's reign and his policy prepared the way for the glorious career of his son Gustaf Adolf, whose victories, and the treaty which they secured, stemmed the tide in Germany and delivered German Protestantism from its foes. His dying words were, "I am the King of Sweden, who do seal the Religion and Liberty of the German nation with my blood." "He had been the first to set a bound to the tyranny which Germany was powerless to resist, and which would, if not resisted, have spread far beyond Germany, even beyond distant Sweden." (Gustavus Adolphus, by C. R. L. Fletcher, p. 288). A review of the history of the Swedish Church would be indeed incomplete which omitted to record what Europe owes, if not to the Swedish Church, at least to Swedish Christianity in the person of its greatest hero.

The period which succeeded, 1632 to 1680, may be described on the political side as that of the supremacy of the great nobles who filled the Cabinet (Riksrad), administered public affairs, and acquired possession of more than half of the land of the country. On the ecclesiastical side, it was the age of an intolerant orthodoxy, in which clergy suspected of Syncretism were persecuted; and the victory of the orthodox was sealed by the addition of the Formula Concordiae to the symbolical documents of the Swedish Church in the parliament of 1664. In the earlier half of the seventeenth century the sees were held by powerful bishops who retained much of the independence of mediaeval times, such as Johannes Rudbeckius and Laurentius Paulinus Gothus. They were able administrators, promoted culture and education, and had been strong enough to resist successfully the attempts to impose on the Church the Consistorium Generale proposed by Gustaf Adolf in 1623, which would have practically superseded episcopal government. But when this period closed, and the power of the Cabinet and the great nobles fell before Karl XI. in 1680, the sees were held by weaker men, and the divisions in the Church left no power sufficient to resist the will of a king who was determined to be absolute. There was indeed need for a definite constitution to be given to the Church, and the vigorous administration of the great bishops had introduced varieties of practice which needed to be harmonized, but the Kyrkolag of Karl XI., drawn up by a lay commission, approved by the king and accepted by the parliament, had too much of the character of the king's general policy, which was to concentrate in the Crown despotic power both in Church and State.

This Kyrkolag (Church law) is the most important document in all Swedish Church history, and is still in force, though considerably modified and greatly enlarged by subsequent legislation. The edition generally in use is that of P. Rydholm, Stockholm, last ed. 1910, and it still bears the title of "Sweden's Church Law of the year 1686." Nothing authoritative as to the constitution and practice of the Church had been issued since the Kyrko-ordning of Laurentius Petri a hundred years before, and the deficiencies of that document and the changing needs of the times had been met partly by resolutions of the house of clergy at meetings of the Riksdag, partly by diocesan synods, and partly by the independent action of diocesan bishops who issued ordinances for their own dioceses. The Kyrkolag, whatever were its defects as to contents and sanction, restored uniformity to the Church, and was followed by considerable ecclesiastical activity. Important books were issued in quick succession, a new Catechism by Svebilius in 1689, which held its ground till 1810; a revised Prayer Book in 1694, which was a slightly altered edition of that issued in 1614; an enlarged Hymn-book in 1698, chiefly due to Svedberg and Spegel; and a revised version of the Bible in 1703.

The next thirty or forty years saw the Pietistic movement spread from Germany to Sweden. It is difficult to distinguish its various forms. Some of them were distinctly unsound in doctrine, but on the whole Pietism was a sincere reaction against the stiff unspiritual orthodoxy of the time and its indifference to the moral deterioration of society. The period can best be studied in the life of Bishop Svedberg who, though he did not belong to the movement, recognized what was good in it. When it passed away it left its mark in an appreciable renewal of spiritual life in the Church, though perhaps it would be truer to attribute this to the sounder influence of the Moravian mission which followed on its steps. It must be remembered that the coercive measures against Pietists, such as the edicts against Conventicles of 1706, 1713, 1721, and the severest of all in 1726, proceeded not from the Church, but from the government. The last of these, forbidding all public gatherings for worship except under the parish priest, was not repealed till 1858. After the revolution of 1720, which transferred all real power from the Crown to the Parliament, the supremacy over the Church which Karl XI. had obtained for the Crown fell to the Parliament, and the weakness of the position of the Church became more apparent. The period has been called the "time of freedom," but the government was really an oligarchy.

Irregularities occurred which are accounted for by the weakness of the Crown, as, for instance, the permission sometimes granted to deans to usurp the right of Ordination. The so-called "Freedom period" of half a century came to an end in the coup d'état of Gustaf III. in 1772, and absolutism was restored for a time under an able and enlightened despot. But Gustaf III., through his close connexion with Germany, was led to favour the Deistic current of thought, which at that time was flowing from France and England over Northern Europe. In Sweden it was not only the vogue at court and among educated laymen, but infected the clergy, and the period from 1772 to 1817 is reckoned with good reason as the period of neology, that is to say of a rationalism which set aside the essentials of the Christian faith, and preached only a feeble and ineffective morality. Unfortunately for the Church, Archbishop Lindblom, imbued with the prevailing spirit, succeeded in obtaining authority for a catechism which bore evident marks of neologian influence (Cornelius: Hist. II., p. 298). This catechism superseded that of Svebilius mentioned above, and was in use until the present authorized catechism appeared in 1878. The revision of the Prayer Book under the same Archbishop in 1811, while it had the merit of recognizing a Confirmation service, hitherto used without authority, had nevertheless the grave defect of omitting the word priest from the Ordinal.

Along with the rationalist movement in the higher classes of society, and to some extent in protest against it, there arose a revival of spiritual religion among the lower classes not unlike the somewhat earlier Evangelical revival under Whitefield and Wesley, and within the English Church. The movement in both countries may be regarded in some measure as a protest against the torpor of the Church and the prevalence of Deism, but there was another element in the situation in Sweden which was lacking in England, namely, the opposition called out by the Catechism, the revised Prayer Book and revised Hymn-book, mentioned above as issued under the hand of Archbishop Lindblom, and bearing traces of the cold rationalistic attitude then dominant. It is, however, right to add that the addition of an authorized Office for the First Communion of the young, which became practically a Confirmation office, was also a cause of strenuous complaint. The followers of the movement belonged mainly to the North of Sweden, and were known as the "new readers." There had been a party named "readers" in the middle of the eighteenth century, who took their name from their diligent study of the Bible and Luther's writings. They had taken no step towards separation from the Church, but the so-called "new readers" soon manifested their schismatic character, and afterwards began to administer their own sacraments in 1848. Their doctrinal variance from the Church lay mainly in their exaggeration of Luther's teaching on justification by faith, which they pressed to an antinomian extreme. Indeed it is not too much to say that the principal points at issue between the Swedish Church and Separatists have always arisen on the subject of justification. The latest and most influential secession has also turned on that doctrine, though the position of its leader Lektor Waldenstrom is totally distinct from that of the "readers," and amounts practically to the denial of the existence of and the need for any objective atonement. The special feature of Swedish dissent at the present day is that with not very numerous exceptions those who are practically dissenters, as using separate places of worship and forming separate congregations, are nevertheless still in name and legal position members of the national Church, inasmuch as they have not taken advantage of the law of 1860, which requires a definite act of renunciation of membership on the part of those who desire to be relieved from their obligations to the national Church.

To estimate the forces of the various sects, their religious importance, and their prospects of growth or decay is out of the question in this hasty sketch. We must, therefore, return to the relation of the Church to the State, which was fundamentally altered by the reform of parliament in 1865--1866, under which the House of Clergy, along with the other three houses, ceased to exist, and the four houses were replaced by two chambers, in neither of which the clergy had any place as such, though eligible as members, and often, as in the persons of Sundberg and Billing, occupying important political positions. The abolition of the House of Clergy necessarily involved the substitution of an independent Church representative assembly for dealing in its stead with matters affecting the Church. This had already been provided in 1863, but did not hold its first meeting till 1868. It consists of thirty clerical and thirty lay representatives, and meets at intervals of five years, or oftener if summoned by the king. It has power to discuss and either accept or reject bills on Church administration sent up to it from the Riksdag. There are many important topics deserving to be included if space permitted, more especially the missionary activity both of the Swedish Church and of other Christian bodies; and, secondly, the religious history of the Swedish emigrants to U.S.A. with the circumstances which led to the establishment of the Augustana Synod.

It is not possible in the present limits to do justice to the points in which the Swedish Church can claim our special respect as adequately representing high ideals of Church organization. But a closer acquaintance with its constitution such as we hope will become more general among English Churchmen, will show them that there is much that is admirable in its method of election, both of bishops and of clergy, in the close connection between the Church and the universities, in highly developed parochial self-government, and in the extremely thorough system of episcopal visitation.

One result of this sketch will have been, we hope, to emphasize the many analogies between the history of the Swedish Church and that of our own. There is much which we think they may profitably learn from our experience; and we also may learn from theirs. There is one conviction strong to-day among their foremost men, which they may well inspire us with, and of which we stand in need--an unabated confidence in the ideal of a national Church, and its unspeakable value as a spiritual home for the individual, as a sphere of worship and common devotion, and not least as a sphere of practical work and service for the moral and material advancement of the race (Söderblom: Den Enskilde och Kyrkan, p. 4).

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