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SFRV-vapen   News from the Church of Sweden, 3/97


Christina Odenberg appointed bishop

STOCKHOLM. Christina Odenberg, vicar and rural dean, will be the first woman bishop in the Church of Sweden.

On Thursday 5th June the government appointed Christina Odenberg bishop of the diocese of Lund. Earlier this spring Christina Odenberg has come out top in both the trial and official elections for bishop in Lund.

In connection with the government appointment, Christina Odenberg stressed the following matters which she wishes to raise, among others, as new bishop in the diocese of Lund:

"The church must help people in their encounter with God and Christ. This encounter is unique and in fact means to strive radically towards the centre so as, thereafter, from the altar, to move out in dialogue to meet those who consider themselves as outsiders," says Christina Odenberg.

The second point which the new bishop of Lund emphasizes is that the pastors in the diocese must be made to feel that the bishop is there for them.

"I have been a pastor for over 30 years. During these years I have met many good pastors who work hard in their congregations. All these pastors must note and know that the bishop is there for their benefit," says Christina Odenberg.

In her third point Christina Odenberg says that people must be made to feel that they belong to the Church of Sweden.

"It is important to remember that the church does not just consist of employees - pastors, musicians, deacons, caretakers, teachers etc.

"In the Church of Sweden there are many, many laymen and 'ordinary people' who can contribute very, very much to the church. We must never forget this. In our church there are a lot of involved and committed people who have the best of intentions at heart for the church. We must take these people with the greatest seriousness."

Christina Odenberg will be the bishop of Lund as from 1st July and she is to be consecrated in the cathedral of Uppsala on 5th October.

1996 statistics ready: Renewal leads to increased involvement

"Participation in traditional church activities decreases in popularity while new forms of services and activities attract people." This is said by Jørgen Straarup of the Church of Sweden Department of Research. The 1996 statistics of the Church of Sweden show that the ordinary Sunday services and church rites, especially baptism and confirmation, lose participants while attempts at new forms of services and church activities lead to increased involvement.

Children's work for infants up to three years' age shows the most favourable development with a doubling of the number of children within the present decade. On the whole, the statistics indicate that the Church of Sweden attracts more and more young people to its regular activities. As much as 10 percent of all young people under 25 years of age are involved. Participation increases most in the ages 7-9 and 10-14, i.e. with 10-11 percent. In spite of this the number of confirmands is on the decrease.

"For the first time we find ourselves under the magical level of 50-percent," says Jonas Bromander of the Church of Sweden Department of Research. Now 49 percent of all 15-year-olds go for confirmation.

Total number of service attendances fewer

The 1996 statistics also show that the total number of attendances at services have decreased by half a million compared with the previous year. But still the Church of Sweden has more attendances than for example sporting events or cinema shows. There were over 22 million attendances at services in 1996. It is above all the main services, usually at 11 a.m. on Sundays, that are losing out. But attendances are also fewer at traditional church rites, forexample baptism and confirmation.

No dramatic drop in membership

As from 1st January, 1996 baptism became a requirement for membership. You or your child had to be baptized to belong to the Church of Sweden. As a parent you could also register your child as a member of the church in anticipation of baptism. The changed rules have not led to any dramatic decrease in the number of church members. The proportion of the population that are members of the Church of Sweden is 86 percent and the annual decrease has been 0,55 percent during the first half of the present decade. To this should be added a loss of membership of 0,23 percent due to the frequency of baptism. The decrease depends in part on immigration and to a lesser extent on the fewer number of children who are baptized. Today the membership of the Church of Sweden stands at 7.546.000.

A Chinese visiting Sweden: Thank you for the work that the missionaries did in China!

The last CSM missionaries left China 46 years ago. Recently the Church of Sweden was given a reminder of the fact that the ties with China are still strong, when Zhang Qiangyi, a member of a Chinese delegation visiting Stockholm, wanted to hand over gifts.

Zhang Qiangyi, a business executive, is on an official trip in Sweden with Electrolux, but this Friday afternoon he has other ties with Sweden besides purely financial. He is reestablishing friendship ties between Christians in China and Sweden.

The visit revives memories and raises faith in the future.

"It's like meeting an old friend," says Bishop Jonas Jonsson, chairman of the Church of Sweden Mission board, when he meets Zhang Qiangyi. He is also accompanied by Daniel Nelson who, together with his wife Solveig, were among the last missionaries who left China.

Zhang Qiangyi's father, grandfather and uncle were baptized as children and met Swedish missionaries in the 1940s.

He is not himself baptized, but his wife is, and he "lives his life as a good Christian".

"My father and uncle have told me much about the Swedish missionaries. I was very small when they were forced to leave Hunan," says Qiangyi.

The Church of Sweden Mission started congregational work in Hunan in 1923 in close contact with other Lutheran missions. The Swedes built a church in the provincial capital Changsa which was consecrated in 1923. The Swedish synod always remained very small. All foreign missionaries were prohibited from staying on in China after Mao Zedong's accession to power in 1949. In 1951 the Lutheran church joined the "Three-self movement" and is now fully integrated in the Chinese protestant church which is led by the Christian Council of China.

"The Swedish contribution to mission in China was small, but the meeting we had today is proof that it was not unnecessary," says Jonas Jonson. He points out that China has a longer Christian tradition than Sweden. There were Christians in China already in the 7th Century.

The Church of Sweden has no mission work in China today, in spite of the fact that freedom of religion was re-enacted in 1979.

"The contacts between the Church of Sweden and the Christians in China are based on mutual and friendly exchange," says Jonas Jonson.

A cooperating partner for diaconal and social work in China is Amity Foundation which was started in 1985 on the initiative of Christians in China. It supports, for example, local schools by providing teachers in English, among whom some are Swedes sent by CSM.

Elisabeth Cervin

Hilda Lind a member of hospital board in Jerusalem

New member of the board of the Augusta Victoria Hospital in Jerusalem is Hilda Lind, the director of the Church of Sweden Department of International Mission, Ecumenism, Development and Relief. Already in 1950 the hospital was opened for Palestinian refugees. As Jeruslem is closed for Palestinians from the West Bank it is difficult for both patients and personnel to reach it. But the Palestinian presence in Jerusalem is considered to be important. The hospital is experiencing an acute financial crisis. Church of Sweden Aid supports the work with 1,7 million crowns in 1997.

Common EU project for youth in Church of Sweden

"Youth to youth" is an EU-financed project in dioceses and congregations in which some of the youths who took part in the CSM and Church of Sweden Aid scholarship programme act as animators. Three youths from each of the dioceses of Luleå, Stockholm and Gothenburg were employed. The project is 50 percent financed by the EU and 50 percent by CSM and Church of Sweden Aid together. The EU emphasizes that the aim of the project is to spread information and create involvement in international justice among the youth, to bridge cultural barriers and create an understanding between different groups in society.

50th Anniversary celebration by Church of Sweden Aid in Lund

"Faith and actions belong together. We stand for a gospel of action." This was said by the director, Margaretha Ringström, in her sermon at a communion service in the cathedral of Lund, which concluded the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Church of Sweden Aid, held during the Ascension Day week-end in May.

During the week-end over 700 delegates from the whole country and around 20 foreign guests met in Lund to celebrate Church of Sweden Aid (Lutherhjaelpen), which is now 50 years old.

It was here in Lund that the Lutheran World Federation, the umbrella organization of the world's Lutheran churches, was founded in 1947. Its Swedish section was given the name Lutherhjaelpen.

The celebration began with the Annual General Meeting of the Church of Sweden Aid. Among other matters, the AGM approved the general budgets for the next three years. Church of Sweden Aid is one of the largest fund-raising organizations in the country and during this year about 120 million crowns is expected to be raised. The total assets for the next three years are expected to amount to around 206 million crowns, most of it from voluntary gifts, while 80 million will be provided by SIDA.

After the AGM the 50-year celebration itself started, with seminars, services and exciting meetings. Many of the old pioneers who had founded and developed Church of Sweden Aid had come to Lund, for example Bishop Emeritus Åke Kastlund, who was director during the years 1957-1971.

The theme of the meeting was "The Way into the Future". Future aid, as already today, is based on cooperation. Church of Sweden Aid spends more and more resources in support of processes which aim at the removal of dependency on aid. This means providing loans and credits and the establishment of savings accounts. Church of Sweden Aid has decided to spend 70 million crowns over five years on such projects which provide loans to small enterprises in the poor world.

Tommy Löfgren

New task for missionary to the North: Allan searches for Philippine women

The task of the Philippine pastor Allan Forcados in Sweden would seem rather odd: to search for women. He is paid a salary for this by the diocese of Strängnäs. But the task is not as mystifying as it sounds. As yet another step in the long-standing cooperation between the diocese of Strängnäs and the independent Philippine church, IFI, Allan has been employed in a project to make a survey of the life of the Philippine women in Sweden.

Quite often they have arrived here as newly married wives of Swedish men. Some of them have settled under good and stable conditions in Sweden, others are in a sorry state.

Women are one of the important "exports" from the Philippines. Large numbers of women -both unmarried and married with children left at home - travel to other countries in order to contribute to the upkeep of the family by means of jobs of different kinds.

Some of them meet Swedish or other foreign men and accompany them to Sweden. Of course it also happens that they meet at some tourist resort in the Philippines.

Allan Forcado has had to struggle with systematic and well organized authorities in Sweden in his attempts to come into contact with his compatriots.

"I know that there are about 8.800 Philippinos in Sweden, but it is not clear how many are adult women," says Allan Forcado. He has been in touch with social service authorities, with the police and emergency organizations for women in order to offer his services as a compatriot and with Christian pastoral care for those who need support.

And he has come across Philippine women who have been ill-treated by their men.

"I think it is quite natural for the church to work in solidarity with those who need assistance and to be present where there is distress and difficulty," says Allan.

Missionary to the North in Eskilstuna

Allan Forcado is 31 and already at the age of 22 he became a pastor in the Philippine church. In 1992 he came to Sweden for the first time, invited by the Church of Sweden as a missionary to the North. He was here for two years and then met his wife, Anna-Lena. They married in the Philippines in 1995 and then settled in Eskilstuna again.

The idea regarding the project was raised when the diocese of Strängnäs had a visit by a Philippine pastor from the IFI. He was curious to know how Swedish society looked after refugees and immigrants. The result was that Allan was employed in a six-month project. The international advisory officer of the diocese, Anmari Larsson, is the supervisor of the project:

"We see this as a practical implementation of our cooperation with the Philippines, and as a good follow-up of Allan's period as a missionary to the North," she says.

To begin with his work was limited to the diocese of Strängnäs, but his task has been widened. Most immigrants are found in the larger cities, and Allan has contacts both in Växjö and Borås. And he has just recently found out that a group of Philippine women are in hiding in the north of Sweden.

"What I can do is to be available - as a compatriot and pastor," Allan Forcado concludes.

Ann Lystedt

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