Denmark Observations – entry 3
March 22, 2007, 10:15 am
Filed under: Christendom, conference, culture, emerging church, travel

At the conference I attended at University of Aarhus last week, I very quickly noticed that I was the only person there that didn’t have some sort of affiliation with some form of the Lutheran church. There were faculty members from a few “public” universities in Denmark and Sweden, but by virtue of these countries having state-endorsed churches, they’re connected. Also, a couple of participants were there from the Lutheran World Federation mothership in Geneva.

I had one very interesting discussion over lunch with a couple of professors – one of whom has served at very high levels in the World Council of Churches. I was asked about the nature of the emerging church movement in North America, so we talked about that for a while. We also talked about the degree to which this kind of a renewal movement would be possible/likely within the Scandinavian context. They didn’t give the emerging church much of a shot at bringing about renewal – at least not within the state church. In large part, they said, it’s because if you start messing around with the ways they do church, you’re literally messing around with the ways they do citizenship in the country. Wow – very different. Interestingly (frighteningly?), one comment was made to the effect of, “You can deny the resurrection of Jesus, deny the virgin birth, deny the Trinity, but don’t you dare mess with baptism because that’s how citizenship is sealed.”

Is it any wonder that while everyone “belongs” to the church, virtually nobody shows up? Not to these professors. They’re in an interesting position, though – they are not officially employed by the church, so they don’t fear for the loss of their jobs, and yet they’re able to make some critiques based on their observations.

I actually do have a bit more hope for the emerging church viability than my learned friends. Mainly because of the decidedly non-Christendom approach that the emerging church ethos involves. It won’t require or significantly involve the state church to make it work. Tony Jones‘ recent trip to Scandinavia is a good example of some connections being made.

Within the context of a conference discussing the church in the global south and east, it’s more than a little ironic to me that the theological conversation is still very Euro-American centric, despite the fact that the church is far more alive in the south and east than in the west. It’s validated some of the directions of my doctoral work, but also potentially significantly shifted the practical focus of my work. I’m still chewing on some thoughts in that regard, but maybe I’ll put some sentences together here in the days to come.


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