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A brief Guide to

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark

Rebekka Højmark Svenningsen (ed.)

Aros Forlag

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A Brief Guide to The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark Rebekka Højmark Svenningsen (ed.) The book has been produced in cooperation with Folkekirkens mellemkirkelige Råd (The Council on International Relations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark)

© 2013 Aros Forlag and Folkekirkens mellemkirkelige Råd ISBN 978-87-7003-699-3 Graphic design: LenaMaria.dk Translation: Malene Brix Pilegaard and Betty Frank Simonsen Print: Scandinavian Book Photo on cover: Maj-Britt Boa Photo page 23: Foto Hans Grishauge Photo page 54 (top): kirkearkitektur.dk Aros Forlag Frederiksberg Allé 10 DK–1820 Frederiksberg C Denmark aros@arosforlag.dk www.arosforlag.dk Folkekirkens mellemkirkelige Råd Peter Bangs vej 1 DK–2000 Frederiksberg Denmark interchurch@interchurch.dk www.interchurch.dk The project is supported by:  Danske Sømands- og Udlandskirker (DSUK – The Danish Church Abroad/ Danish Seamen’s Church) Fyns Stift (The Diocese of Funen) Københavns Stift (The Diocese of Copenhagen) Lolland-Falsters Stift (The Diocese of Lolland-Falster) Roskilde Stift (The Diocese of Roskilde) Aalborg Stift (The Diocese of Aalborg) Aarhus Stift (The Diocese of Aarhus) Viborg Stift (The Diocese of Viborg) Haderslev Stift (The Diocese of Haderslev)

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Content

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Preface

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The History

The Church from the Reformation to the present

by Martin Schwarz Lausten

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The Tradition of Freedom                 

N.F.S. Grundtvig and his influence on the Church

by Birgitte Stoklund Larsen

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The Music                                                                 

Singing and the usage of hymns in Denmark

by Erik Norman Svendsen

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The Danes                                                                

The Church in the eyes of its members

by Marie Vejrup Nielsen

12

The Activities                                     

Life and work of the Church: The Danish model

by Mogens S. Mogensen

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The Pastor                                                                

The Pastor’s role in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark

by Kirsten Donskov Felter

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The Church Interrelated                                         

Ecumenical and international involvement

by Peter Lodberg

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Links and references

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The Tradition of Freedom N.F.S. Grundtvig and his influence on the Church    

By

Birgitte Stoklund Larsen

”Fury, God and the Pastors Disbelief ”. That was the title of a piece in the New York Times, July 8th, 2003. The newspaper had sent a reporter to Taarbæk, a small town north of Copenhagen. The pastor, Thorkild Grosbøll, had published the book, En sten i skoen (“A stone in my shoe”), and in an interview in Weekendavisen, he proclaimed that he did not believe in a creative and sustaining God. The story about a Danish pastor who did not believe in God travelled the world in 2003, and the New York Times chose to send a reporter to Taarbæk

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to find out what was happening. “I do not believe in a physical God, in the The

afterlife, in the resurrection, in the Virgin Mary. And I believe that Jesus was

tradition of

a nice guy, who figured out what man wanted. He embodied what he believed

freedom

was needed to upgrade the human being”, Thorkild Grosbøll said, “a laid-back man in Oxford tweeds” and “a popular Lutheran pastor in this village by the sea”. Grosbøll´s statements had consequences. The Bishop in the diocese of Helsingør (Elsinore), in which the parish of Taarbæk is situated, put Grosbøll on suspension. The parish was in uproar, and the local mailman said to the New York Times that if Grosbøll were to leave his position as pastor, he too would leave the church. When the reporter from New York Times wrote her piece, the matter had not come to a conclusion. But the reporter still seemed to know what would happen: ”It appears that even Denmark and its Lutheran Church must impose limits on religious freedom. For a man of God not to believe in God is, simply, unacceptable.” But the reporter’s assumptions turned out to be wrong. She had miscalculated with respect to the Danish tradition of freedom. Grosbøll was not dismissed. An agreement was reached so that the congregation in Taarbæk could keep their pastor. The outcome of the case with the pastor in Taarbæk shows that the Danish

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Folkekirke is a church that values a high degree of freedom for pastors and con-

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gregations. ”Inclusion” and ”diversity” are words that are often used in connection with Folkekirken – some say them with spite, others with enthusiasm.

The

But people agree that one man in particular has had an influence on this con-

tradition of

cept of freedom, and this is the pastor, politician, poet and writer, N.F.S.

freedom

Grundtvig (1783-1872).

Grundtvig in the roots Nikolai Frederik Severin Grundtvig may be best known for his folkehøjskoler (folk high schools) – schools where young men and women could learn about what we today call citizenship, while also being taught about farming and housekeeping. In the 19th century, people talked about popular education and “an enlightened and responsible people”, and the folk high schools were a clear result of the ideas on freedom. But Grundtvig has left other imprints on Danish society than the folk high schools. He was a theologian and worked as a pastor, e.g. for several years at the hospital church in Vartov in the centre of Copenhagen. In periods of his life, he made a living as a historian, and he also translated works in Old English and Old Norse. Grundtvig believed – like Paul – that the living word was far more important than the dead letter, and it is quite ironic that his own writings became so extensive. More than 25.000 pages of his were printed in his lifetime. His works include writings on history, education and theology, and he also wrote songs and hymns for both school and church. The works of Grundtvig are influenced by Romanticism, which was the dominant school of thought in 19th century Denmark. But despite the Romantic traits, it is easy to

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see that Grundtvig is also heavily influenced by 18th century Enlightenment. The

Apart from being a pastor and a writer, he was also a politician and philoso-

tradition of

pher, and he found inspiration in the ideas on freedom that he encountered on

freedom

his travels to England around 1830. Denmark had its first democratic constitution in 1849. By then, Grundtvig was an elderly man in his sixties. Most of his life was thus lived in an absolute monarchy, and he himself encountered the limits on freedom imposed by autocracy. Having been convicted of libel, he was sentenced to a lifetime of censorship, but the ruling was reversed after a few years. In this time of absolute monarchy, you had to be baptized and confirmed in the Evangelical Lutheran state church in order to have any civil rights. This coupling of faith and force, church and civil rights was very troubling to Grundtvig, and religious freedom became one of his key issues. Religious freedom, according to Grundtvig, is the mother of all civil rights, as religion is what concerns man the most. In short: Grundtvig is an important figure in a time of transition, a key player in the nation-building process from absolute monarchy to democracy, and a figure who has had a major impact on Danish identity. Grundtvig focused on the community – in contrast to his contemporary, Søren Kirkegaard, who emphasized the individual. In an international context, Grundtvig can be compared to thinkers such as the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore and the American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. But Grundtvig is not only an important historical figure. His thinking serves

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as a guideline for current debates on church, school and society. When Den-

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mark had a new Minister of Culture in 2012, she had barely accepted the position before mentioning Grundtvig and his influence on civic education and

The

she concurred with his thoughts on freedom: ”What I find remarkably gener-

tradition of

ous in Grundtvig’s way of thinking, is the idea that a minority has the right to

freedom

a way of life that is different from how the majority lives.”

Folkekirken and the radical ideas on freedom Grundtvig’s ideas had a major impact on the church. In relation to the state’s power, Grundtvig saw the church as a civic construction. His idea was that inside this civic structure, different and independent congregations should coexist. It speaks volumes about Grundtvig’s radicalism that he believed that the church should have room for congregations from different religious denominations. Grundtvig uses the term “the free state church”, which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but in fact expresses a beautiful idea on the state’s recognition of the significance of religion and its special condition – freedom. Grundtvig not only considers freedom in relation to religious politics, but also in terms of the theological concept of church and Christianity. The church service is the focal point, as the church in a theological perspective is a living, sacramental community with focus on baptism, communion and the creed. It is an inclusive community that puts emphasis on Christianity as a way of life instead of a doctrine; the church service is the very heart of Christianity. The radical liberalization of church life that Grundtvig longed for was not implemented with the Constitution in 1849, but the ideas on freedom were pro-

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minent in the church that came to exist as a result of the constitution: Folkekirken. The

Folkekirken’s view of itself relied heavily on ideas from Grundtvig, revivalist

tradition of

movements from the 19th century and the concept of a state church. Folkekirk-

freedom

en is seen as an inclusive church with room for everyone – the awakened and the numb, the dedicated and the not so dedicated. Thanks to these ideas on freedom, Folkekirken has room for both what may be seen as Christian civil religion and as confessional religion. The church can be seen not only as a faith community but also as a cultural and societal institution. Sometimes the different positions clash – as in the case with the pastor in Taarbæk. On the one hand, one might find his theology to be somewhat lacking, but on the other hand why interfere when he and his congregation seem to agree that this is how it should be? The pastor in Taarbæk was not dismissed, as the reporter from the New York Times imagined he would be. A pragmatic solution was found and another bishop agreed to become the pastor’s clerical supervisor. Pastor Grosbøll affirmed the creed to his new supervisor. But this arrangement did not exactly solve the problem. Critics of the pragmatic solution would argue that it has remained an open question whether there is a limit to what Folkekirken calls Christianity. The case is often mentioned as an example of the church without limits that is in essence no longer a church.

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Proponents of the pragmatic solution, however, argue that Christianity in a

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Lutheran church is always a matter of interpretation. Folkekirken as a church is not an intellectual study group or a club for kindred spirits; you become a

The

member by being baptized, not by taking an exam. The creed in the context

tradition of

of the church service is not a check list for faith; it is in praise of a mystery.

freedom

Freedom is thus not something people give one another in the church, it is something you receive through worship and the Christian mystery, and there are wide limits as to how you may express and practice your faith. To quote Grundtvig: ”Same Lord, faith and baptism, same hope of glory – everything else is not important”.

Freedom laws If the congregation in Taarbæk had not been pleased with the pastor they themselves had called, then things would probably have turned out differently. But regardless of how things turned out, the ”freedom laws” from 1855 and 1868 – the church legislation that came into being as a result of Grundtvig’s thoughts on freedom – could have been employed. The first law concerns individuals and allows you to free yourself from the ties to your own pastor and instead make use of the services from another pastor of your own choice. No one is tied to the pastor in the parish where he or she happens to live. Parallel to his ideas on the freedom of the individual church-goer, Grundtvig talked about the freedom of the pastors: The freedom for each pastor to administer the sacraments and interpret the gospel according to his belief. The case of Thorkild Grossbøl in Taarbæk shows that the pastors have a high degree of freedom, but a pastor in a parish is still obligated to serve the people in her or his parish with the one exception that a pastor may refuse to marry divorcees

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or homosexuals for reasons of conscience, even if they are living in his or her The

parish.

tradition of freedom

The other freedom law has to do with the establishment of an alternative congregation. If a group of people, at least fifty members of Folkekirken, wish to, they can join together in a so-called “valgmenighed”, an independent, “electoral congregation” within Folkekirken itself. The conditions for this type of congregation are a little looser with regards to liturgy and economy than in a traditional congregation. Folkekirken is thus able to house different types of congregations, those based on geography, the traditional congregations, and those based on particular interests or religious standpoints. The arrangement with the electoral congregations has been working without any problems. For many years, it was mainly Grundtvigians who formed their own congregations, but recently, it has also been people from theologically conservative groups like Indre Mission (Home Mission), Luthersk Mission (LM) and more charismatic groups who have formed their own congregations. In 2012, when same sex marriage was introduced in Folkekirken, it led to the establishment of several electoral congregations among conservative Christians. The electoral congregations are supervised by the bishop, unlike the Evangelical Lutheran free congregations that remain outside the realm of Folkekirken. None of the affiliated churches in our Northern neighbouring countries provide the option of electoral congregations inside the majority church, Folkekirken.

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Room for differences

The

The number of electoral congregations in Denmark is not very high but it is

tradition of

hard to overestimate the significance of this arrangement. It has meant that

freedom

even critics of locally or nationally dominant theological trends remain inside the church. Marching in step is not necessarily a virtue in Folkekirken. Rather it is a virtue to be able to find room for different opinions. The challenge lies in the reciprocity that is at the very core of this concept of freedom. The freedom that the individual enjoys must also be shared with people with whom you disagree. This is easier said than done. Many see this freedom tradition as one of the primary characteristics of Folkekirken. It is symptomatic that when the Minister for Church Affairs in 2012 set up a committee that was supposed to work out a governance reform for Folkekirken, it was emphasized that “the committee works inside Folkekirken’s tradition of a decentralized structure, with respect to the local congregations in the parishes, diversity, freedom laws, respect for minorities and democratic, elected organizations.� Three out of five of these have to do with the tradition of freedom: diversity, freedom laws and the respect for minorities. But will it last, this tradition of freedom? It takes a very solidified community to live with a strong tradition of freedom without the church falling apart. In that sense, the freedom tradition is under pressure. The sense of community in Folkekirken is challenged by all the same things that threaten to dissolve

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The tradition of freedom

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other broad communities at a time when people tend to find each other in communities with a very specific identity and distinct boundaries. This devel-

The

opment is underpinned by social media that promote a sense of community

tradition of

between people who already see eye to eye on things, while not facilitating com-

freedom

munication between people who disagree. The challenge for Folkekirken in the 21st century is to turn its sense of openness and inclusion into an obvious source of power. This is a challenge for both Folkekirken and other majority churches in history. To that end, the tradition for freedom, and the already tested will to diversity and tolerance, are certainly Folkekirken’s strongest contribution.

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A

G uide

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The Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark

a r o s f o r l ag

a r o s f o r l ag

Th e Evang el ic a l Lu t he ran Church in D enm ark

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brief

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A brief guide to the evangelical lutheran church in denmark uddrag