The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


He's just plain 'Anders'

Sweden's new archbishop reveals the challenges facing Lutherans there

There’s no standing on ceremony when you meet Anders Wejryd, new head of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden. Previous holders of the post have been addressed as Ers Nåd (Your Grace) and while, for official purposes Wejryd may be referred to as “The Most Reverend,” he prefers just plain “Anders.” He’s 58, married and has three adult children.

Anders Wejryd, archbishop of the (Lutheran)
Anders Wejryd, archbishop of the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, wants to involve youth in the church and speaks of a missionbetween the generations.”
The relaxed approach is part of Wejryd’s philosophy of “plain, unpretentious speaking” and “a more personal church where we dare to share.” He hopes it will help transform religious life in a small Nordic country that, despite its reputation for socialist egalitarianism, is often, beneath the surface, deeply conservative.

Dressed in ceremonial robes for his Sept. 2, 2006, inauguration as archbishop in Uppsala [Sweden] Cathedral­—an event attended by Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia, as well as Lutheran and ecumenical dignitaries from all over the world—Wejryd was confronted by a reporter from Aftonbladet, a racy Stockholm tabloid. “So what’s with the costume?” he was asked cheekily. “A bit like Superman, is it?” Wejryd just laughed and said, “Oh no, I shall be staying on planet Earth.”

Some challenges he faces might test a superhero. The biggest: the steady decline in membership following the separation of church from state in 2000. Wejryd, anxious to put this in perspective, traces the trend back to 1951 when church membership was more or less compulsory. After that it became a matter of personal choice but linked to a church fee or tax. Many Swedes left rather than pay this fee.

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