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Historical survey

Christianisation

Sailing as far as to Canada and the Caspian Sea the Vikings warriors, belonging to Norse religion (belief in Aser and Vaner, Odin and Thor, late 700 to mid-900), were pioneers of globalisation. (...)

Sailing as far as to Canada and the Caspian Sea the Vikings warriors, belonging to Norse religion (belief in Aser and Vaner, Odin and Thor, late 700 to mid-900), were pioneers of globalisation. Thus Arian and Celtic Christianity had some influence in Denmark before the official Catholic mission began with the German monk Ansgarius in 826. Approximately 875 the Danish King Harold Bluetooth officially claimed to have Christianize – and at the same time unified - his kingdom; Denmark and Norway. Christianization and development of the Danish Nation with some common civilisation under one King were two sides of the same process around the turn of the millennium. Local landlords and monks, the second wave of globalisation, build 1800 stone churches between the years 1200 and 1300. At this time – as more or less unto the time of the revivals the 19th century - Christianity was probably first of all a religion from above.

D 13 September 2012    AHans Raun Iversen

Reformation

Competition between Catholic bishops and national kings came to an end when King Christian III stopped Denmark’s last civil war and expropriated the church and its infrastructure and turned it (...)

Competition between Catholic bishops and national kings came to an end when King Christian III stopped Denmark’s last civil war and expropriated the church and its infrastructure and turned it into an Evangelical-Lutheran state church in 1536. Since then the church has been governed by the state.

During the 17th and 18th Century a ministry as "helpers of the pastor" was introduced, but never popular as the main task was supervision of church discipline. To the absolute monarchy (1660-1849) Christianity was primarily a means to promote piety and thus faithful subjects to the king.

D 13 September 2012    AHans Raun Iversen

Democratic Constitution and People’s Church from 1849

The Evangelical-Lutheran State Church was renamed The Evangelical-Lutheran People’s Church in the democratic constitution from 1849. Uniquely Denmark, however, never had a split in the triangle (...)

The Evangelical-Lutheran State Church was renamed The Evangelical-Lutheran People’s Church in the democratic constitution from 1849. Uniquely Denmark, however, never had a split in the triangle between state, church and people. During the religious revivals of the 19th Century, with N.F.S. Grundtvig as a leading figure, 1/4 of the Danes became conscious Christians, partly influenced by cultural revival and partly in line with Pietism of the 18th Century.

In 1903 parish congregational boards were introduced, as a first step of a slow process of democratization from below of the national church. Today the secular state is still in charge of legislation, administration, and court decisions of the church at the national level.
During the years it has been debated if the congregational boards should primarily be seen as administrative bodies, acting on behalf of the state and/or local society, or as a function of the ministry of all believers. Also the legitimacy of the boards has been questioned as only 10-20 percent of church members participate in the elections. The boards have, however, contributed very well as catalysts for good relationships between the local people and the parish churches.

Formally supervised by 12 bishops (incl. 1 in Greenland and 1 in the Faeroe Islands, which got status as an independent church in 2007) the church is divided into more than 2000 parishes with approximately 2000 pastors, who are formally state civil servants, required to have graduated as MTh (Master of Theology) from one of the state universities.

D 13 September 2012    AHans Raun Iversen

Culture Christianity and clash of religions

The People’s Church of today is an umbrella for various sorts of Christianity, the dominant group being the 75 percent Culture Christians who use the church for baptism, confirmation and funerals (...)

The People’s Church of today is an umbrella for various sorts of Christianity, the dominant group being the 75 percent Culture Christians who use the church for baptism, confirmation and funerals and partly also for weddings, even though they have no personal relation to congregational life, creed and Bible. 10-15 pct. of the Danes are Church Christians, attending services or other church activities at a more or less regular basis. A small group may be labelled individual Christians as they relate personally to Christianity without much relation to the church.

Culture Christianity consists of a Christian influenced world view, a concept of man and some basic ethical and existential values deriving from Christianity together with a preference for using Christian inspired language in important situations. For Culture Christians a major part of their culture is Christian whereas their entire cultures is most certainly not, nor are their religious beliefs if they have any. Culture Christianity does not come alive by itself, nor is it being kept alive by itself. It is the child of the teaching of the People’s Church throughout the centuries. Culture Christians have no ways and rituals of their own for the transmission of Culture Christianity to their children. Culture Christians are depending on the People’s Church which is again relying on the existence of Culture Christianity. Culture Christianity is historically established as a result of compulsory confirmations classes, in Denmark from 1736. Today confirmation classes teach approximately 70 percent of the young people church Christianity to the result that they become Culture Christians. Also what is heard by those attending the rituals of the People’s Church contributes to the upholding of Culture Christianity in the Danish people.

With only 2 percent of the church members attending church during a normal Sunday, Denmark has the world’s weakest religious participation in weekly services. As there are practically no competition from the small so called "free churches" outside the People’s Church, the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Denmark may thus be labelled "the weakest Monopoly Church in the World".

Primarily due to immigration during recent decades Islam has become a visible alternative to Church Christianity – and the normal Culture Christianity. This – together with a revival of old folk religiosity in modern dressing – has recently made most church leaders aware that the church can only remain Christian as a church in mission. It is, however, difficult to be a church in mission, when the church is governed by the secular state and the majority of members are Culture Christians.

Since 2001 the People’s Church has been taken hostage as a part of Danish nationalism by especially Danish People’s Party, which is supporting the bourgeois government. Political parties from the opposition are more inclined to treat religions equally in a situation, where immigration means that Denmark has approximately 4 percent Muslims and probably almost as many non-Lutheran Christians with only semi-recognised status.The Danish Cartoon Crises – called in Denmark the Muhammad Cartoon Crises – evolved in this setting in 2006/2007.

D 13 September 2012    AHans Raun Iversen

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