The “People’s Church” of Denmark

This week, we’re spending time in Denmark because a friend of a friend invited us to Church Camp here.   The camp is very awesome, but had spotty internet yesterday, so I am a little delayed in my posting.  More about Camp and Camp stories coming tomorrow, I promise!

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Denmark has been Christian for nearly 1,000 years, and it has been Lutheran since the Protestant Reformation nearly 500 years ago.  The Reformation – the arrival of Lutheranism – was a big deal in Denmark’s history, because it meant that they could separate from the “Holy Roman Empire” and be more independent.  That was important enough that the rich family which helped to bring about the Reformation to Denmark built the 3rd largest castle in the country.

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This thing is huge.  It was built in the 1600s, re-built a few generations later, then re-built again in the 1800s.  Now, it is a museum of Danish history.  And huge.

So today, about 80% of Danes are “Lutheran” – as in, they are baptized, confirmed, married, and buried in the local Lutheran Church.  Until 2005, many small towns didn’t have a way to distribute birth, marriage, or death certificates apart from the church.  But, now, only about 50% of people in Copenhagen are connected to the church at all, and only about 5% of the country attends church with any regularity.

Even though the average person in Denmark barely knows anything about the faith or the church, they still call it the “people’s” church.

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Pastors are not government employees, per se.  They receive 40% of their salary from the ‘government’ or from some sort of imposed 1% income tax.  But the constitution says that the politicians cannot interfere in church business. Also, the elected church council ‘hires’ a pastor, kind of like in most Lutheran churches in the US.

Then, the refugees came.

Denmark has had immigration for a long time – it is a stable, European Union Country.  People come from all over the world to be here.

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26 years ago, the International Christian Church center in Copenhagen began Cross-Cultural awareness camps.  4 years ago, they began working with Persian refugees (from Iran and Afghanistan).  The current Refugee Crisis is somewhat stressing the “people’s” church – because, is it a state church, in which case, they should support the refugees the government has decided can live here, or is it a people’s church, in which case the people should decide what to do – or, an even radical idea – what if God wants us to tell these refugees about the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  What if the “people’s church” is called to use regular people to reach more people with the gospel?  There is a very real fear that the new immigrants, mainly from Muslim countries, will not want to integrate into the “people’s” Lutheran church.  But I’m meeting a lot of people this week who are excited to be in Denmark, where they can learn about Christianity, and be free to attend the church with people from all over the globe.

More Camp stories tomorrow – I promise!

 

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