The Church of Sweden can be characterized in many ways. The great Swedish archbishop and ecumenist, Nathan Söderblom (1866-1931), grounded the identity of the Church of Sweden in a concept of evangelical catholicity: ”The Reformation did not mean a transfer from one church to another. We have not had two churches in Sweden, one Roman Catholic and one Evangelical. We belong to the same universal church, which, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit according to different ways of living at different times, has been, and still is, in need of renewal, reformation, and spiritual awakening.”
Söderblom thus brought together traditional liturgical forms, the historic episcopate, essential elements from church history, the Lutheran teaching of justification by faith, and ecumenical openness.
High degree of comprehensiveness
The Church of Sweden is characterized by a high degree of comprehensiveness. On the one hand, various ”low church” movements grew out of revival and conservative confessional trends during the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, the main group of this kind is the Swedish Evangelical Mission (Evangeliska Fosterlands-Stiftelsen), with about 22,400 members.
A ”high church” movement has been influential chiefly among the clergy. By virtue of its ecumenical and international aims, it has influenced the liturgy and the view of ordained ministry in the Church of Sweden.
On the whole, however, the Church of Sweden can be characterized as ”middle of the road,” uniting high-church concerns for liturgy and ministry with an openness to evangelization, and a pattern of parish life typical of a national or folk church.
Worldwide Lutheran communion
The Church of Sweden belongs to the worldwide Lutheran communion. In 1993, the Church of Sweden marked the 400th anniversary of the Convocation of Uppsala (Uppsala möte), which formally established the Lutheran character of the Church of Sweden.
The convocation proclaimed the Scriptures, the three ancient ecumenical creeds, the Augsburg Confession of 1530, and the Swedish Church Ordinance of 1571 as the fundamental points of reference for the Church of Sweden as it confesses the Christian faith.
At the request of the 1983 General Synod, a committee considered modern questions about the identity of the church and the interpretation of the faith. It finished its work in 1993, in connection with the 400th-anniversary celebrations.
In Sweden, like in many other countries, there was a lot of discussion about the situation of homosexual people in both society and church for many years. A gender-neutral marriage legislation, offering equal possibilities for same-sex couples was the subject of a government inquiry which published its findings in 2007. The gender-neutral legislation came into effect in May 2009.