Greta Thunberg i profil.
Foto: Melissa Renwick

No, Church of Sweden has not proclaimed Greta Thunberg as one of Jesus Christ's successors

The story origins from a tweet on December 1st 2018 from the local parish of Limhamn in the city of Malmö in south Sweden. The tweet goes: "Announcement! Jesus of Nazareth has now assigned one of his successors, namely Greta Thunberg”.

Parishes make their own decisions

Some background information is needed. The Church of Sweden is highly decentralized and the parishes are self-governing. That is, they are free to make their own decisions in most matters, including creating opinion.

The parish of Limhamn used Twitter to do so in questions about for example climate and peace. They declared that being on Twitter means you have to communicate with a language adjusted to that specific platform, for example using humor, irony and sometimes provocative formulations. All in order to draw attention to the cause.

The Limhamn Twitter account drew supporters as well as critics, but after the Thunberg-tweet, the critique reached such levels that the parish decided to leave Twitter.

Critique from the Bishop of Lund

The bishop of the diocese of Lund (where Malmö lies) gave a statement in which he supported the decision to leave, and also criticised the way Limhamn parish had been using Twitter, and especially the Thunberg-tweet:

”If you assign somebody as your successor, you have to expect that it can be perceived as if you are going to resign. Therefore it is no surprise that there are those who have interpreted Limhamns tweet about Jesus assigning a successor as if one is leaving Jesus”, the bishop wrote.

Limhamn parish explained that the word ”successor” referred to Jesus' teaching and his call to follow him and obviously not about replacing Jesus as our saviour. But the turbulence following the Thunberg-tweet then eventually led to the decision of Limhamn parish to leave Twitter. This was on december 6th 2018, with a goodbye tweet:

”Dear Twitter,

If we have hurt someone we apologize, that was never our meaning. Our meaning has been that in our own way to talk about Jesus Christ. We are now leaving this arena. Thank's for engagement, joy and debate.

God bless you all!”

Former Archbishop Antje Jackelén on the issue

Former Archbishop Antje Jackelén was asked about the tweet in an interview with the newspaper “Arbetet” and responded that the word “follower” would have been a better one. In the newspaper “Expressen” the 28th of September 2019, she states Greta Thunberg has a lot in common with the prophets of the Old testament:

”It is remarkable what she has accomplished globally. I consider her prophetic, not unlike the prophets of the Old Testament, who were deeply committed and persistent in their cause.”