Belief in the Virgin Birth an optional extra, new Swedish archbishop declares


Belief in the Virgin Birth an optional extra, new Swedish archbishop declares


George Conger

The Church of Sweden has elected its first woman archbishop.

On 15 October 2013 the Rt. Rev. Antje Jackelén, Bishop of Lund, was elected Archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Church of Sweden. She is the second Archbishop of Uppsala to be elected by popular vote by the church’s synod following the separation of the Church of Sweden from the state on January 1, 2000, and succeeds the Most Rev. Anders Wejryd who was elected in2006.

A native of Germany, Bishop Jackelén was ordained a priest in 1980 and served Tyresö parish in the Diocese of Stockholm from 1981 to 1988, Gårdstånga parish in the Diocese of Lund from 1988 to 1994 and in the Cathedral parish of Lund from 1995 to 1996.  In 1999 she earned a doctor of theology degree at Lund University, where she taught from 1999 to 2001.  Her doctoral dissertation Zeit und Ewigkeit: die Frage der Zeit in Kirche, Naturwissenschaft und Theologie was published in English in2005 as: Time & eternity: the question of time in church, science, and theology. She and her husband, Heinz, moved to Chicago in 2001 where she taught at the Lutheran School of Theology from 2001 to 2006, when she was elected Bishop of Lund.

A member of the liberal wing of the Swedish Church, Bishop Jackelén is a prolific social commentator and was Sweden’s first twitter bishop and publishes a micro blog about her work and beliefs.  In an interview published in the Swedish church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning, Bishop Jackelén defended herself against charges she was cold and aloof. “I think I have many warm and close relationships,” she said, but in her job as bishop she came in contact with “an incredible number of people, I cannot be everything to everyone.”

She also objected to making belief in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ a benchmark of the Christian faith. “It is strange that the question of the virgin birth has become something of a faith test,” she told Kyrkans Tidning, adding the Bible had been interpreted in different ways across time and cultures and that many different cultures had made use of a virgin birth as a way to show a particular person's self-importance.

“I am more afraid of those who claim to know everything, than anyone who claims to wrestle with the Bible,” she said.