[7 October 2014: Updated 23:00 EDT]
Defrocking of Swedish Confessional Pastor Stayed by Appeals Board
The Church of Sweden’s Appeals Board has temporarily set aside the defrocking of Pastor Olof Fogelqvist. As reported earlier [ http://www.scandhouse.org/s/fogelqvist ], on September 19 the Gothenburg Diocese Consistory (Domkapitlet) found that Pastor Fogelqvist had violated his ordination vows because of a comment rejecting women’s ordination in an August 2013 sermon.
In the sermon, Pastor Fogelqvist had questioned the validity of sacraments performed by female pastors; but the Consistory chose to interpret this as saying that those who support women’s ordination would lose their salvation. Pastor Fogelqvist insists this was not at all what he said, but that his words had been twisted out of context by Gothenburg’s CoS Bishop Per Eckerdal. The Consistory also found Fogelqvist guilty of “undermining confidence” in female pastors and “disloyalty” to CoS (in challenging its leadership’s views on the ordination issue).
The case is unprecedented in Swedish church law. The normal procedure in case a pastor delivers a seriously questionable sermon would be that the bishop first counsel with the pastor. And opposition to women’s ordination has never been a ground for defrocking, although it has been a bar to ordination since 1993 (this was the primary reason for formation of the Mission Province as an alternative path to ordination and episcopal oversight for Confessional Lutheran men). There is no precedent for a CoS pastor being defrocked for a single sermon, let alone a single comment in one sermon.
Johan Munck, Chairman of the Appeals Board, said, “This case is fundamentally important. We believe the Consistory’s decision has such far-reaching consequences that it should not be enforced as long as we are considering this case.”
“[The interim stay] says nothing about how we will later judge the merits of the case,” Munck added, “whether we will come to the same conclusion as the Consistory or not. We will hear the parties and our decision can come as soon as early as November.”
The Appeals Board's written decision, however, notes that the Board must weigh the appelant's likelihood of success and the likelihood of harm in deciding whether to grant a stay. The Appeals Board's decision to grant the stay was unanimous.
Link to Kyrkans Tidning article [in Swedish]:
Link to Appeals Board decision (in Swedish, posted on Rev. Anders Brogren's website):
Christopher C. Barnekov, PhD
Scandinavia House Fort Wayne