Church of Sweden chooses first female archbishop

Peter Kenny

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Thursday, October 17 2013

The Church of Sweden has voted Bishop Antje Jackelén to become its first female archbishop from 2014.

Bishop Antje, who is 58, was born and raised in Germany, but spent much of her working career in Sweden as a Lutheran priest and church leader.

When asked to comment on being the first female archbishop in Sweden she said it was "not so surprising."

"I've been out on the international scene a lot and I can see there is a curiosity about female church leaders. I have confidence that it is also an asset," she told Sweden's TT news agency.

The current archbishop, Anders Wejryd, who she will replace in the middle of 2014 when he retires at the age of 65, agreed with Jackelén, saying "it was about time" to have a woman in the post.

"We already have female leading bishops in Norway, the USA and Germany," said Archbishop Wejryd.

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Jackelén noted, "We've had female priests for 50 years....The first thing that comes to me is what a great church we have that can agree on a candidate. It feels good, I think. A little dazed, happy, grateful."

The Swedish media reported that Jackelén has evoked controversy in the past for saying there is no contradiction in believing in God as well as evolution.

She has also suggested that the virgin birth was a metaphor rather than an actual event, which is understood to have angered some members of the Swedish clergy.

Jackelén was the clear winner of the election Wednesday tallying 55.9 percent of the vote. She bagged 174 votes, with nearest rival, Bishop Ragnar Persenius of Uppsala, clinching 103.

She was ordained in 1980 and is married to a priest, and has two children.

From 1999-2001 Jackelén worked at Lund University and then was assistant professor of Systematic Theology/Religion and Science at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago from 2001-2003.

From 2003 she was Associate Professor and Director of the Zygon Center for Religion and Science.

The Church of Sweden recognizes same sex marriage and has some practising clerics who are in same sex relationships.

Jackelén studied at the universities of Tübingen (Germany) and Uppsala and Lund (Sweden).

After her ordination in 1980, she served as a parish pastor in Stockholm and Lund, and became the Lund diocese bishop in 2007.

She will be installed as Church of Sweden Archbishop in June 2014, succeeding Wejryd, who has led the church since 2006.

The Church of Sweden is the biggest church in the 70-million strong Lutheran World Federation, with more than 6.5 million members.

Copyright © 2013 Ecumenical News

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