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Nordic churches tackle baptism in a changing society

Baptism rates are steadily declining in all Nordic countries. How do the churches respond? The churches are taking a closer look at baptism in times of change in a new Nordic initiative

What does baptism mean in contemporary society? That is what the Nordic Lutheran churches are currently examining. Photo: folkekirken.dk

For several years the numbers have only gone one way: Down. Baptism rates keep declining. An increasing amount of parents choose not to have their children baptized, which has just been confirmed by a recent report from the Statistical Institute in Denmark.

This downward trend can be seen, not only in Denmark, but in the other Nordic countries, as well. It poses a problem for the Lutheran churches in the Nordic region as well as for Europe in general. It is not only an organizational challenge with fewer enrollments, but also an ecclesiastical problem: The Lutheran churches in the Nordic Region are often called folk churches, but how will the decreasing baptism rates affect the churches in the future? Will they continue to represent the majority of the populations?

It is part of larger societal change, and there is no easy fix. That is why the Lutheran churches in the Nordic region have decided to launch a joint initiative called Baptism in Times of Change. During the next months the churches in Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark will focus baptism and in a series of open webinars they will explore the societal context and developments that we are experiencing at the moment and discuss how the churches should respond.

 

The Baptism in Times of Change is a pilot project within the larger initiative called Churches in Times of Change – a joint focus on ecclesial practice and theology in the Nordic Region, initiated and financed by the Nordic members of Lutheran World Federation (LWF). In the Nordic region, the situation for the churches is quite comparable theologically, historically, and sociologically. This calls for common reflection and increased ecumenical cooperation between the Nordic folk churches. The CITC is an important step in the realization of our common Lutheran identity. 

 

It is also a way of implementing on a local level the LWF resolution from the last general assembly in Namibia in 2017 about a strengthened focus on Western and European churches’ current challenges (read more about the LWF resolution here). 

In this pilot project the churches explore the developments of baptismal practice and theology and take a closer look at existing research, initiatives and practices about baptism in the Nordic churches and invite researchers, church leaders and practitioners to discuss baptism in a changing society and formulate recommendations in order to address the challenges facing the churches.

The first phase of the project is an annotated bibliography about baptism in the Nordic countries. From March till May there will be a series of 5 webinars about the key topics of the project: Statistics, empirical data and qualitative research about baptism, rituals and practices, communication and campaigns, and theological development.

If you want to participate in the website, you can click on the project’s website, read the programme for the webinars and register here: churchesintimesofchange.org.