Theologically conservative seminary students in Sweden find the path to Lutheran ordination has insurmountable obstacles. Evangelical Lutheran pastors are all but locked out of senior positions in the Church of Sweden. Still, the undisputed leader of the evangelical Lutheran camp, retired Bishop Bertil Gärtner, holds firm in resisting efforts to create a new denomination for conservatives. "Not yet," he says.

The Church of Sweden (Lutheran), founded in 1527, cut its ties with the state a year ago in a historic move to secure independence from government oversight. The severance agreement between Sweden's government and the Lutheran bishops stipulated that the "open and democratic structure" of the Church of Sweden was to be maintained. In reality, this agreement means that secular political parties hold the upper hand in church affairs. "There is very little change," said Berth Löndahl, an evangelical Lutheran pastor in the southernmost city of Malmö.

Locally, regionally, and nationally, elected church councils still rule the church, which has an estimated 6.5 million adherents. "Each party freely appoints its own candidates, and candidates are only required to be baptized [as infants], not to confess Christianity in any personal way, or ever attend church," Löndahl says.

With no more than 3 percent of Swedes seeing the Bible as the reliable Word of God, the vast majority of the politicians in church governing bodies want evangelicals out of power. The Church of Sweden, a strong advocate for the ordination of women, will not allow anyone who does not support women's ordination to be ordained or to assume the office of senior pastor in any of its churches. Virtually no conservative seminarians or pastors in the Church of Sweden ...

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