The disestablishment of the Church of Sweden in 2000 has led to a weakening of the national church and, somewhat surprisingly, greater interference in church matters by politicians, according to Thomas Girmalm of Umea University.
In presenting a paper at the SSSR conference, Girmalm noted that the Church of Sweden (COS) had been “too bound up wih the state to be completely free of state control” even after disestablishment. Since disestablishment, there has been an increasing “congregationalist” position of the church, even though such a posture was officially rejected by the COS in 1995. Local church services are increasingly distinct from the national church. This fragmentation within the same church is expressed as “different services for different people,” although it conflicts with traditional compliance with the church service manual.
The church traditionally has two “lines” of authority—the lay line and the bishop line. This double line is now being erased as the authority of bishops is being put into question. At the same time, the lay segment of the church is increasingly represented by local politicians who see themselves as representatives of society. In 2005 the church structure was challenged as being in conflict with a total “democratized organizational structure.”
There is a shift in episcopal leadership from “control to support, resulting in a church where the bishop cannot intervene in its theological life or doctrine.” In such a tranformation, the COS is increasingly viewed as a “guardian of democracy,” with little attention being given to doctrinal limits, according to Girmalm.