Last summer I had a privilege to meet with Ove Conrad Hanssen, from Stavanger, Norway and to spend a nice afternoon in Berlin with him speaking about various church traditions and Christian faith expressions. Ove and I participated at the FEET conference and then I had some extra time to spend before leaving for Slovakia.
Ove shared with me his paper where he discussed the church situation in the North of Europe. From a historical perspective, Nordic peoples were evangelized through a process of three stages: early missionaries aiming at kings and chieftains; then bringing Christian values into the legal framework of these kingdoms, and finally, through a period of 200-300 years, when these values were integrated in and began to dominate the life of common people.
But in the last decades, the process has been reversed. The church attendance came into decline, the societal influence of Christian teaching was rather marginalized, and ordinary people started to live according to their own standards. Laws were changed and King’s headship over the Lutheran church is more less a formality. Ove says that many Christians nowadays experience themselves as exiles in their European nations, thus talking about an ideological and secular exile of today.
“But, if we should even dear to think about, and speak about, a re-evangelization ofEurope, how might that happen? What kind of theology, what kind of faith, and what kind of strategies would we need for such an enterprise? … A reinforced Christian influence would then, probably, have to happen through a church that functions as a dynamic grassroots movement, and a theology that could develop and support a church of that kind.”
In Ove’s local church inStavanger, three areas of the ministry of Jesus are being sought to reflect:
- His kindness, grace and compassion in relation to all kinds of people! (Ove comments here that some aspects of this theology of kindness and friendliness can be found in Miroslav Volf’s Exclusion and Embrace);
- His wisdom that radiates from His teaching and the way he responds to his adversaries. Can this be developed into a theology of wise listening and conversation?
- His power and authority seen into his healings and wonders. How about a holistic theology of healing.
Ove suggests, at the end of his excellent although short paper, that a grassroots church of Northern Europe would share “a genuine concern for justice in society, for the poor of the world, and for the environment and pollution of the earth.”
More about Ove and his ministry at http://www.mhs.no/person?7