Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017's Major Events Around The World


In Summary

In France, pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, wins a resounding victory over far-right rival Marine Le Pen.

Saudi Arabia and its allies sever diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it supporting "terrorists" and of being too close to Iran.

Zimbabwe's veteran President Robert Mugabe, 93, resigns on November 21st following 37 years of rule.

From the inauguration of U.S. President Donald Trump to the exodus of Rohingyas from Myanmar, here are 12 events that marked 2017.


A Year Of Trump

On January 20th Republican billionaire Donald Trump, 70, is inaugurated as U.S. president, vowing to "Make America Great Again". Dubbed "the liar in chief", ever since then, his presidency has been a disaster. Suspicions of collusion between his election campaign and Russia dog the start of his term. Trump progressively unpicks the achievements of his Democrat predecessor, Barack Obama. He pulls out of international agreements on climate, free trade, immigration and UNESCO. On December 6th, in another break with the previous administration, Trump creates shockwaves when he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel's capital, a move largely rejected in a U.N. vote. On December 20th he sealed his first major reform, signing long-awaited and unpopular tax cuts which favors the wealthy into law.

Brexit Under Way


On March 29th, London launches the process to quit the European Union, as voted in a referendum nine months earlier. In a snap general election on June 8th Prime Minister Theresa May's Conservatives suffer a major setback and lose their majority. Brussels and London agree on divorce terms on December 8th.

France: Emmanuel Macron


Pro-EU centrist Emmanuel Macron, 39, wins a resounding victory over far-right rival Marine Le Pen in France's presidential election on May 7th. His new En Marche (One the Move) movement drives the two biggest parties - the Socialists and Republicans from the Elysee Palace for the first time.

Middle East: Boiling Point


Saudi Arabia and its allies sever diplomatic ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it supporting "terrorists" and of being too close to Iran. Then on November 4th, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri announces from the Saudi capital that he is resigning, citing Iran's "grip" on his country. He later backtracks. Saudi Arabia also accuses rebels in Yemen of receiving support from Iran, which denies the accusation. The U.N. describes Yemen's humanitarian situation as the worst in the world in 2017.
Venezuela: Economic Disaster


On July 30th, Venezuela's Constituent Assembly, whose legitimacy is disputed by the opposition and abroad, is elected after four months of deadly protests against socialist President Nicolas Maduro. With wide-ranging powers, it dismisses in early August Attorney General Luisa Ortega, one of Maduro's top critics. It then takes over the opposition-dominated Congress. Crippled by plummeting oil prices, the country is considered to be in "selective default" by ratings agencies.

North Korea: Escalation


The reclusive regime conducts its sixth and largest nuclear test on September 3rd. On November 29th,  leader Kim Jong-Un says a "state nuclear force" has been completed with the test of a long-range missile able to deliver a nuclear warhead anywhere in the United States. Donald Trump threatens to "utterly destroy" the regime "if war comes". On December 22nd the U.N. Security Council imposes new sanctions against North Korea that restrict vital oil supplies.

Myanmar's Rohingyas: 'Genocide'


On August 25th, the military in Buddhist-majority Myanmar launches a crackdown on Rohingyas after militants from the stateless Muslim minority ambush security forces. Nearly 655,000 Rohingyas find refuge in Bangladesh. The United States denounces "ethnic cleansing" while the U.N. speaks of "elements of genocide".

Catalonia: Autonomy Suspended


Spain's wealthy north-eastern Catalonia region holds a referendum for independence on October 1st that is deemed illegal by the central government. Madrid moves to assert control but Catalan lawmakers vote on October 27 to declare independence. Madrid dismisses Catalonia's government and suspends its autonomy, also calling regional elections. Deposed regional president Carles Puigdemont, charged with sedition and rebellion, takes refuge in Belgium. On December 21st, three pro-independence parties defeat the central government in the elections. However, the centrist, anti-independence Ciudadanos party gets the best individual result.

The Weinstein Scandal


On October 5th, the New York Times publishes a bombshell investigative report accusing Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, 65, of sexual harassment over decades. Similar allegations have since been leveled at a long list of personalities in film, television, journalism and politics around the world.

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Falls



Zimbabwe's veteran President Robert Mugabe, 93, resigns on November 21st  following 37 years of rule and after being abandoned by the military and his own party.

The Islamic State Is Defeated But  Not Wiped Out


Iraq on December 9th declares victory in its war to expel the Islamic State group but experts warn that jihadists remain a threat. They have also lost most of their territory in Syria. Numerous deadly attacks around the world over the year, including in Afghanistan, Britain, Egypt and Somalia, are claimed by or blamed on the group or others linked to Al-Qaeda.

Climate: Record Disasters


It was the year in which President Trump decides (on June 1th) to leave the landmark 2015 Paris climate accord is marked by a series of natural disasters, including record-breaking hurricanes, earthquakes and devastating fires that affect several countries. It is set to be one of the three warmest years ever recorded.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Gregorian Chants

Gregorian chant is the central tradition of Western plainchant, a form of monophonic, unaccompanied sacred song of the Roman Catholic Church. Gregorian chant developed mainly in western and central Europe during the 9th and 10th centuries, with later additions and redactions. Although popular legend credits Pope St. Gregory the Great with inventing Gregorian chant, scholars believe that it arose from a later Carolingian synthesis of Roman chant and Gallican chant.
Pope Saint Gregory The Great (icon)
Gregorian chants were organized initially into four, then eight, and finally 12 modes. Typical melodic features include a characteristic ambitus, and also characteristic intervallic patterns relative to a referential mode finalincipits and cadences, the use of reciting tones at a particular distance from the final, around which the other notes of the melody revolve, and a vocabulary of musical motifs woven together through a process called centonization to create families of related chants. The scale patterns are organized against a background pattern formed of conjunct and disjunct tetrachords, producing a larger pitch system called the gamut. The chants can be sung by using six-note patterns called  hexachords. Gregorian melodies are traditionally written using neumes, an early form of musical notation from which the modern four-line and five-line staff developed. Multi-voice elaborations of Gregorian chant, known as organum, were an early stage in the development of Western polyphony.
Gregorian chant was traditionally sung by choirs of men and boys in churches, or by men and women of religious orders in their chapels. It is the music of the Roman Rite, performed in the Mass and the monastic Office. Although Gregorian chant supplanted or marginalized the other indigenous plainchant traditions of the Christian West to become the official music of the Christian liturgy, Ambrosian chant still continues in use in Milan, and there are musicologists exploring both that and the Mozarabic chant of Christian Spain. Although Gregorian chant is no longer obligatory, the Roman Catholic Church still officially considers it the music most suitable for worship. During the 20th century, Gregorian chant underwent a musicological and popular resurgence.
Development of Earlier Plainchant
Singing has been part of the Christian liturgy since the earliest days of the Church. Until the mid-1990's, it was widely accepted that the psalmody of ancient Jewish worship significantly influenced and contributed to early Christian ritual and chant. This view is no longer generally accepted by scholars, due to analysis that shows that most early Christian hymns did not have Psalms for texts, and that the Psalms were not sung in synagogues for centuries after the Destruction of the Second Temple in AD 70. However, early Christian rites did incorporate elements of Jewish worship that survived in later chant tradition. Canonical hours have their roots in Jewish prayer hours. "Amen" and "alleluia" come from Hebrew, and the threefold Sanctus" derives from the threefold "kadosh" of the Kedushah.
The New Testament mentions singing hymns during the Last Supper: "When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of OlivesThe Book of Matthew: 26.30. Other ancient witnesses such as Pope Clement ITertullianSt. Athanasius, and Egeria confirm the practice, although in poetic or obscure ways that shed little light on how music sounded during this period. The 3rd-century Greek Oxyrhynchus hymn survived with musical notation, but the connection between this hymn and the plainchant tradition is uncertain.
Musical elements that would later be used in the Roman Rite began to appear in the 3rd century. The Apostolic Tradition, attributed to the theologian Hippolytus, attests the singing of Hallel psalms with Alleluia as the refrain in early Christian agape feasts.
Chants of the Office, sung during the canonical hours, have their roots in the early 4th century, when desert monks following St. Anthony introduced the practice of continuous psalmody, singing the complete cycle of 150 psalms each week. Around 375, antiphonal psalmody became popular in the Christian East; in 386, St. Ambrose introduced this practice to the West. In the fifth century, a singing school, the Schola Cantorum, was founded at Rome to provide training in church musicianship.
Scholars are still debating how plainchant developed during the 5th through the 9th centuries, as information from this period is scarce. Around 410, St. Augustine described the responsorial singing of a Gradual psalm at Mass. At c.520, Benedict of Nursia established what is called the rule of St. Benedict, in which the protocol of the Divine Office for monastic use was laid down. Around 678, Roman chant was taught at York. Distinctive regional traditions of Western plainchant arose during this period, notably in the British Isles (Celtic chant), Spain (Mozarabic), Gaul (Gallican), and Italy (Old Roman, Ambrosian and Beneventan). These traditions may have evolved from a hypothetical year-round repertory of 5th-century plainchant after the western Roman Empire collapsed.
John the Deacon, biographer (c. 872) of Pope Gregory I, modestly claimed that the saint "compiled a patchwork antiphonary", unsurprisingly, given his considerable work with liturgical development. He reorganized the Schola Cantorum and established a more uniform standard in church services, gathering chants from among the regional traditions as widely as he could manage. Of those, he retained what he could, revised where necessary, and assigned particular chants to the various services. According to Donald Jay Grout, his goal was to organize the bodies of chants from diverse traditions into a uniform and orderly whole for use by the entire western region of the Church. His renowned love for music was recorded only 34 years after his death; the epitaph of Honorius testified that comparison to Gregory was already considered the highest praise for a music-loving pope. While later legends magnified his real achievements, these significant steps may account for why his name came to be attached to Gregorian chant.
Origins of Mature Plainchant
The Gregorian repertory was further systematized for use in the Roman Rite, and scholars weigh the relative influences of Roman and Carolingian practices upon the development of plainchant. The late 8th century saw a steadily increasing influence of the Carolingian monarchs over the popes. During a visit to Gaul in 752–753, Pope Stephen II celebrated Mass using Roman chant. According to Charlemagne, his father Pepin abolished the local Gallican Rites in favor of the Roman use, in order to strengthen ties with Rome. Thirty years later (785–786), at Charlemagne's request, Pope Adrian I sent a papal sacramentary with Roman chants to the Carolingian court. According to James McKinnon, over a brief period in the 8th century, a project overseen by Chrodegang of Metz in the favorable atmosphere of the Carolingian monarchs, also compiled the core liturgy of the Roman Mass and promoted its use in Francia and throughout Gaul.
Willi Apel and Robert Snow assert a scholarly consensus that Gregorian chant developed around 750 from a synthesis of Roman and Gallican Chants, and was commissioned by the Carolingian rulers in France. Andreas Pfisterer and Peter Jeffery have shown that older melodic essentials from Roman chant are clear in the synthesized chant repertory. There were other developments as well. Chants were modified, influenced by local styles and Gallican chant, and fitted into the theory of the ancient Greek octoechos system of modes in a manner that created what later came to be known as the western system of the eight church modes. The Metz project also invented an innovative musical notation, using freeform neumes to show the shape of a remembered melody. This notation was further developed over time, culminating in the introduction of staff lines (attributed to Guido d'Arezzo) in the early 11th century, what we know today as plainchant notation. The whole body of Frankish-Roman Carolingian chant, augmented with new chants to complete the liturgical year, coalesced into a single body of chant that was called "Gregorian."
The changes made in the new system of chants were so significant that they have led some scholars to speculate that it was named in honor of the contemporary Pope Gregory II. Nevertheless, the lore surrounding Pope Gregory I was sufficient to culminate in his portrayal as the actual author of Gregorian Chant. He was often depicted as receiving the dictation of plainchant from a dove representing the Holy Spirit, thus giving Gregorian chant the stamp of being divinely inspired. Scholars agree that the melodic content of much Gregorian Chant did not exist in that form in Gregory I's day. In addition, it is known definitively that the familiar neumatic system for notating plainchant had not been established in his time. Nevertheless, Gregory's authorship is popularly accepted by some as fact to this day.
Early Sources and Later Revisions


The first extant sources with musical notation were written around 930 (Graduale Laon). Before this, plainchant had been transmitted orally. Most scholars of Gregorian chant agree that the development of music notation assisted the dissemination of chant across Europe. The earlier notated manuscripts are primarily from Regensburg in Germany, St. Gall in Switzerland, Laon  and St. Martial in France.
Gregorian chant has in its long history been subjected to a series of redactions to bring it up to changing contemporary tastes and practice. The more recent redaction undertaken in the Benedictine Abbey of St. Pierre, Solesmes, has turned into a huge undertaking to restore the allegedly corrupted chant to a hypothetical "original" state. Early Gregorian chant was revised to conform to the theoretical structure of the modes. In 1562–63, the Council of Trent banned most sequences. Guidette's Directorium chori, published in 1582, and the Editio medicea, published in 1614, drastically revised what was perceived as corrupt and flawed "barbarism" by making the chants conform to contemporary aesthetic standards. In 1811, the French musicologist Alexandre-Étienne Choron, as part of a conservative backlash following the liberal Catholic orders' inefficacy during the French Revolution, called for returning to the "purer" Gregorian chant of Rome over French corruptions.
In the late 19th century, early liturgical and musical manuscripts were unearthed and edited. Earlier, Dom Prosper Guéranger revived the monastic tradition in Solesmes. Re-establishing the Divine Office was among his priorities, but no proper chant-books existed. Many monks were sent out to libraries throughout Europe to find relevant Chant manuscripts. In 1871, however, the old Medicea edition was reprinted (Pustet, Regensburg) which Pope Pius IX declared the only official version. In their firm belief that they were on the right way, Solesmes increased its efforts. In 1889, after decades of research, the monks of Solesmes released the first book in a planned series, the Paléographie Musicale. The incentive of its publication was to demonstrate the corruption of the 'Medicea' by presenting photographed notations originating from a great variety of manuscripts of one single chant, which Solesmes called forth as witnesses to assert their own reforms.
The monks of Solesmes brought in their heaviest artillery in this battle, as indeed the academically sound 'Paleo' was intended to be a war-tank, meant to abolish once and for all the corrupted Pustet edition. On the evidence of congruence throughout various manuscripts (which were duly published in facsimile editions with ample editorial introductions) Solesmes was able to work out a practical reconstruction. This reconstructed chant was academically praised, but rejected by Rome until 1903, when Pope Leo XIII died. His successor, Pope Pius X, promptly accepted the Solesmes chant - now compiled as the Liber Usualis - as authoritative. In 1904, the Vatican edition of the Solesmes chant was commissioned. Serious academic debates arose, primarily owing to stylistic liberties taken by the Solesmes editors to impose their controversial interpretation of rhythm. The Solesmes editions insert phrasing marks and note-lengthening episema and mora marks not found in the original sources.
Conversely, they omit significative letters found in the original sources, which give instructions for rhythm and articulation such as speeding up or slowing down. These editorial practices has placed the historical authenticity of the Solesmes interpretation in doubt. Ever since restoration of Chant was taken up in Solesmes, there have been lengthy discussions of exactly what course was to be taken. Some favored a strict academic rigor and wanted to postpone publications, while others concentrated on practical matters and wanted to supplant the corrupted tradition as soon as possible. Roughly a century later, there still exists a breach between a strict musicological approach and the practical needs of church choirs. Thus the performance tradition officially promulgated since the onset of the Solesmes restoration is substantially at odds with musicological evidence.
In his motu proprio Tra le sollecitudini, Pius X mandated the use of Gregorian chant, encouraging the faithful to sing the Ordinary of the Mass, although he reserved the singing of the Propers for males. While this custom is maintained in traditionalist Catholic communities (most of which allow all-female scholas as well, though), the Catholic Church no longer persists with this ban. Vatican II officially allowed worshipers to substitute other music, particularly sacred polyphony, in place of Gregorian chant, although it did reaffirm that Gregorian chant was still the official music of the Roman Rite of the Catholic Church, and the music most suitable for worship in the Roman Liturgy.
20th Century: Popular Culture
The monks of Solesmes, discussed above for their revival of Gregorian Chant, issued a number of recordings. However, when Gregorian chant as plainchant experienced a popular resurgence during the new-age and world-music movements of the 1980's and '90's, the iconic album was somewhat unexpectedly Chant, recorded by the Benedictine monks of Santo Domingo de Silos, Spain. This was marketed as music to inspire timeless calm and serenity. In 2008, the Cistercian Monks of Austrian Heiligenkreuz Abbey released the CD Chant - Music for Paradise, which became the best-selling album of the Austrian pop charts and peaked at No.7 of the U.K. charts. In the U.S., the album was released under the title Chant – Music for the Soul and peaked at No. 4 on the Billboard  classical charts.
It became conventional wisdom that listening to Gregorian chant increased the production of alpha waves in the brain, reinforcing the popular reputation of Gregorian chant as tranquilizing music.
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You can find and listen to Gregorian Chants on YouTube.

Friday, December 29, 2017

News You May Have Missed, No. 80

Bald Men At Risk

Bald men have could be targets of ritual attacks, police have warned, after the recent killing of five men for their body parts. Two suspects have been arrested in the central district of Milange, where the killings occurred. "The belief is that the head of a bald man contains gold," said Afonso Dias, a police commander in Mozambique's central Zambezia province. Albino people have also been killed in the region for ritual purposes. Three men have been killed in the past week alone. The BBC's Jose Tembe in the capital, Maputo, says police think the notion of a bald head containing gold is a ruse by witchdoctors to get clients to take a person's head to them. "Their motive comes from superstition and culture - the local community thinks bald individuals are rich," Commander Dias is reported as having told a press conference in Maputo. The suspects are two young Mozambicans aged around 20, the AFP news agency reports. A regional security spokesman, Miguel Caetano, told AFP that one of the victims had his head cut off and his organs removed. The organs were to be used in rituals to advance the wealth of clients in Tanzania and Malawi, Mr. Caetano said, citing the suspects. There has been a spate of killings of people with albinism in East Africa in recent years, with their body parts used to make charms and potions by witchdoctors.
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Boozing Church
A common exhortation used by evangelical church leaders to their congregations is that they should be like thermostats not thermometers. The latter measures temperature while the former changes it. Christians, these evangelical preachers say, should therefore influence the behaviour of people around them. A new South African church is however challenging this perception by targeting drinkers and smokers, whose habits are generally shunned by evangelicals. The Gobola Church in Johannesburg has opened its doors and bottles to these groups of people, serving them beer during services, South Africa's eNCA news site reported. The Gabola Church says it prides itself as a home for those rejected because of their love of alcohol.  The church's Bishop Tsietsi Matiki said that the church was a "perfect place" for drinkers and smokers. However, South Africa's umbrella church council disowned the new church, eNCA reported. According to a member of the Gobola church, alcohol is only served to those who are at least 20 years old, two years above the age approved by South African law.
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Sudan Women In Trousers: No Indecency Charges

Charges of indecency have been dropped against 24 women who were caught wearing trousers at a party near the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. The gathering was raided by morality police on Wednesday. If convicted, the women could have faced punishment of 40 lashes and a fine for wearing "an obscene outfit". Rights activists say tens of thousands of women are arrested and flogged for indecency every year, and laws can be applied arbitrarily. They say the law in Muslim-majority Sudan against wearing trousers and short or tight skirts discriminates against Christians. Traditionally, women in Sudan wear loose flowing robes. Campaigner Amira Osman told Netherlands-based Radio Dabanga the public order act violated women's rights. "The party took place in a closed hall in a building in El Mamoura (south of Khartoum)," she said. "The girls were arrested for wearing trousers, despite obtaining a permit from the authorities." The law - Article 152 of the Criminal Code - applies to "indecent acts" in public, wearing an "obscene outfit" or "causing an annoyance to public feelings".

Political Cartoons of the Week, No. 143

















Thursday, December 28, 2017

Is God Going Beyond Gender


The Lutheran Church of Sweden challenges traditional perception.

According to the Church of Sweden, it’s preferable not to refer to God as a "he." The official decision to use gender-neutral language will be a change in the way that many Swedish churchgoers worship - and one that has divided the country. Special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports on the debate and how it may echo in other countries.

But first: As churchgoers in Sweden celebrate this Christmas season, they are also preparing for a major change in the way they worship.

The Church of Sweden recently decided its clergy should stop describing God in masculine terms, such as he, and instead use more gender-neutral language. This change has divided the country. And as special correspondent Malcolm Brabant reports, it’s an issue that will resonate beyond Scandinavia.

The weight of history resonates deeply at Lund Cathedral. Its foundations were laid 900 years ago, making it almost half the age of Christianity itself. Now the God worshipped here and in thousands of other Lutheran churches is getting a 21st century Swedish upgrade.

Chaplain Lena Sjostrand said,  "We have a consciousness about gender questions, which is stronger in our time than it has been before. And, of course, this has had an impact on theology and on church life and pastoral reflection. And I think that is - we should have that."

In six months’ time, the words in the name of the father, son and Holy Spirit, used at the start of the service will disappear from churches which prefer to adopt the gender-neutral phrase of in God the trinity’s name.

Chaplain Lena Sjostrand: "I don’t think that God is a big mother or a father sitting up in the sky. I don’t think that makes sense. God is something much bigger than this."

But in Western Sweden, there’s a conviction that the new gender-neutral introduction undermines the entire service. This is a traditionally conservative region and Pastor Mikael Lowegren says that he will resist pressure from the church hierarchy to replace masculine terms such as Lord and he with less gender-specific language. He said "You don’t play lightly with these things. You don’t play lightly with the creed. You don’t play lightly with the liturgy of the church. Being part of a tradition means that you come from somewhere. You have a history, and that forms you and makes you what you are. And if you lose contact with your roots, you run the risk of losing your own identity." This from where the winds of change are blowing, Uppsala, north of Stockholm, the seat of the Swedish church.

Archbishop Antje Jackelen is the primate of the Swedish Church, and leader of more than six million registered Lutherans. The Archbishop said "We are not going to give up our tradition." But in the tradition, there are all these elements already present. Like Julian of Norwich in the 14th century said, as sure as God is our father, God is our mother. So, I mean, this is not something that’s newly invented. It’s part of our tradition.

Sweden prides itself on being at the cutting edge of social change. And the desire to use gender-neutral terminology is much stronger here than it is in many other countries. In the past years, Sweden has introduced a gender-neutral personal pronoun as an alternative to he or she in certain circumstances.

The church insists it won’t go that far, but critics fear the new pronoun will be introduced in the future. The church has also said it won’t force priests to drop the traditional language, although the primate has made it clear that the changes are preferable.

Christer Pahlmblad said, "I think it’s a mistake because you can’t fool anybody with this gender-neutral language. You can only fool yourself. You are your own enemy. If the society in Sweden is so secularized, then the church instead should sharpen its instrument and be very clear about what the Christian faith is. Otherwise, nobody will know, in the end, know what the church is about." 

(Christer Pahlmblad is an associate professor of practical theology at Lund University in Southern Sweden. )

If the society in Sweden is so secularized, then the church instead should sharpen its instrument and be very clear about what the Christian faith is. Otherwise, nobody will know, in the end, know what the church is about.

Pahlmblad blames increased party political influence within the ruling body, the Synod, for what he believes is a potential disaster. 

Christer Pahlmblad said: If the political party are nominating persons for the Synod, then of course they are nominating persons not because of their competence really in these matters.

Back in Uppsala, the church primate insists the changes are based on a genuine interpretation of religious history, not political correctness.

Archbishop Antje Jackelen: God is beyond our human categories of gender. It’s actually already in the Prophet Isaiah in the 11th Chapter. God says, “I am God,” and not human or a man. God is beyond that, and we need help to remind us of that, because due to the restrictions of our brains, we tend to think of God in very human categories. We are not worshipping political correctness. We are worshipping God, the creator of the universe.

So what do Swedes make of changes that challenge a perception of God that has existed for more than 2,000 years?

Alexander Lovqvist:  "I think that this community and the whole world has been very male-dominated for a long time, and I think it’s important that the female gender gets more space in all communities all throughout the country and throughout the world."

Hans Rochester: I’m a very conservative person, so most of it, I don’t like. I’m used to the old way.
Daniel Warner: "If you do make an image of God, which is typically a problematic thing to do, because it’s also supposed to be also something transcendent, talking about that which you cannot really know, but if you have to make symbols of God, then you should make them in such a way that they are accessible to as many people as possible."

The chaplain of Lund Cathedral believes that the church’s patriarchal nature has had a negative effect on some women.

Chaplain Lena Sjostrand: "I have met women who have had this experience that my life is not included in what you are doing in the church. And that is, of course, very sad. And we have to -  as we can find other stories in our tradition, we have to broaden it, make it wider, so both male and female could relate to faith."

But these arguments fail to move Pastor Mikael Lowegren who said "God being the father means he has a son."

Malcolm Brabant:"But that’s the way that we - that history teaches us, but there’s no guarantee that God is male. God could be female."

Mikael Lowegren: "You could use female imagery referring to God. But the name of the God is what God has revealed. It’s the father, and the son and the Holy Spirit."

Malcolm Brabant:"In common with more liberal Protestant denominations, the Swedish Church promotes the ordination of women, a trend resisted by the powerful Catholic and Eastern Orthodox faiths."

So will these changes spread beyond Sweden? Anders Ellebaek Madsen is the faith editor of Scandinavia’s main religious newspaper, The Christian Daily. He said, "Thirty years ago, if you would have asked me if homosexual weddings would have been possible in 30 years, I would have said absolutely not."

So, I don’t know what will happen in one or two generations, but right now, it’s hard for me to see this spreading as fast.


Malcolm Brabant said "Supporters of the changes claim they are not intended to resurrect declining church attendances. Nevertheless, Sweden has become a testing ground for whether a gender-neutral God attracts worshipers or drives them away."