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Introduction

  • Jessica Moberg
  • Jane Skjoldli
Open Access
Chapter
Part of the Palgrave Studies in New Religions and Alternative Spiritualities book series (PSNRAS)

Abstract

Somewhere in Finland shoppers at a local mall saturated by sale offers and lounge music are approached by a group of amiable strangers. The strangers offer them healing and therapeutic methods with which to confront their everyday problems. Solutions are offered through intercessory prayer. Many of the intercessors are women involved in Charismatic churches. Their aim is to carry out missionary work but, as they engage with potential converts, they are careful to avoid open proselytization and speaking in tongues during the prayer sessions. Both are strictly forbidden. Elsewhere, in Sweden, an elderly Pentecostal sits down in front of her television and tunes in to Channel 10 in order to enjoy “old-fashioned” Pentecostal songs and sermons, many of which are but a memory in contemporary Pentecostal congregations. Watching the digital TV service, a quite recent phenomenon in the country, she feels at ease, reminded of her childhood as a young Pentecostal. Turning to Bergen in Norway, members of the country’s formerly largest independent church, previously part of the Faith Movement, are taking on the herculean task of recreating their organization after a collapse a few years back, when over half of the members dropped out following the ousting of their founder and leader.

Somewhere in Finland shoppers at a local mall saturated by sale offers and lounge music are approached by a group of amiable strangers. The strangers offer them healing and therapeutic methods with which to confront their everyday problems. Solutions are offered through intercessory prayer. Many of the intercessors are women involved in Charismatic churches. Their aim is to carry out missionary work but, as they engage with potential converts, they are careful to avoid open proselytization and speaking in tongues during the prayer sessions. Both are strictly forbidden. Elsewhere, in Sweden, an elderly Pentecostal sits down in front of her television and tunes in to Channel 10 in order to enjoy “old-fashioned” Pentecostal songs and sermons, many of which are but a memory in contemporary Pentecostal congregations. Watching the church service on TV, a quite recent phenomenon in the country, she feels at ease, reminded of her childhood as a young Pentecostal. Turning to Bergen in Norway, members of the country’s formerly largest independent church, previously part of the Faith Movement, are taking on the herculean task of recreating their organization after a collapse a few years back, when over half of the members dropped out following the ousting of their founder and leader.

These three snapshots provide a small glimpse into the diversity of contemporary Charismatic Christianity in Nordic countries. The region is home to “classic” Pentecostal organizations and Faith Movement churches, as well as Charismatic immigrant groups, Charismatic Lutherans, newer networks like Hillsong Church, and various offshoots. A hundred years ago, all three scenarios would have been unthinkable, and not just because of the technological advances that had not yet been made then. At that time, early pioneers had recently introduced Norway, Sweden, and Denmark to the Pentecostal Movement, bringing influences from the Azusa Street revival. The first preachers traveled widely, spoke in tongues, and called people to “turn to Christ” before the end (see Anderson 2014, 93–94).

If we permit ourselves to indulge in a thought experiment whereby the first Nordic Pentecostals travel to the present day, we can imagine they would probably be surprised—perhaps even shocked. Vast changes have occurred in culture, politics, technology, and administration. Additionally, increased religious and ethnic pluralization has occurred within and without the Pentecostal Movement. How might they have perceived developments within the Charismatic traditions? Would they marvel at the many new orientations, ethnic minority churches, and new forms of organizational networks? Would they condemn alterations to traditions for which they helped lay the foundation? So much has transpired in the span of a mere century. Can we even claim to be speaking of the same tradition? Such questions beg reflection, not only when we consider our hypothetical time travelers; they also bear implications on the academic level.

Definitions and Terminology

Like all terms and categories, those native to Pentecostal studies come with their own sets of problems. As this field of study has developed, it has attracted the attention of sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, theologians, historians, and scholars of religion. Today’s researchers struggle to consolidate disparities that arise from the terms’ usage spanning the last 100 years, and to encapsulate transformations that create distance to Pentecostalism’s early heritage. Another problem is how interchangeability between the terms “Pentecostal” and “Charismatic” is frequently taken for granted. On the one hand, this problem reflects the emergence of interdisciplinarity in Pentecostal studies. On the other, it conceals a lack of consensus regarding problems of definition and delineation of the objects of study.

In its nascency, Pentecostal studies focused on early movements, leading to challenges in reconciling the categories and concepts that were created early on with the descriptions and analyses of later developments. In response to these complications, old ways of categorizing and naming different phenomena have been revisited. Although contemporary scholars are careful in emphasizing local variation, there is still some consensus regarding Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity as a distinct category, set apart by the centrality of the gifts of the Spirit (see Droogers 2010). Some scholars have defended this position by focusing on similarities in theology, common roots, or practice. Norwegian theologian Nils Bloch-Hoell, who studied the Pentecostal Movement of the early twentieth century, focused on the doctrine of baptism in the Holy Spirit as distinct from conversion, manifested in the speaking of tongues (1964, 2). Another way of justifying Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity as a specific category has been by stressing the common historical roots. Theologian Walter J. Hollenweger’s work has been particularly significant to the field’s development in this respect (see Hollenweger 2005). Hollenweger’s account traced the movement’s origins to the Azusa Street revival, and then followed its spread to various corners of the world, its influence on existing churches, and transformation into a much wider Charismatic movement. This view is still prevalent (Anderson 2014; Cox 2001; Westerlund 2009).

Attempts have been made to complicate and deconstruct “Pentecostalism” and “Charismatic Christianity” as categories. Previously, the view that speaking in tongues amounts to “evidence” of baptism in the Spirit was seen as being a universal trait among Pentecostal-Charismatic Christians. Important criticism has been leveled against this notion, revealing that the view was shared only by a small number of early American Pentecostals (van der Laan 2010). More recently, critique has gravitated towards two topics: The first regards phenomenological approaches that focus on common features in order to justify the construction of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity as a unique category. The second concerns the analytical value of the categories thus constructed (cf. Bergunder 2010). Other critiques reflect the globalization of Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity, growing scholarly interest in such groups, particularly in the developing world and the postcolonial turn (Anderson 2005, 2014; Jenkins 2006, 2007; Lindhardt 2014; Martin 1990, Meyer 2010). Furthermore, global studies scholars have called into question the “common origins” hypothesis, highlighting its Americentrism. Allan H. Anderson has pointed out that this form of Christianity did not originate at Azusa Street, but emerged in various places in the world at about the same time, emphasizing the importance of early movements in India, Korea, and Chile. These findings were formulated in the now famous “multiple beginnings thesis” (Anderson 2005, 2014).

Others have gone even further. Michael Bergunder and André Droogers, among others, consider “Pentecostal” and “Charismatic” to be constructs of scholarly discourse (Bergunder 2010; Droogers 2010). Taking such perspectives into consideration, it has become a vital task to inquire into what alternative perspectives the category Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity obscures; it conceal diachronic developments and synchronic connections to other Christian and non-Christian religions. As pointed out by Bergunder, it also clouds Pentecostalism-Charismatic Christianity’s roots in previous Protestant revivals, as well as its immediate heritage in the twentieth century’s broader revivalist milieu (2010, 60–64). In a similar vein, Donald E. Miller suggests that what are often described as “Neo-Charismatic movements” may be seen as a kind of second Reformation, with roots stretching back to the sixteenth century (1997, 11). As illustrated by George Chryssides (2000, 66), Mary Jo Neitz (2012), and Linda Woodhead and Paul Heelas (2000), there are also striking similarities between Pentecostal-Charismatic movements and non-Christian new spiritualities.

Attempts have also been made to defend the umbrella category “Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity,” and to outline suggestions for how this form of Christianity may be studied. Anderson, drawing on Ludwig Wittgenstein, notes that Pentecostal-Charismatic movements share traits of “family resemblance” in terms of “character, theology and ethos” (Anderson 2010, 15). Another option, hinted at by Droogers, is to think of it as a Weberian ideal type (2010). Other more recent suggestions involve network analysis (Bergunder 2010, 52–56).

We generally agree with the critique presented above, and concur with Droogers regarding classifications in that they are scholarly constructs that inevitably entail simplification and universalization of local perspectives. However, we also share his opinion that they are necessary and useful (2008; cf. Bergunder 2010). As such, we treat Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity as an umbrella category for the purpose of this anthology. There are two main reasons for this: Firstly, as an established category, it grounds the anthology in a global field of research, thus enabling us to communicate with other scholars of Pentecostal studies. Secondly, it offers us a way of pinpointing certain historical and contemporary processes that have been important influences on the religious Nordic scene in the last 100 years. Furthermore, it invites comparison with similar movements on the global level.

Our approach is inspired by Anderson’s “family resemblance.” The features that we would consider key to our understanding of this category are: emphasis on connecting with the Holy Spirit; the centrality of healing and charismata; the prominence of individual experiences; and bodily involvement in ritual participation (cf. Lindhardt 2011). That said, we aim to avoid the pitfalls of essentialization by presenting case studies from different historical periods and settings, all of which situate and exemplify “Pentecostal-Charismatic Christianity” in broader religious landscapes. We also hope to inspire, but also demonstrate, continuing elaboration of the nuances denoted by Pentecostal-Charismatic religiosity as a distinct category.

One of the pleasures of academia involves the recognition that new problems arise whenever a solution to an existing problem is reached. Applying this category includes the classification and labeling of different strands and movements, and their terminological disentanglement. Hollenweger distinguished between the early “classic” Pentecostals, the “Charismatic Movement” within mainline churches, and indigenous Pentecostalism in the developing world (2005). His approach has been rethought and new categories developed. A presently strong threefold model involves distinguishing between “classic” Pentecostalism, the Charismatic Movement, and Neo-Pentecostalism, which emerged in the postwar period. The latter is characterized by emphasis on well-being here and now, worship, global church networks, and so on (see Anderson 2010, 19–20; cf. Hunt 2010, 184). Of course, this “triad” has also been scrutinized; the label Neo-Charismatic in particular has been criticized for being a “leftover category,” lumping together highly diverse movements with different roots and orientations (van der Laan 2010, 204). Moreover, this approach may be a blunt tool when researching contemporary groups, since their origins as Pentecostal or Neo-Pentecostal may say little about their current orientation. As illustrated in Teemu T. Mantsinen’s chapter, Pentecostal organizations may transform in Neo-Pentecostal directions, and Pentecostal and Neo-Charismatic features coexist in the same denomination or even congregation.

Except for the classification dilemma (“what goes where”) semantic problems arise. One kind of scholarly cop-out is illustrated by the creation of neologisms by adding the “neo” prefix to terms in order to signal new developments. While this reflects awareness of religious movements’ inherent dynamism, it also causes terminological issues for future labeling, as well as for precision in describing developing movements; what counts as “neo” changes continuously. Emic labels and terminologies may also cause confusion. In the Nordic countries, the Pentecostal Movement (in Finnish “Helluntaiherätys,” in Norwegian “Pinsebevegelsen,” and in Swedish “Pingströrelsen”), the term or terms that researchers use for referring to early revivals, is homonymous to the emic names of denomination-like structures coming out of these movements. If we apply the term “Pentecostal Movement,” we not only risk conflating the emerging organizational outcome with the wider transdenominational revival, but also concealing the many other Charismatic groups and influences on alternate Christian denominations. Noting the particular emic Nordic terminology, we have chosen to use the term “Charismatic Christianity” as an umbrella term in the introduction. The term “Pentecostal” refers exclusively to organization structures that have roots in the revival of the early twentieth century. We further find the term “Charismatic Movement” useful for describing Charismatic expressions taking place in established churches, including Nordic state churches, older Baptist churches, and independent churches. “Neo-Charismatic” is used to refer to a range of traditions emerging in the post-World War II period and onwards. It includes materially oriented movements like the Faith movement, and more socially inclined and low-key movements like the Vineyard Movement. Current expressions involve a spectrum of different organizations that focus on wellbeing in the here and now, emotional healing, adoption and sacralization of popular music, and new media, and that tend to favor network structures to well-defined denominations. However, we are well aware that not all terms map perfectly on to all case studies included in the anthology. As such, we have let the authors make their own definitions in the respective chapters.

The Nordic Backdrop

The Nordic countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland) have shared experiences in that they are all located in the northern hemisphere, and in relatively scarcely populated areas. They also largely share a common religious, cultural, and lingual heritage. The exception to the latter is Finland, whose native language (Finland is bilingual Finnish–Swedish) strongly differs from those of the other Nordic countries. Moreover, their individual histories are intricately intertwined with each other. For example, Sweden and Finland formed a union up until 1809, after which Finland came under Russian rule. Norway, in turn, has been in union with both Denmark and Sweden, and Iceland a part of Denmark. Norway gained its independence in 1905 and Iceland in 1944. The histories of Christianity in the Nordic countries have also taken similar trajectories, starting with Catholic Christianization, the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, and close cooperation between monarchs and Lutheran state churches. As a result of the Russian influence, Finland stands out with its two national churches: one Lutheran and one Orthodox (see Alvarsson 2011, 19). While the Reformation was implemented top-down, each of the countries have a history of Protestant grassroots revivals, like the Pietist movements in the late seventeenth century onwards. These popular movements arose and took form within the state churches. In the nineteenth century, several processes impacted the religious scene. Industrialization, urbanization, large-scale migration, and the rise of popular movements changed the religious topography. Among these, the revival movements led to the formation of a number of different Free Church (i.e., state-independent) denominations, mainly Baptist-, Methodist-, and Holiness-influenced ones. Yet, the state churches that set the agenda for religious life in the public domain did not welcome competition. Social stigmatization and legislation prevented larger religious assemblies from outside the state churches from gathering together. This led many members of emerging Baptist denominations to migrate to the United States in pursuit of religious freedom and better economic prospects (see also Martin 2002, 14–15). All these historical developments set the stage for and shaped Charismatic Christian presence in the region which, in turn, fueled religious pluralization and globalization. While the earlier revivals paved the way, the dominance of the state churches along with Nordic modern developments seem to have made the region less fertile for mission (cf. Hunt 2010, 190–191).

The Beginnings

Charismatic Christianity in the Nordic countries has relied upon and furthered global connections since the outset (Anderson 2014, 93–99; Bundy 2009, 1–3). In fact, the Pentecostal revival was introduced to Norway and Sweden only a few months after the Azusa Street revival caught on (Hunt 2010, 190). It is impossible to understand its early introduction without considering the increased contacts with the United States, and particularly the recently established migrant networks, between Nordic countries and the United States (cf. Bloch-Hoell 1964, 65; Holm 1970, 16–17). First- and second-generation Nordic migrants, many of whom had Free Church backgrounds, obtained new influences “over there” that they recounted in letters to their families and friends in their countries of origin. Besides, a substantial number returned as missionaries. As pointed out by cultural anthropologist Jan-Åke Alvarsson, some of the first Swedish Pentecostals, like Andrew Johnson (an anglicization of Anders Johansson) and Emma Östberg, were active in William J. Seymour’s prayer group (2011, 20, 2014, 23–32). Visiting New York, they also encountered another émigré whose influence would be momentous in the forming of Nordic Pentecostalism: Thomas Ball Barratt (1862–1940). A few years after returning to Norway, the latter established the independent Filadelfia Congregation in Kristiania (now Oslo). Barratt was closely connected to other Pentecostal leaders to-be. For instance, he was baptized by Swedish Pentecostal icon and colossus Lewi Pethrus (1884–1974). The ministry of Barratt and his followers was of huge importance in spreading Pentecostalism in Norway and in other Nordic countries (Anderson 2014, 76, 93–94, 84–88; Fell 1999, 288–291).

The new revival was characterized by strong emphasis on personal conversion, ecstatic practices, baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the belief that the return of Jesus was imminent. The practitioners were called “Friends of Pentecost.” The movement mainly took root in the Free Church revivalist scene. On the organizational level, the enthusiasts belonged to different denominations and assemblies, and gathered around the gospel of rebirth in the Holy Spirit (cf. Nilsen 1984, 31). The early converts mainly fit the pattern that has been detected in international studies; a major part of them were women from the lower socioeconomic strata, for which the movement served as a vehicle for upward social mobility (Alvarsson 2011; Mantsinen 2014). In contrast to other parts of the world, where Pentecostalism became a chiefly urban phenomenon, Nordic Pentecostalism also developed a strong rural and small-town base (see Alvarsson 2007).

Although the new revival grew rapidly during the first decades, Pentecostalism did not become a separate movement until around 1910. At this time, tensions and conflicts within the older denominations in which it had taken root led to divisions. Both Barratt and Pethrus were excluded from their Methodist and Baptist denominations, leading the enthusiasts to form independent Pentecostal networks (Alvarsson 2011, 25, 37; Bloch-Hoell 1964, 68–71). Consequently, Pinsebevegelsen (Norway), Pingströrelsen (Sweden), and Helluntaiherätys (Finland) were formed. These movements were comparably loosely organized, avoided bureaucratization and centralization, and emphasized congregational independence (Alvarsson 2011, 37; Bloch-Hoell 1964, 71). However, over the years, they would become increasingly institutionalized and some took the form of registered denominations.

Post-World War II Nordic Contexts

Leaping forward to the postwar period, the Nordic countries underwent significant changes that affected and shaped the Pentecostal movements. Coming out of the war with different experiences, the countries began to lay the foundation for a particular brand of Nordic postwar modernity, based upon social democratic ideas and ideals. This model—a third way between capitalism and communism—was characterized by its emphasis on strong welfare states, including extensive state monopolies. The state systems were to provide healthcare and education, by means of progressive taxation, a system which would diminish gaps between rich and poor. The postwar period also saw the weakening of the Lutheran state churches, visible in legislation that ensured citizens increased religious freedom. In parallel, organized Christianity lost ground in society and the wider culture, and both state churches and many Free Church denominations lost members (Davie 2002, 5–8; cf. Stark et al. 2005).

Unlike many other Free Churches, the Pentecostal movements fared very well during World War II (see Bloch-Hoell 1964, 91). Alvarsson, referring to Bloch-Hoell, claims that Sweden in the 1950s was the country with the highest number of Pentecostals in the world. According to Bloch-Hoell (1964, 91), they numbered around 92,000. Internal dynamics had also contributed to changes within the movements. Correlated to other factors, the increased numbers of practitioners born and socialized into the movements turned Nordic Pentecostalism in a more institutionalized and societally engaged direction. This, in turn, fueled various responses and internal schisms. The churches also attained new visibility in the public sphere, including in political debate. In 1945, the Pentecostal newspaper Dagen (“The Day”) was created in Sweden, giving voice to the movement and confronting secularization. Another such attempt was the founding of the Christian Democratic Party (Kristen demokratisk samling) in 1964 (Alvarsson 2011, 29–34). Other Charismatic movements were also established, some of which were integrated into the Pentecostal congregations. This was the case with the Jesus Movement, inspired by hippie Christians in California, which attracted many young Pentecostals. However, not everyone was happy with the current course. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Maranata Movement, influenced by William Branham and Oral Roberts, took the form of a protest movement in Norway and Sweden. Pentecostal pastors Aage Samuelsen and Arne Imsen joined forces with Swedish collaborators, criticizing both institutionalization and increased societal involvement, and calling on Pentecostals to return to their more expressive and less “worldly” roots. The result was a splinter movement. The 1960s also saw internal schism in Finland, as the Free Pentecostal Movement (Soumen vapaa Helluntaiherätys) broke away (Alvarsson 2011, 29–33).

As in many parts of the world, Nordic Pentecostalism continued to grow until the 1970s, particularly in Finland, Norway, and Sweden. Thereafter, the Nordic movements began to lag behind (Alvarsson 2011, 38). The presence of the full-fledged welfare states likely had a negative impact in this regard (see Zuckerman 2009). As many scholars have emphasized, Charismatic Christianity has developed into the form of mass movements in poorer, rapidly modernizing countries, while remaining marginal in richer societies (see also Marshall 2009). Philip Jenkins, for one, has called this form of Christianity “the most successful social movement of the twentieth century” (Jenkins 2007, 9). If Pentecostalism’s success lies in its ability to lift people from poverty, integrate them into communities, and encourage civil discipline, Pentecostal organizations obviously met competition from welfare states, which took care of poverty, and offered free education and cheap healthcare from the cradle to the grave. Also, in the postwar period, young people in the Nordic region gained other religious options, such as various non-Christian new religions (Frisk 1998, 58, cf. Frisk and Åkerbäck 2013; Gilhus and Mikaelsson 2005).

Pentecostalism’s rapid growth came to a halt in the 1970s. The same decade witnessed the emergence of Charismatic movements within Protestant and Catholic communities (cf. Csordas 1997; McGuire 1983). In Norway and Sweden, Charismatic Lutherans organized themselves in the Oasis Movement—a network above the parish level. In Norway, the movement was founded in 1977 and in Sweden in 1984 (cf. Alvarsson 2011, 33–34). Today, the network exists in Denmark, Sweden, Finland, and Norway (Svalfors 2012, 158). In the churches of Denmark and Sweden, Alpha courses spread from the Free Churches and became important for introducing Charismatic features since the 1990s (Svalfors 2012, 158–159, Thomsen 2012, 120–134).

Late Modern Developments

In the last three decades, the Nordic countries have taken new paths in terms of economy and politics, and changed culturally and religiously. As a consequence of increased global mobility, ethnic and religious pluralization has expanded. Another prominent tendency in the late twentieth century was the therapeutization of popular and religious culture, as well as their intersections (Hornborg 2012; Kivivuori 1991, 1996; Moberg 2015). Although the extent of this has varied, the once strong welfare states have been weakened, with privatizations of previous monopolies, and no longer play the same role as provider of welfare and public services. In the meantime, church attendance and membership rates have continued to drop in many churches—the Lutheran state churches as well as many Free Churches. The state and church were officially (semi-)separated in Sweden (2000) and in Norway (2012). Although this has often been interpreted as evidence of secularization, such views have been called into question by several Nordic scholars of religion who emphasize that other forms of faith are growing. Migrants from different parts of the world have brought with them their own forms of organized religion (e.g., Islam, and Catholic and Orthodox Christianity), and nonorganized spirituality is on the rise. Lisbeth Mikaelsson and Ingvild S. Gilhus have criticized images emerging from large-scale quantitative studies, such as the Pew Research Center’s depiction of Scandinavia as one-dimensionally “secularized,” calling attention to the prolific establishment of new religious movements and their strong influence (Gilhus and Mikaelsson 2005; Kraft et al. 2015). Similarly, a Finnish research group involving one of the contributors to this volume suggests that Finland is better described as a postsecular country, where alternative spiritualities, Charismatic Christian traditions, and migrant religiosity are transforming the religious landscape (Åbo Akademi University 2017). In fact, some scholars have gone so far as to suggest that the rise of non-Christian spiritualities in the region is a form of massive popular revival (Hammer 2010; Hornborg 2012).

Charismatic Christianity has also pluralized, changing in terms of practice, organization, and orientation, including a shift from national denominations to international networks. Several new forms of Neo-Charismatic movement have been born. In the 1980s, the international prosperity-oriented Faith Movement took root. This movement, which became equally influential and controversial, was vital for bringing about change. The result was both the emergence of new churches, and the morphing of Pentecostal churches and congregations in the same direction. Word of Life (Livets ord) in Uppsala in Sweden, led by Ulf Ekman, a former Lutheran priest trained at Kenneth E. Hagin’s Rhema Bible Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, became the key center of the Nordic Faith Movement. The Bible school at Uppsala became particularly important for furthering the Faith Movement’s theology, its new worship music, and its styles of preaching, all of which helped attract young people from all over the Nordic region, especially from Norway. These students often founded similar churches in their hometowns (Alvarsson 2011, 33–35; Coleman 2000).

The 1990s saw the establishment of several other Neo-Charismatic groups, many of which were affiliated with global megachurches or massive networks (cf. Meyer 2010), such as the Vineyard Movement. Global migration has also redrawn the Charismatic map of the region; migrants from Latin America and western and eastern Africa have been particularly important in this respect (Alvarsson 2011, 36; Malmström 2013). Since the 2000s, the Charismatic field has become increasingly heterogenic as new movements are continuing to be established. Several global churches have both integrated local groups and planted new congregations; Hillsong Church and Calvary Chapel are both examples of this. New generations of Charismatics are currently in the process of founding new communities and cooperative networks where the boundaries between various Charismatic traditions are often blurred (Hovi 2010, 41; Moberg 2013b).

Contemporary Numbers

On the global stage, Charismatics dominate the Christian landscape, together with Catholics. In the Nordic countries, however, the former remains a small minority. Attempts have been made at estimating their numbers. As a result of the diverging methods of counting and classification used, diverse figures have been presented (cf. Anderson 2014, 92). Stephen Hunt (2010, 190; cf. Anderson 2005, 92) suggests that less than 1 percent of the populations in Norway and Sweden respectively are classic Pentecostals. Anderson (2014, 92), on the other hand, claims that Finland and Norway stand out in a European-wide comparison in that they have more than 4 percent, a number that includes different forms of Charismatics. Alvarsson (2011, 38) estimates that there are 32,000 Pentecostals in Norway, and 49,000 in Finland. In Sweden, the Pentecostal Movement counted 84,700 members at the end of 2013 (Pingst—fria församlingar i samverkan 2017). According to Alvarsson’s (2011, 38) assessment, the number of Pentecostals and Neo-Charismatics is lower than 100,000 in Sweden. Charismatic Christianity has never gained the same foothold in Denmark, where it makes for an even more marginal phenomenon (Anderson 2014, 96).1 Alvarsson (2011, 38) counts fewer than 4000 Pentecostals in Iceland and around 5000 in Denmark (see also Thomsen 2012, 122). There are, however, several difficulties with such estimations, meaning that we should take them with a large pinch of salt. The first problem is that many scholars draw upon the membership statistics provided by Charismatic organizations. The second problem is that Pentecostal denominations and old networks are far more organized, and it is therefore easier to assess them than to trace Neo-Charismatic communities. Yet, reported figures for Pentecostals may also be inaccurate. For instance, people may move and leave their congregations but remain listed. In Norway and Sweden, congregations receive funding depending on their membership rates, meaning that there are economic (and status) motives for not “delisting” them. For this reason, the overall figures may need to be lowered. Still, there are many Neo-Charismatic groups that do not form part of national denominations and do not keep track of their members. Some nonorganized groups fly under the radar entirely. Migrant groups in particular seem to thrive, and then fade away from view. This means that the total numbers of Charismatics must be increased. By and large, we have to rely on estimates, particularly when discussing Neo-Pentecostalism. According to Finnish scholar of religion Tuija Hovi (2010, 40), there are around 4000 members of Neo-Charismatic groups in Finland. Based on Alvarsson’s (2011, 38) estimation that the total number of Charismatics was lower than 100,000 in Sweden, and the fact that the Pentecostal Movement counts 84,000 of them, there would be at most 16,000 Neo-Charismatics.

Another problem is the binary “yes-or-no” approach which is often evident in general estimations, meaning that denominations/congregations are understood as either Charismatic or non-Charismatic—Charismatics are expected to appear solely in Charismatic denominations and churches. This does not always reflect reality, and by following this principle, one misses variations within denominations, as well as the levels of Charismatic expression within them. Charismatics do exist in otherwise non-Charismatic denominations and churches, either because they were influenced by the early Pentecostal revival or by later Neo-Charismatic ones. In Sweden, such branches exist in many Free Church denominations. Moreover, Sweden is home to the Charismatic denomination Interact—the result of the fusion of three nineteenth-century Baptist denominations that were pentecostalized in the early twentieth century but did not join the formalized Pentecostal Movement. In 2013, Interact numbered 33,000 members (cf. Moberg 2013a). Charismatics are also found within the Catholic and Lutheran churches. Being listed as members of those churches, their Charismatic involvement is not statistically visible (see Svalfors 2012). Maria Thomsen (2012) claims that around 15,000 Danes are members of Charismatically inclined congregations within the Evangelical Lutheran Church (2012, 122). If this were the case, the number of Charismatics in Denmark would be three times as high in the Lutheran church as in the Pentecostal congregations. This could mean that the numbers of Charismatics in Nordic countries are higher than commonly estimated.

On the contrary, many old Pentecostal congregations have more or less ceased engaging in Charismatic practices. If one attends a service in one of the largest Pentecostal congregations in Stockholm or Gothenburg, one finds few if any indications that one is visiting a Charismatic organization. This leads us to a more philosophical question: When is the level of Charismatic expression so low that a group no longer qualifies as Charismatic? These problems demonstrate the need to heed the nuances that complicate issues of membership and Charismatic identity; there are spectrums of involvement with variable features of identification. Perhaps discouragingly, it is extremely difficult to pinpoint numbers of Charismatics based upon our current knowledge. Nevertheless, as several of the upcoming chapters indicate, Charismatic Christianity appears quite stable in the region.

This Book

Much like our topic of study, Pentecostal studies in general reaches, covers, and investigates Pentecostal-Charismatic interconnections in vast parts of the globe. Although Nordic international missions have received universal attention (Anderson 2014; Bundy 2009), the region is something of a terra incognita in the global field of research. Language barriers need to take their share of the blame; most studies are written in Nordic languages, proficiency in which is not particularly widespread.2 Another reason is probably that the Nordic countries have considerably lower numbers of Charismatics than the American, African, and Asian countries, especially in the “global South” where this form of Christianity is blooming, along with Catholicism (Allen 2009, 144–145).

Against this backdrop, we deem it necessary to call for more overarching studies of Charismatic Christianity in non-Anglophone countries of the “global North.” We are glad to see new interest in this matter, visible in a special issue of Approaching Religion (2015) dedicated to the Baltic Sea area. Until now, no efforts have been made to gather and publish Nordic case studies in a collective work, nor to discuss them in relation to processes particular to the region. As is visible from the historical overview, Charismatic Christianity has had a strong and interwoven presence in Norway, Sweden, and Finland.

The overall aim of this anthology is to shed light on diverse trajectories of Charismatic Christianity in the Nordic countries. Generally, the term “Nordic countries” also includes Denmark and Iceland, but this anthology focuses on the three countries where Charismatic Christianity has had the strongest presence: Sweden, Norway, and Finland (Anderson 2014, 92; cf. Bloch-Hoell 1964, 91). Evidently, we not only wish to fill in some of the uncharted territories on the global map, but to contribute to international research more broadly by providing case studies that further discussion on how this form of Christianity globalizes and spreads. In the Nordic countries, Charismatic Christianity has a long history, but has remained the religion of a small minority, making the region intriguing from a global perspective. In order to understand and theorize about such a complex phenomenon, it is necessary not only to study areas of massive growth, but also to include settings that have proven to be less responsive to Charismatic revivalism. In this way, the Nordic case challenges the “master narrative” of global success, contradicting the common claim that Charismatic Christianity is a form of religion that “travels easily” and adapts to various cultural circumstances (see Anderson 2010, 1). By focusing on some of the “smaller narratives” in countries that are usually neglected in studies, we gain a more complex and nuanced picture, and invite future discussion about similar groups and individuals elsewhere.

The Contributions to This Volume

The volume engages with the region’s historical and contemporary landscape from different scholarly perspectives. The contributors’ backgrounds involve various branches of the study of religion and cultural and social anthropology.

The anthology is divided into three thematic parts. In this way, we wish to alert readers to parallels between the three countries and their great potential for comparison. The first part addresses the early Pentecostal Movement(s) from historical perspectives; the second concerns internal dynamics in Charismatic organizations; and the closing part deals with twenty-first-century innovations. The historical chapters are based on two case studies from Norway, which illustrate the organizations’ linkage to older revivalist movements, as well as contemporaneous interconnections between the Nordic countries. Scholar of religion Lisbeth Mikaelsson analyzes the early Pentecostal Movement’s international missions, highlighting the role of women. Historian of religion Anne Stensvold discusses Pentecostalism’s introduction to Norway in the light of pre-existing American-influenced movements that had been fueled by returning Nordic migrants. These movements paved the way for Pentecostalism, while simultaneously narrowing the scope of target groups.

Opening the second part, social anthropologist Teemu T. Mantsinen analyzes contemporary tensions within the Finnish Pentecostal Movement. Applying perspectives from Pierre Bourdieu, Mantsinen proposes that an obvious organizational dispute is only the tip of the iceberg, concealing an underlying differentiation of the Pentecostal habitus. In the following chapter, scholar of religion Jane Skjoldli sheds light upon the reconstruction of a former Faith Movement church, the Living Word Bible Center (Levende Ord Bibelsenter) as the Credo Church (Credokirken), and the accompanying transformations of charismatic authority and practices, looking at these from a Weberian perspective. Next, scholar of religion Liselotte Frisk discusses the controversial congregation Knutby Filadelfia, which hit newspaper headlines across Scandinavia in 2004 when a young female member shot and killed another member, and injured yet another. The chapter addresses the group’s exclusion from the Pentecostal Movement, from a new religious movements perspective.

The third part begins with a chapter authored by scholar of religion Tuija Hovi, who examines the recent modernization of Charismatic practice and outreach implemented in and by the Healing Rooms. Hovi investigates how this originally American concept has been adapted to the Finnish milieu, pointing out how open proselytization has been abolished in the organization, and how its practices tap into therapeutic processes in Finland. Scholar of religion Jessica Moberg follows up with a study from Sweden, where Charismatic organizations are increasingly intimized, reflecting therapeutization trends in Sweden. Moberg focuses on how informalization is materialized and embodied, where hugs are standardized ritual acts, and church interiors resemble cafeterias. Cultural anthropologist Jan-Åke Alvarsson closes this part, and the volume, with a study on a recently founded Charismatic TV station, Channel 10. He illustrates how old-fashioned sermons and songs have more or less vanished from Pentecostal churches in general, as a result of the adoption of contemporary worship music. Alvarsson analyzes the channel’s success as a response to nostalgia among older Pentecostal members, who feel increasingly estranged from their own communities.

Footnotes

  1. 1.

    According to Nikolaj Christensen, the most influential early Pentecostal preachers in Denmark took the view that “every human being would in the end be reconciled to God and saved” (Christensen 2016). This presents a possible explanation for the low number of Pentecostals in Denmark, as it would render the imperative for evangelization considerably less urgent.

  2. 2.

    A few exceptions are Simon Colman’s (2000) work on the Swedish Faith Movement, David Bundy’s (2009) studies of Scandinavian Pentecostal missions, and David Thurfjell’s (2013) study of the revival among the Kaale Roma in Sweden and Finland.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Jessica Moberg
    • 1
  • Jane Skjoldli
    • 2
  1. 1.University of GothenburgGothenburgSweden
  2. 2.University of BergenBergenNorway

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