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Martin Lind Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain

10 January 2014

'Every year, I go for pilgrimages in simplicity and solidarity'

On Saturday [11 January], I will be received as the new Bishop of the Lutheran Church in Great Britain [LCiGB]. Then starts a partly new life for me. I will be staying in Lund, Sweden, but going regularly to England.

My father was a priest in the Church of Sweden, in Malmö; so my upbringing was rather pious, and a part of church life. But I very much loved it, and was ordained as a priest when I was only 22 years old.

Now I live in Lund, after being Bishop in Linköping for 16 years. Before that, I was Dean of Uppsala Cathedral for four years.

Hilda and I have four children and 12 grandchildren, scattered all over Sweden. I'm happiest at a good meal with the family.

I will be living in two countries, with a double spiritual home; so, for me, the new commitment will be a way to enrich my spiritual life.

In the Church of Sweden, I rather emphasise comprehensive renewal through the regular celebration of the Sunday eucharist.

The limitations in my knowledge about Britain are obvious, as Sweden is my home - but it is slowly getting better.

For me, which Church does things better is not a question of black and white. There will be moments when the Church of Sweden really does something astonishingly well in her witness, but sometimes the opposite is the case. For the moment, there is a renewal of the mass going on in the whole Church. That will have a positive impact for the future, I believe.

Every church does witness contextually. As far as I know, the Church of England does this in many ways very well, especially regarding the great varieties of liturgy, Christian living, and dialogue with friends with other religious identities.

In the Lutheran Council of Great Britain there are, for the moment, ten member Churches. The LCiGB is one of them. I will certainlyvisit all the congregations within the LCiGB, and talk with all the priests.

I am told that there are at least 18 languages used today for Lutheran worship in Britain, and dozens of nationalities represented. In the LCiGB itself, worship and ministry are provided in Chinese, English, some Nordic languages, Polish and Swahili. [German Lutherans in Britain belong to another jurisdiction, with a bishop in Germany.] It is a challenge to keep this manifoldness together, and that is precisely the task of the LCiGB.

The Lutheran contribution to the worldwide Church is constantly to remind one another that human life is a gift from God. The main thing in life is not what you do, but what you are.

In the LCiGB, I think there might also be a concern to underline the blessings of unity in diversity.

A long time ago, I wrote my dissertation at Lund Universityon the Christian relationship to National Socialism. Unfortunately, this is still a question of current interest. We see today an uprising of fascism in Europe. My question would be: What is the Christian contribution against racism and oppression within extreme nationalism?

My specific interest concerns the theology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a Lutheran theologian who resisted the Nazis and was killed in 1945, at the age of 39, in a concentration camp. His texts are still of tremendous importance, I would say - challenging, questioning, raising uncomfortable issues that are so crucial. Bonhoeffer's questions concern not only our attitude towards other people, but also towards ourselves and our understanding of God and Christ in this world. He helps us to raise questions rather than stubbornly maintain answers.

It is more and more obvious for me that Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Letters and Papers from Prison has played a major role in my spiritual and theological life. I nowadays read the book every Lent. I may not read straight through it, but every day I read some lines: that is enough for my reflection. Among his other texts, I appreciate his Ethics, where he gives a Christian view of humanity in all its complexity and attraction.

A long time ago, I spent some years as an academic teacher in South India. Last year, I was teaching in Yangon, Myanmar, as well as in Manila, in the Philippines. That kind of engagement is close to my heart still.

I am also involved in the pilgrimage movement. I opened the first pilgrim centre in the Nordic countries after the Reformation, in Vadstena in 1997. Every year, I go for pilgrimages in simplicity and solidarity. I hope to continue that, maybe also in Britain.

The unjustifiable way of treating refugees from Syria lately made me angry.

Bach's cello suites are close to my heart. But I also play the organ, and love to listen to organ music. My favourite contemporary composer is Olivier Messiaen, especially his Apparition de l'Église éternelle.

For more than 30 years, I have spent the holidays in our cottage on the east coast of southern Sweden.

"Paid to Pray" was the title of an article I once wrote on the role of bishops. Without prayer, Christian bishops could not exist. My prayers are filled with intercession and gratitude. I pray for a lot of people, and I thank God for what has been given to me.

If I were locked in a church for a few hours, I'd choose to have Hilda, my wife, as my companion.

The Rt Revd Dr Martin Lind was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.


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