"Kristi ämbete" : Gunnar Rosendal och diskussionen om biskopsämbetet i Svenska kyrkan

Tomas Fransson

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The episcopate has been much debated in the twentieth century, both in the Church of Sweden and ecumenically. The purpose of the thesis is to study how it has been discussed within the Church of Sweden, using the priest and reformer Gunnar Rosendal (1897?1988) as point of departure. Methodologically speaking, a single individual is studied in order to shed light on a broad historical and ideological context.

Three questions are focused:

1) In what context did Rosendal form his ideas about the episcopate? Rosendal received impulses from several directions: prominent theologians in the Church of Sweden such as Gustaf Aulén and Nathan Söderblom; Anglican theologians; movements of renewal in the German Evangelical Church; and Roman Catholic criticism of the Swedish Lutheran episcopate.

2) How did Rosendal understand the episcopate? This question is treated against the background of his view of the Church. Rosendal wished to revitalize tradition in the Church of Sweden and to interpret it in a ?catholic? manner. He emphasized the visibility, sacramentality and historical continuity of the Church. He attached great importance to episcopal succession and saw a close connection between the ministry of Christ, of the Apostles, and of bishops. Ordination conferred both a mission and a special gift of grace. Since there basically existed only one ministry ? the ministry of Christ ? this was a ministry in ?the whole Church?. While thus emphasizing the episcopate, Rosendal saw it as the responsibility of each individual priest to determine what was compatible with ?catholic tradition?.

3) What impact did Rosendal's ideas about the episcopate have on the Church of Sweden? In an extended academic debate in the years 1947?1956, diametrically opposed views were pitched one against the other. This dissension about the episcopate was due to serious differences of opinion about the nature of the Church and the confession of the Church of Sweden.

A concluding survey of positions in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries shows that views of the episcopate in the Church of Sweden have developed in the direction of Rosendal's view on the theoretical level, while on the level of canon law the development has been in the opposite direction.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
  • Pahlmblad, Christer, Supervisor
Award date2006 Sep 26
ISBN (Print)91-7580-326-7
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2006-09-26
Time: 14:00
Place: Hörsalen Spoletorp, Spolegatan 1 R, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Bexell, Oloph
Title: Professor
Affiliation: Uppsala


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Religious Studies


  • systematic and practical Christian theology
  • ecclesiology
  • General
  • Episcopacy
  • the 20th century debate about the ministry in the Church of Sweden Gunnar Rosendal
  • Kristen teologi (allmän
  • systematisk och praktisk)

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