A Homosocial Priesthood of All Believers: Laity and Gender in Inter-War Sweden

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Abstract

Around the turn of the twentieth century, there was a growing concern within the Church of Sweden that the church was, to a too large extent, managed by the clergy alone. In an attempt to give the laity a more active and influential role in the Church of Sweden, the Brethren of the Church was established in 1918. Since it was only possible for men to become members, the organization simultaneously addressed a different issue: the view that women had become a much too salient group in church life. This process was described by the Brethren and similar groups as a “feminization” of the church, a phrasing which later came to be used by historians and theologians to explain changes in Western Christianity in the nineteenth century. In other words, the Brethren considered questions of gender vital to their endeavor to create a church in which the laity held a more prominent position. This article analyzes how the perceived feminization and its assumed connection to secularization caused enhanced attempts to uphold and strengthen gender differentiation in the Church of Sweden in the early twentieth century. By analyzing an all-male lay organization, the importance of homosociality in the construction of Christian masculinities will also be discussed.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • History
  • History of Religions
  • Religious Studies
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)440-464
Number of pages25
JournalChurch History
Volume88
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jun
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes

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