Theological Identity and Forms of Legitimation in Old National Churches

Workshop on

Theological Identity and Forms of Legitimation

 In Old National Churches

Thursday the 21st of March 2013, from 9.15 till 16.15 at the Centre for Church Research, Faculty of Theology, University of Copenhagen



9.15: Welcome by Director of Centre for Church Research Hans Raun Iversen

9.20: Self-understanding and forms of legitimation in four national churches in Europe:

Michael Bøss: The Catholic Church in Ireland

Nikos Maghioros: The Orthodox Church in Greece

Hjalti Hugason: Þjóðkirkjan: the Church of the People or Nation in Iceland

Dag Thorkildsen: Den Norske Kirke/Folkekirken i Norge: The Norwegian Church

12.00: Lunch

13.00: Self-understanding and forms of legitimation in the Danish Folk Church:

Anders Holm: Church History Perspectives

Cecilie Rubow: Anthropological Perspectives

Kirsten Donskov Felter: In ecclesiological Perspectives

Hans Raun Iversen: Perspectives from Practical Theology

14.30: Coffee break

14.45: Panel Discussion with the speaker’s of the day, led by Margit Warburg. Critical inquirers: Niels Reeh, Morten Wassmer and Rasmus Markussen.

16.00: Closing summery of the Workshop by Hans Raun Iversen

 The basis for the workshop:

The Danish Folk Church’s theological self-understanding and societal profile have undergone several substantial changes since 1849. Three church political ideals – the state-church, the synodal church and the local church – are present figures in the church perceptions from the time of the Constitution till today, but the conditions for societal legitimacy have changed greatly throughout the period under which the strife between these church ideals has taken place. The three basic types of authority proposed by Max Weber seem to offer a relatively adequate way of describing the developments in major parts of the 20th Century: Firstly, the religiously determined traditional authority was highly weighted in the emphasis on the parish church in the first two thirds of the 20th Century. Secondly, from the middle of the 20th Century, the role of the church was profiled as a modern, rational counterpart to the welfare-state. And finally, there are also scattered approaches towards charismatic types of authority, e.g. in the youth work in the beginning of the 20th Century and in the charismatic trend from the 70’ies. Today, the Danish Folk Church is increasingly adapting to the popular expectation of authenticity as a type of legitimation.

All of the above mentioned types of legitimation are present in various constellations within the Danish Folk Church. In a development marked by late modernity, where the hierarchal society accredited with value and status has been transformed into a fluctuating network society, we have to supplement Weber’s theories with, in particular, Charles Taylor’s analyses of authenticity as a constituent in legitimacy.

The development has been documented in empirical research showing a high degree of trust in the Folk Church within the population (on level with the degree of trust in the police and health services) and a significant shift within the church away from a service church towards a result-oriented activity church. However, contrary to the police and health services, the Folk Church is not seen as an indispensable part of society. In this regard, it makes more sense to compare the church with the libraries, which have undergone massive changes in order to keep their foothold in society. The current situation of the Church is analogues to the situation of e.g. unions and political parties that could previously count on the support of specific demographic groups. Today, this support is no longer a given, and neither is membership of the Folk Church. The new situation highlights the fact that the Folk Church works, and always has worked, within a framework of particular forms of legitimation and forms of authority.

During the workshop, the Danish Folk Church’s position between theological self-understanding and popular legitimation will be studied in the light of the other old national churches, not only the Nordic churches, but also the much different, yet surprisingly parallel, situations in Ireland and Greece. 

See webpage

For registration please contact Signe E Larsen