A prognosis cited by the official church magazine Kyrkans Tidning said the Church of Sweden, as the nation’s dominant religious body, will have six million members in 2020 compared to the present seven million. The Church of Sweden (Evangelical Lutheran) was the official state church in Sweden until the link was formally severed in 2000.
The decline in membership is expected to be 1.2 per cent every year until 2020, the prognosis said. Loss of revenues would approach 1 billion kronor ($140 million) by 2020.
Kykans Tidning did not state the specific reasons for the steady decline. It is known that since 1996 newly-borns no longer become automatic members of the denomination, which was formally separated from the State in 2000.
The Church is mainly supported through the “church tax” incorporated in personal income taxation, and which is voluntary. Taxpayers can opt out.
The projections are not catastrophic, according to Church Planning Director Erika Brundin, but “the Church must prepare itself for the changes that are anticipated.” This includes inter-church coordination of activities such as baptisms and confirmations as a cost-saving mechanism.
“I believe the Church’s most marginalized period will be behind us after 2020, and that its relevance can increase,” said Brundin. “The number of religiously-inclined citizens should then rise, and the role of the Church in the lives of younger people can become more considerable.
“But I don’t think that means we’ll have more members.”