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Swedish Church membership takes a summer plummet

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Swedish Church membership takes a summer plummet
Uppsala Cathedral, seat of the head of the Swedish Church. Photo: Bertil Ericson/TT
08:41 CEST+02:00
The Swedish Church has seen its membership numbers plummet over the summer months, with a record amount of people asking to leave in June and July. The drop is being linked to high-profile expenses scandals that were extensively covered in the media.

Preliminary figures from the church show that in June, 13,300 people asked to leave, more than four times the around 3000 requests to leave in the same month from other years.

And while the outflow slowed in July, the 5100 withdrawal requests last month is still much higher than the usual average for that time period of around 2100-2800 exits.

The mass exodus follows high-profile revelations claiming officials made expensive trips abroad funded by the church coffers.

In May, Sveriges Radio reported that church politicians and employees had been travelling to tourist resorts and cities to the tune of several million kronor, with the trips mostly funded by church tax (kyrkoavgift) contributions, the fees paid by Swedish Church members.

Tabloid Aftonbladet also reported that high-ranking leaders in the organization had allowed the church to pay for overnight stays at luxury hotels.

The Swedish Church has analyzed how their members’ attitudes towards the church may have changed in the aftermath, and it seems many chose to end their membership. So far this year, 38,300 have left compared to a total of 46,900 for the entirety of 2015.

“Our assessment is that the higher withdrawal figure for July is a continuation of the impact of media scrutiny from earlier this summer, but the effect is beginning to slow down,” Swedish Church communications manager Gunnar Sjöberg told news agency TT.

“At the end of August and start of September we will be able to present a comprehensive analysis of what our investigation into membership shows,” he added.

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