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I live in the same city as the world’s arguably most famous living Swedish Christian, namely Ulf Ekman. The founder and long-term leader of the Scandinavian Word of Faith movement (with many branches in the former Soviet Union), Ekman surprised many when he revealed last year that he and his wife would convert to Catholicism, which they also have done. Yesterday, Ulf Ekman was being interviewed on national Swedish television about his life, faith and different controversial topics like abortion, support for Jewish migration to the West Bank and prayer for healing (which apparently is controversial in a Swedish secular context).
Ekman’s conversion from being neo-Pentecostal to being Catholic wasn’t the first religious shift he has made. In his youth he was an atheist socialist in Gothenburg, protesting against capitalism and the Vietnam war, but when a Christian friend talked to him about how Jesus could give him forgiveness for his sins, he was saved. He went to Uppsala (my town) to study theology and became a Lutheran priest in the Church of Sweden. However, in the early 80’s he studied at Kenneth Hagin’s Rhema Bible college in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and when he came back he was a full-blooded prosperity preaching Pentecostal. He founded the Word of Life church in Uppsala in 1983, and the movement quickly spread to the rest of Scandinavia and to the USSR.
For Ekman, his conversion from atheism to Christianity also meant a political conversion from socialism to conservatism. He wasn’t afraid of preaching politics from the pulpit, whether it was against Sweden’s abortion laws, for the policies and military decisions of the state of Israel or simply prayers that the Social Democrats would lose the Swedish elections. (more…)