It’s not often that Sweden makes headlines in the Catholic news bubble.
But oh boy, it is at the moment. The news today is that Ulf Ekman has converted to the Catholic Church along with his wife Birgitta.
Yeah, I didn’t really know what that meant either but I did some old-fashioned investigatoring!
Ulf Ekman was the founder of Livets Ord, part of the Word of Faith movement, in 1983 in the Swedish city of Uppsala.
Word of Faith is a global Pentecostal movement. It might be more familiar as “Name it and Claim it”. Basically, if you have enough faith, God will heal you physically and spiritually and bless you with material riches. You just have to believe. Although there are many amazing Christians in the Word of Faith movement, both theologically and pastorally, it is definitely heretical, not to mention dangerous, in some areas.
Over the past decade or so, however, Livets Ord has moved further away from the Word of Faith movement and more towards theological orthodoxy and an Evangelical middle-ground. Ulf has also been a keen supporter of ecumenism and cooperated with many different kinds of Charismatics, including Catholic Charismatics.
And now this!!!
On Sunday morning, Ulf told his congregation that he and Birgitta were becoming
slaves of the Whore of Babylon Catholics.
So how does a Pentecostal megachurch pastor become Catholic?
Ulf himself describes four stages in his journey: discovery, appreciation, approach, and unity.
First, he discovered that his caricature of the Catholic Church was wrong. He learnt what Catholics actually believe — and not just from second-hand sources. From there, he began to appreciate these teachings.
He could have easily stopped there but, accordingly to Ulf, he felt the pull of the Lord drawing him closer. So he began to approach, starting dialogue and exploring ideas. Finally, the Ekmans realised that the Lord Himself was drawing them to full unity with His Bride, the Holy Catholic Church.
The journey, he said, was both attractive and challenging.
“It really challenged our protestant prejudices, and we realized that we in many cases did not have any basis for our criticism of them. We needed to know the Catholic faith better. This led us to the realize that it was actually Jesus Christ who led us to unite with the Catholic Church.”
Ulf describes what he has found in the Catholic Church.
What I love about that is how it is the Catholic Faith in its entirety that has drawn Ulf and Birgitta in. It’s the Holy Spirit as He guards the Church in the truth of sound doctrine, the beauty of the sacramental life, and the goodness of the consistent ethic of life and love.
We have seen a great love for Jesus and a sound theology, founded on the Bible and classic dogma. We have experienced the richness of sacramental life. We have seen the logic in having a solid structure for priesthood, that keeps the faith of the church and passes it on from one generation to the next.
We have met an ethical and moral strength and consistency that dare to face up to the general opinion, and a kindness towards the poor and the weak. And, last but not least, we have come in contact with representatives for millions of charismatic Catholics and we have seen their living faith.
Lastly, Ulf describes the living faith of charismatic Catholics all over the world.
I couldn’t help but think how much Pentecostals and Catholics actually have in common, if we are willing, as Ulf says, to discover, appreciate and approach each other in fraternal love.
Let’s pray we will be and let’s pray for Ulf and Birgitta. They could have some rough times ahead.
Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love.
V. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. R. And You shall renew the face of the earth.
O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.