Baptist Union of Denmark

(Baptistkirken i Danmark)

The Baptist movement in Denmark began in the 19th century, a time marked both by national disasters following the Napoleonic wars, and by strong national, political and spiritual movements. Reformation in the16th century had left Denmark with a Lutheran State Church which was the clerical counterpart of an authoritarian monarchy and would not allow for other forms of religion. Pietism later created a tradition of conventicles, small groups of lay people meeting for Bible study under the supervision of the clergy. After 1830, one of these conventicles in Copenhagen developed traditional Baptist beliefs on the brotherhood of believers, the Bible, and baptism, independently of Baptists elsewhere. An emissary from the Baptist church in Hamburg, a Danish Jew who had been baptized there, met this group, and after some hesitation they formed a Baptist church in Copenhagen in 1839, the first free church congregation in the Scandinavian countries. Until the constitution in 1849 accorded religious liberty, the Copenhagen Baptist church and churches formed in other parts of the country had to put up with severe persecution by state and clerical authorities. As a result, many Baptists emigrated to the USA. Relations with Baptists from Germany, England, Danish Baptists in the USA, and later the American Baptist Convention and Southern Baptist Convention, helped the Baptist movement to become mature.

Relations have now been established with other free churches and with large parts of the Lutheran Church, through the Evangelical Alliance and later through the Ecumenical Council. Today relations among most local churches - from Roman Catholics to Pentecostals - are cordial. This is due both to the influence of the ecumenical movement and to a recognition of the pluralistic form of modern society. Numerically the Baptist Union is small, but the denomination is very active. Baptists conduct worship services in 70 church locations. The denom-ination's Sunday school work is the oldest in the country, and young people's unions and children's clubs are active. Children and young people play a very important role in church life. The Union runs two boarding schools for teenagers and supports a few missionaries serving the Baptist Unions of Burundi and Rwanda.

Baptists formed in 2000, with Danish partners and Swedish Baptists, a church-based theological training centre in Copenhagen named SALT (Scandinavian Academy of Leadership and Theology).

A matter of concern is that the average age of baptism is going up, perhaps because of the influence of the pluralistic society. Atheistic thinking as well as new religious movements, often of Hindu origin, and especially Islam, have been gaining ground in Denmark. The growing economic disparities in society as well as an increasingly multicultural population challenge the churches to rethink their role.