Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Sued Pastor Urges Church to Avoid Timidity

October 5, 2004 edition
World News
Pastor Sued for Alleged Hate Speech Urges the Church to Avoid Timidity

A prominent Swedish charismatic pastor who was sued recently for alleged "hate speech against homosexuals" said the church must get involved politically to counter-lobby socialists and liberals in Europe.
In August, Ulf Ekman was hit with the lawsuit. After only a few days, authorities decided not to prosecute the high-profile founder of Uppsala Word of Life Church (UWLC), but the incident further inflamed the already heated debate on the future of religious liberties in the northern European country.

"There is a deliberate political move in all of Europe toward restricting the freedom of religion, with Sweden serving as a sort of European Union pilot project," Ekman told "Charisma" magazine in the October issue, out now. The full report on hate-speech cases in Europe can be found in the magazine.

"Unless we now claim the freedom to preach the gospel in all of its facets and consequences, we soon will not be allowed to preach it at all," Ekman added.

In June, another Swedish Pentecostal pastor was sentenced to a month in prison for preaching against homosexuality. Pastor Ake Green of Borgholm Pentecostal Church in eastern Sweden told his congregation in a 2003 sermon that "abnormal sexual practices are like a cancerous growth on the body of society."

Finding Green guilty of offending homosexuals, a Swedish court sentenced him to jail in the first-ever application of a unique Swedish law passed in 2002 in the face of severe criticism not only by Christians, but also by legal experts.

Drawing on the laws adopted in many European countries after the Nazi era to protect Jews and Gypsies against hate speech, the new law defines homosexuals as a people group in need of collective safeguarding.

Though defending Green's right to preach freely, most Pentecostal, charismatic and evangelical church leaders in Sweden have been reluctant to take a strong stand for their elderly colleague. His sermon, many said, was "too unwisely phrased."

Speaking to 5,000 believers during a conference at UWLC, which he founded in 1983, Ekman criticized his fellow church leaders. "I, too, would have chosen other words [than pastor Green]," Ekman said, "but that is not the issue. The freedom of religion and of speech are interrelated. We must stand up for the right of all citizens to believe and speak without government censorship."

Ekman has urged the European church to "lay aside its timidity, its policies of silence and compromise, and raise its voice now, or [the believers] will soon be facing very dangerous times indeed. The agenda of the political left in Europe -- socialists and liberals -- is by no means secretive. The church must get involved politically, too, forming a counter-lobby."

Now residing in Jerusalem and committed to international missions, Ekman added: "We must preach the gospel unashamedly. I firmly believe that revival can turn a country around, but revival does not come without our preaching a supernatural gospel."