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Religion in Denmark 2013

Today's Danish Religion in figures, 2013

Religion in Denmark 2013

Introduction by Marie Vejrup Nielsen, associate professor, Study of Religion, Aarhus University (online yearbook editor)

Based on the information gathered on approved and authorized religious communities in Denmark in 2012 we are once again able to point out trends within the development of religion in Denmark today. This years edition of Religion in Denmark includes a presentation and analysis of the new groups approved in 2012 (three Christian and two Buddhist). Furthermore this edition features numbers and analyses of all the approved and authorized religious group that it was possible to make contact with. And there is also a number of articles with perspectives on how religion looks in Denmark today:

  • Christianity in cell form – group structures in Christianity in Denmark. Student of the study of religion Lars Buur Nørlev  has contributed with an article about the development of new group structures with Christian environments in and outside of The Folkekirke (i.e. the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark) as seen in Aarhus Valgmeninghed and Citykirken. Here he points out how inspiration from the US and England has played a big role in the development of these groups.
  • Miraculous healing – Expectations move mountains among charismatic Christians in Denmark. PhD student Ella Paldam has written an article on Mission Denmark with emphasis on their healing practices and takes a closer look at what is included in religious healing in a Danish context.
  • One church or several churches? The orthodox churches in Denmark. Associate professor Annika Hvithamar contributes with an article that puts focus on the development in the orthodox environments in Denmark, in which the recent years have brought high growth rates.
  • Folkekirken in numbers 2012 – What Skjern tells us about the future of Folkekirken. Associate professor Marie Vejrup Nielsen contributes with an article about resignations of membership of The Folkekirke in 2012 and what this development shows seen through the light of the debate on the high rate of resignations of membership.

Contemporary religion in the gymnasium (high school) – Experiences from Field Work, associate gymnasium (high school) professor Signe Elise Bro has written an article which speaks about how one can work with contemporary religion in the gymnasium with emphasis on how one can integrate field work into lesson plans.

In this edition, we have, for the first time, chosen to make a comparison with the numbers collected in the first online yearbook about Religion in Denmark. The online yearbook was first published in 2009 with numbers from 2008. This gives us the possibility to make comparisons over a five-year period, which is done in this edition with special emphasis on the Christian groups. Analyses of the remaining groups in the same period will be part of next year’s online yearbook publication. Furthermore, where possible, we have conducted an analysis of a period of 20 years by comparing numbers collected by Statistics Denmark covering 1992. In the following some of results of the comparisons will be highlighted. For a description of some of the overall tendencies, such as migrant religion, and for articles on what religion looks like in 21st century Denmark we refer to the introductions to the prior years’ publications.

What we see in the numbers – 2013

According to the Department of Family Affairs’ list, these were the number of groups in 2012:

  • 89 Christian denominations
  • 8 Hindu denominations
  • 13 Buddhist denominations
  • 23 Muslim denominations
  • 3 Jewish denominations
  • 5 other denominations

If we make a comparison spanning a period of 20 years and therefore starting with the statistic from January 1st 1993, we see a general trend; that is, a growth in the number of religious communities. On the list from Statistical Yearbook from January 1st 1993 there are 24 authorized religious communities and out of those 24 authorized in 1992, 21 were Christian. Today we have 115 approved and authorized religious communities cf. the Department of Family Affairs’ list. Even though some of these 115 have ceased to exist and that some changes have happened within the groups this is still a remarkable development. This development is in part due to the fact that a number of Muslim groups have been authorized since 1992, when they did not figure in the statistics as such, and in part because a considerable number of Christian groups have joined the list. In the same period other categories, such as Hindu and Buddhist environments, have also experienced a growth. Therefore, if we are to look at membership numbers for the 20-year period, we only need to look at a limited number of religious communities and, here too, primarily Christian groups.

In earlier editions we have pointed out an overall development in terms of growth within particular churches where the Catholic Church in Denmark especially stands out with a growth from 31.492 as of January 1st 1993 to 40.507 as of January 1st 2013.

Another group experiencing growth in the 20-year period is the Apostolic Church in Denmark that goes from having 2.042 members to having 3.500. A development that is documented by the numbers from the intervening years, even when we take into account that one of the problems with a comparison spanning 20 years can be a difference in categories, e.g. whether or not children are counted in all the years. This reservation applies to all the comparisons of number outside of the actual online yearbooks when not clearly stated how membership numbers are calculated. The Mormon community experienced a small increase from 4.228 to 4.388. The Methodist Church, as well, saw a small increase in the same period from 1.534 to 2.000.

In the 20-year period other groups, such as the Baptist Church and the Seventh Day Adventists, the Salvation Army, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, have experienced a decline. As for the last two it seems that the decline has changed into a small increase in recent years if we compare our information from the online yearbooks with numbers from 2008 and 2012. Here we find an increase from 14.500 to 14.719 members for Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Salvation Army saw an increase of around 20 new members. These are of course small numbers, which are strongly affected by small fluctuations. Nevertheless, this points to the necessity of continually getting numbers from the groups if one is to look tendencies in their development. The story of a decline over 20 years can be nuanced with numbers that show that some groups have reversed the trend within the last 5 years.

Outside of the Christian material it is only possible to follow the development over 20 years in the Baha’i and the Jewish Community in Denmark. The Baha’i have experienced a small increase from 285 to 338 members and the Jewish Community in Denmark a decrease from 3.378 members to approx. 2.300 members. The Karma Kagyu School has experienced a fall over the 20 years from approx. 1000 members to about 200 members today and around 300 followers in addition to that.

As mentioned, and this is valid for all these groups, a comparison over 20 years entails some difficulties since we cannot see which definitions of membership lie behind the assessment from 1992. There may therefore be fluctuations caused by the counting of groups, today, that were not included earlier (e.g. children), a change in the understanding of what consists a membership, or that a more precise form of registration has been taken into use (for more information on how we gather the numbers and for questions on how religion can be counted, see samtidsreligion.au.dk/religion-i-danmark/rel-aarbog09/intro/).

Thus, the numbers indicate that a portion of the Christian groups present in Denmark 20 years ago are still present today and that they experience a relatively stable development in the 21st century. If we look at development and move our focus from membership numbers to diversity within the various religions, it becomes clear that the development within the Muslim environment indicate the largest change in the shape of representation of different parts of national and ethnic groups, and also of the different denominations in Islam. This edition of the online yearbook does not consider the Muslim numbers over a 5-year period.

Within the Christian material the last 20-year period has brought growth particularly in different free churches, and in the Orthodox environment. While only one Orthodox Church figured on the list of 1992, the number is up to 11 today. The number of members in the Russian Orthodox Church in Denmark was stated to be 182 in 1992 whereas the number is much higher today. Furthermore, Russian Orthodox Christianity is currently present in the form of three different churches with their background in the environment.

The development in the Orthodox as well as the Muslim environments and within the additional groupings suggest a general tendency in the material, namely how globalization affects the Danish religious landscape. Religions, which were earlier associated with particular context far from Denmark, are to a great extent present in Denmark today compared to 20 years ago.

Below we will take a closer look at the new groups approved in 2012 and which development they represent.

The new groups – approval and authorization

The joy is evident in the Liberal Catholic Church who, on their website, write: “Finally more than 30 years’ efforts have been realized! After thorough considerations about LCC’s size, organization, and likelihood of continued existence, The Advisory Committee for Religious Communities has recommended the Liberal Catholic Church in Denmark for approval, which the National Social Appeals Board has complied with.” (http://www.lkk-dk.dk/, seen March 20th 2013). (our translation of Danish website) In the Churches newsletter more is written about how the process to get this approval had been both in relation to worries about the terms the church uses about itself (esoteric) and the economic aspect, which had led to the church having to conduct a special fundraising campaign in order to cover the expenses of obtaining an audited financial statement. It is clear that a large amount of work is behind the different rounds of application. In its newsletter and website, the church itself points out that the motivation to go into this process primarily came from a wish to obtain the authority to perform marriage ceremonies with civil validity.

These two dimensions: adaptation to a state definition of being a “religious community” and the granting of rights seen as attractive by the group, are an interesting phenomena of contemporary religion in Denmark as well as internationally. It is the state that sets the frame for the religious communities that want special rights. This is very much the case for The Folkekirke, which is part of the state, but it also, to some extent, applies to the religious communities that wish to obtain the state’s approval. They undergo a process in which they must orient themselves, via the committee, of which premises and rules have been put in place by the state and through that they seek to change their organization and put resources aside for the fulfillment of the specific requirements.

This is, by its very nature, difficult for many smaller groups and groups with low economic resources. Thus, being approved by the state must be attractive enough for the group to take part in this process. A religious community that is not approved has far looser boundaries since there is no specific legislation to regulate it. Thus, as a group, one gives up some of one’s autonomy by entering into a relationship with the state in regards to obtaining approval. With that said being said, we are only speaking of a relatively weak regulation via the category “approved and authorized religious communities” e.g. if we compare Denmark to Norway. In Norway approved religious communities must report their membership numbers and some other information annually and, additionally, there are several other ways in which the state stays in contact with the religious communities. In Denmark, there is no follow-up on the groups’ status or continued existence after approval. Neither does there seem to be any concrete principles in place regarding the approval of sub-congregations within religious communities when the overall community has obtained approval. Apart for the groups approved in 2012, our examination of the gathered material has yielded examples of reorganization not manifested in new approvals, but rather in name changes and new organizational structures. One such example is Danish Islamic Center, which will therefore also be described briefly in this introduction to what we see as being particularly interesting about religion in Denmark in 2012.

About the Liberal Catholic Church (LCC)

The Liberal Catholic Church is a Christian Church that emerged on the basis of developments within the environment of the so-called Old Catholic Church, of which the Liberal Catholic Church is a splinter group. Furthermore LCC is characterized by an association to theosophy and an emphasis on man as a growing spiritual being and by their practices such as religious healing. The group can therefore be seen as a combination of the elements they share with established, historically Christian churches (e.g. apostolic succession and sacraments) with concepts such as reincarnation. This is, for example, reflected in the christening, where the underlying basis is that the child has lived before, for which reason a cleansing of impurities from earlier lives is performed before the baptism.

On its website, the Liberal Catholic Church is very open about its efforts to obtain approval and is an example of a religious community whose self-designation was part of the problem, especially the term “esoteric”. Thus term is considered to indicate something secret which is not openly accessible to society and therefore is contrary the demands for obtaining approval. The Liberal Catholic Church responded to this and on their website they reflect on how it has been necessary for them to show that the “esoteric” in their understanding of themselves does not mean something inaccessible or secret.

About the Rangjung Yeshe Sangha Association and the Stupa, Karma Kagyu Buddhist Sangha Association

In 2012 two new Buddhist groups have joined the list bringing the number of Buddhist groups with status as approved religious communities up to 13. These are the Rangjung Yeshe Sangha Association and the Stupa, Karma Kagyu Buddhist Sangha Association. Both are part of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and both have centers in Jutland with associated (but not permanently residing) lamas. Put together they have [180 members, which raise the total number to 7.500 members of Buddhist communities in Denmark (corresponding to a third of the estimated total number of Buddhists in Denmark). In total there are 25 monks, lamas and priests in the country in addition to a number who come from abroad on periodical visits.

About the new Romanian Orthodox congregations

In the period 2010-2012, the Romania Orthodox Church has obtained approval of three new congregations in Denmark, two of them in 2012 (Herning and Copenhagen). The congregations have large membership numbers and function as migrant congregations for Romanians in Denmark who wish to be in contact with the Romanian Orthodox Church and participate in the rituals and events that are central to Romanian church and cultural life. As the numbers reveal it is a relatively young congregation with many baptisms; this can be confirmed through conversation with the congregations. The church provides a framework for many young people, e.g. students and young families. The new Romanian Orthodox congregations show how religion changes when society changes. In this case, when the EU changes and admits new member countries and thereby provides the new member countries with easier access to internal mobility within the EU. The admittance of countries with Orthodox Christianity as the majority religion forms the framework for new migration patterns and changes the religious landscapes in pace immigration. Furthermore, the emergence of the many new congregations points to the expansion of the Orthodox milieu in the Scandinavian area, as the new Romanian congregations fall under a new Romanian Orthodox diocese with the main office in Stockholm. The Romanian Orthodox Church is thus, to a greater extent, in the course of establishing itself in the Scandinavian countries. In an interview with the congregations, they emphasize that this is due to their wish to be present, as a church, where the Romanians are. The Romanian Orthodox Church also obtained an approval earlier in Denmark, with the approval of “The Romanian-Orthodox Congregation in Denmark” in 1997. This approval was attached to Romanians in Denmark who were visited by a priest living in Malmø. This priest traveled, and still travels, around to the various groups whenever a need and an opportunity arises. For example, one such congregation gathers in Vor Frue Kirke (Our Lady Church; Folkekirke) in Aarhus. The new groups represent a more organized initiative from above based on decisions made by the Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church and with an organized structure based on the bishop in Stockholm. It is thus possible, from the number of approvals, to see a development within the Romanian-Orthodox environment, which is in part due to developments in the political arena (expansion of the EU), and in part due to a more organized strategy from the side of the church. And, as in the other groups that obtain approval, this happens in a negotiation or adjustment between the specific framework that the individual state puts up and the church’s understanding of itself, e.g. on the organizational level, when it comes to the creation of executive committees, how the budgets and more should be devised and how to account for who one is. To the question of why they are applying for approval, the groups answer that they want orderly conditions in relation to the Danish state and to have the right to perform marriages along with the accompanying benefits. For an elaboration on the development in Orthodox Christianity in Denmark today see the article by Annika Hvithamar here in the online yearbook: “En eller flere kirker? Ortodokse kirker i Danmark”.

Danish Islamic Center

Danish Islamic Center was formerly called Moskeforeningen København, i.e. Copenhagen Mosque Association and consists of a mosque association and an information association (IFL – Islamic Info and Lectures) and is therefore not a new group per se. Danish Islamic Center distinguishes itself from most other Muslims groups in our materials by having Danish as their primary language for both communication on their website and in the Friday prayer. The group is thus an example of how religions that have primarily arrived to Denmark in recent years also develop new groupings, which places emphasis on the Danish language. Within Muslim communities there are different opinions on which languages are legitimate when it comes preaching, for example in relation to the Friday prayer (Friday khutba). Here the focal point has been the question of Arabic as the primary Muslim language opposite the national languages, primarily in the close, Middle Eastern contexts but with the presence of Muslims in a broader global context, the question is now also about the languages affiliated with the new contexts. Danish Islamic Center, as mentioned, is not a group with a new approval (it is from 2009) but a group with a new name and a name that signals a connection to the Danish context. This is also underlined on their website, where there is emphasis on both information about Islam to Danes and on the possibility of conversion (“Islam is for everyone – also for Danes dicenter.dk.

In addition to information and conversion, the website also emphasizes wedding ceremonies and the possibility to give the religious wedding ceremony (nikah) civil validity. This emphasis on wedding ceremonies is something the center shares with several other newly approved groups (se article on wedding ceremonies in the online yearbook “Religion in Denmark 2010”.) Danish Islamic Center mirror a development within the Muslim environments in Denmark where there is a focus on establishing a connection between Islam and a Danish context. This development is thus different than that in migrant religion, where the religious group primarily wishes to offer the linguistic, cultural and ethic context that its users connect with their native country. We looked at this same trend in the online yearbook last year regarding the Danish Orthodox church, Guds Moders Beskyttelses Menighed (Protection of the Mother of God Congregation), which also has Danish as their language of communication and as their religious language. In both instances, both the Orthodox and the Muslim groups, one of the focal points in this process is the priest or imam who themselves have a Danish ethnic or cultural background.

Being an approved religious community

When it comes to the new approved religious societies we can see that they adjust to the format created by the state for managing religious societies by, among other things, establishing themselves as a volunteer organization with democratically chosen executive committees.  Which consequences this may have for a religious community is difficult to define precisely. On the one hand we can suggest that this contributes to making the religious community easier accessible for society and thereby furthering a accommodation to “a Danish model”. On the other hand it is difficult to document whether or not these changes are primarily superficial changes with no real influence on leadership structures or self-understanding. Having to account for who they are in a format framed by the state can in itself be new and foreign to a group. Furthermore, if a group has a strong affiliation to a mother organization in another country the religious communities is put in a situation where it, on the one hand, attaches itself to a Danish context, and, on the other hand, are responsible to a main organization which is often based in their home country. This can lead to new groupings within the environments, which emphasize the new context, but also to conflicts concerning which country is the primary home.

The material in this edition of the online yearbook has been gathered by student workers (all students of Arts): Nikoline Lind Sass-Petersen, Liv Kira Seitzberg, Astrid Lyhne, Stig Asboe, Louise Nabe-Nielsen along with associate professor Jørn Borup (Buddhist numbers and commentaries), associate professor Marie Qvortrup Fibiger (Hindu numbers), and associate professor Marie Vejrup Nielsen (online yearbook editor).

About the online yearbook

The online yearbook Religion in Denmark is published annually by Center for Contemporary Religion at Aarhus University and presents information about the approved religious communities in Denmark.

We are speaking of a significant amount of different religious groupings, which provides us with a foundation for saying something general about religion in Denmark today.

Therefore, the yearbook’s numbers concerning the religious communities’ memberships, buildings, religious specialists and religious practice are accompanied by a number of perspectival articles.