SWEDEN What is Sweden’s church election and how does it work? Sugar Mizzy September 13, 2021 The Lutheran Church of Sweden retains a special position in Sweden, even though church and state were officially separated in 2000. Yet it is Europe’s largest Lutheran community, and worldwide only Ethiopia and Tazmania have major Lutheran ecclesiastical bodies. The head office is located in Uppsala and is led by Antje Jackelén, Sweden’s first female archbishop, and its main roles are to offer services including weddings, baptisms and funerals, but also offers support to members of its congregations and even assistance abroad. The candidates in the election are sometimes linked to political parties, with the Social Democrats currently the largest represented group and the Center Party and the Sweden Democrats also fielding candidates. Some other groups are linked to certain political parties, such as the Christian Democrats in the Church of Sweden, the Left in the Church of Sweden, the Green Party in the Church of Sweden and the free liberals in the Church of Sweden. Other groups without any political party ties are also fielding candidates, including non-partisans in the Church of Sweden (Posk), which became the second largest group in the 2017 election. One of the big questions is how the church’s funds should be used, but there are also debates about how the church should be run. The Christian Democrats, for example, are in favor of the introduction of Christian schools, the left wants to devote more money to the church’s social work to support vulnerable parishioners, and some parties have also taken a clear stand on whether priests should be required to marry same-sex couples. Sweden’s church elections were held in national elections at the time when it was a state church, and there are elections to the synod’s 249 seats, as well as at the diocesan and parish level. The elections take place every four years, just like Sweden’s general elections – even if they are run on different schedules. Even if they ended up planned for the same year, as it looked possible this year when Sweden’s Prime Minister resigned, the two can not be held on the same day due to rules that state elections must be conducted in a neutral way (value neutral in Swedish). The other big difference between the two votes is that while Sweden usually has a high turnout for its parliamentary elections, the church election usually sees low turnout. In the previous poll, only 19 percent of those eligible to vote went to the polls, which was still the highest turnout since 1934. About half of the population has the right to vote, which requires that you are over 16 years old and a member of the Church. Until 1996, newborns automatically became members unless their parents opted out, but this was changed to participation.