After stunning his nondenominational megachurch last month with an announcement that he is converting to Catholicism, Swedish pastor Ulf Ekman is speaking out about why he’s making the dramatic theological transition.
Ekman, who recently retired as preacher of Word of Life Church in Uppsala, Sweden, a more than 3,000-member church he founded in 1983, recently told the Catholic Herald what led to his change of heart.
Perhaps most notable is his admission that his theological rooting and studies were “anti-Catholic” — so much so that he and his church once prayed against Pope John Paul II’s 1989 visit to Sweden.
At the time, Ekman said his church believed that the pontiff did not have ideas that were rooted in scripture.
“When the pope came to Sweden — which was very unusual, because there had never been a pope in Sweden before — we prayed that he would not have an influence that was unscriptural,” Ekman told the outlet. “I have publicly asked for forgiveness for this. Where we were at that time, that’s what we thought was the truth.”
He also detailed the experiences that eventually led him to the Catholic faith.
It all began in 1998, he said, when he embarked on a “quest” to better understand the state of Christianity as a whole. In addition to exploring key questions about the mission of nondemoninational houses of worship, he began considering the future of the faith movement.
“It was an understanding of the stability and historicity of the church that intrigued me,” he said. “As I started to study this, especially ecclesiology, there’s no way you can study that without coming into contact with the Catholic Church. So I discovered one thing after another.”
He and his wife later spent three years in Israel interacting with a diverse pool of Catholics — an experience Ekman said helped to open his eyes to the Catholic faith. Eventually, through prayer and deep consideration, he and his wife decided to convert; they will be confirmed in the spring.
As for his decision to announce this conversion to his former church members last month, Ekman said he was “a bit nervous,” but that it went well.
“I’m a pastor. I love the people and I’ve been with them for 30 years, so I don’t take it lightly at all,” he said. “I’m not flippant about this. I think it’s a serious position. But I felt a calm come over me as I stood there. I could really sense that this was in God’s hands.”
Watch him speak with congregants about his newfound denominational switch below:
Members of Word of Life Church obviously had a lot of questions about the conversion. While many said they didn’t understand, others were supportive.
But many curiosities likely remain, though Ekman told the Catholic Herald that he truly believes this is something God led him to.
“I’ve been asked: ‘Does that me that everything you’ve taught was wrong?’ My answer to that is no,” he added. “I believe I’ve taught the Bible to the best of my ability. We’ve preached the Gospel and evangelized according to the light we’ve had.”
Read the entire interview here.
(H/T: Christianity Today)