Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Nathan Söderblom: Called to Serve

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Nathan Söderblom: Called to Serve

Article excerpt

Nathan Söderblom: Called to Serve. By Jonas Jonson. Trans, by Norman A. Hjelm. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2016, Pp. xi, 449. $45.00.)

Throughout 2017 churches of various denominations will mark the five hundredth anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. These observances provide opportunities to reflect on the gifts of the Reformation, as well as the division that has marred Christianity since. Earliest among those working to bring Christians back into unity was Nathan Söderblom, archbishop of Uppsala in the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden from 1914 until his death in 1931. The Reformation anniversary is a fitting time to recall Söderblom and his legacy.

Jonas Jonson, a retired bishop in the Church of Sweden, has written a singularly impressive and engaging biography: Nathan Söderblom: Called to Serve. Tracing Söderblom's life from his youth as the son of a conservative parish priest in remote northern Sweden, through his studies and activism at the University of Uppsala, his cure as a chaplain to Swedes in Paris, professorships in Uppsala and Leipzig, and ultimately his tenure as archbishop of Sweden's state church, Jonson artfully brings Söderblom to life, addressing his personal life and theological influences, professional successes and set-backs, and especially his pioneering ecumenical vision.

Söderblom's interest in Christian unity was sparked, as a twenty-four-year old student, by a visit to the United States for an evangelical revival. There he encountered enthusiastic young Christians who came together in shared faith across denominational divides. Later, as a priest, academic, and archbishop, Söderblom was particularly attracted to Anglicanism, finding similarities in doctrine and practice with Swedish Lutheranism. Over time, he came to view his own Uppsala archbishopric as one of Christianity's great patriarchates, alongside Rome, Constantinople, and Canterbury, with a call to unify Lutherans and churches of the Reformation.

From a global standpoint, Söderblom's greatest achievement was the World Conference of Life and Work, held in Stockholm in 1925. …

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