ÖREBRO, Sweden (Mennonite Mission Network) – A recent two-day seminar in Sweden presenting the theology of John Howard Yoder in Swedish demonstrates a growing interest in Anabaptist thought and practice in that country.
Some 30 theologians, pastors and theology students representing various backgrounds gathered Oct. 3-4 on the campus of Örebro Missionskola, a free-church seminary in the south-central part of Sweden to hear papers on Yoder's theology.
The seminar was as part of a semester-long course on the noted Mennonite theologian. It was offered as a way of bringing in others who were interested but were not part of that class, according to Mission Network educator Tom Rutschman.
Rutschman was one of the presenters at the seminar.
“A number of papers were presented that point to the influence [Yoder’s] theology has had on a whole generation of Swedish theologians,” he said. Seminar participants showed considerable interest in Mennonite convictions on peace, community, simple living and radical discipleship.
According to Björn Cedersjö, an ethics teacher at the Baptist (Evangeliska frikyrkan) seminary in Örebro and the event’s organizer, the seminar featured papers exclusively by people living in Sweden. Even though most Swedes can read English very well, "Anabaptist theology also needs to be done in Swedish," Cedersjö said.
University students are accustomed to reading much of their course material in English, said Rutschman, who serves as a middle-school teacher in Jokkmokk. So even though not all of Yoder’s books have been translated into Swedish, that doesn’t present a serious impediment to studying his work.
“But to read things in your own language strengthens the message,” Rutschman said. “I was glad to contribute to the growing body of Anabaptist literature written in Swedish.
“The perception is that this kind of radical theology needs to grow as local theology, and from the enthusiasm of the participants, it obviously is a challenge to the free churches in Sweden,” he said.
Rutschman also provides leadership in Jokkmokk’s free-church congregation.
As one of the few Mennonites living in Sweden, Rutschman said the invitation to present at the seminar was one he couldn’t turn down.
"It gave me a very good reason to re-read a number of books on my shelf and once again be impressed by the depth and perceptiveness of John Howard Yoder," Rutschman said.