- Reformation propaganda reached Denmark in the 1520s and won early support. An evangelical hymn book in the vernacular appeared in 1528, and in 1530 a group of ministers in Copenhagen promulgated the Confessio Hafniensis (Copenhagen Confession). Hans Tavsen (1494-1561) emerged as the leading Lutheran advocate. In the mid-1530s, King Christian II was won to the Lutheran cause. After suppressing the main opponents, he declared the state church to be Lutheran (1537). Bishops who remained loyal to Rome were dismissed from their posts and imprisoned. A national assembly held in Copenhagen in October 1536 officially removed them from office, and the next year they were replaced by seven Protestant superintendents. The king was named head of the church, and he took possession of all church lands.The Protestantizing of the Danish church proceeded in stages. A church order introduced worship in the vernacular, built around preaching and congregational singing. A Danish-language Bible was published in 1550, and an authorized hymn book in 1569. Emerging as prominent second-generation leaders were Bishop Peder Palladius (d. 1560), Wittenberg-trained theologian Niels Hemmingsen, and hymn-writer Hans Christensen Sthen.The role of the king was strengthened in 1665, when a new law gave him the right to make all decisions concerning the church. A 1683 law defined the church as "the King's religion," characterized by conformity to the Bible, the three creeds of the ancient church, the Augsburg Confession of Faith, and Martin Luther's Small Catechism.At the beginning of the 18th century, Pietism, with its emphasis on personal religion and small informal gatherings, spread at the courts of Kings Frederick IV and Christian IV The movement was strengthened by the arrival of Moravian Brethren, who found a level of tolerance and acceptance in Denmark.Frederick IV turned to the Pietists at Halle University in Germany for recruits for his planned mission to India. Two Halle graduates, Bartholomew Ziegenbalg (1682-1719) and Heinrich Plütschau (1677-1747), answered the call. The Danish church leadership resisted, but the king managed to get the men ordained. They arrived at the Danish colony at Tranquebar in India in July 1706. Their work, known as the Danish-Halle Mission, is now seen as the beginning of the modern Protestant global missionary enterprise.The Danish-Halle Mission inspired Count Nicolaus von Zinzendorf, the Moravian leader, to develop the first diverse missionary endeavor by a Protestant church body. In Copenhagen in 1730, Zinzendorf met two Greenland Eskimos and an African slave from the West Indies named Anthony who were seeking missionaries to work among their peoples. Zinzendorf presented their request to his Moravian colleagues; they responded by initiating work in the Danish West Indies in 1732 and in Greenland in 1733. Within a decade they extended their endeavors to North and South America and South Africa.The influence of Pietism in the Danish court led to an extensive reform of church discipline, confirmation, and schooling. The many hymns by Hans Adolph Brorson introduced Pietism to the laity.Through the 19th century, various movements initiated work in Denmark including the Baptists, Methodists, Seventh-day Adventist Church, Quakers, and Jehovah's Witnesses. The Baptists eventually formed the Baptist Union of Denmark. The Methodists remained connected to their American parents and are now an integral part of the United Methodist Church. The Witnesses are the largest Free Church movement in the country Pentecostalism has established itself, but has not enjoyed the success it has manifested in other Scandinavian countries.In 1953, Denmark adopted a new constitution. It recognizes the Lutheran Church as the national church, or more popularly stated, the People's Church (Danske Folkekirke), to which the great majority of the Danish public belongs. The relationship is confirmed in the church tax, which the government collects for support of the church. All citizens pay this tax; the small number who are members of other religious communities pay an equivalent amount for their support. In 1975, the law was modified to allow non-Lutherans to be buried in church-controlled cemeteries. Most non-Lutheran groups now have official recognition, the most important benefit being that their ministers may conduct legal marriages.The Danish Lutheran Church includes Greenland and the Faeroe Islands as well. In 1919, church leaders created the Danish Church Abroad, a structure that oversees congregations of expatriate Danes in countries around the world. In Denmark, 4.6. million of the 5.2 million citizens are considered members of the Folkekirke, yet church participation by the citizenry is among the lowest in Europe. Denmark is noted for its high levels of secularization and indifference to religion.The Folkekirke is the leading member of the Ecumenical Council of Denmark, which includes a number of the smaller Protestant bodies (and the Roman Catholics). The council is affiliated with the World Council of Churches.Further reading:■ H. Fledelius and B. Jull, Freedom of Religion in Denmark (Copenhagen: Danish Centre for Human Rights, 1992)■ P. Hartling, The Danish Church, trans. by S. Mammen (Copenhagen: Danish Institute, 1965)■ L. S. Hunter, Scandinavian Churches: a Picture of the Development of the Churches of Denmark, Norway, Finland, Iceland, and Sweden (London: Faber & Faber, 1965).
Encyclopedia of Protestantism. Gordon Melton. 2005.
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