It caused more than just a stir when a well-known Swedish megachurch pastor told his congregation he planned to covert to Catholicism. In fact, Ulf Ekman described it as a a "real uproar" in his overwhelmingly Protestant nation and opened the door to "contention and debate."
Despite Ekman's well-known and growing fascination with Catholicism over a number of years, Word of Life members were shocked, and some were dismayed. Nevertheless, Ekman doesn't see how he or the church could have handled it differently. These are among the revelations Ekman shared in a column written for the Catholic Herald.
"Yet there were many emotions: criticism, as well as sorrow and feelings of loss and rejection. How could I as a pastor leave my flock? Did I not betray them and my own calling? Didn't I consider them Christians anymore? Was everything I taught before wrong now? Some wondered how I, who seem to have been standing strong for so many years, could fall for such an outright deception and lie. Accusations were hurled from left and right, and emotions ran high. Some still do," he wrote.
Ekman made it clear that he's not rejecting his background or the rich ministerial experiences he has had over the many years as a founder and leader of Word of Life. He stressed that he's forever thankful to the Lord for that season but is immensely happy to be part of the Catholic Church.
"So now, as we begin this walk, there is so much to explore. Now that all our former duties, obligations and positions are gone, we can, at least for now, live at a pace that allows a more reflective life. We have been used to constantly upholding the ministry, our church. Now the Church lifts us up," Ekman wrote.
"The sacraments have become a tangible reality in our lives, and they sustain us in a concrete way. Something—grace, I am sure—is here in a way that it was not before. A fresh breeze is blowing through our lives. We look forward to exploring and fully identifying with all that we now are a part of. It is very exciting to live fully for Jesus Christ—in the Catholic Church."