On January 1 the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden began a new era of independence from the Swedish government. Though the new arrangement is far from realizing an American-style separation of church and state, the enactment of this reform represents an important new step in a long process of changing relations between state and church in Sweden. The significance of the recent moves can be understood only in light of Sweden’s rather complicated church-state tradition.
When Lutheranism became Sweden’s state religion during the 16th century, the reformation was closely connected to the emergence of a centralized state. The king was the head of the church, and the church and the Swedish people were regarded as identical entities.