From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
United Methodists in Sweden have tax option
17 Dec 1999 13:33:19
Dec. 17, 1999 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212) 870-3803·New York
By United Methodist News Service
Beginning in 2001, United Methodists in Sweden will have the option of
paying a church tax collected through the government's regular taxation
That action will be granted under Sweden's new "Religious Communities Act,"
which provides all churches and religious communities with the right to
establish their own identities as well as the option to use the income tax
system to collect membership fees. However, each member must consent to
participation in the plan.
In separate government legislation, Sweden's Lutheran Church will lose its
state church status on Jan. 1 and become a "free church."
The United Methodist Church, which serves a community of about 9,000 people,
has started an information campaign about its use of the tax system for
membership fees, according to Bishop Hans Vaxby, who oversees Northern
Europe. The fee is not intended as a replacement for tithing but will give
less active or faraway members or friends a way to support the church
regularly. The fee will be 0.8 percent of a member's taxable income. Thirty
percent of the proceeds would go to local churches and 70 percent would be
for connectional mission programs.
For Lutherans, who make up about 90 percent of Sweden's population, the
membership fee will be mandatory. But because the church is afraid of losing
members, "they have no objection to the fact that people continue to go to
other churches if they retain their membership in the Lutheran Church,"
Vaxby said. Those members also could voluntarily pay a fee to another
The Lutheran Church will continue to retain some status under the new
system. "We have no objections that they keep their property and keep their
positions in many social contexts," Vaxby added. "We have no interest in
making the Lutheran Church weaker."
One other Scandinavian country, Norway, has a church tax. The mandatory tax
is taken from all citizens. "In the case of Methodists who pay that, the
state transfers the tax to the United Methodist Church," the bishop
explained. The money disbursed to the denomination goes directly to an
annual conference fund guaranteeing minimum salary to all pastors.
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United Methodist News Service
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