Megachurch leader Ulf Ekman of the Word of Life ministry in Sweden has announced that he and his wife Birgitta have converted to Roman Catholicism. The announcement, according to reports, has left some in his congregation "partially stunned."
In his explanation onhis website, Ekman says the conversations he and Birgitta had with Catholics challenged their "protestant prejudices" and led them to the realization that they "in many cases did not have any basis for our criticism of them."
"We needed to know the Catholic faith better. This led us to … realize that it was actually Jesus Christ who led us to unite with the Catholic Church," the pastor stated.
Ekman said the conversion came after several years of contemplation.
"We have seen a great love for Jesus and a sound theology, founded on the Bible and classic dogma. We have experienced the richness of sacramental life. We have seen the logic in having a solid structure for priesthood, that keeps the faith of the church and passes it on from one generation to the next," he explained. "We have met an ethical and moral strength and consistency that dare to face up to the general opinion, and a kindness towards the poor and the weak. And, last but not least, we have come in contact with representatives for millions of charismatic Catholics and we have seen their living faith."
Ekman founded the charismatic Livets Ord (Word of Life) in Uppsala, Sweden, in 1983, and has served as pastor there for close to 30 years.
His website credits his ministry for constructing Scandinavia's biggest free church building, which led to his ministry expanding globally and reaching countries all over Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and regions in Asia. His teachings have been recorded in books found in 60 different languages.
He noted that the couple's decision is a personal one and he does not expect Word of Life to also embrace the Catholic Church.
"We love the church that we have been a part of building and serving for the last thirty years, and we could never be anything but grateful for the time we have had together, but we have felt a clear calling from the Lord to take this new step," Ekman concluded. "Now, when we do so, we are convinced that the Word of Life church is in good hands and will keep prospering and bear fruit in it's (sic) on (sic) vision."