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Livets Ord, literally Word of the Life, is the largest parish within the Swedish Word of Faith movement. The parish was founded in Uppsala by Ulf Ekman on May 24, 1983, who also served as its leader until 2000. Ekman passed on the local pastorship in Uppsala to Robert Ekh that year and instead began working on expanding the church's international work. In 2014 Ekman and his wife Birgitta Ekman converted to Roman Catholicism. Livets Ord is the foremost example of the Charismatic movement in Sweden, closely related to Word of Faith, and it may be viewed as a Swedish expression similar to Pentecostal elements in American Christianity.
According to its supporters, Livets Ord's primary goal is to help believers put into practice what the Bible says. Faith, healing, prayer and answers to prayer, together with a conviction that God is good, are central themes in the preaching at Livets Ord. The church focuses its messages on everyday life.
When it was founded the movement met with criticism from mass media and other churches, due to what was perceived as an inhumane perspective against people who suffer from physical disabilities and financial poverty, coupled with its authoritarian leadership. Since then the movement has consolidated, and its views have emerged as somewhat more acceptable to Swedish free churches.
In conjunction with the Christian Zionists in the United States, the Livets Ord operate a fund to supply money to Russian Jews who want to move to Israel. The fund, named "Operation Jabotinsky", is named after Russian Vladimir Jabotinsky.
Livets Ord Theological Seminary
The congregation had its own institution of tertiary education, Livets Ord Theological Seminary, between 1994 and 2014. It was affiliated with an American institution, Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the largest charismatic Christian university in the world, accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Livets Ord Theological Seminary offered American Bachelor's and Master's degrees in New Testament Studies, History, Education, and other fields under the auspices of Oral Roberts University, but it was never accredited by the Swedish National Agency for Higher Education to award Swedish academic degrees.
In February, 2014, Livets Ord announced its decision to close the seminary, because it had been operating under a loss for some time.
Some of its critics consider it a cult because of its connection with, and usage of theology from within the Word of faith movement, though its teachings now are broadened with other, more classical, theology. (See the article about Ulf Ekman).
In an article published in Cultic Studies Journal in 1992, forty-three former students of Livets Ord Bible School were interviewed. Nearly 50 percent of the forty-three students had experienced psychosis-like symptoms, and 25 percent had attempted suicide. Also common were anxiety, feelings of guilt, and emotional disorders.
There has also been criticism, published in the Swedish paper Dagens Nyheter, against donations given to Israelis which have promoted settlements in the Israeli-occupied territories. Ekman countered the statement, saying that the donations never have been to occupied territories, but to settlements on Israeli ground, for example in the Negev desert. The movement advocates Christian Zionism.
The teaching methods and parts of the curriculum of schools run by Livets Ord have been under review by the Swedish National Agency for Education on several occasions, but the schools have only been criticized on minor details.
- (Swedish) Livets Ord - Official site
- Ulf Ekman - Site of the founder (In English)
- Livets Ord Theological Seminary (In English)
- Livets Ord Bibleschool (In English)
- (Swedish) Dagens Nyheter: Ulf Ekman helps Jewish settlers
- (Swedish) Ulf Ekmans response to the above article
- Psychiatric Problems in Ex-Members of Word of Life
- (Swedish) Livets Ord och dess ledare Ulf Ekman: Is Word of Life a cult? - Critical website by an ex-member. Last retrieved in 15 June 2007.