Megachurch pastor converts to Catholicism with announcement that shocks his congregation.
Earlier this year, megachurch leader Ulf Ekman, who was the head of the more than 3000 member Word of Life church in Uppsala, Sweden, shocked his congregation by announcing his decision to convert to Roman Catholicism. This led to a barrage of questions from his members, among whom were mixed reactions.
People have been responding to Ekman’s theological switch in different ways, from anger to sadness to confusion. Some are of the belief that his journey to conversion had started as far back as 2007 and are therefore not surprised.
On his ministry’s website he released a statement titled, “Pastor Ulf Ekman to Be Accepted Into the Catholic Church” that gave details concerning his conversion, stating that “a process of many years of prayer and reflection led to this decision” to convert. The statement went on to explain that he and his wife found interest in the Catholic Church’s “sacramental lifestyle” while additionally revering what Ekman referred to as “a solid structure for priesthood.”
Ekman, who founded Word of Life in 1983, announced before his congregation in March that he and his wife, Birgitta, are converting to Roman Catholicism. He said that he and his wife were influenced by “millions of charismatic Catholics” they saw living out their faith. “[We] have gone from discovering new things, to appreciating what we have discovered, to approach and even learn from our fellow Christians,” he stated. “We have seen a great love for Jesus and a sound theology, founded on the Bible and classic dogma.”
In an interview with Catholic Herald, Ekman spoke of his former church’s reaction to his announcement. He said, “Well, it became very quiet. And when it becomes quiet in a charismatic church, then you know people are thinking. When I’d finished there was actually spontaneous applause. That surprised me a lot and many, many people came up to me afterwards.” In the interview, the Word of Life founder reminisced on the process and steps he and his wife took over the years in coming to this conclusion.
One significant admission was that most of his religious studies had up to then been mostly anti-Catholic to the point that he and his congregation once prayed against Pope John Paul II’s visit to Sweden in 1989. However he has already publicly asked for forgiveness since then.
He also reflected on the experiences and situations in his life that ultimately led him to accept the Catholic faith. Back in 1998, Ekman had taken it upon himself to better understand the whole Christian community, and he began pondering questions about the mission of nondenominational churches and the future of the faith movement. He and his wife spent three years in Israel with many Catholics; an experience he admitted helped to reverse his view about the Catholic faith. In the long run, through intense prayer and thoughts, he and his wife decided to convert.
In terms of whether his teachings while still with his former church were wrong, he replied “No, I believe I’ve taught the Bible to the best of my ability. We’ve preached the Gospel and evangelized according to the light we’ve had.”