The small, island nation of Iceland was probably reached by Irish monks sometime around 800 AD, but its first permanent settlers were Vikings led by Ingolfur Arnarson. Other Viking settlers soon came and the Althing, the world’s oldest surviving parliament was established. After 300 years, however, Lutheranism was forced upon the people by arbitration. The people later succumbed to foreign rule by Denmark in the 1660s. Denmark outlawed the Althing. However, after several revolutions on the European continent removed absolutism, the Althing reconvened and began working to regain Iceland’s sovereignty and international trade influence. English soldiers were present on Iceland during World War II, and the nation declared independence from Denmark in 1944. Since then, Iceland has elected the first popularly elected female head of state, Vigdis Finnbogadottir (1980), and earned international recognition as a sovereign nation.
Church History and the Movement Today
Viking paganism was the religion of the Icelandic people until foreign influence came from the European continent. Lutheranism was forcefully imposed upon Iceland’s people hundreds of years ago, and the people eventually grew to accept it. Today, almost 87 percent of its people claim connection to the Evangelical Lutheran Church, but most rarely attend church. Religious freedom exists, and a small percentage of Icelanders claim to be Roman Catholic or of other denominations.
Norwegian missionaries first brought the Pentecostal message to Iceland in 1922. In March of 1995, the Assemblies of God in the United States and the Pentecostal Church of Iceland partnered to open a gospel radio station, Radio Lindin (The Spring). It broadcasts 24 hours a day, seven days a week under the direction of Assemblies of God missionaries Mike and Sheila Fitzgerald.
Additional Facts About Iceland
- Capital: Reykjavik
- Area: 39,699 square miles
- Population: 329,000
- Urbanization: 94 Percent
- Language: Icelandic (Islenska)
- Agriculture: Potatoes, turnips and livestock
- Industry: Fishing, mining, wool products, textiles and aluminum