Sweden – the gay issue
Posted by Fr Mark on October 22, 2009
Church of Sweden says yes to gay marriage
The Synod of the Lutheran Church of Sweden has come down in favour of church weddings for homosexuals in a vote held on Thursday morning.
The decision, which is based on a proposal from the church’s governing board, means that the Church of Sweden will conduct wedding ceremonies for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.
The proposal was approved by 176 of 249 voting members.
The decision comes just three days after the 30th anniversary of the date when homosexuality stopped being classified as a disease in Sweden.
“The Synod’s decision takes a stance in favour of an inclusive view of people. Regardless of whether one is religious or not, this affects the entire social climate and the view of people’s equal value,” said Åsa Regnér, head of the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU), in a statement.
In June, the church board took the first step towards permitting same-sex marriages by submitting a petition to the Church of Sweden Synod – the church’s highest decision-making body.
The board proposed the church continue to perform wedding ceremonies following new legislation which came into force on May 1st and grants same-sex couples in Sweden the same legal marriage status as heterosexuals.
Current church regulations will likely continue to apply in practice, with some alterations, such as replacing “man and wife” with “lawfully wedded spouses” when a homosexual couple is married.
Since 2007, the Church of Sweden, which counts around 74 percent of Swedes as members, has offered gays a religious blessing of their union.
The ruling by the Synod, which has 251 delegates – two of which were absent from Thursday’s vote, puts Sweden among the first countries in the world to allow gays to marry in a major church.
In moving ahead with the decision to perform same-sex marriages, the Church of Sweden ignored concerns expressed earlier this year by the Church of England in a strongly worded letter to Swedish archbishop Anders Wejryd that the move could lead to “an impairment of the relationships between the churches”.
Church of England spokesperson Steve Jenkins confirmed that relations between the two churches may be headed for turbulent phase in the wake of the decision.
“Those concerns remain,” he told The Local, referring to the letter from English bishops Christopher Hill and John Hind.
He added that he didn’t know of any plans by the English Church to issue a formal statement in response to the Church of Sweden’s decision.