Via Integra

Fr Mark's progressive Anglo-Catholic take on European Christianity

  • This is my collection of material about the current state of the churches in Europe. I am interested in looking at how they are dealing with the pressing issues of our time: the issues of gay people and women in ministry/ leadership are particularly pressing at the moment, as is the area of declining church attendance.

    I would like to see how Europe's traditional religious institutions are coping with the new Europe currently being forged, in which public opinion and ethical attitudes are becoming inceasingly pan-European, and are evidently presenting a series of strong challenges for the churches.

Church same-sex blessings across Europe

In the Nordic countries, The Church of Sweden has decided to adopt a non-discriminatory principle for marriage, in the light of the recent change to the law there, which removes the category of civil partnerships, converting them all to same-sex marriages . The Bishop of Stockholm  is also a partnered lesbian. Denmark is now planning to follow Sweden, Norway and Iceland in moving to civil same-sex marriage and, in consequence, the Danish government has announced that there will also be same-sex religious marriage available in the Church of Denmark : the same debate is also underway in Iceland There is a report of the first gay marriage in an Icelandic Church, and Reykjavik Gay Pride rather touchingly culminates in a Church of Iceland service

In the Church of Norway, clergy are performing blessings in advance of the new liturgy being approved ; the Church of Norway already accepts partnered gay clergy  . There are also reports of clergy marrying same-sex couples in church  and fears are being expressed that the church’s slow pace in approving an official same-sex marriage rite is putting ordinary Norwegians off  In Finland, the debate is currently calmly proceeding in the same direction , though, as in Norway, clergy are going ahead and blessing same-sex couples in advance of the church authorities’ agreement

All these churches are in full communion with the Church of England (under the Porvoo Agreement), as also is the Old Catholic Church, under a separate agreement. In Sweden,  the Old Catholic Church performs non-discriminatory marriage ceremonies The Old Catholic Synod of Bishops in Europe has voted to allow same-sex blessings and develop a liturgy for them Old Catholic clergy in Germany bless same-sex couples ; and a gay Roman Catholic Austrian priest has moved over to work for the Old Catholic Church there The Old Catholic Church in Switzerland also blesses same-sex couples as also in the Netherlands

In Belgium  and The Netherlands, Protestant churches are blessing same-sex marriages  ; in many Swiss cantons, the Swiss Reformed Church blesses same-sex couples ;; in Spain, it is possible to find a pastor to celebrate a same-sex marriage blessing (all marriages in Spain are civil) ;  .

In Poland, a Protestant pastor blesses same-sex couples ; so also do pastors in France and Romania . In Italy, there are also pastors of the Waldensian Church who bless same- sex couples

In the Lutheran Church (Evangelische Kirche) in Austria , openly partnered gay clergy are employed. In 9 of the 22 Landeskirchen of the Lutheran Church in Germany, public church blessings of same-sex couples are already approved  . Lutheran clergy are amongst those whose relationships have been blessed  In the Baltic States, a Lutheran priest in Latvia was prepared to put his job on the line to show solidarity for the gay community there

There are courageous Roman Catholic clergy braving the wrath of the Vatican by blessing same-sex couples in Belgium  ; Germany     ; France  and Italy , where one priest claims to have married more than 200 same-sex couples . Also, in Italy, there is a report of a priest blessing a trans marriage . In Slovakia, an Eastern Rite Roman Catholic priest talks of his willingness to bless same-sex couples , as did the Roman Catholic Bishop of Evreux in France some years ago .

Even in Portugal, the Secretary of the Roman Catholic Bishops Conference seems to have (inadvertently?) come out in support of same-sex civil partnerships While the Roman Catholic hierarchy in Spain were instructed by the Vatican to fight same-sex marriage legislation, there is evidence that this has cost the church dear in terms of credibility in Spanish society , and has left it “speaking into a vacuum – no-one listens to it.”  75% of the Spanish public disagreed with the bishops’ stand The Roman Catholic Bishop of Bolzano in Italy has also come out in favour if the government there introducing civil partnerships

In the British Isles, where it is believed that as many as half of all civil partnerships are being blessed in church  , large numbers of blessing services take place in England 

They also take place in Scotland ; in Wales ; and in Ireland . The Church of Ireland’s Primate of All Ireland believes that same-sex relationships should perhaps be sanctioned by the church 

In Britain, the Quakers have also decided to celebrate same-sex marriages . The Methodists already bless same-sex couples  ; as do the Unitarians  and Britain’s best-known Evangelical layman has come out in favour of same-sex marriage

Amongst the Eastern Orthodox churches, the Finnish Orthodox Church contains clergy who perform same-sex blessings  ; and, in Russia  , clergy can be found to bless gay couples. There are also Greek Orthodox faithful who are beginning to argue for acceptance of same-sex relationships ; and, although the hierarchy is not exactly on board yet, the Archbishop of Athens has reportedly adopted a more pragmatic line

Map of same-sex marriage laws in Europe, 2010:

Dark blue = civil same-sex marriage; light blue = civil unions or other legal equivalent to marriage; yellow = issue under political consideration; red = constitution currently bans same-sex marriage

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