Andrew Brown, religious
reporter for UK daily The
Guardian, argues that the Church of Sweden's recent decision
to bless gay marriages was motivated more by political or financial
motives than egalitarianism.
Last week's decision by the Lutheran
Church of Sweden to bless gay marriages stunned most the religious
world; an overwhelming majority (70%) of church leaders agreed. Gay
couples may marry in its congregations from November 1. Pastors,
however, were given the discretion to refuse to bless a marriage.
Gay marriage became available in Sweden
on May 1 after lawmakers overwhelmingly approved a bill in April.
Sweden is the seventh country to legalize gay marriage.
Brown, however, argues that a tiny, but
politically connected, group of leaders are largely responsible for
the decision, and that at least half the church's bishops condemned
The assembly that runs the church is
elected by only 10% of its members and “the great majority [of
assembly members] are elected on the tickets of secular political
parties,” Brown said.
About three out of four Swedes belong
to the church, which collects a church tax of $750 annually per
member, on average. A church wedding is one of the major perks of
membership that was once mandatory.
The church's decision to treat gay
marriages the same as heterosexual ones fell mainly along party
lines, Brown argues, which puts the church inside the pocket of the
Social Democrats who drove the gay marriage bill through the Riksdag,
the Swedish Parliament.
Leaving only one question: How many gay
couples will be turned away from a church service on November 1?