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 move.

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?