Countdown to gay marriage in Swedish churches

The Church of Sweden will begin marrying same-sex couples in churches on All Saints Day.

The Synod of the Lutheran Church of Sweden voted yesterday to permit church weddings for homosexuals. The vote confirms a proposal by the church’s governing board passed last May, and passed by a 176 to 73 margin. It was just thirty years ago when homosexuality stopped being classified as a disease in Sweden.

Ekklesia reports how the process will work in the Lutheran church in Sweden, which is no longer a state church but is still the largest denomination in that country. Last May, the Church of Sweden voted to eliminate the distinction between blessing registered partnership and marriage. Previously, it accepted same-sex unions but reserved the title of “marriage” to heterosexual couples.

The new legislation has eliminated legal distinctions between heterosexual and homosexual spouses, but does not force clergy to wed gay couples. A church official said individual priests would still not be required to perform gay marriages.

However, churches must ensure they can marry same-sex couples, if necessary,by bringing in a minster from outside the parish to perform the ceremony.

“It is a question of being human. One of the Bible quotations central to the Lutheran tradition is, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself’,” Archbishop Anders Wejryd said in September 2009 on Swedish public service television’s Rapport news programme. “This means that as Christians, we have a responsibility to think independently on the basis of what we believe is good for love, fidelity and equality, at all times.”

The church said back then that the General Synod’s doctrinal commission, which includes the church’s 14 bishops, had agreed by 12 votes to eight that it is possible to accept marriage for same-sex couples. The commission has said that a proposed marriage service that would cover same-sex couples is in accordance with the faith, creed and doctrine of the Church of Sweden.

It is unclear what the response of the Church of England will be. Both Churches are part of the Porvoo Communion, n agreement between British and Irish Anglican churches and Lutheran churches in the Nordic and Baltic countries.

The BBC says “Sweden was one of the first countries to give gay couples legal “partnership” rights, in the mid-1990s, and to allow gay couples to adopt children from 2002. It become the fifth European country, after the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Norway, to recognise same-sex marriage.”

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