Church of Sweden open to listen to "polyamory" during Pride month
The Church of Sweden in Malmö wants to listen to stories of "polyamory." According to its leadership, this is necessary to fulfil its mission of "reconciling diversity." However, not everybody in Sweden agrees.
To talk about diversity in its complete sense, the Church should pay attention to "polyamory", Helena Myrstener and Gunilla Hallonsten, pastoral workers from the church in Malmö, write in an opinion article in church magazine Kyrkans Tidning. Polyamory is the "ability to feel romantic love for more than one person at a time", the authors write. The concept includes, but is not limited to, open relationships.
The openness to polyamory is not self-evident for Myrstener and Hallonsten either. They refer to the Biblical description of marriage as the covenant between Christ and His Church (Ephesians 5). They call this the "Christian heritage”.
However, one human being can never satisfy all needs of another human being, the authors say. Therefore, they consider breaking with this perception. "Is not the claim hidden in this view unattainable in practice?" they ask rhetorically in their article.
Love is the centre of Christian faith, the pastoral workers assert. Therefore, it might be possible that love is unlimited and should not be controlled by norm systems that can sometimes be "experienced as unreflective, routine and stagnant."
As society is accepting sexual diversity more and more, the Church should look at this trend openly. "It is life-affirming, soul-caring and a pastoral care to listen to the voices that want to live and already live outside the norm of duality", the two write.
According to them, it is the Church's responsibility to look into the heads and hearts of people. A conversation on polyamory shows that the Church is interested in what keeps people busy and what their feelings and needs are, Helena Myrstener and Gunilla Hallonsten find. "That way, we can all learn more about what it is to be human."
Furthermore, Myrstener and Hallonsten justify their position by pointing out that God has created man "into a rich diversity of crackling rainbow colours" and "calls man to explore the depth, height and breadth of love."
The newspaper Dagen asked Hallonstein whether the church should bless polyamorous relationships. But she does not go as far as that, she says. “We want to ask the questions so that people can talk about this. But we are not saying that it should be in a certain way.”
Instead, it is important to acknowledge that many people struggle with marriage and its duality, Hallonsten says. “I think a respectful conversation about this is a win-win for everyone.”
Not all people agree with the decision of the Church to be open to conversations on polyamory. "When a married person falls in love with a third person, and this becomes known, it is often associated with difficult feelings of betrayal and abandonment for the former party", Inger Lindeskog responds to the opinion article. She points out that humans need "closeness, care and security" and that it is impossible to compare a polyamorous relationship to the love of the Triune God.
A certain Miriam comments under the opinion article that the Church's mission is not "reconciling diversity" but telling people about the Gospel. According to her, a growing group within the Church "is more committed to people's right to sexual freedom than people's eternal wellbeing." Miriam furthermore asserts that the argument of the Church that God is love and thus blesses any form of sexuality is invalid. "God is love, but that does not mean that God's will is the same that he blesses any other form of sexual relationships than what is written in His Word."
On Twitter, people are critical of the proposal of the two priests as well, Varlden iDag writes. “Should the Church of Sweden not start talking about incestuous relationships as well? Why not? Love is always bigger” Susanna Birgersson tweeted. She continues that no distinction is made between “divine, self-giving love and all kinds of human desires.”
Jacob Rudenstrand, the Deputy of the Swedish Evangelical Alliance, points out that polyamory has been practiced in African countries. “Will you listen to the experiences where polyamory has left behind wounded family relationships and neglect of children?” he states on Twitter.
According to Hallonsten the Church has a responsibility to meet people who struggle with existential issues concerning love and relationships. “It is important to allow event he loaded questions without saying this is how it should be.”
Free Church Norway keeps traditional view on marriage
Old Catholic church in Switzerland allows same-sex marriages