Church of Sweden to decide about priest who refuses to seal same-sex marriage


Northern Europe

Lennart Nijenhuis,

The Church of Sweden fully embraces same-sex marriage. People with a homosexual orientation can also be installed in offices. On the picture is Swedish gay priest Eva Brunne (l.) She was ordained a few weeks after the Church allowed same-sex weddings in church. Photo AFP, Staffan Claesson

Next week, the Synod of the Church of Sweden is to vote on a motion that sparked intense debate among believers. The main question is: should priests who object to sealing a same-sex marriage be stripped from their authority?

In Sweden, priests have the authority to seal marriages as official registrars. Thus, the union they seal is valid in Church and civilly. The motion proposes that the Church of Sweden classifies conscientious objections against sealing same-sex marriage in the Church as discrimination. As a consequence of that, priests who do not want to bless a same-sex marriage in Church should lose their priesthood, the motion reads, according to Kyrkans Tidning, the Church's bulletin.

The Synod is the highest decision-making body of the Church of Sweden, Kyrkans Tidning explains. The Synod has 251 members and meets twice every year. The Synod comes together in the Swedish town of Upsalla. Political parties also take place in the Synod. They have elected representatives who can influence the decision-making within the Church. The Social Democrats are the largest political party in the Synod of the Church of Sweden.

The motion was put forward by the Social Democrat leader Jesper Enerot. He wants the Synod to fire any priest who "discriminates against someone because of their gender, age, ethnicity or sexual orientation" and also wants it to be established that "it is considered discriminatory to refrain from marrying a same-sex couple solely because the couple is of the same sex."

The Centre Party ©, the Left Party (Visk) and the Open Church party (Öka) support the bill. If all members of these parties vote in favour, the proposal will be passed by a majority. However, it is uncertain whether this will happen.

Since the motion was drafted in August, it has received much criticism. The spokesperson of Frimodig Church called it a betrayal to priests with a classical view on marriage, as the Church of Sweden established earlier that two visions on marriage were allowed.

Furthermore, the chairman of the Ecumenical groups for Christian LGBTQ persons, Robin Paulonen, said that the motion polarised the Church and proposed that priests should be educated more so that more are convinced to seal same-sex marriages.


Former Archbishop Antje Jackelén also believes coercive measures are not the right way to convince priests to bless same-sex marriages. She says there are already procedures to deal with discriminating priests and sees no reason to expand these measures.

In 2009, the Synod of the Church of Sweden allowed same-sex marriages in Church. It then decided that parishes were responsible for implementing the blessing and that priests had the right to abstain. The Church then also established that different views on same-sex marriages were allowed but rejected any form of discrimination against same-sex couples. Since then, the debate has played up several times. Last March, the bishop's meeting published a statement in which they wrote that they still supported the 2009 decision and want that "all priests with joy and free will marry couples of different sexes as well as of the same sex."



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