Thinking Anglicans

letter from Sweden

A little while ago, the response of the Church of England to a letter from the Church of Sweden was published in connection with General Synod Questions.

This was also reported on in the Church Times and elsewhere.

The full text of the letter from Sweden to which the reply was being made was not available at that time. But it is now, and, with the approval of the Church of Sweden, is reproduced in full below the fold.

THE ARCHBISHOP
CHURCH OF SWEDEN
UPPSALA

Uppsala, March 2009.

Dear friends within the Porvoo Communion,

Within the Porvoo Communion we are committed to keep one another informed about major issues that are going on within our churches. As you know, the Church of Sweden has, for a long time, been involved with questions pertaining to unions for homosexual partners. As of 1995 Church of Sweden blesses couples who are registered partners by a civil ceremony. The Porvoo Communion has discussed these issues for a long time and I think that we will have them on the agenda for a long time to come. The Swedish society is transforming rapidly and I want to let you know what is happening right now.

In many of our countries the situation and rights of same-sex couples are being discussed. Some churches have also worked with the theological perspectives. The Church of Sweden has, as you might know, decided to offer a ceremony of praying for and blessing same-sex couples who have registered partnership since 1995 and a liturgical order for it since 2007. Some material, translated into English, has been shared with you before.

The decisions of Church of Sweden are based on intense and thorough theological discussions and are of course decisions relating to the Swedish context. Church of Sweden wants to stress and support faithful and lasting relationships. However, we have no intention of propagating our position to others. Since the nineties the bishops have for theological reasons unanimously supported the right of homosexuals to live together and have also maintained that the church can support and pray for these couples.

The issue has been brought up at Porvoo meetings and consultations, and also led to discussions, committee work and decisions within the Lutheran World Federation.

The political majority in Sweden has for some years wanted to abolish the difference between the institution of registered partnership and that of marriage. The differences in actual legal consequences are minimal already but the terminology differs. In early 2008 the Central Board of the Church of Sweden took the stance to accept a law covering both forms of unions but wanting to uphold the terminological distinction. A minority wanted to use the same term. A majority of the board wanted the Church to continue to perform the legal part of weddings and also include registering same-sex unions.

The Swedish parliament is now in the process of deciding upon a new law that will include hetero- and homosexual couples. Only one party, the Christian Democratic Party with around 5% of the voters behind it, wants to uphold a difference between partnership and matrimony. We can foresee a decision on a new law this spring, which will go into effect already from 1st May. The law will include the right for churches to perform the legal office both for heterosexual and homosexual couples. There will be no obligation for any church, pastor or priest to act against their own convictions.

This autumn the General Synod of the Church of Sweden will decide how to act. There will be no possibility to register partnership any longer and there would then be no way for the church to bless same-sex couples after 1st May. The church would then only have a rite for heterosexual couples. The Central Board, the Bishops’ Conference and the Doctrinal Commission are therefore now preparing for the deliberations and decisions of the General Synod at the end of October this year.

There is a majority among the bishops, in the Doctrinal Commission and in the Central Board for expanding the concept of marriage to include same-sex couples. This probably also goes for the General Synod.

There has, however, been a discussion among the bishops about a compulsory civil marriage in Sweden, similar to that which is common in continental Europe. On that issue a majority of the bishops are for a compulsory civil marriage. Among the laity the opinion seems to be the opposite.

The most probable outcome is that the General Synod will decide that the church will continue to handle the legal part of the wedding, including same-sex couples, under the presupposition that no individual pastor/priest is forced to act against his or her conscience. Sweden also has a tradition of a civil ceremony to conduct a marriage ceremony that is handled by the legal community.

It is all the more probable as the church has a strict policy not to discriminate against homosexuals and the church has already taken the most important decision, that of accepting and blessing same-sex couples.

All our churches are self-governed. We cannot force decisions upon each other. However it is to me of utmost importance to keep you informed of what is going on and we are of course ready to inform you more if so wanted.

Yours in Christ

Anders Wejryd, Archbishop

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Ford ElmsFr MarkCharlieNoeldrdanfeeGöran Koch-Swahne Recent comment authors
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Mark Bennet
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Mark Bennet

Simon

Are the questions and answers up on the General Synod/Church of England website yet? I keep looking for them and they don’t seem to be there.

Simon Sarmiento
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Mark, I recommend that you write to the CofE website to complain about anything that you find missing…

Fr Mark
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Fr Mark

The Church of Sweden has done what the C of E needs to do: take a calm pastoral approach to supporting what is good in the way its members are living. Why have they been able to do this, whereas in England the emotive rhetoric of macho bullies a la Dunelm stifles any attempts to deal realistically with the way the modern world is? I wonder whether it’s something to do with the way masculinity is handled in Scandinavia in contrast to Britain. All three Scandinavian monarchies are very gender-equal societies, more so than the UK. Whereas women bishops are… Read more »

Gerry Lynch
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Gerry Lynch

I’m just reading the letter from Christopher Hill and John Hind now. it really is quite remarkable. Especially the wonderful “From a Church of England perspective it is vital for the Church to maintain a critical distance and to resist what the state is doing if this is at odds with Scripture and the Catholic tradition.” This is the Church by Law Established in the Realm of England we’re talking about, isn’t it? With that capacity for self-deception noted, it’s hardly surprising they go on to give the naughty Swedes a lecture for marrying gay couples – something that happens… Read more »

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Yes GL, Christian anthopology (no queeerrrrssss?) is exactly like:

– Christian Physics (no gravity, God holds everything in place by using angels?)

– Christian Evolutionary Biology (some species of some sort or other may appear to have evolved over long centuries of adaptation, but we are not among them?)

– Christian economics (Following Jesus will make you filthy spanking solid gold wealthy, and if it doesn’t you aren’t following very well?)

– Christian War College (Kill those hot targets right now, earn brownie points with God?)

…… yeeesssss ….. exactly ….

Hallelujah.

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“what’s “Christian anthropology”?”

An inaccurate term for a good concept.

Father Ron Smith
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Father Ron Smith

“The decisions of Church of Sweden are based on intense and thorough theological discussions and are of course decisions relating to the Swedish context. Church of Sweden wants to stress and support faithful and lasting relationships. However, we have no intention of propagating our position to others. Since the nineties the bishops have for theological reasons unanimously supported the right of homosexuals to live together and have also maintained that the church can support and pray for these couples.” – ‘Letter from Sweden’ – This letter from the Archbishop of the Church of Sweden speaks of a ‘contextual theology’ which… Read more »

Göran Koch-Swahne
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A thought: Maybe the cherished Idea of our Political and Ecclesiastical anti Moderns that Inclusion is brought upon them from ouside is the Insight that Inclusion is simply Righteous and Gospel?

drdanfee
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drdanfee

Some outlines of a certain traditional pattern in Christian Anthropology, provisional: 1. God created them male and female which together reflect the larger nature of God … 1a. except … the female part is derived from the male part, especially after God puts the guy to sleep really good …. 1b. and … tells the guy when he wakes him up that the women is his plaything and property whom he may properly beat up or otherwise discipline whever she happens to show a mind or heart of her very own …slaves obey your masters, wives obey your husbands …… Read more »

CharlieNoel
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CharlieNoel

Further evidence that the recent reassessment of the Kingdom of Sweden as a mission territory for the Roman Catholic Church as well as by a number of Pentecostal bodies is well overdue. Further evidence that the Reformation itself has been a disaster for Christianity in the Nordic countries. One may only hope and pray for the return of the Catholic Church to a country now almost entirely bereft of the authentic body of Jesus Christ. Only once Church can re-evangelize Europe, the Church that gave her Birth – The Holy Roman Catholic Church. If the moral collapse of Scandinavia does… Read more »

Fr Mark
Guest

Charlie Noel: “If the moral collapse of Scandinavia does not render this painfully obvious, what does?” Er, no, Charlie. The three Scandinavian kindgoms are the world’s highest per capita aid donors (is that not a Christian moral action?); they are the societies with the least social inequalities in Europe (is that not also the sign of a Christian ethic?). Where I live, in Denmark, an incredibly high proportion of children are baptised into the state church, and 80% of the population voluntarily pay in the region of £500 per annum each to it. The Nordic churches are the most equal… Read more »

Ford Elms
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Ford Elms

“One may only hope and pray for the return of the Catholic Church to a country now almost entirely bereft of the authentic body of Jesus Christ. Only once Church can re-evangelize Europe, the Church that gave her Birth – The Holy Roman Catholic Church. If the moral collapse of Scandinavia does not render this painfully obvious, what does?” In the words of my Methodist grandmother “Bless the Lord, oh my soul!” Surely there’s a sarcasm here that I am missing. “almost entirely bereft of the authentic body of Jesus Christ” Seriously?!?!?! “Holy Roman Catholic Church” While I have great… Read more »