Gay Marriage – in Church: Sweden

It’s been a long time coming, but has been expected ever since same – sex marriage was approved by the Swedish parliament back in May this year – immediately before the news from Iowa.  As I predicted at the time, the Swedish Lutheran Church has now approved church weddings for gay and lesbian couples.   The interesting part of this to me is that although individual pastors are not obliged to perform same sex ceremonies, local churches do not have the same opt-out:  all churches must be available to all couples.  If the resident pastor won’t do it, a substitute must be brought in from elsewhere.

Bridegrooms on Church Steps

Once again, this advance has come after discussion that began much earlier, before the church approved “blessing of homosexual partnerships years ago.”  In so doing, the majority of the church discounted the traditional view that such partnerships were somehow “against Scripture”.  This is another very welcome step in the defanging of that fallacious argument. (See “Countering the Clobber Texts”)

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Same-Sex Church Weddings Inch Closer in Finland

Last year, the Swedish government and the state church, the Swedish Lutheran church, between them approved legal recognition for same sex marriage including church weddings – the first country in the world where this has happened. At the time and since, I have noted that other Scandinavian countries were likely to follow suit: I know that the subject has been discussed (out of the public eye) by church authorities in all of them. Now the Finnish Lutherans have taken a public step in that direction.

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Anglican Inclusion as Toronto Welcomes the Queen – and the “Queens”.

By a happy chance, the visit of Queen Elizabeth to Toronto on Saturday coincided with Toronto’s Pride parade later the same day.

Joining the crowd were two gay men, Randy Pierce and Kim Hutchinson, who had just met a week ago. The pair, who wore khaki shorts and short-sleeved dress shirts, had come to see the Queen.

“We’re here to see the real Queen and the other queens,” Mr. Pierce said, outlining the couple’s plans for Sunday. “We’ve got time to leave and change and put on our happy gear. We had to tone it down for the real Queen, and spice it up for the others.”

The synchronicity provided an opportunity for a timely and thoughtful reflection by Douglas Stoute, Dean of St James Cathedral, on the theme of inclusion in the church, in a sermon calling for the Anglican Church to hold a “respectful, inclusive dialogue with all God’s people”.

“The church is undergoing a rebirth,” the Very Reverend Stoute told the congregation. “It is at times destructive.” He noted that some in the Anglican church have sought to defend traditional biblical ideas of who belongs and who does not, a reference to a schism in the Anglican church over the blessing of same-sex unions.

“A church grounded by inclusiveness and openness is becoming more relevant,” he said.
“Polarization within Anglicanism is not new,” Rev. Stoute added, noting the 16th-century division between Catholicism and Protestantism and the 19th century dispute between high church and low church.

“Throughout history Anglicanism has sought to find a middle road,” he added. “It is a recognition that we do not have all the answers. It requires that we let go of pride and reach out to listen with open minds and open hearts.”

(Read more at National Post_)

This is timely on two counts. The Canadian church recently disappointed by fudging a decision on church blessing for same-sex partnerships. Last year, the proposal was passed by a comfortable majority, but failed nevertheless because the proposal needed separate majorities from each of laity, clergy and bishops  – and comfortable majorities in the first two groups sat alongside a narrow loss among the bishops. This year, early expectations were that a fresh vote would get the three separate majorities required. This did not happen. Although the atmosphere was reported to be more conciliatory, with an increased commitment to listening to each other, the fact remains that the church remains divided, and has failed to accept a decision on inclusion that has the support of a clear majority overall. The Canadian church would do well to take Dean Stoute’s words to heart.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, an announcement is expected later this week which will confirm the first openly gay Anglican bishop, joining the Episcopalians Gene Robinson and Mary Glasspool in the US, and Eve Brunne in Sweden as the world’s first openly gay or lesbians selected for ordination as bishops. (There have been openly gay bishops before, but in the earlier cases, they were not open about their sexuality until after selection).

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Gay Bishop for Church of England?

In a move that deserves close watching, an openly gay man has been approved for inclusion on the shortlist of candidates to be selected as the next Anglican Bishop of Southwark (South London), in a move which would make him the first openly gay bishop here in the UK. Back in 2003 he was selected as bishop of Reading – but in an embarrassing about-face by Archbishop Rowan Williams, was forced to withdraw in the face of the public outcry, and instead accepted appointment as dean of St Alban’s cathedral.

Archbishop Williams’ craven intervention has been widely seen as the nadir among many low points in his handling of the rift in the Anglican communion over LGBT inclusion. No doubt, he was hoping to placate the anger of the evangelical wing, especially in the African churches, and fend off the growing divisions. Instead, the conservatives have simply used it as a pretext for more muscle flexing and intransigence, on gay bishops and women bishops. The division can no longer be fended off – it is there already. The only question now, is the precise shape it will take.

Meanwhile, Dean Johns has gained many admirers in the execution of his duties at St Alban’s, and is well liked in the liberal leaning diocese, which includes in its area some notable concentrations of gay population:

Crucially, it is understood that many of the Commission believe that he is the best candidate. Articulate, pastorally sensitive as well as being an intellectual heavyweight, he is considered to have done an excellent job as dean of St Albans.

He knows the diocese well from his time as canon at Southwark cathedral, and would be a popular choice with its overwhelmingly liberal parishes. Read the rest of this entry »