Swedish church says yes to gay blessings

The Church of Sweden has come a step closer to introducing church blessings for gay couples who have signed civil partnership agreements, after a powerful church committee overwhelmingly approved the plans.

Gay rights group RFSL welcomed the news, but said it would not be satisfied until same-sex couples got the same treatment as their straight counterparts.

The liturgical committee of the Church Assembly has said that a service of blessing for gay partnerships should be included in the church’s official guidelines.

The final decision will be taken by the full Church Assembly later this month, but the proposal won a large majority on the committee, with twelve out of fifteen members supporting the blessings.

Alve Svensson, a priest from Hjärsås in the Lund diocese who represents the Christian Democrat party on the committee, was one of those who voted against the blessings.

“This is down to our conviction that homosexuality, when practised, contravenes the New Testament,” he told church paper Kyrkans Tidning.

Gay rights groups have welcomed the announcement, but Sören Andersson, chairman of Sweden’s largest gay organisation, RFSL, told The Local that he would have liked the church to have gone further.

“While I think this is a positive step that they are acknowledging relationships is this way, I think it’s sad that they won’t offer the same ceremonies to all couples.”

“It has taken 30 years for us to come this far; I hope it doesn’t take another 30 years for us to be offered the same ceremonies.”

Gay couples in Sweden can currently sign registered partnership agreements, which give them most of the same rights as heterosexual couples. Some individual churches in the Church of Sweden already offer couples prayer ceremonies after they have gone into a partnership, but this is not currently regulated by the church’s ruling organs.

A government enquiry, expected to take several years, is currently looking into whether gay people should be offered full civil weddings, as in a number of other European countries.

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