Russian church cuts ties with Sweden over gay unions

The Russian Orthodox Church said on Wednesday that it had frozen relations with the Swedish Lutheran Church over its decision to bless gay unions, declaring that homosexuality was a "sin and a vileness".

“The benediction of homosexual relationships endorses the approval of a deformation of the image of God in man, a deformation of his nature,” the Russian church said in a document published Wednesday on its official website.

The Lutheran Church announced in late October it would guarantee same-sex partners the right to religious blessings of their civil unions after an overwhelming vote by the church’s assembly.

The Russian church hierarchy said it was compelled “to announce a freeze in bilateral relations” and that the Swedish church’s decision marked “a discrepancy towards the principal values of Christian morals”.

“This initiative undermines the foundations of European civilisation and strikes an irreparable blow to its spiritual influence in the world,” said the statement adopted by the Orthodox church’s synod on Tuesday.

“It is obvious this decision goes against biblical doctrine on family and marriage, the Scriptures leave no doubt as to the fact that homosexuality should be considered as a sin and a vileness,” the statement added.

Gay couples enjoy the same rights as married couples under Swedish law but while the public commonly refers to gay unions as “marriages” they are officially called “partnerships”.

More than 380 Swedish priests have denounced their church’s decision, saying it runs counter to doctrine defining marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.

A government-appointed committee is examining whether Sweden ought to change its 1987 marriage law to make it “gender neutral”, eliminating the last distinction between heterosexual marriages and homosexual unions after gays in February 2003 were granted the right to adopt children.

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