Sibling rivalry in fight for Swedish Church

The race for the top job in The Church of Sweden is rapidly becoming a family affair, after two of current Archbishop K.G. Hammar’s siblings said they want to succeed him.

Hans Börje (“H.B.”) Hammar announced on Thursday that he was standing for appointment as Sweden’s former state church’s only archbishop. His sister Anna Karin Hammar has already set out her stall as a candidate for the archepiscopal throne in Uppsala.

Announcing his candidature in Svenska Dagbladet, the 64-year old priest said that the time was not yet ripe for a woman to lead the Church of Sweden, a Lutheran denomination. He added that his sister’s chances were “limited.”

But Anna Karin, who is homosexual, has previously slammed suggestions that women should not be made archbishop.

“Sometimes you have to lead the way,” she told news agency TT.

The 54-year old is a priest in the diocese of Uppsala, and was director of the International Council of Churches in Geneva from 1986 to 1990.

She says the fact that her brother is the current archbishop has not put her off, but rather “inspired me to believe that God uses the people that God wants.”

As for H.B. Hammar, he complains that his brother’s position as archbishop has not made life easy.

“I felt that I was in the shadow of the archbishop…people either took it for granted that I had the same opinion as K.G., which was far from always the case, or they didn’t care what I thought.”

While H.B.’s views on women archbishops might appear conservative, he argues for increased dialogue with other churches.

He is also in favour of the church’s policy of allowing blessings for gay couples – a policy that has proven to be one of the church’s most controversial issues since the blessings were introduced last year. But writing in Svenska Dagbladet, he said he is against gay marriage, saying it is unbiblical, and citing “men and women’s different, complimentary, equipment.”

Only one of the Hammar siblings has shown no inclination to don a mitre – Henrik Hammar, who is a local politician for the Moderate Party in Skåne.

A shortlist of candidates for archbishop will be drawn up on February 8th, after a vote of 790 senior members of the church. Each candidate needs at least five percent of the votes in order to make the shortlist. The church will then choose a man or woman from the list in March.

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