On Friday, the church board took the first step towards permitting same-sex marriages by submitting a petition to the Church of Sweden synod – the Swedish Lutheran church’s highest decision-making body.
The board proposed the church continue to perform wedding ceremonies following new legislation which came into force on May 1st and grants same-sex couples in Sweden were granted the same legal marriage status as heterosexuals.
“We have noticed a deeply entrenched desire, that the Church of Sweden, as a church of the people, should continue to perform weddings,” Anders Lindberg, interim secretary general, told the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.
The alternative would have been that the church was no longer allowed to perform ceremonies, which is why, despite internal resistance, Friday’s decision was expected.
If the proposal is accepted, current church regulations will continue to apply in practice, with some alterations, such as replacing “man and wife” with “lawfully wedded spouses” when a homosexual couple is married.
However, priests will still be able to refuse to wed same-sex couples, according to DN.
Previously, several dioceses were reported to be against granting churches the task of handling legal registrations of marriages.
But now a large majority of dioceses believe there should a single regulation regarding marriage in the Lutheran church, according to a statement from the church.
Three representatives abstained from voting on the proposal.
“When the church takes a stance on the issue of same-sex marriages, it is worthwhile to ask whether or not this is harmful or beneficial,” said Archbishop Anders Wejryd in a statement.
“The church wants to support faithful relationship, and for us, from a biblical-theological perspective, the commandment of love supersedes other commandments and proscriptions in the Bible.”
In October, the Church of Sweden synod will make a final decision on whether same-sex ceremonies can be conducted in church.
Since 2007, the Church of Sweden, which counts around 74 percent of Swedes as members, has offered gays a religious blessing of their union.
If the synod follows the board’s recommendation, Sweden would become one of the first countries in the world to allow gays to marry in a major church.