Another Swedish church introduces same-sex marriages

On October 22, the (Lutheran) Church of Sweden, the country's ex-State Church, decided to start implementing a gender neutral view on marriage as quickly as November 1st. I blogged about it at the time.
Now, one of the largest Free Churches in Sweden, the Svenska Missionskyrkan ("Swedish Mission Church") has taken a similar decision. Their central board decided 21.11.09 to allow, but not to force, pastors to perform same-sex marriages, starting March 2010, by which time an Order of Service will have been developed. The central board was not unanimous; the decision was taken by 11 votes to 5.
The Svenska Missionskyrkan is in the process of uniting with two other Free Churches, the Baptists and the Methodists, in about two years' time. The Baptists, too, are discussing same-sex marriage, and at the moment the trend seems to be that the local congregations will be given the right to do as they please.
Samkönade vigslar möjligt i Missionskyrkan från 1 mars (Sändaren 21.11.09)
Missionskyrkan öppnar för homovigslar (Dagen 21.11.09)
Missionskyrkan avgör samkönat lokalt (Norrländska Socialdemokraten 21.11.09)
Missionsförsamling får avgöra vigselfråga (Sveriges Radio 21.11.09)
Samkönade vigslar lokal fråga (Sveriges Radio 22.11.09)
Gävlepastor tvekar om samkönade äktenskap (Arbetarbladet 22.11.09)

Gandhi on Christ and Christians

I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.
- Mahatma Gandhi
as quoted on Child of Illusion

That's bad!

Except that one where you're naked in church.
Thanks to Wounded Bird!

Kenyan Lutheran bishop rebukes Swedish church on lesbian bishop

Nairobi (ENI 16.11.09). The executive committee of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Kenya has expressed shock, dismay and disappointment at the consecration of the Rev. Eva Brunne, a lesbian who lives with her partner, as a bishop in the Church of Sweden.
"We condemn in the strongest terms possible this unfortunate and anti-scriptural development in a church body that bears the name of the great reformer, Dr Martin Luther," said Archbishop Walter Obare, the leader of the ELCK in a statement on 13 November, after the church's executive committee meeting in Nairobi.
Geneva (ENI 17.11.09). Church of Sweden Archbishop Anders Wejryd triggered outrage from a Lutheran church in Africa when he ordained an openly lesbian woman as bishop of Stockholm on 8 November. The archbishop asserts, however, that neither his church nor his country supports promiscuity, but that Sweden is a "surprisingly moral society". He said the Swedish church encourages faithful and stable relationships between people whatever their sexual orientation may be.
Comment: Bishop Obare is, once again, meddling in the affairs of the Church of Sweden. I wonder who put him up to it this time.
By the way, Wejryd is an Archbishop, but Obare's title is "Presiding Bishop". If you want to be exact. And why wouldn't you?
On a different note, there was another bishop consecrated on the same day (8.11.09) as bishop Brunne of Stockholm. Bishop Tuulikki Koivunen Bylund of Härnösand (northern Sweden) was born in Finland but moved to Sweden in order to be able to be ordained, as the ELCF didn't ordain women at the time. The ELCF still hasn't any female bishops, so bishop Koivunen Bylund is the first Finnish woman to become a bishop. Which is quite as historical as bishop Brunne's being the first lesbian to reach that august position.

The Navajo about waking

You can't wake a person who is pretending to be asleep.
- Navajo proverb
as quoted by Mad Hare

Bishop Spong's Manifesto

Bishop John Shelby Spong:
A Manifesto! The Time Has Come!
I have made a decision. I will no longer debate the issue of homosexuality in the church with anyone. I will no longer engage the biblical ignorance that emanates from so many right-wing Christians about how the Bible condemns homosexuality, as if that point of view still has any credibility. I will no longer discuss with them or listen to them tell me how homosexuality is "an abomination to God," about how homosexuality is a "chosen lifestyle," or about how through prayer and "spiritual counseling" homosexual persons can be "cured." Those arguments are no longer worthy of my time or energy. I will no longer dignify by listening to the thoughts of those who advocate "reparative therapy," as if homosexual persons are somehow broken and need to be repaired. I will no longer talk to those who believe that the unity of the church can or should be achieved by rejecting the presence of, or at least at the expense of, gay and lesbian people. I will no longer take the time to refute the unlearned and undocumentable claims of certain world religious leaders who call homosexuality "deviant."
I will no longer listen to that pious sentimentality that certain Christian leaders continue to employ, which suggests some version of that strange and overtly dishonest phrase that "we love the sinner but hate the sin." That statement is, I have concluded, nothing more than a self-serving lie designed to cover the fact that these people hate homosexual persons and fear homosexuality itself, but somehow know that hatred is incompatible with the Christ they claim to profess, so they adopt this face-saving and absolutely false statement.
I will no longer temper my understanding of truth in order to pretend that I have even a tiny smidgen of respect for the appalling negativity that continues to emanate from religious circles where the church has for centuries conveniently perfumed its ongoing prejudices against blacks, Jews, women and homosexual persons with what it assumes is "high-sounding, pious rhetoric." The day for that mentality has quite simply come to an end for me. I will personally neither tolerate it nor listen to it any longer. The world has moved on, leaving these elements of the Christian Church that cannot adjust to new knowledge or a new consciousness lost in a sea of their own irrelevance. They no longer talk to anyone but themselves.
I will no longer seek to slow down the witness to inclusiveness by pretending that there is some middle ground between prejudice and oppression. There isn't. Justice postponed is justice denied. That can be a resting place no longer for anyone. An old civil rights song proclaimed that the only choice awaiting those who cannot adjust to a new understanding was to "Roll on over or we'll roll on over you!" Time waits for no one.
I will particularly ignore those members of my own Episcopal Church who seek to break away from this body to form a "new church," claiming that this new and bigoted instrument alone now represents the Anglican Communion. Such a new ecclesiastical body is designed to allow these pathetic human beings, who are so deeply locked into a world that no longer exists, to form a community in which they can continue to hate gay people, distort gay people with their hopeless rhetoric and to be part of a religious fellowship in which they can continue to feel justified in their homophobic prejudices for the rest of their tortured lives. Church unity can never be a virtue that is preserved by allowing injustice, oppression and psychological tyranny to go unchallenged.
In my personal life, I will no longer listen to televised debates conducted by "fair-minded" channels that seek to give "both sides" of this issue "equal time." I am aware that these stations no longer give equal time to the advocates of treating women as if they are the property of men or to the advocates of reinstating either segregation or slavery, despite the fact that when these evil institutions were coming to an end the Bible was still being quoted frequently on each of these subjects. It is time for the media to announce that there are no longer two sides to the issue of full humanity for gay and lesbian people. There is no way that justice for homosexual people can be compromised any longer.
I will no longer act as if the Papal office is to be respected if the present occupant of that office is either not willing or not able to inform and educate himself on public issues on which he dares to speak with embarrassing ineptitude.
I will no longer be respectful of the leadership of the Archbishop of Canterbury, who seems to believe that rude behavior, intolerance and even killing prejudice is somehow acceptable, so long as it comes from third-world religious leaders, who more than anything else reveal in themselves the price that colonial oppression has required of the minds and hearts of so many of our world's population.
I see no way that ignorance and truth can be placed side by side, nor do I believe that evil is somehow less evil if the Bible is quoted to justify it. I will dismiss as unworthy of any more of my attention the wild, false and uninformed opinions of such would-be religious leaders as Pat Robertson, James Dobson, Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart, Albert Mohler, and Robert Duncan. My country and my church have both already spent too much time, energy and money trying to accommodate these backward points of view when they are no longer even tolerable.
I make these statements because it is time to move on. The battle is over. The victory has been won.
There is no reasonable doubt as to what the final outcome of this struggle will be.
· Homosexual people will be accepted as equal, full human beings, who have a legitimate claim on every right that both church and society have to offer any of us.
· Homosexual marriages will become legal, recognized by the state and pronounced holy by the church.
· "Don't ask, don't tell" will be dismantled as the policy of our armed forces.
We will and we must learn that equality of citizenship is not something that should ever be submitted to a referendum. Equality under and before the law is a solemn promise conveyed to all our citizens in the Constitution itself. Can any of us imagine having a public referendum on whether slavery should continue, whether segregation should be dismantled, whether voting privileges should be offered to women?
The time has come for politicians to stop hiding behind unjust laws that they themselves helped to enact, and to abandon that convenient shield of demanding a vote on the rights of full citizenship because they do not understand the difference between a constitutional democracy, which this nation has, and a "mobocracy," which this nation rejected when it adopted its constitution. We do not put the civil rights of a minority to the vote of a plebiscite.
I will also no longer act as if I need a majority vote of some ecclesiastical body in order to bless, ordain, recognize and celebrate the lives and gifts of gay and lesbian people in the life of the church. No one should ever again be forced to submit the privilege of citizenship in this nation or membership in the Christian Church to the will of a majority vote.
The battle in both our culture and our church to rid our souls of this dying prejudice is finished. A new consciousness has arisen. A decision has quite clearly been made. Inequality for gay and lesbian people is no longer a debatable issue in either church or state. Therefore, I will from this moment on refuse to dignify the continued public expression of ignorant prejudice by engaging it. I do not tolerate racism or sexism any longer. From this moment on, I will no longer tolerate our culture's various forms of homophobia. I do not care who it is who articulates these attitudes or who tries to make them sound holy with religious jargon.
I have been part of this debate for years, but things do get settled and this issue is now settled for me. I do not debate any longer with members of the "Flat Earth Society" either. I do not debate with people who think we should treat epilepsy by casting demons out of the epileptic person; I do not waste time engaging those medical opinions that suggest that bleeding the patient might release the infection. I do not converse with people who think that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans as punishment for the sin of being the birthplace of Ellen DeGeneres or that the terrorists hit the United Sates on 9/11 because we tolerated homosexual people, abortions, feminism or the American Civil Liberties Union.
I am tired of being embarrassed by so much of my church's participation in causes that are quite unworthy of the Christ I serve or the God whose mystery and wonder I appreciate more each day. Indeed I feel the Christian Church should not only apologize, but do public penance for the way we have treated people of color, women, adherents of other religions and those we designated heretics, as well as gay and lesbian people.
Life moves on. As the poet James Russell Lowell once put it more than a century ago: "New occasions teach new duties, Time makes ancient good uncouth." I am ready now to claim the victory. I will from now on assume it and live into it. I am unwilling to argue about it or to discuss it as if there are two equally valid, competing positions any longer. The day for that mentality has simply gone forever.
This is my manifesto and my creed. I proclaim it today. I invite others to join me in this public declaration. I believe that such a public outpouring will help cleanse both the church and this nation of its own distorting past. It will restore integrity and honor to both church and state. It will signal that a new day has dawned and we are ready not just to embrace it, but also to rejoice in it and to celebrate it.

- John Shelby Spong

To test a man's character

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power.
- Abraham Lincoln (1809-65)
as quoted on Musings of Episcopal padre

King on thinking

Rarely do we find men who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think.
- Martin Luther King Jr.

Gallup on same-sex marriages in Finland

The Finnish weekly newspaper Sunnuntaisuomalainen had Taloustutkimus do a survey asking,
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden is going to start marrying same-sex couples. Do you think the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland should marry homosexual couples?
The survey was made in late October. 1.003 Finns over 15 years of age from the whole country except the Åland Islands were interviewed.
The results, published here, show that 44% are positive and 39% negative to same-sex marriages within the ELCF. The number of positive answers are higher in the south (i.e., the big cities), among people with higher education, women and young people, and among people who voted Green, Left or Swedish in the last general elections.
One interesting statistic was left out, since church membership wasn't recorded. The questions were put to the whole population, not just church members. This is, however, more of a principle than a practical problem, since about 81% of the population belong to the ELCF.
Archbishop Jukka Paarma (who is retiring next year) is surprised by the high number of positive answers (and so am I, a little), but he affirms that the ELCF won't even discuss the matter if the State doesn't pass a gender neutral marriage law. One such law is, however, being prepared.