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Bishops Eye Cost of Swedes’ Same-Sex Blessings: TLC 7.13.09 July 13, 2009

Posted by geoconger in 76th General Convention, Church of England, Church of Sweden, Living Church.
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First published in The Living Church

The Church of England has condemned the Church of Sweden’s authorization of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions, saying the decision will impair relations between the two churches and threatens the “fragile unity” of the Anglican Communion.

Copies of the June 26 letter, written by the Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council to the Archbishop of Uppsala, began circulating among members of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on July 12, and may factor into the bishops’ debate on same-sex blessings at General Convention.

Adopting same-sex blessings, one bishop told The Living Church, would put the Episcopal Church in the same place as the Church of Sweden and could lead to a breach with the Church of England and wider Anglican Communion.

Written by the Rt. Rev. Christopher Hill on behalf of the Council for Christian Unity and the Rt. Rev. John Hind on behalf of the Faith and Order Advisory Group, the letter said the adoption of same-sex blessings by the Church of Sweden was “problematic.”

“Although there is continuing debate among Anglican about human sexuality, the teaching and discipline of the Church of England, like that of the Anglican Communion as a whole as expressed in the Lambeth Conference of 1998, is that it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them.

Last month the Central Board of the Church of Sweden voted to ask its Church Assembly to alter its prayer book, permitting same-sex couples to marry. On May 1, gender-neutral language for civil marriages went into effect in Sweden.

The Central Board wrote that marriage “is a social institution regulated by public authorities. From a perspective of theology of creation, the marriage has the purpose to support the internal relation between spouses and give a safe setting for the children growing up.”

“When the Church of Sweden sides on the issue of same-sex marriage, the most relevant question is if this hurt or helps people. The Church of Sweden wants to support faithful relationships,” Archbishop Anders Wejryd said. News of the revisions were forwarded to the Church of England—a church in full communion with the Church of Sweden under the Porvoo Agreements—for comment.

The Archbishops’ Council responded that “as we understand the situation” what was now being proposed was a “fundamental re-definition of marriage and of basic Christian anthropology.” Making marriage gender-neutral was “at odds with the Biblical teaching about the significance of God’s creation of human beings as male and female as this has been received by the Church of England and by the Catholic tradition in general.”

The adoption of gay marriage by the Swedish Church would have “immediate and negative ecumenical consequences” and would “lead to the impairment of the relationships” with “particular limitations of the inter-changeability of ordained ministry.”

Because of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Communion, the Swedish decision “could also further undermine the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion.”

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