Tomorrow, Sunday the 8th of November, the Lutheran church of Sweden will ordain Eva Brunne as a bishop in ceremonies at the Cathedral in Uppsala. Swedish Archbishop Anders Wejryd will conduct joint ordinations of Brunne, as Bishop of Stockholm, and Tuulikki Koivunen Bylund, as Bishop of Härnösand in northern Sweden.
That two women are being ordained as bishops is noteworthy, but the real news is that Brunne is a lesbian in a long-term, committed relationship with another female pastor. This ordination of an openly lesbian woman as a bishop follows the news a few weeks ago that the Lutheran Church of Sweden will conduct marriage ceremonies of gay couples, which has been permitted by Swedish law since May.
The ordination ceremonies follow the election of Brunne a few months ago. A secular, gay, European blog, Eurout.com, commented at that time, in a post entitled, God Bless Sweden:
With 413 to 365 she won the runoff-election of the Lutheran Church in Stockholm, after she was already the favorite candidate of the majority of pastors during the nomination. “She has this natural authority,” said her fellow church members after the election in several TV interviews. “Her enthusiasm and the ability to see the whole picture, to not get lost in details makes her so precious for this position.”
I want to add, her sense of humor doesn’t hurt either. When Brunne, who was a pastor in Stockholm for 16 years, was asked what she does to relax in her free time, she answered, “I read crime fiction. And I carve. The things you do to conform to Jesus, huh?”
Her partner Gunilla Lindén, who’s also a pastor, gave birth to their now 3 years old son after they entered a registered partnership. International journalists addressed whether this is a problem for the Swedish church, but Eva Brunne only joked, “Um, why? The backyard of the bishop’s house is really big enough.”
There are conflicting reports whether UK Anglican representatives will boycott the ordination. An Anglican cleric who blogs as Madpriest writes, with “embarrassment”:
Five bishops from various levels within the Anglican Church, including Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, have decided not to attend the November 8th ordination of the openly gay Eva Brunne to be the next Bishop of Stockholm.
“The Anglican Church has a moratorium right now concerning the ordination of bishops who live together with someone of the same sex,” Alan Harper, a bishop from Armagh in Northern Ireland, stated.
Back in July, two UK bishops warned that allowing homosexuals to be married in Swedish churches would lead to “an impairment of the relationship” between the Church of England and the Church of Sweden.
In addition to bishops from the Churches of England and Ireland, the churches of Iceland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, have also elected to skip the ordination, although without providing any specific reason.
Representatives from the churches of South Africa, the Philippines, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Germany are among the international representatives who have accepted the Church of Sweden’s invitation to attend Sunday’s ceremony.
But Swedish Archbishop Wejryd denies a boycott, according to the English language Swedish newspaper and website entitled The Local. Wejryd indicated that officials from other countries and other denominations are often invited but seldom attend Swedish ordinations:
“We send invitations to those with the highest rank. That’s why the Archbishop of Canterbury received an invitation, but no one expected him to say yes.”
He added that the Church of England would be represented by the Reverend Karen Schmidt, who serves as the Bishop’s Chaplain for the Portsmouth Diocese, with which the Stockholm Diocese has a twinning relationship whereby church leaders from both diocese conduct reciprocal visits with one another.
“The bishop, David Bingley of Portsmouth, couldn’t make it but will attend Eva Brunne’s reception the following Sunday,” Wejryd told the newspaper.
A blog entitled Thinking Anglicans also reports on the controversy, imagined or real, with many interesting comments such as: “So what’s stopping us (the North Americans) from joining with the Church of Sweden and the ELCA and telling the C of E to go get stuffed?”