Church of Sweden Divided over Forcing Priests to Carry out Same-Sex Marriages

One groom placing the ring on another man's finger during gay wedding.
Getty Images

Pressure is rising in the Church of Sweden to force priests to conduct same-sex marriages, ahead of internal elections in September.

Jerker Schmidt, a priest and church politician for the Bourgeois Alternative, is one of many who support forcing priests to conduct same-sex ceremonies, telling Swedish broadcaster SVT: “It’s about the church’s image of God and the view of man.”

The results of an election survey published by the newspaper Kyrkanstidning earlier this month revealed that the issue is hotly contested, with five of the 11 nominating groups saying they were supportive of forcing priests to carry out the services while six said they were not.

Same-sex marriage has been permitted in the Church of Sweden since 2009. But a clause allowing priests to abstain from such ceremonies, known as the “conscience clause”, has been a topic of discussion for years.

In 2017, Anna Ekström, a member of the Free Liberals, submitted a motion to repeal the conscience clause and force all priests to marry same-sex couples. But while leftist parties passed the motion, it was rejected by bishops.

Party Political Unbound in the Church of Sweden (POSK) is a group of independents within the church that believes the issue is one of freedom of religious belief and that priests have a right to say no to same-sex marriages.

Mats Rimborg, president of POSK in the Diocese of Gothenburg, commented: “It is a freedom of expression issue. Even priests must have the right to freedom of opinion.”

The Church of Sweden is known for being one of the most progressive in Europe and at the same time has seen a rapid decline in membership of the last two decades, to the point that 104 churches have permanently closed between 2000 and 2019.

A 2018 report predicted that the church could lose as many as a million members by 2028, reducing revenues while costs to maintain existing churches remains high.

Follow Chris Tomlinson on Twitter at @TomlinsonCJ or email at ctomlinson(at)


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.