Gay priest refuses to marry straight couples in stand against ‘reprehensible’ church loophole

Lars Gårdfeldt speaking on stage

A gay priest has decided to take a stand against church bigotry by refusing to marry straight couples.

Lars Gårdfeldt, 56, is a priest in the Church of Sweden, a notably progressive Lutheran church – and he is railing against what he sees as a discriminatory policy in the best possible way.

In the Church of Sweden, priests are not obliged to marry a couple if they have conscientious objections to the union. Under this rule, clergy can turn away same-sex couples if they are morally opposed.

This rule remains in place despite the fact that same-sex couples have been allowed to marry within the Church of Sweden since 2009.

Speaking on Swedish Radio, Gårdfeldt – who works in a parish in Gothenburg – said that he will no longer marry opposite-sex couples to “show the absurdity of refusing marriage to two consenting adults”.

According to the Expressen newspaper, Gårdfeldt said he felt “great sadness” that he would no longer be marrying opposite-sex couples – but he also said he wants to show that the church’s current position is “theologically and ethically reprehensible”.

Gay priest Lars Gårdfeldt wants Church of Sweden to turn homophobes away

Gårdfeldt believes the best way to tackle homophobia within the church is to refuse to recruit anti-gay priests – and the only way that can happen is if the bishops take a hard line approach.

He is now calling on senior officials in the Church of Sweden to protect the rights of queer people by committing to overturning the conscientious objection rule ahead of church elections on 19 September.

“I want to fix the debate,” he said. “We should not recruit new anti-gay priests. We should not ordain new priests who pass on the idea that homosexuals are inferior people.”

The Church of Sweden remains the country’s largest Christian denomination. It is a former state church and has 5.8 million members.

The church is well known for being a trailblazing force within religious circles. In 2009, Eva Bruune was consecrated as Bishop of Stockholm, making her the world’s first openly lesbian bishop.

The institution made history that same year when it voted to allow same-sex marriages, paving the way for queer people with religious convictions to celebrate their weddings in the best way.