Finding Love in Sweden: A Tale of Theological Transformation in the Church of Sweden Open Access

Dry, Steven M. (2010)

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Finding Love in Sweden explores the civil, social, and religious factors that led to
the theological transformation of the Church's of Sweden's understanding of marriage
from heterosexual to gender-neutral. The first chapter follows the social changes that
influenced the Swedish understanding of marriage. Originally, the Church of Sweden and
the state agreed on a heterosexual understanding of marriage. However, with the rise of
industrialization, secularization, and the welfare state, civil understandings of marriage
and cohabitation began to diverge. By 2009, the state broke from the Church's
understanding of marriage and legalized same-sex marriage. The Church had to decide
whether to accept same-sex marriage or give up their rite to marriage all together.
Chapter 2 explores the historical importance of marriage in the church, tracing the
evolution of marriage from a secular institution to a religious institution. The importance
of sex and procreation on early conceptions of marriage impacted the Church's
development of a marital theology. Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther each defined
marriage in slightly different ways, but all agreed on the necessity of procreation in
marriage. This would become a very important lens through which the church would look
at marriage scriptures. Chapter 3 returns to the Church of Sweden to look at the impact of
previous civil legislation (contraception, homosexuality, and gay civil partnerships) on
church doctrine, juxtaposing the slow, methodical nature of the church's doctrinal
transformation regarding these issues with the swift nature of the church's transformation
of their marriage theology. Chapter 4 discusses the change in theology that opened up the
definition of marriage to same-sex couples. Whereas the old theology relied on a
procreational definition of marriage in order to read marital passages, the new theology
relied on a definition of marriage that focused on love. The rereading of these influential
passages provided a space for same-sex marriage in the church. Many questioned the
theological foundation for this change, given the speed of the decision-making process.
The conclusion of this thesis explores how this new theology might serve as a means of
resacramentalizing the institution of marriage.

Table of Contents

Introduction 6

  1. Deconstructing Marriage: Tracing the Evolution of Various Non-Traditional Forms of Cohabitation in Sweden 12
    1. Establishing a Social Construction of Marriage 20
    2. The Declining Importance of Marriage in Sweden 25
    3. The Deconstruction of the Social Construction of Marriage 29
  2. Sacramentalizing Marriage: A Historical Analysis of the Transformation of Marriage 34
    1. Augustine: Marriage as a Prison 45
    2. Sex Wars Part I: Catholics vs. Cathers 49
    3. Aquinas: Marriage as a Sacrament 52
    4. Marriage Wars Part II: Catholics vs. Protestants 55
  3. Challenging Church Doctrine: The Effects of Civil Legislation on Church Doctrine Formation 59
    1. Contraception: Thirty Years of Reluctance 68
    2. Homosexuality: A 20-year Struggle for Acceptance 73
    3. Gay Partnership Blessings: Another 20-year Discussion 75
    4. Gay Marriage: Swift Doctrinal Decisions in the Church of Sweden 82
  4. Finding Love in Marriage: Moving Away from a Procreative Marriage Theology 90
    1. Procreative Sex and Creation Theology 99
    2. Reading Procreative Sex into Biblical Theology 102
    3. In the Midst of Change: Diversity of Opinion in the Church of Sweden 108
    4. Understanding Lutheran Marriage Theology 110
    5. Love and Marriage in Sweden 111
    6. Towards a new (Gay) Marriage Theology 114
Conclusion 120

About this Honors Thesis

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