October 8, 2015
Eva Brunne, the world's first openly lesbian bishop, has called for a church in Stockholm, Sweden, to remove all signs of the cross, and instead build an Islamic prayer room in order to welcome Muslims. Several other Christian leaders in Sweden have criticized the suggestion.
"Leasing a room to people of other faiths, does not mean that we are not defenders of our own faith. Priests are called to proclaim Christ. We do that every day and in every meeting with people. But that does not mean that we are hostile toward people of other faiths," Brunne, the bishop of Stockholm, explains on her website, according to SVT.
Thousands of refugees from the crisis in Syria and the Middle East have been making their way through Europe into Western states. Christian leaders, such as Pope Francis, have called on parishes across the continent to open up their doors and welcome in refugee families.
Patrik Pettersson, priest of the Oscars parish in Stockholm, took issue with Brune's suggestion, however.
"The church chapel cannot reasonably be equated with prayer rooms at airports and hospital chapel[s]. The Christian church and chapels are not just any public areas," he wrote.
"The only argument Bishop Eva really put forward in support of her view is 'hospitality.' … How do you respond to that? Not much of a basis for discussion, as one colleague put it. The theological, ecclesiological, pastoral and working issues are left untouched," Pettersson continued.
Seamen's Church Director, Kiki Wetterberg, added that it's wrong for a Christian church to remove its symbols.
"I have no problem with Muslim or Hindu sailors coming here to pray. But I believe that we are a Christian church, so we should keep the symbols. If I visit a mosque I do not ask them to take down their symbols. It's my choice to go in there," she said in the Christian newspaper Dagen.
Breitbart noted that Brunne became the world's first openly lesbian bishop in the Lutheran Church in 2009, and has a young son with her wife and fellow priest, Gunilla Linden.
Although just over 64 percent of the Swedish population is formally registered with the Lutheran Church, that number has steadily fallen over the decades, from its height of 95 percent of the population in 1972.
Sweden has been welcoming refugees not only from Syria, but also Eritreans who had initially traveled to Italy.
In September, the EU agreed to a plan to relocate a further 120,000 refugees across Europe, despite the opposition of a number of Eastern states, like Hungary, who has said the crisis is stretching their borders and resources.
Germany has vowed to take more refugees than any other nation, opening its borders to close to 800,000 people.