The Church of Sweden has more female priests than males for the first time in its history.
According to the latest figures, there are now 1,533 women and 1,527 men serving as priests at the Lutheran institution, which was the official Swedish state church until 2000.
Its archbishop and several bishops are also women – a sign of the significant steps forward gender equality has taken in Sweden since women were first allowed to be ordained in 1960.
Image: Gustav Vasa Church in Stockholm, Sweden
It comes after Sweden was ranked at the top of the European Institute for Gender Equality index for EU countries last year.
It received a score of 83.6 compared to an average of 67.4 for the European Union as a whole.
Sweden’s path towards gender parity is mirrored across Scandinavia with around equal numbers of men and women serving in the clergy in the Church of Denmark.
Women are also well-represented in the priesthood of the Church of Norway.
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However, the change has taken some time.
Speaking in Stockholm, Reverend Elisabeth Oberg Hansen said: “It’s a mirror of the society, in a way. It’s as it should be.”
Rev Oberg Hansen became a priest more than 30 years ago and remembers the discrimination she faced when the first parish she was assigned did not accept her.
Meanwhile, Church of Sweden Bishop Eva Brunne, who helped push for the acceptance of women, stressed she does not think the priesthood should become an overwhelmingly female profession.
She said: “I’ve been asked during my 10 years as a bishop, ‘Where are all the men?’ and all I can say is ‘I don’t know. I don’t know’.
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“It’s the same thing if you look at universities in Sweden – more women than men. That means more female lawyers, female doctors, etcetera.”
Sweden’s church has approximately 5.8 million members, representing around 57.7% of the country’s population.
However attendances are low and pews are also more likely to be occupied by women.
Reverend Cristina Grenholm, the head of theology for the Church of Sweden, said: “I do think it is something we should take as a warning, always, when we see that there is an imbalance.”
She described the gender imbalance among worshippers as “striking”.
Source : Sky News