LGBT-friendly Church of Sweden?
“I want to test the Church of Sweden to see if they are as LGBT-friendly as they say,” Ohlson Wallin explained. “I gave the church the altar as a gift. Now we are waiting for the church to accept the gift or no.”
The altarpiece was unveiled May 12 before television cameras and a crowd of 200 at the Church of Sweden cathedral in Skara, the artists’s hometown [Skara is an ancient centre for learning and the church, with 11,000 inhabitants, situated west of the capital Stockholm on the road to Gothenburg].
First gay wedding in the Cathedral held at the altar
On the same day it served as the backdrop for the first same-sex wedding in the Cathedral’s 1000-year history. Two men were joined in a marriage ceremony performed by Pastor Lars Gårdfeldt.
An altar first?
It is the first LGBT altar in Sweden and perhaps the world. Although it has already been used for a cathedral wedding, it will not be officially accepted unless diocesan and county boards agree to it.
The altar shows the Garden of Eden from a queer perspective, including two Adams, two Eves and a transsexual instead of a serpent. It is based on a painting of Paradise by 15th-century German artist Lucas Cranach.
LGBT people in Paradise
Ohlson Wallin told reporters that she wanted to place lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in paradise instead of condemning them to hell. She also created the altar to remind people of Martin Luther’s reassessment of sexuality as God’s gift, not a reason for punishment. The artist hopes that the altar will be rolled out for LGBT weddings, baptisms or funerals in the church.
Ohlson Wallin is best known for Ecce Homo, a series of 12 photos recreating the life of Jesus in a contemporary LGBT context. It became one of Europe’s most noticed and notorious art exhibits, even arousing the disapproval of Pope John Paul II—who reacted by canceling his planned audience with the Swedish archbishop.
Her work is featured in the book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry.
More info on Ohlson Wallin’s art:
Photos courtesy of Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, www.ohlson.se