For the first time in history, the number of female clergy in the Church of Sweden has surpassed that of their male counterparts, the Church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning reported.
The share of women is now up to 50.1 percent, or 1,533, compared to 49.9 percent men or 1,527, the employers’s organisation Skao said.
Among deacons, women are even further in the majority, at 89 percent of clergy. Among pastors, though, women still lag behind, at 37 percent.
According to former dean Karin Burstrand, the issue of gender equality is of utmost importance for the church’s “credibility” in society.
“Should the Church’s way of interpreting faith in relation to gender equality be completely different from society’s, then the Church would cease to be relevant”, Burstrand told Kyrkans Tidning.
The Church of Sweden is the country’s national Church and former state Church.
At roughly 5.8 million members, it is the largest Lutheran denomination in Europe and the third-largest in the world, trailing only those of Ethiopia and Tanzania.
The Church of Sweden is known today for its liberal position on many theological issues, such as the question of homosexuality, as well as broad involvement in secular issues, such as helping immigrants and other vulnerable groups.
The Church of Sweden is also known for acceptance of and support for LGBT people, with former Bishop of Stockholm Eva Brunne being the first lesbian bishop in the world.
The Church of Sweden is led by Archbishop Antje Jackelén, the country’s first female archbishop.