“It is with pride and joy that we receive Paradise in St. Paul's Church. We need images that open for greater inclusion and identification in the church ”.
That's what it sounded just two weeks ago, when Malmö priest Sofia Tunebro announced that St. Paul's Church then set up the work of art Paradise in the altar room. The painting was then described as Sweden's first LGBT-friendly altarpiece.Take it down - be too transphobic
But on Wednesday, two weeks later, it was announced that the board will be taken down. The reason is that the church now believes that the work can be perceived as transphobic, since the snake in the garden - which can be associated with evil - is embodied by a trans person.
- At first I did not realize the complexity, but upon closer reflection and careful discussion with the management, there is no alternative but to move the board from the church room, says Per Svensson, church pastor of St. Paul's church, to SVT.
Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, the artist behind the board and longtime LGBT activist, responds strongly to the message.
- The Church of Sweden has until today had problems with transgender people, so to give the appearance that they now care about transgender people is a step, a dishonest way to remove the board. They will be ashamed of history, she tells Culture News and continues:
- The decision is because in Sweden we are not ready to have an altarpiece in the sacred room with LGBTQ connection, we are simply not there yet.
So you don't believe in the Church's explanation that a serpent figure that is transgender signals evil?
- No, not really. If you look closely at the picture, that figure also snaps a snake itself between the index finger and the thumb. Then the church can think about why she does it. I think they made a big deal with this decision.
Church pastor Per Svensson tells the Culture News that there are no homophobic motives for picking down the board. And even if the artist's idea is not to portray transgender people as evil, people will interpret it that way, he says.
- I'm very surprised at her paintings. I have tried to make it clear that it is not about the LGBTQ issue, but it does not seem to matter.
- It's like for those who preach, the most important thing is not what they say, but what people hear. There can be no difference for artists, says Per Svensson.Will make a new altarpiece
Now Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin says she will make a new altarpiece, with another LGBT-friendly motif, which she will offer the church.
- We'll see if it's accepted. Clearly, St. Paul's Church should be the first in the world with a LGBT-friendly altarpiece, and we should be proud of that.
Per Svensson says he is currently unable to decide whether another board will be received.