Gay altarpiece of original sin makes waves in Sweden

Malmö (Sweden) (AFP) - Two Eves on one side of the tree, two Adams on the other, each couple openly flirting: a Swedish diocese said Wednesday it would remove a gay depiction of original sin that hung briefly as an altarpiece.

Created by Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin, the photo illustration was offered to the Saint Paul Church in Malmo where it was placed to the right of the main altarpiece on the first Sunday of Advent, December 1.

On Wednesday the diocese said it would remove it from the altar -- but not because the Lutheran Church of Sweden had a problem with the gay couples.

Perched in the tree, a transsexual woman is dressed as a serpent, dangling a snake from her hand.

"The fact that there are two homosexual couples in the artwork is completely uncontroversial," the diocese wrote in a statement.

"But the fact that there is a snake, which traditionally symbolises evil, and that it turns into a transperson could lead to the interpretation that a transperson is evil or the devil."

"The Swedish Church can absolutely not stand for that."

The pastor of Saint Paul, Sofia Tunebro, regretted the decision.

"We've been marrying gay couples for 10 years, and with this artwork, it was a bit like hanging up a wedding photo in the church," she told AFP.

"Elisabeth Ohlson Wallin has done so much for the integration and representation of (LGBTQ people) in the Christian world," said Tunebro, who was ordained 12 years ago.

The 58-year-old artist -- who made headlines 20 years ago with her controversial Ecce Homo exhibit, featuring among other things Jesus in stilettos surrounded by 12 transvestite apostles -- said she too was disappointed.

"My calling has been to create Christian works which LGBTQ people can identify with," she told AFP.

The Church of Sweden, headed by a female archbishop since 2014, was among the first in the world to ordain female priests in 1958, and to marry homosexuals, in 2009.

Also in 2009, Eva Brunne was elected the first openly lesbian bishop in the world, according to Swedish media.

"The Church of Sweden wants to be a modern church and follow changes in society," Magdalena Nordin, a professor of religion at the University of Gothenburg, told AFP.