The Reverend Eva Brunne is a Church of Sweden senior bishop, ordained in 1978 and still serving Sweden’s national church. She served as the Bishop of Stockholm, Sweden from 2009 - 2019. Her election by her peers marked the first openly lesbian bishop of a mainstream church in the world, and the first bishop of the Church of Sweden to be in a registered same-sex partnership. Rev. Brunne's remarkable ministry has been committed to inclusion and diversity for over 40 years.
Brunne was born March 7, 1954 in Malmo, Sweden. Her family were members of the Lutheran Church of Sweden, though not avid churchgoers, and she chose to become more involved with her church when she was confirmed. After high school, she attended university initially for journalism and then switched to religious studies as her involvement with the Student Christian Movement grew, both worldwide and in Sweden.
Rev. Brunne was ordained as a priest of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden in 1978 and began serving in the Diocese of Lund. In 1980, Brunne became the Secretary General of the Swedish Student Christian Movement and relocated her residence to Stockholm. There, she served as a vicar of Sundyberg Parish for eight years, then spent another eight years as the vicar of Flemingsberg. In 2000, Brunne became the head of the Huddinge and Botkyrka deanery until 2006.
Rev. Brunne married Gunilla Linden, also a Church of Sweden pastor, in a church ceremony in 2001. Their son Martin was born in 2005. Although they divorced in 2014, they remain on good terms in coparenting their son.
In 2006, Brunne became the dean of the Lutheran Diocese of Stockholm. From this position, she was elected by her peers (in a vote of 413-365) to become the Bishop of Stockholm, the first openly lesbian bishop in any denomination in the world. Upon her election, Brunne said “I know what it is to be called into question. I am in the lucky situation that I have power, and I can use it for the benefit of those who have no power.” Rev. Brunne was consecrated as bishop on November 8, 2009. The King and Queen of Sweden attended the consecration, as they often do for consecrations. "Once you have been baptized, no one can say you cannot be part of the Church because you are homo-, bi-, or transsexual,” Rev. Brunne said.
As the Bishop of Stockholm, Rev. Brunne focused on diversity and ecumenism. She advocated for the Seamen’s Church in Stockholm Harbor to become an ecumenical and interreligious house of worship, with the direction of Mecca marked for Muslim visitors — an initiative that was rejected by the Seamen’s church. Rev. Brunne has also advocated for a church focus on democracy, saying: “Democracy and human dignity are interrelated, and I think that democracy is better off with diversity, because then we all have to think about what people we are and who we are living with. In fact, we all have the same value, even if we do not speak the same language, pray to God in the same way or look the same. We will live in one country together.”
This focus on diversity led to so many threats against Rev. Brunne that she has sometimes had need for police protection. As the political leanings towards the right have become evident in Sweden, as in much of the world, Rev. Brunne has been criticized by some Swedes for her inclusivity. Her colleagues in the church, including other bishops, have been supportive of her initiatives, but far-right-wing nationalists have not. Rev. Brunne has said that the developments of social media have exacerbated this situation. During her time as Bishop of Stockholm, her pastoral focus on international diversity and inclusivity continued as she was a member of the Commission for International Mission and Diakonia at the Church of Sweden. She was also a representative for the Swedish Government's council for contacts with religious communities and a member of the council for the WWF in Sweden. Since 2013, she has been a member of the World Council of Churches Central Committee.
Despite the resistance by some to her ministry, Rev. Brunne is proud of her church, the great majority of whom are proud to create and develop diversity. Rev. Brunne says “I am very proud to be a member of a church that [takes] steps before other churches and make them [to] be more brave…That is what it means to be Lutheran — ongoing reformation.”
As a bishop, Rev. Brunne was given the opportunity to design her own coat of arms. The insignia carries the statement “Gör inte skillnad på människor,” part of the Bible verse James 2:1: My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. Rev. Brunne further explained that "This is an expression of human equality which is basic for my faith and which reminds the church of its responsibility in society and in the world. My coat-of -arms shows the coat-of-arms for the Diocese of Stockholm, St. Erik and the Swedish flag, as well as the Luther rose which was Martin Luther's own. The cross is a reminder that faith in the crucified and risen Christ gives bliss".
Since Rev. Brunne stepped down from the Bishop of Stockholm position in 2019, she has had the freedom to choose which organizations to work with, something she did not have time for as the “bishop in charge.” She has chosen to be a member of the board of the Swedish Refugee Law Center, the interregligious center House of God, and Stockholm Pride. She now wants to donate her time and experience and power to these organizations. Rev. Brunne will be considered a “senior bishop” with the Church of Sweden until her death — the first openly-lesbian woman to have achieved this title.
Photos: Magnus Aronson/IKON
(This biographical statement written by Kristen Whitson from various internet sources and email communication with Eva Brunne and edited by Eva Brunne.)
Biography Date: July 2020