The Church of Sweden has announced that the majority of its priests are now women. Of the 3,060 priests currently ministering in the denomination, 1,533 are female, which equates to 50.1 per cent.
Cristina Grenholm, secretary for the Church of Sweden, told AFP: "From a historical perspective, this parity happened faster than we earlier imagined. A report from 1990 estimated that women would be half of the total clergy in 2090. And it took thirty years."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Sweden has been a front-runner when it comes to admitting female clergy to the priesthood. The church first ordained women back in 1960, after deciding to allow the action two years earlier. The church also boasts a female Archbishop, Dr Antje Jackelen.
Many experts believe the Church of Sweden to be the first denomination in history to have women outnumbering men in these ministry roles. Last month, the Church of England announced that there were marginally more women ordained as deacons last year in comparison to men, with females making up just over a half (51%) of the new intake.
The rise of female clergy members in Sweden was accelerated when, in 1982, the parliament scrapped a "conscience clause" which permitted male members of the clergy to refuse to cooperate with female colleagues.
Grenholm added that many churches "try to have both a man and a woman at the altar" during Sunday service in order to illustrate gender equality.
"Since we believe that God created human beings, both men and women, in God's image, it is essential that we do not only speak about it, but that it is also shown," she said.
One such priest is Rev Jennie Högberg, who is colloquially known as the "Vegan Priest" on Instagram.
"I came to Christianity in my 20s and was ordained in 2018, after studying for 12 years," she told the Guardian. "Before I became a priest, I worked as a massage therapist and taught modern dance and ballet. I’m a baritone saxophone player, too; it’s important to me that people recognise that clergy are as multidimensional as anyone else."
She added: "When I write my sermons, I study the texts and theology, and think about what the congregation need to hear. But on Instagram, I’m more free. The responses are overwhelmingly positive, but there are trolls, too – mostly men – who tell me I’m not a real priest because I’m a woman. Sometimes I discuss it; sometimes I don’t bother."
However, despite clear progress in the number of female ordinations, male clergy in Sweden reportedly still earn £195 per month more than their female counterparts.