Church of Norway unclear on same-sex marriage


The Synod of the Church of Norway, the Kirkemøtet, has voted on two motions that leave it with a seemingly contradictory view of gay marriage

Earlier today, the Kirkemøtet voted against new liturgy for same sex marriage. Out of 115 representatives, 64 voted against and 51 in favour, despite eight of the country's 12 bishops being in favour.

But the Kirkemøtet also voted 62 to 54 against a motion declaring marriage to be only between one man and one woman, leaving the Church's official position unclear.

Øivind Benestad, a priest who was one of the leading voices opposing the new liturgy, said to Norwegian state broadcaster, NRK: "I am very happy that the most radical proposal did not go through."

However, he also declared that he will not be satisfied without a firm declaration supporting only heterosexual marriage: "I will be satisfied if it ends up that marriage is preserved as a relationship between man and woman.

"That is the only solution, both biblical and in church history, on what a marriage is. That's what will hold the Church together in the long run."

Egil Morland, former director of the Norwegian Church, explained his opposition to same-sex marriage to "I justify my stance from the Scripture, that when Jesus himself comments on this he points back to creation."

Same-sex marriage supporter Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum, member of the senior National Church Council elected by the Kirkemøtet, also took inspiration from the Bible: "For me it concerns taking the gospel seriously, taking Jesus' word seriously and taking love seriously."

Bård Nylund, the leader of LLH, Norway's national association for gay, bisexual and transgender people, said to the Norwegian tabloid VG: "We are disappointed, but it's okay to be disappointed sometimes.

"We want to make it clear that we are happy that there is a struggle, and that so many in the Church are willing to stand up and be counted.

"Now we must be patient and see if we can make changes at the next crossroads."

Speaking about his opinion of the church, Mr Nylund said: "Now they have stated loud and clear that they do not want to be a national church.

"It's a sad day for the Church, and for all its members who now feel that the Church does not give them the sense of belonging they want."

Trygve Wyller, the Dean at Oslo University's Faculty of Theology, was less than satisfied with today's votes. Speaking to NRK, he said: "It's clear that for the homosexuals and lesbians this is not satisfactory.

"For me, purely theologically, it's not satisfactory either. But it is good that so many wanted the changes. That points in the right direction."

Exactly where the Church of Norway goes from here is unclear. However, there are plans to vote on a proposed new blessing for priests to give to same-sex couples after they are joined together in civil partnerships.

Norway passed civil partnerships legislation in 1993 and made same-sex marriage legal in 2008, allowing churches to choose for themselves whether they wanted to perform the ceremonies or not.

Other Scandinavian countries followed suit, with Sweden legalising same-sex marriage in 2009.

In 2012, Denmark made it mandatory for all churches to offer full religious weddings for same-sex couples, but priests who have specific objections can ask other ministers to take their place.