Norwegian bishop won't ordain lesbian in same-sex partnership

Bishop Ingeborg Midttomme has refused to ordain a lesbian

A bishop in Norway has refused to ordain a lesbian theology student who lives in a same-sex partnership with another woman.

Hanne Marie Pedersen-Eriksen of the Norwegian Lutheran Church has been asked to become vicar of Sandøybotn in Western Norway but has not yet accepted the offer and is consulting her lawyer.

The Bishop of More, Ingeborg Midttømme, refused to ordain her, meaning she will now be ordained outside the diocese. It has been against canon law for a priest to be ordained by a diocese different to that of their first incumbency, although it is thought possible that regulations might allow an exception in this case.

The offer of the post by the parish, endorsed by the diocesan council, presupposes ordination.

Norunn Blokkum, chairman of the parochial church council, told the Romsdals Budstikke: "We know what Bishop Ingeborg Midttømme stands for, it is no surprise that she will not ordain Pedersen-Eriksen. The bishop decides, but of course we are very disappointed."

The newspaper polled its readers online, and out of 1,600 who responded, eight in ten said it was discrimination, while 15 per cent said "gays should not be priests".

Bishop Midttømme, one of three women out of 12 diocesan bishops in Norway, has promised to be a good bishop to homosexuals. She is happy to employ the new priest, just not to ordain her.

She was quoted by the Vårt Land newspaper as admitting the bishops were divided over the issue: "We have a good collegiality and respect for each other. The fact that we live with two views in this matter gives us these consequences."

She said other bishops had offered to ordain Pedersen-Eriksen and that it would be "okay" for her still to be her diocesan bishop in spite of the dispute.

Pedersen-Eriksen said she needed some time to think before deciding whether to accept the post under these conditions.

The parish was looking for "a skilled priest who can work specifically with children and adolescents".

Norway's Ministry of Culture confirmed that Bishop Midttømme had the right to refuse to ordain Pedersen-Eriksen.