Mere Anglicanism

Church of Norway says no to gay blessings, but declines to affirm traditional marriage

The General Synod of the Church of Norway has rejected a motion that would have permitted same-sex church weddings or the blessing by clergy of same-sex civil unions but declined to affirm the church’s traditional stance that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The General Synod of the Church of Norway, the Kirkemøtet, has rejected a motion that would have permitted same-sex church weddings or the blessing by clergy of same-sex civil unions. However, the 8 April 2014 meeting in Kristiansand also voted not to affirm the church’s traditional stance that marriage is between one man and one woman.

The vote against gay marriage was 64 votes to 51, while the vote rejecting the church’s traditional stance on marriage was 62 to 54. In 1993 Norway introduced same-sex civil partnerships and in 2008 amended its marriage laws to make them gender-neutral.

Church of Norway priest, the Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjelstad – director of The Media Project in Washington – told Anglican Ink the defeat of the gay marriage motion was “really a Pyrrhic victory for the more moderate/conservative group within the church.” He noted that some pro-gay marriage bishops after the vote urged patience saying: “With such a close race there is now much more liberty/freedom for us to conduct ceremonies for gays and lesbians. Stay in the church – don’t leave, we have more freedom now, and the situation is doomed to change within a few years.” 

“The Mayor and Deputy Mayor in the capitol Oslo has declared they are giving priests who wants to officiate a highly prestigious room in the monumental City Hall a place to conduct wedding ceremonies. The bishops have for many years said weddings are only to take place in a church or in some very few assigned spots. So, there is major confusion.”

“At least 30+ of the members of the Church Council have asked the bishops to find a way out of the mess, he said, noting the May House of Bishops meeting is to take up the subject. The church’s leading Bishop Helge H Byfuglien has said the bishops “will not authorize any ceremony/liturgy, in respect for the fact that the Church meeting did not make any decisions. In reality this implies that the ongoing situation is prolonged: Any priest (including me) can conduct blessings/prayers of any civic marriage. Most priests have refrained from doing so, also for theological and personal faith issues,” Dr. Fjeldstad said.

He noted the Norwegian media had offered a one sided view of the debate, interviewing “almost exclusively” gay and lesbian activists “or members of the church meeting who lost. Very few major media has bothered asking any of the majority what they think.”

Dr Fjeldstad added the vote is “largely not understood by the larger society, as people’s attitude has largely been changing due to the Norwegian Parliament moving from saying yes to gay legal partnerships to naming it yes to gay marriages. People in general are being said not to understand this decision, as the church of the people should follow whatever a majority of the people think or feel . . . according to those given space in mainstream media. “

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