A suspended minister has filed suit against the Bishop of Iceland alleging she has no authority under the canons of the state church (Þjóðkirkjan) to remove him from office
The Church of Iceland (Þjóðkirkjan) is the established Lutheran church of the island nation, and its clergy are paid by the state. Clerical salaries and parochial responsibilities are laid out in a contract negotiated by the Association of Icelandic Clergy and the state and governed by civil and canon law.
The lawyer for the Rev. Gunnar Sigurjónsson, the minister of the Church of Iceland parish of Digranes, last week wrote to the Kirkjuráð, the Church of Iceland’s executive council, disputing a disciplinary action taken by the Rt. Rev. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir against his client. Bishop Sigurðardóttir suspended Mr. Sigurjónsson from his parochial duties after a claim of sexual harassment was lodged against him.
The letter asks the Kirkjuráð to determine if Bishop Sigurðardóttir is the lawful bishop of Iceland and has the authority to take action against his client. The President of Iceland appointed Bishop Sigurðardóttir to a five year term of office, from 1 July 2012 to 1 July 2017. Her term was extended for five further years, to conclude on 30 June 2022.
However the Kirkjuráð extended the term of office for the bishop of Iceland in 2021 from five years to six, but did not state this decision applied to the incumbent, Bishop Sigurðardóttir. As she had not been reelected bishop in 2022, she lacked the legal authority to exercise episcopal jurisdiction. Her order for Mr. Sigurjónsson to stand down pending the investigation of misconduct, was therefore unlawful, the attorney argued.
Bishop Sigurðardóttir, in a recent interview in Morgunblaðið stated that she will step down in the summer of 2024, arguing the extension from five to six years of episcopal office permitted her to serve two additional years after she was originally scheduled to conclude her ministry.
The case continues.