15,000 Church Members Quit in 4 Days After Lutheran Church of Norway Offers Easy Exit Plan

Church of Norway
The Norwegian state church in Volda. |

In a bid to organize the church's records, the Lutheran Church, which is the official religion of state in Norway according to AFP, put up a web page last Monday allowing people to verify their status, allowing them to sign up or deregister.

As of last Friday according to the church, some 15,053 members of the flock opted to leave with the bulk of that number, 10,854, choosing to drop their membership in the church last Monday.

Reacting to the sudden purging of its rolls, Church council leader Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum said in a translation of a statement posted on the church's website that the church would continue to be transparent about its new online system and that it allows members who no longer want to be a part of the church to leave with less hassle.

"We will continue to have a broad and open national church. But no one should be a member of a religious community against their will, and therefore I am glad that this self-solution is in place. Those who mistakenly listed as a member of the Norwegian Church or who do not wish to be members can now easily change their status, and it will give us a more accurate registry," said Raaum.

Director Jens-Petter Johnsen of the Church Council attributed the exodus of members to those who had already decided to leave the church long ago. The new online registration system he said just gave them an easy opportunity to make that decision official.

"Although it has never been difficult to opt out of the church, many have failed to submit withdrawal form or correct mistakes in the registry. This self-service solution makes it easier to withdraw," Johnsen said.
Access to church records via the online system allows more direct communication with members and is an important part of the church's digital initiatives according to the church.

"The objective of better digital adaptation is that people see that the church is there for them. The Norwegian Church has 3.8 million members, or about 73 percent of the country's population. Everyone who is baptized and wish to listen to the church are welcome as members," added Johnson.

According to Statistics Norway, both the number of services and persons attending the services has declined in recent years at the Church of Norway.

From 2014 to 2015, membership decreased by 122 000 or 2 per cent of the total. In 2005, the total attendance at church services was 6.7 million, spread over 70,000 services. Attendance has fallen every year since 2005, except in 2011. In the last ten years, church attendance figures had fallen by almost a million.

The number baptisms in the Church of Norway is also on the decline. A total of 34,100 baptisms were held by the Church of Norway in 2015; 900 fewer than the year before. The proportion of baptisms to births was 58 per cent; a fall from 59 per cent in 2014. The proportion of baptism to births has fallen every year since 2005, from 76 to 58 per cent according to Statistics Norway.

Until 2012, according to AFP, Lutheranism was Norway's official religion.

Contact: Follow Leonardo Blair on Twitter: @leoblair Follow Leonardo Blair on Facebook: LeoBlairChristianPost

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