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Church of Norway open to ordaining unmarried, cohabitating priests

Norway
Pastor Siv Limstrand lights a candle at the church in Svalbard, in Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen island, Svalbard Archipelago, northern Norway, on May 6, 2022. |

Bishops in the Church of Norway, the largest Christian denomination in the Scandinavian country, say they are open to ordaining unmarried, cohabiting priests, going against a resolution of the Bishop’s Conference that prohibits cohabitation.

Norwegian news outlet Vart Land found in a survey that all bishops in the Church of Norway would be willing to ordain priests who live with their partner without being married.

The news outlet also found that the bishop of Oslo, Kari Veiteberg, had been ordaining cohabiting priests, cantors, catechists and deacons since 2017.

The U.K.-based Premier Christian News noted that under current rules, the Church of Norway does not allow the ordination of unmarried cohabiting partners as per its 1995 statement on the issue. The 1995 resolution said employees from the Church cannot “establish a cohabitation outside of an arranged marriage,” according to Dagen.

However, the Church’s presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit, recently stated that bishops can decide to ordain unmarried cohabiting priests on their own. “They agree to hold marriage as the best arrangement for cohabitation, but also agree that each bishop must make an individual assessment of each candidate seeking marriage.”

According to CNE News, Bishop Kari Mangrud Alvsvåg from Borg Diocese was quoted as saying, “I will not categorically say no to ordaining someone, but I will still follow the Bishops’ Conference’s stance on promoting marriage.”

In an editorial on the issue, the editor of Dagen wrote, “What signal does it send when a priest is to marry other people, while at the same time, the person in question openly lives in contradiction to the understanding of marriage that underlies the wedding? … It is so deeply disappointing.”

The Church of Norway, part of the Evangelical Lutheran denomination, claims nominally 82% of the entire Norwegian population, according to 2011 estimates.

In 2007, the Church of Norway voted in favor of allowing members in same-sex partnerships to serve in ordained ministry. In 2015, the Church’s General Synod voted in favor of accepting same-sex marriage. In 2016, the Church voted to allow gay people to be married in church.

Gay marriage has been legal in Norway since 2008, but churches had been left to decide on their own how to adapt to the decision. In a previous vote on the issue in 2013, bishops split eight to four in favor of accepting gay marriage, which at the time resulted in a decision to only offer a blessing service instead.

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