Norway's Lutheran Church Approves Gay Weddings, Cuts Traditional Wording

(Photo: Reuters/Ole Martin Wold/NTB Scanpix)Norwegian Church Council leader Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum (in red) and Chairman of the Oslo diocesan council Gard Sandaker-Nielsen (R) vote on a proposal to allow same-sex marriage within the Norwegian Church, in Oslo, Norway April 11, 2016.

Norway's Evangelical Lutheran Church broke with centuries of tradition on Monday when it officially voted to allow gay couples to be married in church weddings. The church voted 83 to 29.

According to AFP, the move to change the church's stance on the definition of marriage was at first rejected in 2014, but as of February 1, when the new liturgy will be available, homosexual couples will be given the option of church weddings, in addition to blessings.

Individual pastors will be afforded the right to choose whether to marry same-sex couples.

Reuters noted that back in April 2016 the annual conference of the Church agreed on the same-sex marriage change, but did not decide on the precise wording at the time.

Rolf Magne Haukalid, one of the opponents of the Norwegian church sanctifying gay marriage, said back then that while many are celebrating the changes, others are strongly opposed to moving away from traditional marriage.

"For my part, and the thousands who I represent here, the disappointment, sorrow and uncertainty is great. Disappointment and sadness because today we are introducing a doctrine that a unified diocese called heresy in 1997. This goes against the Bible and Jesus's word on marriage," Haukalid said.

The new service rules will reportedly adopt gender-neutral language, and will remove words like "bride" and "groom" from the liturgy.

Gard Sandaker-Nilsen, the leader of the liberal wing of the Lutheran Church, told NTB News agency what the change means for gay people such as himself: "It is the day when a prayer and a dream came true."

Norway has had a long history of pushing forward gay marriage, and became the second country in the world after Denmark in 1993 to allow same-sex registered partnerships, before approving civil gay marriages in 2009.

Several European churches, including some Swedish, Danish and French Protestant churches, have also moved to allow gay weddings.

The Church of Norway, meanwhile, formally split from the state on New Year's Day, which ended a nearly 500-year partnership.

Jens-Petter Johnsen from the Church's National Council, who represents the nation's largest, albeit declining in terms of numbers denomination, said that the split was of historic proportions.

"We are facing the biggest organizational change of the church since the Reformation," Johnsen said.

"The changes will create a clear separation between church and state," he added.

Reflecting further on the changes, which still designate the Lutheran denomination as the country's "national church," he explained:

"When we had a state church, the debate centered around the question of whether we had a church in which the state would decide everything. With a national church, the debate is now about whether it is the people in the church who should decide everything."

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