The Norwegian parliament has voted to do away with the state church. The measure, which was passed unanimously and which also seems to have the approval of church officials, will still provide some church funding, though extending that to other groups, including “humanists.” Though all Norwegians have been enrolled in the church upon their baptism, only 2% of the population attend regularly and 72% do not believe in a personal God. Religion remains important, according to polls, for 20% of the population. From the atheist site at Patheos:
The separation of church and state, such as it is, will involve the following:
- The Lutheran Church of Norway will be renamed The People’s Church
- Norway will no longer have an official national religion
- The government will no longer participate in the appointment of bishops and deans
- There will no longer be a requirement for parliamentary officials to be members of the Lutheran Church
The following things will not be changed:
- The church tax will remain in place (although a small portion will be going to humanist organizations)
- A church office will remain in the government, headed up by a minister
After reading through kirken.no (the former Church of Norway’s official site) it sounds like it was an amiable split. The fact that the state is still funding the church is justified as follows:
“… The Committee notes that the constitutional changes resulting from the settlement the church intends to clarify the Norwegian churches free position as religious communities. This means that the religious activities of the church will no longer be the state’s task. However, it is government’s task to support the church as a religious community, and to support other religious and philosophical alike. The Committee endorses the understanding that the changes represent a new basis for the development of the Norwegian Church as an independent religious communities. The Committee would also emphasize the importance of establishing security for the changes contribute to the preservation of the Norwegian Church’s mission to be an open, inclusive and democratic national church.”
“The People’s Church”! Could it be that the liberal theology of the established church is a major reason that the population consists largely of non-believers?
Is the concept of a Lutheran state church an intrinsic violation of Luther’s Doctrine of the Two Kingdoms, a historical accident that has actually undermined Lutheranism?
Could disestablishment help the cause of Christianity in Norway?
Or should we embrace antidisestablishmentarianism? (Not often do I get a chance to use that word!)
HT: Mary J. Moerbe