A number of Church of Norway leaders were present in the Norwegian Parliament (Stortinget) 21 of May during the historic debate on amendments to the Constitution`s State-church-sections. (Photo: Erlend Berge / Vårt Land)
The Parliament`s recent decisions loosen historical ties between institutions of State and the majority Lutheran Church, which date back to the 16th century.
Appointment of Bishops
One major consequence is that the responsibility for the appointment of bishops of Church of Norway shifted from the state to the church. A 500-year state-church tradition of the King/the Government appointing bishops has ended. The next bishop appointment will be done by the board of the National Council (15 members elected by the General Synod.)
The 116-member General Synod comprising bishops, pastors and lay church members 12-17 April this year adopted the new order for appointing bishops.
Reform of the State
Over the past four-five decades, discussions on the state-church relations i Norway have resulted in several reforms. Governing bodies in the Church of Norway have pushed for reforms and argued that the Norwegian State should treat all religious institutions equally.
- This years fundamental changes in State-Church relationship are important and necessary as a reform of the State, says leader of the National Council of the Church of Norway, Svein Arne Lindø.
- This update of church law has a somewhat preliminary character. Future changes in the legal framework of the Church of Norway will take some time, says Svein Arne Lindø. He envisions a schedule up to 2017 before a new Church Law is in place.
No longer "official religion"
Article 2 in the Norwegian Constitution stated until the historical amendment last Month that "the Evangelical-Lutheran religion shall remain the official religion of the State. The inhabitants professing it are bound to bring up their children in the same." In the new wording of the Constitution there no longer is any referance to an "official religion of the State." Article 2 in the Constitution now says that Norway's values are based on its Christian and humanist heritage.
The government will still provide funding for the Church of Norway as it does for other faith-based institutions. All clergy remain civil servants (state employees).
The state-church system was established in Denmark-Norway in 1537 during the Lutheran reformation. The Church of Norway has 3.9 million members, representing around 79 percent of the Norwegian population.