Norway’s newest bishop has said he would refuse to officiate at gay weddings, but would support a service blessing couples who have already wed in civil ceremonies.
The Local reports that Per Arne Dahl, Bishop of Tunsberg in the Lutheran Church of Norway, had previously prevaricated on the issue, and only made his position clear on the same day he was due to ordain a lesbian pastor for this historic Norderhov Church in the region of Buskerud.
Dahl told Norwegian newspaper Tønsberg Blad: “It’s nothing new that I stand for the classic view on marriage as a relationship between a man and a woman.”
He did, however, want to see a “worthy” service for same-sex couples who marry in civil ceremonies and seek a blessing from the church.
He said that “we must respect that those of us in the church have two views”, and that he does not want those views to “create a schism.”
Despite the bishop’s support for blessing gay civil marriages, Torbjørn Steen-Karlsen of gay rights group LLH told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK): “I am very disappointed, I thought Dahl was a man of the future, but I was very mistaken. I don’t think this is worthy of the church in 2015.”
Norway redefined civil marriage to include same-sex couples in 2009, becoming only the sixth country in the world to do so.
The Church of Norway is the country’s official state church, with the king as its head. Three quarters of Norwegians are registered as members yet only a small proportion are actually practising.
The Church has increasingly adopted liberal stances on various issues, ordaining women to the priesthood and allowing people in same-sex relationships to become ordained clergy. However, it remains divided on the issue of gay marriage, and a proposed liturgy for gay weddings was rejected last year.