Church of Norway Will Split from State on New Year’s Day

Norway will witness an historic split between church and state on Sunday when the Church of Norway officially separates from the Norwegian government, after 500 years of partnership.

The split comes eight years after the measure was first mandated by parliament with a bill which sees the Church still recognised as the state church in receipt of public money, but its 1,250 clergy no longer recognised as government officials.

And as of January 1, 2017, the church will be considered an independent business, the International Business Times has reported.

The bill amended Norway’s constitution by replacing the phrase “The Evangelical-Lutheran religion will remain the state’s public religion”, with the new wording: “The Church of Norway, an Evangelical-Lutheran Church, will remain Norway’s national church and will be supported as such by the state.”

Jens-Petter Johnsen, head of the Church’s National Council, commented: “We are facing the biggest organisational change of the church since the Reformation. The changes will create a clear separation between church and state.”

However, although 80 per cent of Norwegians identify as Christian, the National Humanist Association has insisted that the measure does not go far enough.

“As long as the Constitution says that the Church of Norway is Norway’s national church, and that it should be supported by the state, we still have a state church,” said secretary general Kristin Mile.

Yet she and her cohorts see hope on the horizon.

“Apparently the time is not yet ripe. The major political parties seem to have enormous majority anxiety in regard to this issue. But I cannot imagine that the current solution will survive 20 years,” she said.

Despite the high allegiance to Christianity, church attendance in the country is low and falling, while the institution has been further undermined by modern liberal sentiment.

Last year, the Open People’s Church (Åpen Folkekirke) won the right to marry LGBT people within the church, at a time when membership of non Church of Norway denominations, including Catholicism and Islam, have risen overall by eleven per cent.

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