A NEWS RELEASE
From Lutheran World Information (LWI)
OYER, Norway/GENEVA, 29 November 2006 (LWI) - The general synod of the (Lutheran) Church of Norway has supported the proposal of a government-appointed commission to abolish Norway's current state-church system.
A majority of 63 out of the 85 delegates attending the 13-19 November synod meeting in Oyer, Hamar diocese, voted that the church should no longer be referred to as a state church in the country's constitution, the Church of Norway Information Service reported. Rather, the church should be founded on a separate act of parliament, and the general synod should undertake all church authority, currently vested in the King of Norway and government. Nineteen synod delegates voted to retain the present system.
The general synod largely consists of the Church of Norway's 11 bishops and 11 diocesan councils. It is among 2,000-3,000 church and public bodies, institutions, organizations and parties that will have had the chance to state their view on the state-church system to the Ministry of Culture and Church Affairs by the end of the year.
On 31 January this year, the government-appointed commission delivered its report, in which it recommended abolishing the current relation between the Church of Norway and the state. A government report to the Stortinget (Parliament) is expected in late 2008. As major changes will require a revision of the country's constitution, 2013 is seen as the earliest date for possible changes.
"The synod’s decision is historic," said Jens Petter Johnsen, director of the church's national council. "What matters is the relation between church and people, not between church and state. We will do our utmost to strengthen the service of the church in and with our people," he noted.
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 85 percent of the Norwegian population. It joined the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in 1947.
The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church of Norway with nearly 22,000 members, held LWF associate membership since 1997, and changed to full membership in 2005.
(Church of Norway Information Service and Oivind Ostang)
The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of 66.2 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and interfaith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.
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