Church of Norway: 2017 brings Church/State change

Stortinget

The Stortinget, the Norwegian Parliament

Posted 1 January 2017

1 January 2017 has seen the biggest organisational change in the Norwegian Church since the Reformation 500 years ago.

The amendments to the Constitution in 2012 and the transfer of operations from 1 January 2017, change the terms of the Norwegian Church, but the church’s activity and local presence are not changed.

The date 1 January 2017 marks a clearer separation between church and state. Now bishops and clergy are no longer state officials. The Church Council and dioceses are no longer state agencies. Synod has taken over much of the authority which previously lay in state administration and is the highest representative body of the new legal entity, the Norwegian Church.

As a consequence of the constitutional amendments of 21 May 2012, the Norwegian Church is now an independent denomination and legal entity with Synod as its highest organ.

The Norwegian Church is written into the nation’s Constitution in Article 16: The Norwegian Church, an Evangelical-Lutheran church, remains Norway’s national church and supported as such by the state.

However, for some Norwegians, the separation does not go far enough and they argue the division of church and state will be unclear, Ecumenical News indicated, quoting Kristin Mile, the secretary general of the Norwegian Humanist Association, as saying, “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.”