Norwegian Church Leaders Favor Church-State Split

In a radical revision of its relationship with the Norwegian government, the (Lutheran) Church of Norway has voted to abolish its status as the nation’s official church.

According to the Religion News Service, the mid-November vote at the church’s General Synod meeting in Oyer, Norway, aims to bring to an end the state-church system that has been in place since 1537, when the then-united Denmark-Norway endorsed the Lutheran Reformation. The proposal still must be affirmed and implemented by the government and likely will not take effect until 2013.

Olaf Haraldson, a Viking warrior king, brought Christianity to central Norway in the 11th century after converting during a raiding tour of England and imposed it on his local followers.

At the Oyer meeting, delegates voted 63-19 that the Church of Norway should no longer be referred to as a state church in the country’s 1814 constitution. Rather, they said, the church should be founded on a separate act of parliament.

The Norwegian constitution also says the nation’s values are based on those of the Lutheran Church, and stipulates that half of government ministers must be Church of Norway members.