Norway’s Lutheran Church has voted to support same-sex marriage in their churches.
The church voted overwhelmingly in favor of allowing gay couples to have fully-recognized weddings in their churches at their annual conference on Monday, which will make same-sex matrimony a part of the official church liturgy when it goes into effect. The proposal was rejected when it was discussed at the 2014 convention, but a landslide 88 delegates out of 115 supported the measure this time around.
Norway has helped lead the way on gay rights issues, becoming the second country in the world after Denmark to recognize same-sex registered partnerships in 1993, and has allowed secular same-sex marriage since 2009.
The Lutheran Church is by far Norway’s largest denomination with about 74 percent of the nation’s 5.1 million people considering themselves members in spite of an overall movement toward secularism in the country.
The draft resolution which was put forward by the church committee for approval reads, “A majority of the Bishops’ Conference believes that in addition to the current rituals for marriage and civil marriages between women and men, corresponding rituals must be devised that include couples of the same sex and that can be used for all couples.”
As part of the church’s historical ruling, bishops and other church officials who still oppose gay marriage will be permitted to refuse to officiate over same-sex weddings. Gay couples are, however, ensured the right to marry in their local church wherever it may be under the new rules, and will simply be married by clergy who have no moral objection.
There are a significant number of church officials still opposed to same-sex marriage. “For my part, and the thousands who I represent here, the disappointment, sorrow and uncertainty is great. Disappointment and sadness because today we are introducing a doctrine that a unified diocese called heresy in 1997. This goes against the Bible and Jesus’s word on marriage,” said Rolf Magne Haukalid, one of the proposal’s opponents who spoke before the vote.
Marriage equality has been rapidly gaining ground in secular society, but things have been moving a bit more slowly when it comes to same-sex marriages being recognized within religious institutions as they were today in Norway. Last year alone gay marriage became legalized in Ireland, the United States, Greenland and parts of Mexico, and this year in Columbia; meanwhile, recognition of civil unions and same-sex partnerships is becoming even more prevalent. Due to strict interpretation of religious scripture and doctrine, only a few individual Christian denominations have come out in unequivocal support of gay marriage, most notably up until this point the Church of Denmark, the Church of Sweden, and the American denominations of the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Presbyterian Church.
Many believe that the vote today in Norway marks another step in the direction of gay tolerance and acceptance within religious establishments.
“This is a big day for me, for Åpen folkekirke, and for the Church of Norway. Finally we will celebrate love regardless of whom one loves,” Gard Sandaker-Nilsen said at the conference in Trondheim, according to broadcaster NRK. “Åpen folkekirke” refers to the Open Public Church, a religious movement within the Church that had campaigned for a change in its laws, of which Sandaker-Nilsen is a member.
The particulars of how the new liturgical changes will be made to accommodate the results of today’s vote will be agreed upon by the annual council next year.
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