The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America


No more state church?

It's headed for a separation.

Kåre Gjønnes (left) presents a Jan.
Kåre Gjønnes (left) presents a Jan. 31 report from a government-appointed commission, while Norway’s minister for culture and church affairs, Trond Giske, listens. After three years of considering the issues, 18 of 20 commission members want to end Norway’s church-state system.
Norway is headed for a separation of church and state after a government-appointed committee recommended in January that the Storting (parliament) and the king no longer decide church affairs, including the naming of bishops.

The church has always been under the control of several government departments, with civil servants approving bishops’ appointments. Today the church falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Church and Cultural Affairs.

But in fall 2005, Norway was criticized for its “Christian quota,” an 150-year-old constitutional provision that most cabinet members belong to the state church. All Norwegians are born into the (Lutheran) Church of Norway, and 80 percent are confirmed Lutherans.

So the government, then led by Church of Norway pastor Kjell Magne Bondevik, assembled a 20-member committee—made up of church and community leaders, lawyers and others—to propose new church-state models. It presented its findings to Church and Cultural Affairs Minister Trond Giske in January.

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