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Gay marriage comments spark exodus from Church of Finland: Church of England Newspaper, November 21, 2014 November 21, 2014

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A potential vote on gay marriage in future sessions of the General Synod of the Church of Finland has enlivened elections for trustees and parish councillors held on 9 Nov 2014 for the state Lutheran Church with approximately 19,300 candidates contested 9,300 seats for election. Parish councillors and trustees have powers to set church tax rates, which vary between one and two percent, as well as dictate parish financial matters, and decide on construction projects and humanitarian activities. Parish councillors also elect delegates to the church’s general synod and should a law permitting homosexual marriage be adopted by parliament during the next term, synod members will decide whether to allow church unions between same-sex couples. In 2010 17 per cent of the church’s 3.5 million registered members turned out to vote, the highest turnout in almost 30 years. Conservative groups have sought to mobilize lay members of the church to block calls made by some bishops to support gay marriage, and hope to achieve a majority to block proposals to follow the Church of Sweden in solemnizing gay marriages.

Church of Norway rejects gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, May 16, 2014 June 2, 2014

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The General Synod of the Church of Norway, the Kirkemøtet, has rejected a motion that would have permitted same-sex church weddings or the blessing by clergy of same-sex civil unions. However, the 8 April 2014 meeting in Kristiansand also voted not to affirm the church’s traditional stance that marriage is between one man and one woman. The vote against gay marriage was 64 votes to 51, while the vote rejecting the church’s traditional stance on marriage was 62 to 54. In 1993 Norway introduced same-sex civil partnerships and in 2008 amended its marriage laws to make them gender-neutral. Church of Norway priest, the Rev. Dr. Arne H. Fjelstad – director of The Media Project in Washington – told The Church of England Newspaper the defeat of the gay marriage motion was “really a Pyrrhic victory for the more moderate/conservative group within the church.” He noted that some pro-gay marriage bishops after the vote urged patience saying: “With such a close race there is now much more liberty/freedom for us to conduct ceremonies for gays and lesbians. Stay in the church – don’t leave, we have more freedom now, and the situation is doomed to change within a few years.”

Church of Norway clergy union backs gay marriage: The Church of England Newspaper, January 24, 2014 January 27, 2014

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The executive council of the Church of Norway’s clerical union has given its support to church gay marriage. At its December meeting, the union’s central board, the Presteforeningen, unanimously voted to ask the Church of Norway to prepare a rite for the blessing of gay marriages.

Founded in 1900, the Presteforeningen, or Priestly Union counts 2500 clergy and candidates for Holy Orders among its members. It serves as a trade union for the clergy in negotiating wages, conditions of work and other professional concerns.

In 2008 the Norwegian parliament was the first among the Scandinavian countries to revise revised its marriage laws to permit same-sex or gender neutral marriage, followed by Sweden 2008, Iceland 2010, and Denmark 2012.  While the Church of Sweden in 2009 authorized its clergy to perform same-sex the Church of Norway has so far declined to follow the government’s lead.

The executive committee’s vote has sparked dissent among clergy ranks, however. NTB reports that 50 clergy have quit the union in protest since the vote, including the former Bishop of Agder and Telemark, the Rt. Rev. Olav Skjevesland.

Social justice must guide Christianity, Canterbury tells the Porvoo Churches: The Church of England Newspaper, November 1, 2013 November 5, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Porvoo.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury has denounced the church’s heritage of abuse of power and patriarchy, telling the churches of the Porvoo Communion  it must change in order to pursue a campaign of social justice and advocacy that will witness to the world.

In his 21 October 2013 sermon given at Reykjavik’s Dómkirkjan Cathedral, the Most Rev. Justin Welby called on churches to “cry out and claim and struggle” for justice, in order to bring “testimony and witness to words and prayers”.

The archbishop also acknowledged the 20th century campaigns for church union had reached their end.  Church unanimity was “a mirage and a diversion,” he told the leaders of the Anglican Churches of Europe and Nordic Lutheran Churches, calling instead for a unanimity of purpose and focus on “unity”.

Taking as his text the parable of the widow and the unjust judge, Archbishop Welby said the church must take its place with those seeking justice, not with the rich and powerful.  ”Any serious view of the nature of human beings.” he said, “tells us that without the action of God their can be no true justice, and that the church is there to be the widow, to cry out and claim and struggle. That must involve action, which may be slight or grand”.

To often “Justice is something we seek when it is not against us. The heritage of church abuse and patriarchy reminds us that the church follows the world in its injustice and too often combines its misuse of power with the blasphemy of theological justification. But the widow cries out, and in one of the very rare occasions where Luke explains the parable, we are told that it is to stop people giving up in prayer. …  As Pope Francis said, the church is not called to be a Christian NGO.”

The archbishop touched upon his campaign to set up credit unions and reform the City, but also spoke to the “call of church reconciliation” that lay behind the foundation of the Porvoo Communion–contrasting unanimity with unity.

“Unanimity amongst us is first of all a mirage and secondly a diversion,” he explained. “Unanimity is too busy with checking whether the other person is doing the right thing to hear the call of widow: unity sees and hears her and puts aside our own preferences to stand in solidarity and cry with he,” he said in reference to his text Luke 18:1-8.

“If we are to continue to grow closer, so that our communion becomes family, and that family becomes the transforming influence in our society, which is so desperately looking for a new way, after the decades of reliance on material growth have betrayed us, if that family is to become what it should, then we need each other more than ever, not for comfort in the cold, receding tides of Christian faith, but to stretch and challenge each other to ever closer walk with God and evermore passionate fulfilling of his mission,” Archbishop Welby said.

First woman archbishop for Sweden elected: The Church of England Newspaper, October 24, 2014 October 27, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Central Florida Episcopalian, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden.
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The Church of Sweden has elected the Rt. Rev. Antje Jackelén, Bishop of Lund as Archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Church of Sweden. The 15 October 2013 vote by the Swedish synod makes Dr. Jackelén the church’s first woman archbishop.

Dr. Jackelén is the second Archbishop of Uppsala to be elected by popular vote following the disestablishment of the Church of Sweden on 1 January 2000, and she succeeds Archbishop Anders Wejryd who was elected in 2006.

A native of Germany, Bishop Jackelén was ordained a priest in 1980 and served parishes in the dioceses of Stockholm and Lund from 1981 to 1996. In 1999 she earned a doctor of theology degree at Lund University, with a doctoral dissertation Zeit und Ewigkeit: die Frage der Zeit in Kirche, Naturwissenschaft und Theologie was published in English in 2005 as: Time & eternity: the question of time in church, science, and theology. She taught at the Lutheran School of Theology in Chicago from 2001 to 2006, when she was elected Bishop of Lund.

A member of the liberal wing of the Swedish Church, Bishop Jackelén is a prolific social commentator and was Sweden’s first twitter bishop and publishes a micro blog about her work and beliefs.  In an interview published in the Swedish church newspaper Kyrkans Tidning, Bishop Jackelén defended herself against charges she was cold and aloof. “I think I have many warm and close relationships,” she said, but in her job as bishop she came in contact with “an incredible number of people, I cannot be everything to everyone.”

She also objected to making belief in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ a benchmark of the Christian faith. “It is strange that the question of the virgin birth has become something of a faith test,” she told Kyrkans Tidning, adding the Bible had been interpreted in different ways across time and cultures and that many different cultures had made use of a virgin birth as a way to show a particular person’s self-importance.

“I am more afraid of those who claim to know everything, than anyone who claims to wrestle with the Bible,” she said.

Belief in the Virgin Birth an optional extra, new Swedish archbishop declares: Anglican Ink, October 16, 2013 October 16, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of Sweden, Women Priests.
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The Church of Sweden has elected its first woman archbishop.

On 15 October 2013 the Rt. Rev. Antje Jackelén, Bishop of Lund, was elected Archbishop of Uppsala and primate of the Church of Sweden. She is the second Archbishop of Uppsala to be elected by popular vote by the church’s synod following the separation of the Church of Sweden from the state on January 1, 2000, and succeeds the Most Rev. Anders Wejryd who was elected in2006.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Bishop apologizes for Franklin Graham mission to Iceland: The Church of England Newspaper, August 16, 2013 August 22, 2013

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Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir of Iceland

The Bishop of Iceland the Rt. Rev. Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, has apologized to the island’s gay community for the participation of the Church of Iceland in next month’s Festival of Hope meeting in Reykjavík due to the presence of U.S. evangelist and missionary Franklin Graham.

Anna Pála Sverrisdóttir, chair of Samtökin 78, an Icelandic gay activist organization told the news website Ruv.is she was angered by the state Lutheran church’s participation in the Christian rally as Graham opposes gay marriage.

Bishop Sigurðardóttir told Ruv.is she was rethinking her promise to preach at the festival, but added that it might be an opportunity to offer a contrary view to balance Graham’s. The bishop said the Icelandic church had dropped its moral and theological objections to homosexual conduct in 2010 and now was a whole hearted supporter of gay rights.

Gay activists have sought to disrupt the Festival in protest to Graham’s presence. A social media campaign was launched to encourage gay activists to book tickets for the event and then not show up. One activist claimed he had reserved 500 free tickets for the Festival, censoring Graham by preventing those who wanted to hear him preach from the Gospel from attending.

All of the tickets for the festival have been reserved, its website reports. But Festival director Ragnar Gunnarsson told reporters the meeting was not an anti-gay marriage rally but a call to evangelism. He said the Festival organizers were reviewing their options.

Approximately 90 per cent of the country’s population belong to the Þjóðkirkjan, the state Lutheran Church — a partner of the Church of England under the Porvoo Agreement.. However, a 2011 Gallup Poll found Iceland to be one of the world’s most irreligious nations, with 60 per cent of the population saying religion was unimportant in their daily lives.

English Anti-Catholicism & Ethiopian Lutheranism: Get Religion, February 25, 2013 February 25, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of Sweden, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Get Religion, Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod.
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Anti-Catholic bias is alive and well in Britain — however the animus to the “Italian mission to the Irish” comes not from the Church of England. Nor does it stem from the 1701 Act of Settlement (barring Catholics from the Royal Family), Guy Fawkes Night, xenophobia or other collective memories of the Britain’s past. The anti-Catholic bias one sees in England today is that of the political and media elites — those members of the chattering classes who detest the church for what it believes (not what it is).

Now there is an equal opportunity disdain at work — the Church of England is held in low regard also by the elites. Yet despite the best efforts of the magic circle, the small group of liberal prelates who control the English church, to conform the institution to the demands of the right thinking members of the establishment — the chattering classes reject the Catholic moral worldview (and have no problem saying so).

This is the theme of my chat this week with Todd Wilken, the host of Issues, Etc.  In our conversation broadcast on 21 Feb 2013, Todd and I discussed my article “Guardian wins week one of 2013 All-England pope-bashing contest” posted at GetReligion and discussed the phenomena of shoddy reporting on the abdication of Pope Benedict XVI. Todd asked whether I believed that this was a failure of journalism or if there was something more involved.

I argued that this was more than a failure of adhering to the reporter’s art, but represented a virulent anti-Catholic, anti-religious prejudice in the stories we discussed. How could one explain assertions made by the Guardian‘s man in Rome that Africans were unable to conform to the church’s requirements of priestly celibacy due to their being Africans? The Guardian (and the BBC) are the temples of the p.c. priests. How could such a  slur be allowed to make its way into print? Well if it is in a story that damns the Catholic Church it can.

The restraints of time and my inherent good breeding prevented me from giving full voice to my views. I would have liked to add that I was also concerned by the Guardian‘s decision to run so many pope stories — many not worth the bother reading due to the the ignorance of the authors — when other issues of equal merit in the world of religion were taken place over the past few weeks — the story about the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) being but one example.

No, this is not a joke on my part. While I do not downplay the importance of the pope’s resignation announcement, the sheer volume of nonsense being published and the absence of news about the EECMY speaks to the media’s inability to evaluate religious events.

The EECMY story, in a nutshell, is that one of the largest members of the Lutheran World Federation — the 6.1 million member EECMY — has broken fellowship with the Church of Sweden and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The cause for this break is the normalization of homosexuality by the ELCA and the Church of Sweden. This story was all over the religion press in the US and Europe: Christianity Today, First Things, Dagen, and I covered this story for The Church of England Newspaper. I have seen only one secular news story on this item — a local Wisconsin news story in the La Crosse Tribune that ran comments from a Lutheran bishop lamenting the split.

Perhaps the Anglican wars have sucked all the air out of these sorts of stories. The splits in the Anglican world between the Episcopal Church in America and many of the Africans churches over the issue of homosexuality — the same issue that has divided the Ethiopians and the Swedes and the ELCA — has received lengthy and on-going coverage in the press. This may well be another example of the phenomena noted by TMatt here in the pages of GetReligion — the disproportionate coverage given to the Episcopal Church and the Church of England in the American press compared to other, larger faith groups.

There is so much in this story for a newspaper to develop, not least is how the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod has stepped into the shoes once filled by the ELCA as far as Lutherans in the developing world are concerned. I am not saying the Ethiopian split should have pushed the pope off the front page, but some coverage of the seismic change underway in global Christianity might be nice.

First printed in GetReligion.

Global Lutheran schism over homosexuality: The Church of England Newspaper, February 17, 2013 p 7. February 22, 2013

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus, Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) has broken with the Church of Sweden, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and all “churches who have openly accepted same-sex marriage.”

The split between one of the largest African members of the Lutheran World Federation mirrors and liberal American and European churches mirrors the disputes in the Anglican Communion over doctrine and church discipline.

The General Assembly of the Mekane Yesus (Place of Jesus) Church, meeting in Addis Ababa from 27 Jan to 2 Feb, ratified a July 2012 decision by its church council to end Eucharistic fellowship with the two leading liberal members of the World Lutheran Fellowship over their decision to allow gay clergy and same-sex blessings.

“The ELCA is very saddened by this decision,” said the Rev. Rafael Malpica Padilla, executive director for ELCA Global Mission, noting the American Lutheran church had been “walking with the people of Ethiopia for more than 50 years, and our sister church, the Church of Sweden, for more than 150 years.”

While the Mekane Yesus Church is “closing the door to this partnership,” Mr. Malpica Padilla said the ELCA and the Church of Sweden “are not locking the doors from our side. It is open for when you decide it is time to resume this journey together. It is my hope that in the near future, we will again walk together in Christian love.”

In his address to January synod meeting, the president of the EECMY, the Rev. Wakseyoum Idosa said the EECMY “had lived in partnership with some partners for over a century.”

“Challenges and changes that we encounter in out contexts are forcing us to make decisions which are consistent with our belief about God and our biblical, theological and ethical understandings and our contexts where the church operates. One of these challenges as you all know is the controversial issue on human sexuality which has been on the agenda of the EECMY since 2006.”

The EECMY had issued a “clear statement on the position of the church on this issue” in 2010, President Idosa said, and the Council of the Church at its July meeting determined to take action to break with the Church of Sweden and the ELCA.

“The decision of the Council that has been endorsed by the General Assembly will be communicated to the concerned churches on the basis of the bilateral relations that exist between the church and concerned partners,” he said.

Founded by Lutheran missionaries in the 19th century, the Mekane Yesus church has experienced rapid growth over the past forty years. President Idosa told the General Assembly over the past three years the church had added one million members, and at year’s end counted 6,012,184 members and 7,840 congregations.

Church of Sweden backs Israel boycott campaign: Anglican Ink, November 21, 2012 November 22, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Ink, Church of Sweden, Israel, Politics.
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Archbishop Anders Wejryd addressing the Swedish Church Assembly on 21 Nov 2012

The Kyrkomötet  –  the Church Assembly of the Church of Sweden — has asked its government to support the Palestinian Authority’s bid for membership at the United Nations and called for a boycott of Israeli products manufactured in Judea and Samaria.

On 21 Nov 2012 the annual synod of Sweden’s state Lutheran church adopted a series of pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel resolutions during its annual meeting in Uppsala.  A longtime critic of Israeli policies, the Kyrkomötet today also gave its backing the Kairos Palestine Document and called for Israel’s withdrawal from East Jerusalem and the “occupied” territories.

Read it all in Anglican Ink.

Interview: Issues, Etc., June 29, 2012 August 15, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of Denmark, Issues Etc, Religion Reporting.
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Here is a link to an interview I gave to the Issues, Etc program of Lutheran Public Radio broadcast on June 29, 2012.

3. Media Coverage of Gay Marriage in Danish Churches – George Conger, 6/29/12

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First woman bishop for Iceland: The Church of England Newspaper, July 1, 2012 p 6. July 5, 2012

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The National Church of Iceland, the Þjóðkirkjan — a partner of the Church of England under the Porvoo Agreement – will consecrate its first woman bishop at its general synod in Reykjavik on 24 June 2012.

Last month the church held a second round of voting via postal ballot between the top two vote-getters, the Rev. Agnes Sigurðardóttir of Bolungarvík and the Rev. Sigurður Árni Þórðarson of Reykjavik.  All licensed clergy and eligible theological students were asked to vote in the election.  Mrs. Sigurðardóttir received 64.3 per cent of the votes cast against Mr. Þórðarson’s 31.9 per cent.

In a statement released after her election the new bishop said her first task “will be to listen, to hear the voices of people who work in different fields within the church, show concern and create solidarity on having the gospel reach the people.”

The outgoing Bishop of Iceland, the Rt. Rev. Karl Sigurbjörnsson, who retires on 30 June 2012, welcomed the election of Mrs. Sigurðardóttir.  “These are good and conclusive results. Now the church will rally behind the new bishop,” he said.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Pod People: Gay Marriage in Denmark – Get Religion, June 30, 2012 June 30, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of Denmark, Get Religion, Interviews/Citations, Issues Etc, Press criticism.
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In this week’s podcast Issues Etc. host Todd Wilkin and I discussed two recent GetReligion stories: Gay marriages in Denmark and the Lindy Chamberlain affairin Australia. Press ignorance quickly became the theme of the show.

Todd opened the show asking how I could say the Daily Telegraph had done a good job on reporting the story, yet made a rookie’s mistake by blowing its lede. The article claimed that all churches in Denmark would now be compelled to perform gay marriages, when the new laws apply only to the state Lutheran church.

I could not say what caused the mistake, but suggested ignorance might play its part. I did applaud the even-handed way in which the Telegraph reported on this issue — giving supporters and opponents equal opportunity to speak.

However, our conversation quickly turned to the implications for the rest of Europe and America about this issue. This is a live issue in Britain as the government has vowed to introduce gay marriage. The Church of England has voiced its strong opposition over this innovation — and it has dismissed government assurances that its ministers will be compelled to perform gay marriages. A promise today is not binding on the government of tomorrow, the church fears, while one never knows what the European Court of Human Rights may do next.

Ignorance was the central theme of our second topic, the Lindy Chamberlain story from Australia. Made famous in the U.S. by the Meryl Streep movie A Cry in the Dark, Lindy Chamberlain was jailed for murdering her baby after a jury rejected her claim that a dingo carried the child away. Behind the conviction — and a source of endless and unprofessional speculation in the press — was the role the Chamberlain’s Seventh-day Adventist faith played.

Did Seventh-day Adventists practice ritual sacrifice? What strange things were the Chamberlains, devotees of a strange faith, up to in the desert?

To this day the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia maintains a website page countering the more outlandish claims and stories arising from the Lindy Chamberlain case.

Tune in friends to Issues, Etc. for all the fun.

First published in GetReligion.

Danish parliament compels state church to offer gay marriages: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2012. June 25, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of Denmark, Church of England Newspaper, Marriage.
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The Danish National Church – Den Danske Folkekirke, the state Lutheran church – has been directed by its country’s parliament to begin performing gay church weddings effective 15 June 2012.

Earlier this year the liberal-left coalition government of Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt proposed legislation that would allow same-sex couples to marry in the state church.  While gay marriage is legal in Denmark, the state church’s bishops had ruled that the marriage liturgy could not be used for same-sex marriages.

Last week’s vote of 85 to 26 in the Kolketing, the Danish Parliament, directs the bishops to compose a second equal liturgy that would allow same-sex couples to be married by the church.

The new law permits individual priests to refuse to solemnize a gay marriage, but the local bishop must find another priest to perform the service in the recusant’s parish.

The debate within the Kolketing and in the Danish press has divided along calls for justice against Christian teaching and ethics.  After the vote, Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, said the decision had been “historic”.

“I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married. Today, it’s only heterosexual couples,” he said.

The leder in the left wing daily Politiken applauded the 7 June 2012.  “This resolution is not only a victory for homosexuals, but also for Denmark’s progressive, multifaceted image, which has been keeping a low profile in recent years. At the same time the resolution marks a defeat for the alliance of narrow-minded conservatives and religious sourpusses that held sway under the conservative government.”

However, a church affairs spokesman for the blue alliance, the conservative opposition to the ruling red alliance, denounced the government’s decision to override the bishops on gay marriage.

“Marriage is as old as man himself, and you can’t change something as fundamental,” the party’s church spokesperson Christian Langballe said during the debate. “Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman.”

Only three of the country’s ten Lutheran bishops have endorsed the new law and the Bishop of Viborg has warned that by compelling gay marriage, the government risked “splitting the church”.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Gay church marriage in Denmark: Get Religion, June 8, 2012 June 11, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of Denmark, Get Religion, Marriage, Press criticism.
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The Telegraph reports that the Danish parliament has passed a law requiring all churches in the Nordic country to perform gay marriages. Clergy may opt not to perform the ceremonies, but church authorities must find a substitute minister to solemnize the marriage.

Strong stuff, if true. Lutherans, Catholics, Anglicans, Reformed, Orthodox and Pentecostal churches will now be compelled to perform gay marriages, the Telegraph reports, even if it is forbidden by their theological views on marriage.

Here is the lede:

The country’s parliament voted through the new law on same-sex marriage by a large majority, making it mandatory for all churches to conduct gay marriages.

Denmark’s church minister, Manu Sareen, called the vote “historic”.

“I think it’s very important to give all members of the church the possibility to get married. Today, it’s only heterosexual couples.”

Under the law, individual priests can refuse to carry out the ceremony, but the local bishop must arrange a replacement for their church.

The article recounts the political battle that led up to the vote, which passed 85 to 26 and offers quotes from supporters of both sides of the debate.

A conservative politician is cited as saying:

“Marriage is as old as man himself, and you can’t change something as fundamental,” the party’s church spokesperson Christian Langballe said during the debate. “Marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman.”

While the Bishop of Viborg is reported as saying the new law risks “splitting the church”.  The government’s religion minister, who is identified as an agnostic, had sharp words for those who disagree with the new law.

“The minority among Danish people, politicians and priests who are against, they’ve really shouted out loud throughout the process.”

While a prominent gay politician offers the obligatory medieval quote:

“We have felt a little like we were living in the Middle Ages,” he told Denmark’s TV2 station. “I think it is positive that there is now a majority for it, and that there are so many priests and bishops who are in favour of it, and that the Danish population supports up about it. We have moved forward. It’s 2012.”

All in all, this is a nicely balanced piece. Views from both sides are offered and the casual reader gets a sense of where the debate lies. However, there is a hole in this story that needs to be filled — which churches will be compelled to perform gay weddings?

The article states that “all churches” will be compelled to perform gay marriages? Is that true?  No.

According to the Copenhagen Post this law applies only to the state Lutheran Church. It reported:

The ban on marrying same-sex couples in the Church of Denmark will be overturned in parliament today, as a majority of parties have announced their intention to support a law to make marriage gender neutral.

The law does permit vicars to decline to marry same-sex couples in their church, however. In such cases, couples would need to find another minister to perform the ceremony for them.

Same-sex ceremonies may occur as soon as June 15 should the nation’s bishops, as expected, come up with a ceremony by Monday that can be used to wed same-sex couples in church.

The new ceremony was needed after bishops ruled that the current one can only be used to wed heterosexual couples. But while same-sex and heterosexual couples will be wed using different rituals, their marriage status will be equal.

As Denmark has a state church an informed reader would come to this story with the knowledge that the government would only be able to compel the state church, the Lutheran Church, to perform gay marriages. But knowledge of Danish ecclesial affairs is not something one acquires in the normal course of life — the Telegraph should have been  more specific.

It would also have helped to recount the heavy newspaper campaigning by supporters of gay marriage in Denmark. The Danish press has been far from neutral in its coverage of this issue.

A leder in the conservative daily Kristeligt Dagblad had argued that  politicians should refrain from obliging the Danish National Church to perform marriage rites between homosexual partners:

Politicians shouldn’t play at being theologians. The Danish National Church should decide for itself what rituals take place within the church. For obvious reasons such a decision will revolve around other factors than equal treatment. … There’s much at stake here, including the historical understanding of wedlock as the foundation of the family, which remains the smallest and most important social unit. The politicians who are making the Church a battleground for party politics should not simply ignore this.

The left wing daily Politiken applauded the vote in a 8 June 2012 leder.

This resolution is not only a victory for homosexuals, but also for Denmark’s progressive, multifaceted image, which has been keeping a low profile in recent years. At the same time the resolution marks a defeat for the alliance of narrow-minded conservatives and religious sourpusses that held sway under the conservative government.

The European press may be able to offer a balanced analysis of the political forces that produced the parliamentary victory for the liberal government. But it largely incapable of relating, even understanding, the religious issues at play.

There is a story here that has yet to be told. The Telegraph reports that one bishop believes this  law will split the Danish National Church. The Copenhagen Post reports that only 3 of the 10 Danish bishops back the new law. Something is going to happen — hopefully the press will pick up on this story — and not approach it in the way Politiken has approached the story in parliament.

Images courtesy of Shutterstock.

First printed in GetReligion.

Porvoo consultation encourages churches to engage with diversity: The Church of England Newspaper, May 27, 2012 p 7. May 31, 2012

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Porvoo.
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Migration and Diasporas were the focus of conversation for the bi-annual meeting of the Churches in the Porvoo Communion held 21 to 24 March 2012 in Uppsala.

A member of the Porvoo Communion of Churches – the communion of churches that have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service” from the Anglican Churches in Europe and the Nordic and Baltic Lutheran churches, the Church of England was represented at the gathering by the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt. Rev. David Hamid.

Among the agreements is a commitment to “welcome diaspora congregations into the life of the indigenous church for mutual enrichment.”  While the original agreement pertained to the movement of peoples in Europe, the Porvoo Group meeting has expanded this understanding to discuss the growing ethnic diversity found in Europe.

Barbara Moss from the Church of England’s Diocese in Europe addressed the consultation on “Challenges of Integration”, emphasizing that integration was not the same as assimilation.  She argued that integration required both natives and migrants be transformed by the encounter with the other.

At the close of the meeting, the 22 delegates recommended the Porvoo Churches draw up guidelines for the sharing of church buildings between national and immigrant churches of the Porvoo group, the creation of databases of clergy and lay leaders who possess non-native language skills, and for programs to “encourage their clergy and ordinands to become competent in engaging with cultural differences.”

It also stated that the “changing patterns of migration have led to the formation of gathered congregations within Porvoo churches with a geographical parochial system, to ask those churches to reflect on how members of these diaspora congregations may be welcomed into membership of the host church in the place where they worship together.

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Iceland episcopal election underway: The Church of England Newspaper, March 30, 2012 p 6. April 4, 2012

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Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson of Iceland

The Church of Iceland reports that a second round of voting will be held to elect the Bishop of Iceland.

Last week the National Church of Iceland, the Þjóðkirkjan — a partner of the Church of England under the Porvoo Agreement – reported that none of the eight candidates for bishop received more than 50 per cent of the votes cast in the postal ballot of the approximately 500 lay and clergy members of synod.

In January the Rt. Rev. Karl Sigurbjörnsson announced he was stepping down after he apologized for failing to properly investigate allegations of sexual abuse made against his predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Ólafur Skúlason.

In 1996 three women complained to then Pastor Sigurbjörnsson that they had been sexually harassed by his superior, Bishop Skúlason. The complaints were not forwarded to the police, and one of the victims has since claimed Pastor Sigurbjörnsson attempted to “hush up” the incidents and urged them to drop their complaints.

Bishop Sigurbjörnsson said at the time the abuse was reported to him, he attempted to mediate between Bishop Skúlason and his accusers. However, Bishop Skúlason denied the charges and the church took no further actions.

In July 2011 the National Church Council offered £9,000 to each of the three women in compensation, while activists within the clergy ranks called for the bishop to go. The bishop and his two suffragans responded on 11 October 2011 with a public statement of apology to one of the victims.

“We are all going through a painful learning process. It is a matter of regret that Gudrún Ebba’s report to the Church Council in 2009 was not replied to in writing immediately and the Bishop has apologized for that publicly, privately and in writing,” the bishops said.

A second round of voting will be held next month via the post in a run-off between the two top vote-getters. In the first round, the Rev. Agnes Sigurðardóttir of Bolungarvík received 28 per cent of the votes and the Rev. Sigurður Árni Þórðarson of Reykjavik received 25 per cent. If elected, Mrs. Sigurðardóttir will become the church’s first woman bishop.

The new bishop will be consecrated on 24 June 2012 at the next meeting of synod. Bishop Sigurbjörnsson will officially retire on 30 June.

First printed in The Church of England Newspaper.

Apology and compensation for abuse victims in Iceland: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 21, 2011 p 7. October 23, 2011

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The Rt. Rev. Ólafur Skúlason, former Bishop of Iceland

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishops of the Church of Iceland have released a public statement of regret over the Church’s mishandling the sexual abuse investigation of former Bishop Ólafur Skúlason, but have rejected calls for the Church’s current leader to step down.

On 11 October the bishops apologized to Gudrún Ebba Ólafsdóttir, the daughter of the late Bishop Skúlason, after she went on national television to chronicle the abuse she had suffered at the hands of her father and the Church’s subsequent failure to respond to her allegations.

Allegations of cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse have swirled around the Church of Iceland and have prompted calls for Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson to resign. In 1996 three women complained to then Pastor Sigurbjörnsson that they had been sexually harassed by his superior, Bishop Skúlason. The complaints were not forwarded to the police, and one of the victims has since claimed Pastor Sigurbjörnsson attempted to “hush up” the incidents and urged them to drop their complaints.

In June Bishop Sigurbjörnsson told the Fréttabladid newspaper: “I regret that there are women out there who have grievance and anger towards the church’s servants, myself included, for having failed them in these matters.”

The Bishop said at the time the abuse was reported to him, he attempted to mediate between Bishop Skúlason and his accusers. However, Bishop Skúlason denied the charges and the National Church of Iceland, the Þjóðkirkjan — a partner of the Church of England under the Porvoo Agreement — took no further actions.

In July the National Church Council offered £9,000 to each of the three women to compensate them for the Church’s inaction.

In their statement Iceland’s three bishops said: “We are all going through a painful learning process. It is a matter of regret that Gudrún Ebba’s report to the Church Council in 2009 was not replied to in writing immediately and the Bishop has apologized for that publicly, privately and in writing. However, it should be pointed out that the mistakes made in responding to her report did not impact how her case was treated.”

Bishop Sigurbjörnsson declined to comment further, as did the Suffragan bishop of Hólar the Rt Rev Jón Adalsteinn Baldvinsson. Asked by the Fréttabladid newspaper if Bishop Sigurbjörnsson should resign, the Suffragan Bishop of Skálholt, the Rt Rev Kristján Valur Ingólfsson said, “The Bishop shouldn’t resign for what Ólafur Skúlason has done.”

Iceland bishop denies abuse cover-up: The Church of England Newspaper, June 24, 2011 p 6. June 24, 2011

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The Rt. Rev. Ólafur Skúlason, former Bishop of Iceland

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Iceland has rebuffed calls that he step down following the release of an internal report sharply critical of his handling of a clergy sexual abuse case.  Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson’s inaction in response to accusations of rape leveled against his predecessor Bishop Ólafur Skúlason, was tantamount to a “conspiracy of silence,” the Church of Iceland’s Investigative Commission found.

Bishop Sigurbjörnsson apologized for his part in the scandal, and for the church’s dilatory response, but argued there was no intent to cover up or excuse misconduct.  He urged the June 14 special meeting of synod to put recriminations aside as the Church of Iceland, a full communion partner with the Church of England under the Porvoo Agreement, did not know how to handle abuse claims in the 1990’s.

“Now we have to look at our work in honesty and mark a new and clear policy,” the bishop told the Icelandic television network RUV on June 14.

In 1996 three women accused Bishop Skúlason of rape.  The Church of Iceland Council and the Deans’ Society rejected the accusations and issued statements of support for their bishop.  In 1997 Bishop Skúlason resigned as bishop and Bishop Sigurbjörnsson was elected head of the state Lutheran church, which numbers 79.18 per cent of the Icelandic nation as registered members.

A year after Bishop Skúlason’s death in 2008, his daughter wrote to Bishop Sigurbjörnsson stating she had been molested by her father when she was a teenager.  She asked to meet with the Church Council—the Icelandic church’s governing body led by the bishop—to discuss her case.  However, the bishop did not respond to her letter for over a year and the commission found her letter had been held back from the bishop’s official register of correspondence for several months.

The investigation committee said the bishop should have reacted sooner to the allegations of abuse and called for the introduction of sexual abuse guidelines covering clergy misconduct.

The June 14 synod meeting passed a resolution supporting their bishop, but the chairman of the meeting told Icelandic television that the fall meeting of synod would likely take up changes to the structures of the church, including removing the bishop as chairman of the church council in favor of an elected lay man or woman.

The Rev. Sigrídur Gudmarsdóttir, the vicar of Grafarholtsprestakall, released a statement after the meeting calling upon the bishop to resign She told the Morgunbladid the bishop should put the interests of the church over his career.

“The Bishop of Iceland should recognize that it will serve the church better if someone else is to take over his duties. The longer he remains in office, the more damage it will cause the church,” Mrs. Gudmarsdóttir said.

Norwegian primate appointed: The Church of England Newspaper, April 8, 2011 p 8. April 9, 2011

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Bishop Helga Haugland Byfuglien

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Borg, the Rt. Rev. Helga Haugland Byfuglien, has been appointed by the Minister for Church Affairs to be the Church of Norway’s presiding bishop.  Bishop Byfuglien becomes the first permanent primate of the Church of Norway and also its first female leader.

Since the Reformation, the presiding bishop of the Church of Norway has been a one year post that passed among the church’s 11 bishops.  However, the office of primate and presiding bishop without territorial jurisdiction was created last year “to strengthen the president function” of the office.

The membership of the Bishops’ Conference of the Church of Norway will now rise to 12 members, and the new primate will be officially based in the National Offices in Oslo but with a seat in the ancient cathedral of Nidaros (Trondheim).

Born in 1950, Bishop Byfuglien has led the Diocese of Borg since 2005 and is vice president of the Lutheran World Federation.  Before her consecration she also served as General Secretary of the Norwegian YWCA-YMCA from 2001 – 2005.  Bishop Byfuglien was the only candidate for the post, and was nominated by the church’s bishops for the position.

Considered a progressive among Norwegian church circles, the new presiding bishop has sought to open the church’s doors to non-traditional forms of spirituality and healing.  “The Church needs to be open for the multitude of people who have some kind of New Age background,” Bishop Byfuglien said, according to a March 28 report in the Norwegian Christian Daily, Dagen Magazinet.

“The Established Church must listen and be open for this kind of experience. We must give space for other forms of worship, like silence and meditation.” the presiding bishop said.

Porvoo consultation on conflict: The Church of England Newspaper, March 4, 2011 p 8. March 9, 2011

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St Mary's Cathedral, Tallinn, Estonia

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Representatives of the Porvoo group of Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches met last week in Estonia to lay the groundwork for a common church understanding and response to ‘conflict.’

Under the co-chairmanship of the Bishop of Newcastle, the Rt. Rev. Martin Wharton and Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson of Iceland the 30 delegates attending the “Responding to Conflict” consultation at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Tallinn, examined the theological and sociological roots of conflict focusing on five areas of discourse: interpersonal conflict, conflict within churches, sectarian and ethnic conflict, church/state conflict, and conflict between man and nature.

Bishop Trevor Williams of Limerick and the Archbishop-elect of Dublin, Dr. Michael Jackson spoke on political and religious conflict in Ireland while workshops on the psychological perspectives of conflict, congregational conflict and authority, conflict and leadership were offered.

The former Bishop of Colombo, the Rt. Rev Duleep de Chickera led the daily Bible studies and drew upon his experiences in the Sri Lankan civil war.  The papers and summary of discussions will be presented to the October meeting of the Porvoo Contact Group in Cardiff, for further action.

Oslo bishop accused of offering pay-off for abuse victim’s silence: The Church of England Newspaper, Jan 21, 2011 p 7 January 25, 2011

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The Rt. Rev. Ole Christian Kvarme, Bishop of Oslo

First Published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Oslo has been accused of offering money to a women in exchange for her silence after she accused a clergyman of sexual misconduct.

The Norwegian press reports that the Rt. Rev. Ole Christian Kvarme was contacted by a member of his diocese 18 months ago.  The parishioner stated that while on a pastoral visit to her home, a clergyman put his hand down the front of her blouse.  The 70 year old woman wrote a letter of complaint to the clergyman, expressing her disappointment with his betrayal of her trust.  The clergyman offered an apology, the Oslo newspaper VG reported, but did not refer to the incident in his note.

The parishioner notified Bishop Kvarme, who then met with her.  “The Bishop thought it was a terrible matter, but was happy I had held my faith. He didn’t mention any more about it,” she told VG.

She wrote to the bishop last year to follow up on the incident, and now claims the bishop offered her 10,000 kroner in exchange for her silence.  She responded by lodging a complaint with the police, who are currently investigating the affair.

Bishop Kvarme confirmed he had offered money to the woman, but denied it was for her silence.

The Minister of Church Affairs, Rigmor Aasrud, declined to comment on the matter as it was under investigation, but stated “one cannot simply buy one’s way out of these types of matters.”

“We are not aware that the church has used money in this way before. It is not a natural way of using money that the Church has received from us,” she said.

Norwich – Swedish link signed: The Church of England Newspaper, Nov 19, 2010 p 8. November 23, 2010

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Bishop Hans Stiglund of Luleå, Sweden

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Diocese of Norwich and the Church of Sweden’s Diocese of Luleå have signed a “covenant of commitment” at a formal ceremony at Norwich Cathedral.  On Nov 16, Bishop Hans Stiglund of Luleå and Bishop Graham James formalized the two diocese’s long-standing relationship at a ceremony which also saw the Swedish bishop installed as an ecumenical canon at the cathedral.

Bishop Stiglund and 13 senior Swedish clergy from the diocese were in Norwich from Nov 13-17, “learning more about the ways in which we are organised, financed and resourced,” Bishop James said.

The Swedish visitors visited “some of the projects in Norwich where the Church is pioneering work with those who are disadvantaged, and our guests will stay with clergy across the Diocese, sharing in the life of their parishes and learning about each other’s lives and ministries,” Bishop James noted, adding the endorsement of the diocesan covenant “will be an important sign of our commitment to nurturing an enduring and fruitful friendship.”

Under the 1992 Porvoo agreement, the Lutheran Churches of Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Iceland, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden are in eucharistic fellowship with the Church of England, Church of Ireland, Church in Wales and the Scottish Episcopal Church.  The Porvoo Communion is a communion of churches that have signed an agreement to “share a common life in mission and service.”  While agreeing on certain fundamental issues, the Porvoo churches are not a new confession, but maintain their respective identities.

 

Denmark signs Porvoo Agreement: The Church of England Newspaper, Oct 8, 2010 p 5. October 10, 2010

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Bishop Karsten Nissen of Viborg endorsing the Porvoo Agreement on behalf of the Bishops of the Church of Denmark

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Denmark (Den Danske Folkekirke) signed the Porvoo Agreement this week, and has entered into Eucharistic fellowship with the Church of England, the Church of Ireland, the Church in Wales, the Scottish Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Churches of the Nordic and Baltic states.

On Oct 3 representatives of the Church of Denmark formally endorsed the agreement after a service at Vor Frue Cathedral in Copenhagen.

The Suffragan Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rt. Rev. David Hamid, reported the celebrations began with an evensong service at St Alban’s Anglican Church on Oct 2.  The Rt. Rev. Martin Wharton, Bishop of Newcastle and the Anglican Co-Chairman of the Porvoo Contact Group, read a sermon prepared by the former Bishop of Portsmouth, the Rt. Rev. Kenneth Stevenson, who was unable to attend due to illness.

The Anglican Churches were represented at the cathedral service by Bishop Hamid, Bishop Wharton, Bishop Michael Jackson of Clogher of the Church of Ireland, the Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church Bishop David Chillingworth, Bishop Christopher Hill of Guildford, Canon Ulla Monberg of the Diocese in Europe, and the rector of St Albans Archdeacon Jonathan Lloyd.

In Dec 2009 the Church of Denmark’s governing ecclesiastical council, with the approval of its 12 bishops, announced that it had endorsed the 1996 agreement that provides for inter-communion between the Anglican and Nordic Lutheran Churches.  Denmark participated in the talks that led up to the signing of the accord, but declined to endorse it in 1996.

The state Church of Denmark, the Danish National or People’s Church is a Lutheran church whose head is Queen Margrethe II.  Administrative authority rests with the government through its Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, while the Danish parliament, the Folketinget is the church’s highest legislative authority.  The Church has no metropolitan archbishop, and the bishop of each of the church’s 12 dioceses exercises spiritual authority over his charges.

As of January 2008, 82.1 per cent of Danes are members of the Church of Denmark, official statistics report, though less than 5 per cent are regular churchgoers.

Finland consecrates first woman bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 17, 2010 p 8. September 20, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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Bishop Irja Askola of Helsinki

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Finland has consecrated its first female bishop.  On Sept 12 the Rt. Rev. Irja Askola was consecrated Bishop of Helsinki for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

A member of the Porvoo Group of churches in Communion with the Church of England, Finland now joins Norway, Sweden and Denmark in appointing women bishops.  Women bishops from Sweden, Denmark and Germany were among those laying hands on the new bishop.  The former Bishop of Limerick the Rt. Rev. Edward Darling served as a co-consecrator and the Dean of Leicester, the Very Rev Vivienne Faull, and the suffragan Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rt. Rev. David Hamid, represented the Church of England.

The consecration of Bishop Askola has come at the price of soured ecumenical relations in Finland, however.  In June, the head of the Orthodox Church of Finland said the consecration of a woman bishop would drive Lutherans and the Orthodox father apart.  In an interview with Kotimaa the leader of Finland’s Catholics, Bishop Teemu Sippo, said that while he would work with the new Lutheran bishop, her consecration would drive the two churches farther apart.

The chairman of the Pentecostal Church of Finland, Vesa Pylvänäinen, said his group was concerned over her theological views.  Her support for same-sex blessings would likely push traditionalists out of the Lutheran Church.  “I am quite sure that this will happen,” Pastor Pylvänen told the Helsingen Sanomat.

In her address to the congregation, Bishop Askola said, “people have a longing for trust. If we do not know how to speak with each other, even with those who have different opinions, backgrounds or lifestyles, we are on the way to destruction. Disagreement does not destroy us.”

The new bishop added that people need to hear that someone shows unconditional mercy toward them, the Helsingen Sanomat reported.

The consecration of the new bishop follows close upon the dismissal of traditionalist Bishop Matti Väisänen.  On Aug 11, the Diocese of Tampere removed Bishop Väisänen from the ranks of its ministers after he was consecrated by traditionalist Lutheran bishops from Sweden and Africa to serve members of the state church who are unable to accept the oversight of a woman bishop.

In 2006 the Finnish Bishops’ Conference ruled that male priests may not refuse to work with women priests, and stated that those who rejected the validity of women’s orders would not be appointed as parish vicars.  The church has also refused to ordain clergy opposed to women priests.

Church of Finland deposes traditionalist bishop: The Church of England Newspaper, Sept 3, 2010 p 6. September 8, 2010

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Bishop Matti Väisänen

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Church of Finland has defrocked the leader of the church’s traditionalist movement, the Luther Foundation, saying that by accepting consecration at the hands of foreign Swedish and African Lutheran bishops, Bishop Matti Väisänen had violated his ordination vows to the state church.

On Aug 11, the Diocese of Tampere removed Bishop Väisänen from the ranks of its ministers.  Spokesman Leevi Häikiö told STT television the diocese had no choice in the matter.

“Defrocking Väisänen will influence how his actions and the religious ceremonies he administers will be evaluated. In our eyes Väisänen is now a layman,” Mr. Häikiö said.

Formed in 1999, the Luther Foundation began as a confessional movement within the state church for those opposed to the ordination of women.  In 2006 the Finnish Bishops’ Conference ruled that male priests may not refuse to work with women priests, and stated that those who rejected the validity of women’s orders would not be appointed as parish vicars.  The church has also refused to ordain clergy opposed to women priests.

In 2007 a state court fined the Rev. Ari Norro 20-days pay for refusing to con-celebrate the Eucharist with a woman priest.  The Hyvinkää District Court held that religious convictions cannot trump the state’s sexual discrimination laws, and that by agreeing to serve in the ministry of the state church, a clergyman forfeited his rights of conscience.

The church’s purge of traditionalists has led to the formation of 17 congregations that operate within the tradition of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Finland, but are self-governing and financially independent.  In March, the leaders of the Church of Sweden’s traditionalist movement, the Mission Province, consecrated Bishop Väisänen to provide episcopal oversight to the ‘free diocese’ in Finland and to ordain new clergy for the movement.

On Aug 12, Bishop Väisänen released a statement saying the state church’s action would have no bearing on his ministry, and that the failure of the state church to be faithful to its confessional standards had led to this situation.

“Because shepherds who bind themselves to the apostolic view on the office of the ministry are no longer being ordained in our church, I have received the office of bishop. The justification for this ecclesial emergency right is based on the Holy Bible and the Lutheran confessions. It is not an offence against the ordination oath but in the most profound sense precisely acting in accordance with the duties of that oath,” he said.

While the Luther Foundation has not yet broken with the Church of Finland, the issue may be put to the test in October, when Bishop Väisänen is scheduled to ordain four graduates of the Theological Faculty of the University of Helsinki.  Bishop Matti Repo of Tampere told the Finnish press that if Bishop Väisänen starts ordaining ministers, it will be an indication that the Luther Foundation considers itself a church unto itself. “Real bishops guide the Church to unity, not disunity,” he said.

Clergy abuse cases rock Church of Iceland: The Church of England Newspaper, Aug 27, 2010 p 5. August 29, 2010

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The Rt. Rev. Ólafur Skúlason, former Bishop of Iceland

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Bishop of Iceland, the Rt. Rev. Karl Sigurbjörnsson has denied claims that he ignored accusations of sexual abuse leveled against his predecessor, the Rt. Rev. Ólafur Skúlason.  However, the bishop admitted the National Church of Iceland, the Þjóðkirkjan, had “failed these women” who were allegedly victimized by the bishop.

Speaking on the television news discussion show Kastljósið on Aug 23, the bishop said he believes he still has the support of the church and country, and will not heed calls that he resign.

Allegations of cover-ups of clergy sexual abuse have swirled around the Church of Iceland this year.  After meeting with Bishop Sigurbjörnsson last week, the Minister of Justice said it was up to the church to implement clear policies on reporting and combating sexual abuse.

The clergy of the state church have been divided over how far they will go in reporting sexual abuse, with one priest, the Rev. Geir Waage of Reykholt telling reporters last week that the sanctity of the confession overrides a law requiring every Icelandic citizen to report sex crimes against children.

In 1996 three women complained to then Pastor Sigurbjörnsson that they had been sexually harassed by his superior, Bishop Skúlason.  The complaints were not forwarded to the police, and one of the victims has since claimed Sigurbjörnsson attempted to “hush up” the incidents and urged them to drop their complaints.

“I was just a small pastor,” Bishop Sigurbjörnsson told the Fréttabladid newspaper. “Of course you don’t want to believe something like that. It is the first reaction of all people to be on the defensive. Without a doubt, that’s what the church did in this instance.”

“We have learned from these mistakes,” the bishop conceded.  “I regret that there are women out there who have grievance and anger towards the church’s servants, myself included, for having failed them in these matters. It is intolerable to be the subject of such accusations, both for myself, given my position, and the church’s priests in general. Simply intolerable.”

The bishop said in 1996 he attempted to mediate between Bishop Skúlason and his accusers.  However, Bishop Skúlason denied the charges and the National Church, a partner of the Church of England under the Porvoo Agreement, took no further actions.

Woman bishop for Helsinki: The Church of England Newspaper, June 12, 2010 June 12, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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Bishop Irja Askola of Helsinki

The Church of Finland has elected is first female bishop.  On June 3 Pastor Irja Askola was elected Bishop of Helsinki of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

A member of the Porvoo Group of churches in Communion with the Church of England, Finland now joins Norway, Sweden and Denmark in appointing women bishops.  However, the election of Pastor Askola will likely cause difficulty for some of the diocese’s clergy, members of the traditionalist Finnish Lutheran Gospel Association.

In September 2006 a committee of the Finnish House of Bishops chaired by the Bishop of Espoo, the Rt. Rev. Mikko Heikka recommended that congregations no longer be permitted to allow ministers to absent themselves from services where they would have to serve with a female priest, nor would the parish be permitted to accommodate traditionalist clergy by scheduling male clergy only services.

In 2008 a court convicted the Rev. Ari Norro of “criminal discrimination” under the country’s human rights laws for refusing to concelebrate the Eucharist with a female minister.  Mr. Norro, a member of the Lutheran Gospel Association, was fined 20-days pay by the Hyvinkää District Court, which held that religious convictions cannot trump sexual discrimination laws.

In the second round of voting, held in each of Helsinki’s deaneries, Pastor Askola received 591 votes against the 567 polled by the Dean of Helsinki Cathedral, Pastor Matti Poutiainen. The new bishop will take office Sept 1, and will be consecrated on Sept 12 at Helsinki Cathedral.

Bishop-elect Askola received her divinity degree in 1975 and was ordained in 1988.  From 1991 to 1999 she worked for the Conference of European Churches and at the time of her election was the Special Assistant in Theological Affairs for Bishop Heikka.

Archbishops’ call to cancel fighter contract: The Church of England Newspaper, April 1, 2010 p 8. April 3, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Southern Africa, Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden.
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Gripen fighters flying over Table Mountain in Cape Town

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

Church leaders in South Africa and Sweden have called for an independent investigation of allegations of kickbacks and corruption in the wake of a multi-billion pound arms deal.

Archbishops Thabo Makgoba and Desmond Tutu have challenged the ANC government to suspend the deal, which they say will institutionalize a culture of corruption in South Africa that will derail the country’s transition to democracy.

The two governments are expected to sign a £3.8 billion arms agreement this month that will provide advanced military hardware to South Africa including the Saab JAS 39 Gripen fighter-bomber.

However, Archbishops Makgoba and Tutu, the former Archbishop of Uppsala K.G. Hammar and the head of the Swedish Baptist Union Karin Wiborn have charged that the funds spent on arms by South Africa would be better spent on social development.

The four church leaders have also warned the arms deal would provide a further opportunity for graft and corruption in the scandal plagued ANC government in Pretoria.

The South African Air Force has already begun taking delivery of seven of the twenty-eight new generation fighters. The £1.9 billion deal for fighter aircraft had won the approval of South Africa’s parliament, which was told that 65,000 jobs would be created to support and equip the new fighters.

These claims of jobs were illusory and the moral consequences of the sale were troubling, the four church leaders wrote in letters published on March 28 in the Times of South Africa and in Stockholm’s Dagens Nyheter.

“It is disgraceful how the armaments lobby abused the goodwill created out of the many years of solidarity against the racist apartheid government to sell the Gripen fighter aircraft,” they charged.

“The absurdity of these contracts is confirmed by the reality that South Africa now even seems to lack the capacity to properly maintain the procured jet fighters. We now call for the cancellation of the remaining contracts, and for a refund of expenditures already paid,” they said.

“Unfortunately the South African government succumbed to economically absurd arguments and pressure from European governments that the arms deal would create over 65000 jobs and thus stimulate the economy. These promises have so far turned out to be mainly empty words.”

They called upon the South African government to set up an independent judicial inquiry to investigate allegations of corruption and kickbacks in the arms deal, and asked Sweden to “co-operate fully in these inquiries” and “suspend the sale of arms to South Africa until the review process is complete.”

The four church leaders challenged their governments to “reveal how public resources have been misused. Errors must be corrected and, as modern democracies, our countries must have the courage to thoroughly investigate what really happened.”

Finland rejects gay marriage: CEN 2.17.10 p 8. February 25, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Archbishop Jukka Paarma of Finland

The Bishops of the Church of Finland have rejected gay church marriages.

Following a two-day meeting in Helsinki, on Feb 10 the bishops released a statement saying that formal blessings of same-sex partnerships will not be permitted in the country’s Lutheran state churches.

Pastors may provide pastoral and prayer support for homosexual couples, but may not offer wedding-like ceremonies, the Finnish bishops said.

Last week’s decision was a compromise, Archbishop Jukka Paarma told reporters. A partner of the Church of England through the Porvoo agreements, the Finnish state church had not “taken a clear stand on these matters, but now we have,” the archbishop explained.

Gays may be members of the church, and the church will permit, on a case by case basis, gay clergy to officiate. Clergy may also pray for gay couples using the words of the Finnish prayer book.

However, the prayers may not be taken from the marriage service or nuptial blessing, no exchange of rings or other wedding-like rituals are permitted, and no parish or minister will be obligated to perform the gay-friendly prayers, the archbishop said.

Same-sex blessings have divided the Nordic churches and have led to broken relationships with the orthodox churches of the region. The Church of Sweden last year permitted gay marriage in churches, while the Baltic Lutheran churches—Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania—have followed the Russian Orthodox Church’s line and declared such innovations as heretical.

Danish Church votes to enter full communion with Porvoo Churches: CEN 12.18.09 p 6. January 1, 2010

Posted by geoconger in Church of Denmark, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Porvoo.
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The ecclesiastical council of the Church of Denmark, (Den Danske Folkekirke) has endorsed the Porvoo Agreement, and will enter into formal communion with the Church of England, Church of Ireland, Church in Wales, Scottish Episcopal Church and the Lutheran Churches of Nordic and Baltic states.

In an announcement distributed to the country’s 2200 congregations last week, the church’s governing ecclesiastical council, with the approval of its 12 bishops, endorsed the 1996 agreement that provides for inter-communion between the Anglican and Nordic Lutheran Churches.

Denmark participated in the talks that led up to the signing of the accord, but declined to endorse it in 1996. Council president Paul Verner Skærved told the Kristelig Dagblad he was glad the national church had finally lived up to its responsibilities of being a significant player in the European community of churches.

The Rt. Rev. David Hamid, the suffragan bishop in the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe noted that arrangements for the public signing of the declaration had yet to be finalized, but the decision by the Danish Church to accept the Porvoo Common Statement was a “major ecumenical breakthrough.”

The state church of Denmark, the Danish National or People’s Church is a Lutheran church in the Lutheran tradition whose head is the Queen, Margrethe II of Denmark. Administrative authority rests with the government through its Minister for Ecclesiastical Affairs, while the Danish parliament, the Folketinget is the church’s highest legislative authority. The Church has no metropolitan archbishop, and the bishop of each of the church’s 12 dioceses exercises spiritual authority over his charges.

As of January 2008, 82.1 per cent of Danes are members of the Church of Denmark, official statistics report, though less than 5 per cent are regular churchgoers.

‘No boycott’ claim over new Swedish Bishop’s consecration: CEN 11.13.09 p 6. November 18, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Church of Sweden.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper.Reports the Churches of England and Ireland boycotted the consecration of a partnered lesbian priest as Bishop of Stockholm are not true, spokesmen for the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Armagh tell Religious Intelligence.com.

However, no episcopal representatives from the Churches of England or Ireland, the Church in Wales or the Scottish Episcopal Church were present for the Nov 8 consecration of the Rev Eva Brunne by Swedish Archbishop Anders Wejryd of Uppsala.

Churches deny boycott of lesbian priest’s consecration

On Nov 3 the Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen reported the Church of England and Church of Ireland would ‘boycott’ the ceremony as a sign of their displeasure with the ordination of Pastor Brunne, who lives with her female partner, a fellow Church of Sweden pastor, the Rev Gunilla Lindén.

A spokesman for Archbishop Alan Harper, Primate of the Church of Ireland, said that while the substance of the comments attributed to Dr Harper were correct, the Archbishop “did not give such a statement to a Dagen journalist.”

Dr Harper would “not think of this in terms of a ‘boycott’,” the spokesman explained. An invitation had been received, he noted, but had been declined. The Archbishop of Armagh “has conveyed to the Church of Sweden that the Church of Ireland will not be officially represented at the episcopal consecration in Uppsala,” the spokesman said as the “Church of Ireland is observing the moratorium” on the consecration of partnered ‘gay’ clergy.

A spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said the Church of England would be represented by the Area Dean of the Baltic and Nordic States of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rev Nicholas Howe, chaplain of St Peter and St Sigfrid’s Church in Stockholm.

A “diary conflict” would prevent Mr Howe from attending the consecration, Lambeth Palace said, but he would be present for the reception that would follow. The Church of England’s Diocese of Portsmouth, which is twinned with the Diocese of Stockholm, would also be sending a representative to the reception.

Speaking to the Church of Sweden’s newspaper, the Kyrkans Tidning, Archbishop Wejryd said he did not expect Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams to attend. “We send invitations to those with the highest rank. That’s why the Archbishop of Canterbury received an invitation, but no one expected him to say yes.”

The consecration of Pastor Brunne follows upon the Oct 22 vote by the Kyrkomötet, the Church’s governing assembly to permit clergy to conduct same-sex church weddings.

Writing to the Archbishop of Uppsala on June 26, the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England said the adoption of gay marriage by the Swedish church would be “problematic.”

The “teaching and discipline” of the Anglican Communion was that “it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them,” the Archbishops’ Council said.

The way the Church of Sweden had gone about introducing gay marriage liturgies was worrisome, the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt Rev David Hamid said. The Porvoo Agreement which joined the Church of England and Church of Sweden in full Eucharistic fellowship committed the partners to consultations with one another on issues of faith and order.

“Such a consultation has not happened on the matter of gender-neutral marriage,” Bishop Hamid said.

Anglicans Respond Coolly to Swedish Consecration: TLC 11.07.09 November 7, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England, Church of Ireland, Church of Sweden, Living Church.
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First published in The Living Church.

Swedish press reports that the Church of England and Church of Ireland will boycott the consecration of a partnered lesbian priest as Bishop of Stockholm are not true, spokesmen for the Archbishop of Canterbury and Archbishop of Armagh told The Living Church.

Nevertheless, no episcopal representatives from the Churches of England or Ireland, the Church in Wales or the Scottish Episcopal Church will be present for the Nov. 8 consecration of the Rev. Eva Brunne by Swedish Archbishop Anders Wejryd of Uppsala.

The Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen reported on Nov. 3 that the Church of England and Church of Ireland will boycott the ceremony as a sign of their displeasure with the ordination of Pastor Brunne, who lives with her partner, a fellow Church of Sweden pastor, the Rev. Gunilla Lindén.

Paul Harron, a spokesman for Archbishop Alan Harper, Primate of the Church of Ireland, said that while the substance of the comments attributed to Dr. Harper were correct, the archbishop “did not give such a statement to a Dagen journalist.”

Dr. Harper would “not think of this in terms of a ‘boycott,’ ” Mr. Harron said. The archbishop received an invitation, he said, but declined to attend.

The Archbishop of Armagh “has conveyed to the Church of Sweden that the Church of Ireland will not be officially represented at the episcopal consecration in Uppsala,” Mr. Harron said, as the “Church of Ireland is observing the moratorium” on the consecration of clergy with same-sex partners.

David Brownlie-Marshall, a spokesman for the Archbishop of Canterbury said the Church of England will be represented by the Area Dean of the Baltic and Nordic States of the Diocese of Gibraltar in Europe, the Rev. Nicholas Howe, chaplain of St. Peter and St. Sigfrid’s Church in Stockholm.

A “diary conflict” will prevent Fr. Howe from attending the consecration, Mr. Brownlie-Marshall said, but he will attend a subsequent reception. The Church of England’s Diocese of Portsmouth, which is twinned with the Diocese of Stockholm, will also send a representative to the reception.

Speaking to the Church of Sweden’s newspaper, the Kyrkans Tidning, Archbishop Wejryd said he did not expect the Archbishop of Canterbury to attend. “We send invitations to those with the highest rank. That’s why the Archbishop of Canterbury received an invitation, but no one expected him to say yes.”

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Bishop of New Hampshire, said he had “no plans to attend the consecration,” but noted that “it’s wonderful to see a church which chooses its bishops based on their experience, skills, and faithfulness, rather than on gender, sexual orientation and the like — a commitment I believe the Episcopal Church has now made.”

The consecration of Pastor Brunne follows the Oct. 22 vote by the Kyrkomötet, the church’s governing assembly, to permit clergy to conduct same-sex church weddings.

Writing to the Archbishop of Uppsala on June 26, the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England said the adoption of gay marriage by the Swedish church is problematic.

The “teaching and discipline” of the Anglican Communion is that “it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them,” the Archbishops’ Council said.

The way the Church of Sweden has gone about introducing gay-marriage liturgies is problematic, said the Suffragan Bishop in Europe, the Rt. Rev. David Hamid. The Porvoo Common Statement, which joined the Church of England and Church of Sweden in full Eucharistic fellowship in 1992, committed the partners to consultation with one another on issues of faith and order.

“Such a consultation has not happened on the matter of gender-neutral marriage,” Bishop Hamid said.

Swedish church allows gay weddings: CEN 10.22.09 October 23, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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First published in The Church of England Newspaper

The general synod of the Church of Sweden has authorized same-sex weddings.

On Oct 22 the Kyrkomötet, the Church’s governing assembly, voted 176 to 73 to endorse the recommendation of its Central Board to solemnize gay marriages after Swedish civil law on May 1 granted same-sex couples the right to marry.

Marriage “is a social institution regulated by public authorities. From a perspective of theology of creation, the marriage has the purpose to support the internal relation between spouses and give a safe setting for the children growing up,” the Central Board said in its recommendation to adopt gay marriage rites.

Sweden church allows gay weddings

The Kyrkomötet vote “takes a stance in favour of an inclusive view of people. Regardless of whether one is religious or not, this affects the entire social climate and the view of people’s equal value,” said the head of the country’s largest gay rights group, Åsa Regnér of the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education (RFSU).

In the run up to the vote, conservative members of the Church of Sweden had urged the Kyrkomötet not to “cuff off the church from its roots. The Church of Sweden will now be transformed into a congregational denomination, whose teaching is formulated by simple majority decisions, and where the Bible is being used arbitrarily or even entirely removed in order to legitimize the decisions taken,” said Pastor Yngve Kalin of the Church Coalition for Bible and Confession.

Traditionalist members of the Kyrkomötet had argued that same-sex marriage violated Scripture and the Church’s traditional teachings on marriage and also imperiled ecumenical relations. The Church of England is in communion with the Church of Sweden through the 1992 Porvoo Common Statement.

Writing to the Archbishop of Uppsala on behalf of the Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England, the Rt. Rev. Christopher Hill on behalf of the Council for Christian Unity and the Rt. Rev. John Hind on behalf of the Faith and Order Advisory Group said the adoption of gay marriage by the Swedish church would be “problematic.”

The “teaching and discipline” of the Anglican Communion was that “it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them,” the Archbishops’ Council said on June 26, 2009.

Gay marriage was a “fundamental re-definition of marriage and of basic Christian anthropology.” Making marriage gender neutral was “at odds with the Biblical teaching about the significance of God’s creation of human beings as male and female as this has been received by the Church of England and by the Catholic tradition in general,” the bishops said.

The adoption of gay marriage by the Swedes would also have “immediate and negative ecumenical consequences” and would “lead to the impairment of the relationships” with “particular limitations of the inter-changeability of ordained ministry.”

However, traditionalists in the Kyrkomötet siad the outcome of the gay marriage vote was all but certain due to the politicized nature of its general synod.

“The Church of Sweden is permeated by the same political parties that constitute the parliament. The majority of the members of the Church of Sweden Governing Body have party labels, as have those who are members of the Church of Sweden General Synod, and they usually follow their party lines on decisive issues,” Pastor Kalin said.

In the Church of Sweden, “theology has been transformed into an ideology and the church’s own institutions happily provide theological post-constructions to the latest opinions and whims of the world,” he said.

Pastor Kalin said that “for the church, this is devastating” as the “faith, confession and teaching of the Church of Sweden” rested “on political majorities or on the currently fancy views of the world.”

The proposed changes will likely take the form of the modification of the marriage liturgy, replacing “man and wife” with “lawfully wedded spouses” for same-sex couples and follows upon the 2005 vote to amend the title of Chapter 23 of its prayer book, from “Marriage” to “Marriage and Blessings” to permit blessing of same-sex civil unions. Pastors will be permitted the option of refusing to perform same-sex marriages; however, traditionalists worry that this conscious clause will be abrogated in future sessions of the synod as past guarantees respecting the conscious of those opposed to women clergy were rescinded.

English Church attacks Swedish same-sex blessing move: CEN 7.15.09 July 21, 2009

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden.
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The Archbishops’ Council of the Church of England has released a withering critique of last month’s decision by the Church of Sweden’s Central Board authorizing rites for the blessing of same-sex unions. The June 26 letter said the move will impair relations between the two Churches and threaten the “fragile unity” of the Anglican Communion.

Written by the Rt Rev Christopher Hill on behalf of the Council for Christian Unity and the Rt Rev John Hind on behalf of the Faith and Order Advisory Group to the Archbishop of Uppsala, the letter said the adoption of same-sex blessings by the Church of Sweden was “problematic.”

“Although there is continuing debate among Anglicans about human sexuality, the teaching and discipline of the Church of England, like that of the Anglican Communion as a whole as expressed in the Lambeth Conference of 1998, is that it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them.”

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

English Church attacks Swedish same-sex blessing move

Bishops Eye Cost of Swedes’ Same-Sex Blessings: TLC 7.13.09 July 13, 2009

Posted by geoconger in 76th General Convention, Church of England, Church of Sweden, Living Church.
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First published in The Living Church

The Church of England has condemned the Church of Sweden’s authorization of rites for the blessing of same-sex unions, saying the decision will impair relations between the two churches and threatens the “fragile unity” of the Anglican Communion.

Copies of the June 26 letter, written by the Church of England’s Archbishops’ Council to the Archbishop of Uppsala, began circulating among members of the Episcopal Church’s House of Bishops on July 12, and may factor into the bishops’ debate on same-sex blessings at General Convention.

Adopting same-sex blessings, one bishop told The Living Church, would put the Episcopal Church in the same place as the Church of Sweden and could lead to a breach with the Church of England and wider Anglican Communion.

Written by the Rt. Rev. Christopher Hill on behalf of the Council for Christian Unity and the Rt. Rev. John Hind on behalf of the Faith and Order Advisory Group, the letter said the adoption of same-sex blessings by the Church of Sweden was “problematic.”

“Although there is continuing debate among Anglican about human sexuality, the teaching and discipline of the Church of England, like that of the Anglican Communion as a whole as expressed in the Lambeth Conference of 1998, is that it is not right either to bless same-sex sexual relationships or to ordain those who are involved in them.

Last month the Central Board of the Church of Sweden voted to ask its Church Assembly to alter its prayer book, permitting same-sex couples to marry. On May 1, gender-neutral language for civil marriages went into effect in Sweden.

The Central Board wrote that marriage “is a social institution regulated by public authorities. From a perspective of theology of creation, the marriage has the purpose to support the internal relation between spouses and give a safe setting for the children growing up.”

“When the Church of Sweden sides on the issue of same-sex marriage, the most relevant question is if this hurt or helps people. The Church of Sweden wants to support faithful relationships,” Archbishop Anders Wejryd said. News of the revisions were forwarded to the Church of England—a church in full communion with the Church of Sweden under the Porvoo Agreements—for comment.

The Archbishops’ Council responded that “as we understand the situation” what was now being proposed was a “fundamental re-definition of marriage and of basic Christian anthropology.” Making marriage gender-neutral was “at odds with the Biblical teaching about the significance of God’s creation of human beings as male and female as this has been received by the Church of England and by the Catholic tradition in general.”

The adoption of gay marriage by the Swedish Church would have “immediate and negative ecumenical consequences” and would “lead to the impairment of the relationships” with “particular limitations of the inter-changeability of ordained ministry.”

Because of the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury in the Anglican Communion, the Swedish decision “could also further undermine the fragile unity of the Anglican Communion.”

Finnish priest suspended in row over women priests: CEN 10.09.08 October 9, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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The Archbishop of Turku has suspended a male priest for refusing to serve alongside a woman priest.

On Oct 7, the Turku cathedral chapter informed the pastor of Vammala, the Rev Markus Malmivaara that his license to officiate as a minister of the Finland’s Evangelical Lutheran Church had been suspended for 90 days by Archbishop Jukka Paarma for contumacy. Mr Malmivaara had refused to celebrate the sacraments alongside women clergy. His claim to be acting out of conscience and theological principle was not held to be grounds for disobedience.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Finnish priest suspended in row over women priests

Norwegian fraud inquiry could topple bishop: CEN 9.28.08 September 28, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway, Crime, Gambling.
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A multi-million pound fraud scheme may topple a Norwegian bishop from office and land his son in jail, the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) reports. A warrant was issued last week for the arrest of Bjarte Baasland, son of the Rt. Rev. Ernst Baasland (pictured), the Church of Norway’s Bishop of Stavangar.

Bjarte Baasland is accused of bilking investors of £5.75 million, claiming the money was for an internet start-up company. However, the funds were allegedly diverted to pay gambling debts from losses he incurred playing on internet gaming sites.

The bishop filed for bankruptcy on Sept 11 declaring debts of £1.6 million in guarantees to investors in his son’s company. “The bishop has been granted two-and-a-half weeks leave of absence from his job,” Minister of Church Affairs, Trond Giske, said after the bishop filed the bankruptcy petition.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

Norwegian fraud inquiry could topple bishop

Swedish row over investments: CEN 4.18.08 p 6. April 18, 2008

Posted by geoconger in Arms Control/Defense/Peace Issues, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden.
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The Church of Sweden has come under attack for violating the spirit of its ethical investment policies for investing in the shares of alcohol distilleries, weapons manufacturers, and mining and oil companies with poor environmental records and dubious ties to the regimes of some of the world’s worst human rights violators.

The April 4 issue of the Church of Sweden’s newspaper, Kyrkans Tidning, stated that an internal report found the Church held shares in firms such as General Electric—manufacturer of engines for the American B-1B bomber, and Chevron, which has a joint venture with the Burmese military junta.

“Our church should not have shares of companies involved in the business of death,” said the Rev. Helle Klein, a pastor in the Stockholm suburb of Nacka. However the Church’s treasurer Helen Ottosson Loven told Stockholm’s TV4 “the Swedish church recognizes the right of states to defend themselves,” and its investment guidelines permit holdings in armaments manufactures.

The Church’s investment manager, Anders Thorendal explained to Kyrkans Tidning the Church’s ethical investment guidelines permit it to invest in weapon’s manufactures that follow the EU’s code of conduct for arms exports, and who do not sell “inhuman weapons and anti-personal mines.”

“But it’s a problem that weapons can end up in wrong hands and the lack of transparency in the arms trade can contribute to corruption,” he said, saying the Church must carefully examine the policies of potential stock picks.

In recent years the Church had reversed its stance on investing in oil and mining companies, and now has holdings in Chevron, Rio Tinto, Anglo American PLC, Schlumberger, Mitsui and other multinationals. “Our starting point is that we have to invest in companies who act responsibly, such as companies who focus on environmentally compatible technologies and who minimizes the negative effects” on the environment, Thorendal said.

Shares in distilleries are not forbidden, Thorendal said, as the Church does not reject the moderate use of alcohol. However for the Church to own the shares of a distillery, it must “behave responsibly” and not market its products to young people.

In the case of Chevron, which uses a gas government owned pipeline in Burma built by slave labour, the Church seeks to “dialogue” with it to change its policies. “It’s more responsible to try to influence a company to change” than to sell its shares he said.

However, clergy in the Swedish church have objected to its pragmatic investment policies. “The church must have different guidelines for shareholding from a private company. How should we as a church fight for peace, if we simultaneously invest in the weapons industry?”, the Rev. Yvonne Eriksson told Der Standard.

Archbishop Anders Wejryd of Uppsala December 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), Church of Sweden.
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Swedish Church allows same-sex service: CEN 12.21.07 p 8 December 26, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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The Church of Sweden will permit same-sex couples to have church weddings, so long as they are not called marriages.

On Dec 12 the church’s governing board said it believed marriage and gay partnerships were “equivalent forms of unions.” The “word ‘marriage’ should however only be used for the relationship between a woman and a man,” they said.

The Church had been asked by the government to give its views on a proposed amendment to Sweden’s marriage laws, making its language “gender neutral.” The church said “yes to the proposal to join the legislation for marriages and partnerships into a single law,” so long as the term ‘marriage’ was reserved for male/female couples.

Uppsala Archbishop Anders Wejryd said “there were different opinions on the board, but there was a large majority who felt that the word marriage should only be used for man/woman relationships.”

Since 1995 Swedish law has permitted gay civil unions, but legislation enacted in 1987 defines marriage as between a man and a woman.

Finnish Pastor Guilty Over Women Priest Ban: CEN 12.07.07 p 8. December 6, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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ari-norri.jpgA court in Finland has convicted a pastor of the state Lutheran church of “criminal discrimination” for refusing to concelebrate the Eucharist with a female minister.The Rev. Ari Norro (pictured) was fined 20-days pay by the Hyvinkää District Court on Nov 30, which held that religious convictions cannot trump sexual discrimination laws.

A member of the traditionalist Finnish Lutheran Gospel Association, Mr. Norri had been invited to preside at a worship service in Hyvinkää.  However, at the start of the service a female minister on the staff of the congregation arrived, saying she had been scheduled to assist.  Mr. Norro replied that he would have to withdraw as he did not believe in the validity of women’s orders; however, the female minister withdrew instead.

The exchange was witnessed by a parish warden, a policeman, who reported the incident to state prosecutors.  The state charged Mr. Norro with “discrimination while in office” and indicted two other parish leaders with facilitating the discrimination.

The Finnish newspaper Helsingin Sanomat reported that Mr. Norro’s defences of religious conscience and the free exercise of religion were not strong enough in the mind of the court to overcome the charge of discrimination.  By agreeing to serve in the ministry of the state church, Mr. Norro had waived his rights of conscience and could not place his views above canon laws providing for the equal treatment of ministers, regardless of gender.

In 2006 the Finnish Bishops’ Conference ruled that male priests may not refuse to work with women priests, and stated that those who rejected the validity of women’s orders would not be appointed as parish vicars.

Mr. Norro said he would appeal the decision.

Norway Move Attacked: CEN 11.30.07 p 8. November 29, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Russian Orthodox.
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The notion of gay clergy violates Christian decency and Biblical norms, a spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church said last week in response to the Church of Norway’s vote to permit gay clergy.

The Russian Orthodox Church’s secretary for inter-Christian relations Fr. Igor Vyzhanov said Moscow “totally denies that homosexual persons may be ordained to church ministry.  It is an unbiblical act repugnant to the Christian moral norms and absolutely unacceptable for us.”

On Nov 16 Norway’s General Synod voted by a margin of 50-34 to overturn the national ban on gay clergy, giving the dioceses a local option on whether or not to permit gay clergy to serve in parish ministry.

The Moscow Patriarchate has denounced the Norwegian vote and is reconsidering its ecumenical relations with that country’s Lutheran state church.  However, the decision to break relations with the Church of Norway would be up to the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod, Fr. Vyzhanov told Interfax on Nov 22, but at the very least the Norwegian vote was “unhelpful for dialogue.”

In 2003 Moscow ended over a hundred years of ecumenical dialogue with the Episcopal Church in protest to the consecration of Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire.  It later reached out to the conservative Anglican Communion Network in 2005, exploring ways of continuing dialogue between the Russian Orthodox Church and traditionalist Anglican dioceses in the US.

After the Church of Sweden authorized rites for the blessing of same sex unions in 2005, the Moscow Patriarchate broke off relations with that country’s Lutheran state church, stating gay blessings “destroyed the moral basis of the European civilization and radically harms its spiritual influence worldwide.”

Norway allows local option on gay clergy: CEN 11.26.07 p 8. November 22, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Norway, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue.
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Photo: Church of Norway News

The General Synod of the Church of Norway has voted to allow bishops the ‘local option’ of ordaining and licensing gay clergy.

Read it all in The Church of England Newspaper.

On Nov 16 the state Lutheran church’s synod voted by a margin of 50-34 to overturn the national ban on gay clergy and leave the decision to the diocese. The vote overturns statements made in 1995 and 1997 that said those in registered same-sex partnerships could hold lay positions, but could not be ordained as clergy.

On Sept 13 the Church’s National Council stated that it believed the consensus within the church over gay clergy had shifted in the past ten years and urged Synod to revisit the issue. Last month the Norwegian bishops’ conference voted six to five to permit a ‘local option’, subject to ratification by Synod.

Two bishops had already defied the ban, licensing three gay clergy to serve as pastors, claiming that justice required that they act.

Following sharp and prolonged debate Synod revised the canons, stating that ecclesial bodies responsible for clergy appointments may either appoint, or not appoint, persons living in same-sex partnership, without being in breach of Norwegian law.

In a statement released by its press office, the Church of Norway explained that while Synod “confirms that there is still a basis in the church in support of not ordaining, appointing, or granting an episcopal letter of recommendation” to gay clergy, there was not the “same degree of consensus” on this point as in prior years.

“Both the church’s Doctrinal Commission and the Bishops’ Conference are now divided near the middle in their assessment whether persons living in same-sex partnership should be allowed to serve in ordained ministry,” it said.

Granting a ‘local option’ recognized the “existing reality” that the authority to ordain clergy lay not with General Synod but with “the relevant bishops.”.

Responses to the vote were mixed and reflected the sharp divide within the Church. The Associated Press quoted Marit Tingelstad, head of the Bishop’s Council for the Diocese of Hamar as saying the vote would “create peace in the church, and security for homosexual clergy.”

Bishop Ole Hagesaeter, of the Diocese of Bjoergvin was less sanguine. “This is a sad day for the church,” he said. “It will be a splitting factor and lead to many feeling homeless in the church.”

Pastor on trial for refusing to work with female minister: CEN 11.09.07 p 6 November 11, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church of England Newspaper, Church of Finland, Women Priests.
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A Lutheran pastor who declined to celebrate the Eucharist with a woman priest has been charged with “criminal discrimination” by prosecutors in Finland.

The Rev. Ari Norro, a member of the traditionalist Lutheran Evangelical Association in Finland (LEAF) was invited to preach in March at a parish church in Hyvinkää. Upon arriving at the church, he found a woman priest had been scheduled to celebrate the Eucharist.

Mr. Norro told the church wardens he could not in good conscience participate in the service as he did not believe in the validity of women’s orders. He offered to withdraw, but the woman priest left instead.

After a complaint of discrimination was filed, charges were brought by the Hyvinkää District Prosecutor against Mr. Norro for “criminal discrimination”, while charges were laid against the parish rector and leader of the local LEAF branch for facilitating the discrimination.

The Helsingin Sanomat reported last month that a charge of criminal discrimination was warranted as the female priest was victimized due to gender in her workplace. Trial has been set for Nov 16.

Traditionalist leaders within Finland’s state church have protested the enforcement of civil discrimination laws in theological disputes, and see the prosecution as the “thin end of the wedge” in bringing about change.

Porvoo Primates in Dublin: CEN 10.19.07 p 8. October 16, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Album (Photos), Church in Wales, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Church of Norway, Church of Sweden, Porvoo, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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Front row … left to right.

The Most Rev Idris Jones, Primus of the Scottish Episcopal Church
The Most Rev Alan Harper, Primate of All Ireland and Archbishop of Armagh
The Rt Rev Ragnar Persenius, Bishop of Uppsala
The Most Rev John Neill, Primate of Ireland and Archbishop of Dublin
The Rt Rev Martin Wharton, Bishop of Newcastle
The Most Rev Barry Morgan, Archbishop of Wales
The Most Rev Jukka Paarma, Archbishop of Turku (Finland)

Second row:

The Most Rev Anders Wejryd, Archbishop of Uppsala
The Most Rev Janis Vanags, Archbishop of Riga
The Most Rev Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury
The Rt Rev Mindaugas Sabutis, Bishop of Lithuania
The Most Rev Olav Skjevesland, Bishop of Agder and Telemark, (Norway)
The Most Rev Karl Sigurbjornsson, Bishop of Iceland
The Rt Rev Erik Norman Svendsen, Bishop of Copenhagen
The Most Revd Andres Poder, Archbishop of Estonia

The Rt Revd Carlos Lopez Lozano, Bishop of Spain

Porvoo meeting overshadowed by crisis over homosexuality: CEN 10.19.07 p 8. October 16, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Church in Wales, Church of England, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Ireland, Church of Norway, Church of Sweden, Human Sexuality --- The gay issue, Porvoo, Scottish Episcopal Church.
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The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams met in Dublin last week with the leaders of the Porvoo Communion of Anglican and Nordic Lutheran churches for private talks.  However Dr. Williams’ Irish excursion did not bring him a change of scene as the vexing issue of gay clergy followed him to Dublin.

While a spokesman for the Church of Ireland told The Church of England Newspaper there would be no formal statement of the gathering of Anglican and Lutheran bishops, sources familiar with the deliberations, held every two years, tell CEN that issues of common national and ecclesial concern were raised at the gathering.

The Lutheran Churches of the Porvoo Group: Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania are sharply divided over the Swedish church’s decision to authorize rites for the blessing of same-sex unions.  The Swedish move has opened a split within the Lutheran World Federation akin the divide in Anglicanism, with the Lutheran Churches of the Global South threatening to break with their Northern counterparts over the issue of gay blessings and clergy.

The controversy intensified last week when on Oct 2 by a vote of six to five, the Church of Norway’s Bishops’ Conference voted to recommend to the church’s general synod that non-celibate homosexuals be permitted to serve as bishops, priests and deacons.

The moderator of the Norwegian Bishop's Conference, Bishop Olav Skjevesland of Agder and Telemark, who attended the Dublin meeting, voted to reject the licensing of gay clergy. 

The Church of Norway has three openly gay ministers serving in parochial ministry under the license of their bishops.  The issue will now go before the Church’s Nov 12-17 meeting of General Synod for resolution.

In 1995 and 1997 the Norwegian Synod stated that people in registered same-sex partnerships could hold lay positions in the Church, but could not be ordained as clergy.

On Sept 13 the Church’s National Council stated that it believed the consensus within the church over gay clergy had shifted in the past ten years.  It recommended that Synod revise the church’s canons, allowing bishops the local option of whether or not to ordain and license gay clergy.

The National Council encouraged dialogue saying that “many members of the church are touched directly by this issue and that there are many who feel that their place in the church is at stake.”

“Church leaders should work continuously on attitudes and forms of communication, so that fellowship in the church is felt to be open, clear and inclusive,” it said

Church leaders call for end to Burmese crackdown: CEN 10.12.07 p 9. October 11, 2007

Posted by geoconger in Anglican Church of Myanmar, Church of England Newspaper, Church of Sweden, Civil Rights, Roman Catholic Church.
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general-than-shwe.jpgChurch leaders in Burma have pleaded with the leader of the ruling military junta to end the violence against pro-democracy activists.

On Sep 28, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Yangon, Msgr. Charles Bo and the Anglican Primate and president of the Myanmar Council of Churches, Archbishop Samuel San Si Htay wrote to General Than Shwe (pictured) calling for an end to the crackdown of pro-democracy activists.

Burma’s churches were united in prayer for the peace and reconciliation of Burma and “especially praying for the people and the leaders of the country.”

All Christians “greatly desire and are contributing all their best for unity, peace, justice, and the overall development of the country,” the message said. “All the respective leaders of the Churches are also giving proper guidance to the faithful.”

The statement said that “Based on the teachings of the religions on love, truth, righteousness, forgiveness and reconciliation, and considering the current situation of the country, we would like to earnestly appeal to you” that there might be “stability, peace and non-violence, which are also the desire of the people.”

Speaking from his summer residence outside Rome, Pope Benedict XVI said he had been following events in Burma with “great trepidation.”

“I wish to express my spiritual closeness to that dear people in this moment of sorrowful difficulty that they are experiencing” he said on Sept 30 according to the ZENIT news agency, adding that he hoped a “peaceful solution can be found for the good of the country.”

Archbishop Anders Wejryd of the Church of Sweden asked the military regime to honour the safety of the Buddhist monks leading the protests as they “are part of a multi-religious tradition that upholds human life and dignity,” he said.

In a message to pro-democracy activists rallying in Trafalgar Square on Oct 6, Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Britain “will not tolerate the abuses that have taken place.”

“I want all the other leaders of the world to work with us, to achieve the progress that all of you people want to achieve in Burma – an end to abuse of human rights,” the statement to the rally said.

“We want the violence to stop against the people of Burma, and we want to move forward with a process of democracy and reconciliation,” the prime minister said.