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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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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.

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

Posted by geoconger in Church of Denmark, Church of England Newspaper.
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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.

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.