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Church of Norway opens door to clergy in same-sex partnerships


The (Lutheran) Church of Norway has agreed that living in a registered same-sex partnership should no longer be a barrier to someone serving as a priest, deacon or catechist.

"At last, the feeling of holding a second class membership in the church is gone," Arne Groenningsaeter, himself a homosexual and a member of Oslo’s diocesan council, was quoted as saying by the NTB news agency.

The church’s general synod, at its meeting in Oeyer in southern Norway, agreed by 50 votes to 34 on 16 November that it would be up to each of the church’s 11 bishops and diocesan councils to decide whether homosexuals in registered partnerships can be ordained as a priest, deacon or catechist.

The moderator of the Church of Norway’s national council, Nils-Tore Andersen, said the synod had not altered church doctrine but merely confirmed the existence of two views in the church about the issue.  But a member of the Oslo diocesan council announced that as a result of the vote she would leave the Church of Norway at the end of 2007 because she believed it was being torn apart. "It is naïve to think that both views in this matter will be able to co-exist," Tania Randby Garthus was quoted as saying by the Vaart Land newspaper in Norway.

Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme of Oslo, one of the five bishops opposing the synod vote, said the decision amounted to a doctrinal one. Bishop Tor B. Joergensen of Soer-Haalogaland, who with six other bishops voted in favour of the proposal, said, however, "We can now start working together instead of fighting each other."

Several Church of Norway dioceses already have priests and deacons living in same-sex partnerships because some bishops have chosen to deviate from the general synod’s 1995 and 1997 decisions.

In another decision, the general synod voted 68-16 to reject a government proposal that Norway’s marriage legislation be changed to include same-sex couples.  The synod said that both church and cultural tradition sees marriage as an institution for man and woman.

Ecumenical News International