Norway hails a ‘bishop emeritus’

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Per Lønning, who died this week at an age of 88, was being hailed in Norwegian media on Tuesday as a memorable bishop, politician, psalm writer, author, social activist and all-around thinker. Some even called him the state church’s only real genius.

Former Bishop Per Lønning, making an appearance in Drammen and impressing churchgoers with his sermon, long after his retirement. PHOTO: kirken.no

Former Bishop Per Lønning, making an appearance in Drammen and impressing churchgoers with his sermon, long after his retirement. PHOTO: kirken.no

“None of the church’s men has filled so many different roles in society as the only bishop who resigned in protest and later made a comeback,” wrote Harald Stanghelle, commentator in newspaper Aftenposten.

Lønning made history when he resigned as bishop of the then-newly formed Borg diocese in Fredrikstad in 1975, because he was unhappy that the Parliament passed the law allowing abortion. He was upset that the state would go against the church on the issue, and his resignation surprised both colleagues and politicians.

Lønning was much more than a bishop, though. He had served in parliament himself, as an MP for the Conservative Party from 1958 to 1965, He was also a highly respected theologist, professor and historian who’d been ordained as a pastor in 1951 but spent much of his professional life in other pursuits. He became the first bishop of Borg, when the area was spun off from Oslo, and served six years until resigning in protest over the abortion issue. He returned to academia, this time in Strasbourg, but made his comeback as a bishop in Bjørgvin, based in Bergen.

He served until 1994, when he joined the Chr Michelsens Institutt and retired in name only. He remained a fervent social activist well into his 80s, also opposing Norway’s liberalized marriage and partnership law and often being a subject of parody. Funeral services were pending.

newsinenglish.no staff