The controversial pastor of Vålerenga parish in Oslo, Einar Gelius, is in trouble with his employers again, after writing a book about sex in the Bible. Oslo Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme has launched dismissal proceedings against Gelius, who’s gone on leave until the bishop’s council meets in special session at the end of this month.
Gelius has long been a high-profile and outspoken pastor within Norway’s state church. He hit the headlines again earlier this fall when the inner-city parish pastor published a book that discusses sex in the Bible and includes graphic accounts of his own sexual exploits.
When the book was published in October this year, Bishop Kvarme told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that it was “a sad day” both for Gelius and for the church, and Kvarme told newspaper Aftenposten the book never have been written.
The bishop has had several meetings with Gelius earlier, to discuss the way in which he has carried out his duties. In 1999, conflicts between the pastor and his parishoners led the church to ask whether he would step down. In the meantime the lay council of Vålerenga parish has said that they support Gelius “fully,” according to NRK, where Gelius’ brother John has been a high-profile news anchor and executive and currently works as NRK’s US correpondent.
Last autumn the pastor caught flak when he conducted satirical funeral services for Oslo soccer team Lyn, an arch rival of Vålerenga’s own football club. This caused a stir, as his critics felt it amounted to improper behaviour for a clergyman. Gelius is himself a big fan of his parish’s club, also called Vålerenga.
Gelius, a Labour Party veteran who conducted funeral services for Crown Princess Mette-Marit’s controversial father Sven O Høiby, also has been criticized for a variety of other activities considered unsuitable for a pastor. Some observers believe the book called Sex i Bibelen (“Sex in the Bible”) was simply the proverbial last straw for church officials, while others claim the threat he now faces represents an assault on religious freedom. His supporters believe Gelius has made the church more “folksey” and less severe.
What happens next is by no means clear. If Gelius refuses to resign, the issue may need to be resolved legally. In addition the bishop’s council often has been more liberal than Bishop Kvarme himself in a number of earlier cases.
Among the many high-profile jobs Gelius has had is the job of state secretary in the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Affairs in Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s first government. Gelius has also been a regular radio show contributor, discussing religious questions, and taken part in a popular TV dance competition.