Einar Gelius, the high-profile pastor who’s made waves in Norway’s state church for years, resigned his post at Oslo’s Vålerenga Church but not without some harsh parting shots. There was broad speculation that if he hadn’t quit, he would have been fired.
“It was clear the bishop (Oslo Bishop Ole Kristian Kvarme) and the bishop’s council would have put their foot down,” theologist Magne Lerø told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). Lerø doesn’t think Gelius wanted formal proceedings where “many episodes from his private life and life as a pastor would come out. It would have been too much.”
Website VG Nett reported Wednesday that Gelius and Kvarme had met and that Gelius would be released from his church duties. He has often been at odds with church leaders, not only the conservative Kvarme but also the liberal former bishop Gunnar Stålsett. They questioned his role as a pastor, because he often engaged in activities not seemingly in line with his calling.
He has, for example, participated in dance contests, performed a mock funeral for a football club that was an arch rival to Vålerenga’s, married a couple in a telephone booth and planned to judge a beauty contest, until protests led him to change his mind.
But it was a book he wrote this year and published this fall, entitled “Sex in the Bible,” that seemed to lead to his downfall. In the book, Gelius traced what he sees as the important role of sex in a biblical context, and related some of his own sexual experiences in highly graphic detail. Critics were astounded, and called the book “raw pornography” coming from a pastor.
That’s when the bishop and his council reached the limit of their tolerance. Gelius has his supporters, though, and Lerø was among those saying it was a “sad day” for the Vålerenga parish and for the church.
Gelius himself was unrepentant, telling reporters he felt pressured into resigning and that the church had put him in an “impossible position.” He said he has always tried to be an “open, obliging and sympathetic” pastor, and was proud to have been Vålerenga’s pastor.