Lesbian pastor confronts Oslo bishop

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Norway’s first lesbian pastor says she’s fed up with “homophobic” church officials and no longer wants Bishop Ole-Christian Kvarme as her spiritual leader. Pastor Hilde Raastad told newspaper Aftenposten on Wednesday that she wants to give up her ordination and resign as pastor after years of fighting for acceptance in the Norwegian state church.

Oslo Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme wouldn't comment on charges that church elders are homophobic and discriminating against gays and lesbians. PHOTO: kirken.no

Oslo Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme wouldn’t comment on charges that church elders are homophobic and discriminating against gays and lesbians. PHOTO: kirken.no

Raastad’s decision to resign from the church was called “historic” by Hallgeir Elstad, a professor of church history on the theological faculty of the University of Oslo. He said it was seldom that an ordained pastor asked to be released.

“As far as I know, this has never happened before, Elstad told Aftenposten. It illustrates how angry Raastad is that her affection for her partner of 30 years, Julie Hass, is viewed as a problem for the state church.

The two headed for the mountains at Beitostolen over the weekend to spend the Easter holidays skiing. Easter, according to Raastad, is a time for love and human compassion, and therefore, she thinks, an appropriate time to go public with her frustration.

“It’s become impossible for me to represent a church where parts of it still exclude instead of include,” Raastad told Aftenposten. She said she no longer could be a pastor in a church that continues to evaluate whether she and her partner can be wed if they want to do so.

Raastad also objects strongly to the wording in advertisements for vacant pastor jobs that implies their civil status can be part of the evaluation process. She said it’s been a burden to feel judged by her leaders, and that “my romance is a theological problem.” She think the church must be far more open and accepting.

She said she views church leaders’ alleged homophobia as a sin. “A local church can’t exclude folks based on skin color or ethnicity,” she pointed out, ” therefore they can’t exclude or judge folks based on their sexual identity.”

Kvarme said he hadn’t read Raastad’s letter of resignation and therefore felt it wasn’t “natural” to comment. Asked whether the wording in pastor vacancy ads would be changed, Kvarme said it “wasn’t possible to say what the future would bring.” He said he hadn’t spoken with Raastad but would take contact now, “and listen “quite carefully to what she has to say.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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