UPDATED: The Norwegian Church’s (Den norske kirke) highest governing body voted against allowing homosexual couples to marry in a religious ceremony on Tuesday. However, a majority also rejected endorsing the status quo, that marriage is between one man and one woman, leaving the church with no clear statement on its gay marriage stance.
The marriage proposal was defeated 64 votes to 51 at the Kirkemøtet in Kristiansand. “Now they’ve said loud and clear that they won’t be a national church,” said Bård Nylund, leader of the Norwegian LGBT Association (Landsforeningen for lesbiske, homofile, bifile og transpersoner, LLH). “It’s sad for the Church, and all the members who now feel that the Church doesn’t give them the belonging they want.”
While he was disappointed with the outcome, Nylund told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) he was happy as many has 51 members of the church council voted in favour. “Now we must be patient and see if we can make changes at the next crossroads.”
Trygve Wyller, the Dean at Oslo University’s Faculty of Theology, said he was surprised and delighted so many were actually in favour of the proposal. “It’s clear that for the homosexuals and lesbians this is not satisfactory,” he told NRK. “For me, purely theologically, it’s not satisfactory either. But it is good that so many wanted the changes. That points in the right direction.”
A proposal for a prayer recognizing two equal theological views on same sex marriage and giving the church’s blessing to same sex couples after they married in a civil ceremony was also rejected. A plan to introduce a prayer, without acknowledging two equal views, was also shut down.
Church unclear on how to proceed
However, a majority also rejected the fourth and final proposal, to endorse the church’s status quo that marriage is between one man and one woman. The endorsement proposal was rejected 62 votes to 54. It meant there was no clear statement from the Kirkemøtet on Tuesday on the church’s gay marriage stance.
“I am very happy that the most radical proposal did not go through,” said pastor Øivind Benestad, on the vote against gay marriage in the church. “I will be satisfied if it ends up that marriage is preserved as a relationship between man and woman. That is the only solution, both biblical and in church history, on what a marriage is. That’s what will hold the Church together in the long run.”
Egil Morland used the bible to back his argument when speaking against gay marriage before the votes. “I justify my stance from the Scripture, that when Jesus himself comments on this he points back to creation.” Gay marriage supporter Kristin Gunleiksrud Raaum also used the bible to support her stance. “For me it concerns taking the gospel seriously, taking Jesus’ word seriously and taking love seriously,” she told NRK.
Norway passed a shared, gender-neutral civil marriage law in 2008, stepping up from the partnership laws passed in 1993. The Church of Sweden (Svenske Kyrkan) has allowed gay marriage since 2009.