Men-only priesthood might come to an end in Danish parishes


Northern Europe

Marc Derœux,

Pastor Ava-Maria Schwarz during a service in April 2021. Photo AFP, Nils Meilvang

Should conservative Danish parishes have the right to say no to a woman as a priest? Until now, local churches had the option to decline when it came to hiring a female priest. But this is a matter of new debate.

A majority of the Danish state church, including ten bishops, believe this possibility should be abolished. They see the issue as part of the equality between the sexes, about which the church should not compromise. This reported Vårt Land.

The Danish Minister of Church Affairs, Ane Halsboe-Jørgensen, is considering whether the Danish Equal Treatment Act can be amended. If that happens, religious communities would no longer be able to decline a pastor based on sex. Religious communities have been exempted from the Danish Equal Treatment Act because of religious freedom. Because of the complicated church-state relation in Denmark, the pressure from political parties is much stronger than in most European countries.

About theology, not discrimination

In Denmark, 58 per cent of priests are women. A few churches do not employ women priests from a theological point of view. Supporters of the current practice defend it by appealing to religious freedom. They say that church and state should not be mixed.

Church service in Our Lady's Cathedral in Copenhagen, April 2021. Photo AFP, Nils Meilvang

Hans-Ole Bækgaard, chairman of conservative Christian organisation The Home Mission (Indre Mission), says the issue is about theology and not about discrimination, according to Kristeligt Dagblad.

Other organisations, like the Evangelical Lutheran Mission Society (Missionforening) in Denmark, agree. In an article by DR Philip Ambrosen, chairman of the parish council in Hasle on Bornholm and member of the Mission Society, says: “We believe the Bible defends that a priest should be a man. It’s not about us looking down on ladies and thinking they’re bad. They have some other roles. For example, they sit on the parish council where we listen to them.”



Subscribe for an update, and receive a documentary and e-book for free.

Choose your subscriptions*

You may subscribe to multiple lists.