Conservative gender website leads to controversy among Church of Norway


Northern Europe

Kathryn Idema, CNE.news

Verhard Tennebø, one of the people behind the conservative gender website Identiteogseksualitet.no. Photo Identitetogseksualitet.no

When a team of Norwegian ministries launched a new website on sexuality, it did not take long before it stirred debate among its national church. “It hurts more than it builds up.”

The website identitetogseksualitet.no features six videos that confront sexuality and gender identity to Christian leaders and teens. Other topics include discipleship and pornography that are solely taught in Norwegian. The videos begin with providing the cultural and historical context and ends with someone sharing a personal experience. Despite its creation and support by several, nationwide Christian organisations such as Normisjon and Acta, some from the Church of Norway believe the series may do more harm than good.

“I cannot recommend this system for use in the Church of Norway. It hurts more than it builds up and it does not lead to Christ,” Bishop Kari Veiteberg said to Vart Land. Veiteberg is Norway’s Bishop of Oslo in the Church of Norway.


Among the debated topics involves the teaching of marriage between one man and one woman. According to one of the video presenters, Alexis Lundh, heterosexual marriage “runs like a red thread” throughout the 66 books of the Bible. Lundh also mentions that homosexual unions are “contrary to God’s will” as detailed in Romans 1:27. For Veiteberg, that concept appeared “new” to her and said that “kind of marriage” is not specified, as there are different forms introduced in the Bible.

“From the Old Testament we know of patriarchs with concubines, for example Abraham with Sarah and Hagar. David had 18 wives, his son Solomon had seven hundred wives of princely rank and three hundred concubines (1 Kings 11,3). Is this what biblical marriage is”, she asked.

Amid opposing views from Veiteberg, the project’s contributors, Verhard Tennebø and Alexis Lundh believe that “equipping Christians” in discussing sensitive issues is an essential tool for today’s church.

“We are concerned that Christian youth leaders should have a solid foundation for life and service,” he said to Troog Medir. “Many people have wrong expectations of and understanding of the meaning of sexuality, and what sex is really about. Here we Christians have a different and better story to tell. To take care of us in our vulnerability, God has given us marriage as the framework for sexual cohabitation,” Lundh said.


However, Bishop Veiteberg believes that the main problem lies with the course’s “stubborn insistence” on marriage being between one man and one woman and that cohabitation before marriage is against God’s Word.

“In this way, one can convey both guilt and a sense of shame to the many who know and have experience of love for people of the same sex, and at the same time to the large majority of cis people who have sexual experiences or have living together before they get married. I think it is very problematic that this is a teaching program approved and recommended by central Christian organisations in Norway,” she said.

Despite Veiteberg’s ongoing criticism of the series, Vergard Tennebø believes that these sensitive topics have been silenced by the church and need to be discussed with love, not guilt or shame.

Truth and care

“We have to come to terms with what is the truth,” he said. It isn’t that conservative Christians have had a flawless path in terms of conversation. We’ve been holding the truth high but not with much love.” While Tennebø is saddened by the Church of Norway’s positions regarding gay marriage, that does not stop him from approaching these topics with truth and care.

As the church grapples with forming positions on gender identity and sexuality, Tennebø thinks we are now witnessing a collision of different worldviews. Forty years ago, modelling a Christian lifestyle warranted “social points,” he said. Now, one is viewed as being worse off if you’re living as a Bible-believing Christian. As more churches embrace progressive theology, Tennebø says it is time to model how certain topics are presented based on Jesus’ commands and lifestyle.

Another aspect that one must understand is how the Bible has been viewed, particularly by the Church of Norway, he said. Some in the Church do not even believe in the bodily resurrection. He also believes that if the Bible is being looked at through the lenses of cultural Marxism, the institution of marriage is not recognised.

“When the purpose of marriage is detached from the frames of marriage, it can open the door to other forms,” he said.

Courage boost

While the videos do stand by the importance of a monogamous marriage as one man and one woman, he hopes that the resources will also be a “courage boost” for trans and gays. He also wants to see more topics being presented such as singleness and its relation to the church.

As Tennebø contemplates the project’s future, he still sees it as calling from God, something for the brain, heart, and life, he says. In the end, accountability to God is important.

“We have to give an account for what we believe in this area,” he said.



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