Norwegian theology students worry about liberal trends in the Church
Will there still be room for priests with a traditional view on marriage and sexuality in the future? Theology students from NLA College in Bergen seriously worry about their future.
Earlier this year, Oslo's leading bishop of the Church of Norway, Kari Veiteberg, said during a panel discussion that she doubted whether the Church can hire priests who do not want to marry gay couples. She added that "exercising the priestly profession and refraining from ordaining same-sex couples can be challenging in Oslo eventually", Vart Land stated.
To express their concerns about this development, 18 theology students wrote an opinion article in Vart Land. "Is there still theological diversity in the Church of Norway? Will there be room and respect for priests with a classical teaching on marriage in the future?" they question. Even though the Church officially leaves room for the traditional view on marriage as well as for a more progressive one, they are afraid that the space for the former is decreasing.
The students point out that they are potential future priests and will have to replace the many priests who are approaching retirement age. However, they fear that there will be no place for them "If the attitudes of the Oslo bishop become more widespread."
Bishop Kari Veiteberg has been very open about her view on marriage. Last month, she denounced a new website started by Christian organisations to provide resources on sexuality and identity. Veiteberg denounced the view of the website that marriage is meant for a man and a woman.
According to the students, Veiteberg is "thinking out loud" about the direction she believes the Church should move towards. Therefore, they fear that "priests with a traditional view of marriage may feel unwanted" within the Church of Norway. "Can priests, with the conviction we have, be in the priestly service in the Church of Norway in the future?"
The developments decrease the appetite of the students to become a priest in the future. And that is problematic, they point out because there is a shortage of priests in the country.
Two teachers from NLA College in Bergen confirmed the fears that live among the students to Vart Land. "It is easy to understand the students' uneasiness, says William Grosås, the practicum leader at NLA University College in Bergen, where the 18 theology students belong. He stresses that the theology study enables students to work as priests, catechists, faith teachers and youth workers, not only in the Church of Norway but also in other denominations if they do not feel at home in the state church.
Knut Tveitereid also recognises the trend that students with a traditional view of marriage find the trends difficult. Tveitereid is an internship leader at MF Science College in Oslo, which also provides priestly training. "We are now in a situation where we all need to ask ourselves how far we are willing to go to serve the Gospel together. This applies to both bishops and student priests", he says to Vart Land. According to Tveitereid, theology students still have "a lot of important things to contribute to the Church of Norway and also a lot of good things to receive from the Church of Norway."
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