Norwegian church apologises for attitude on homosexuality
The bishops of the Church of Norway regret their attitudes about homosexuality in the last fifty years.
The Episcopal Conference did so on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the repeal of section 213 of the Norwegian Criminal Code, in which "fornication between men" was punishable with up to one year in prison.
According to the bishops' conference, the Norwegian Church did not stand up enough for gay rights. They, therefore, "acknowledge that the Episcopal Conference's stated attitudes to and mention of homosexuality and homosexuals over the years have caused great harm and pain to many people."
When section 213 was proposed to be repealed in 1954, the church "was among the social actors who protested loudly", the statement continues.
When the section was repealed on April 21, 1972, the bishops' conference appointed a committee to investigate the Norwegian Church's attitude towards homosexuality. In 1977, the committee submitted its report. In the report, the bishops acknowledged that "the Church's attitude has at times been condemned by both the gay community and the gay person." At the same time, the bishops emphasized: "It must be firmly established that the homosexual has the same human dignity as any other human being. He who thinks and thinks otherwise, even if he treats the homosexual as inferior, violates a human dignity given by God."
In 1995, the Episcopal Conference 1995 emphasised the human dignity of homosexuals. Nevertheless, back then, it concluded in line with the 1977 decision that "there is nothing in the Bible that provides a basis for a positive recognition of homosexual relationships in line with marriage between men and women." Today, everyone who lives in same-sex relationships is welcome to get married in the Church of Norway. The church council decided in 2016 to open up for two views on same-sex marriage.
According to Halvor Moxnes, professor of theology and a homosexual himself, the statement is historic and important. "It is the first time in history that all the bishops talk about gay love in a joint statement. And they recognise the love of gays ", Moxnes told Norwegian daily Aftenposten.
In Norwegian media, opinions on the matter are divided. In a commentary, the Norwegian daily Vårt Land thinks the statement is mainly a positive thing. According to them, the statement indicates "that the folk church of the future will to a greater extent take into account the feelings and experiences of LGBT people when two views on same-sex marriage are discussed."
Meanwhile, Norwegian daily Dagen is more sceptical about the statement. According to a commentary, "It is difficult that the Episcopal Conference's settlement in practice will be a settlement with those who believe and teach what has been common Christian principles for 2,000 years. Marriage between one man and one woman is the godly arrangement for sexual intercourse. And it is the best framework for children's upbringing."
According to Dagen, the desire to be welcoming and affirmative towards people who have experienced a lot of pain and difficulty is understandable. "At the same time, there is something strange about church leadership that can so quickly and easily put an end to the spiritual guidance and ethical reflection of earlier times. How confident can one be that the answers they give now are lasting?"
Theologian Eir Andreas Ihlang Berg thinks that this statement is only the beginning. In an interview with Vårt Land, Berg says that it is not only gays but also bisexuals and other sexual minorities who have suffered injustice.
Berg emphasises that it is very gratifying that the Episcopal Conference is gathered about the statement and deserves credit. Still, the church can lean back. Berg believes that instead of always taking a reactive role, the church can now take a progressive role. "We have an ongoing and very polarised public debate about transgender people. Here the church could show the way and look at how it can help make the question less divisive."
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