Church of Norway

From Academic Kids

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Country church in Sogn, Norway

The Church of Norway (Den norske kirke) also known as the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Norway is the state church of Norway, to which 86% of Norwegians belong. The Church of Norway professes the Lutheran branch of Christianity.

Crest of the Church of Norway


The Church of Norway is established as the state church of Norway in the Constitution of Norway, and its supreme governor is the reigning monarch of Norway, who is obligated to profess himself/herself to the Lutheran faith. It is subject to legislation and budgeting passed in the Norwegian parliament, Stortinget and is administered through the Department of Churches.

It is subject to further governance through a synodal and episcopal structure, all based on the division of Norway into 11 dioceses, namely:

The General Synod is convened once a year as the highest representative body of the church. It consists of 85 representatives, of which 7 or 8 are sent from each of the dioceses. Of these, 4 are lay members of the church, appointed by the congregations; 1 is a lay member appointed by Church employees; one member of the clergy, appointed by his/her peers; a representative from the Sami community in the two northernmost dioceses; and the bishop. In addition, representatives from the three theological seminaries of the church, representatives from the Youth Council, and other members of the National Council are members.

The Bishops' Conference convenes three times a year and consists of the eleven bishops in the church. It is a deliberative body that issues opinions on various issues related to church life, theological issues, etc.

The National Council is convened five teams a year and is comprised of 15 members, of which 10 are lay members, four are clergy, and one is a bishop. It prepares matters for decision-making elsewhere and puts into effect those decisions. The National Council also has working and ad hoc groups as part of its mandate, including those addressing issues such as church service, education, youth issues, etc.

The church also convenes committees and councils both at the national, diocese, and local levels, addressing specific issues to education, ecumenical matters, the Sami minority, and youth.

There are 1,600 Church of Norway churches and chapels. The country is geographically divided into 1,298 parishes, 100 deaneries and rural deaneries and 11 dioceses. Parish work is led by a pastor and an elected parish council.


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An old private altar in Hedmark, Norway

The Church of Norway traces its origins to the introduction of Christianity to Norway in the 800s. It took several hundred years to convert Norway to Christianity, culminating in the Battle of Stiklestad. By the end of the 1100s, the Roman Catholic archbishopric of Nidaros (in today's Trondheim) covered all of Norway, parts of Sweden, Iceland, Greenland, the Isle of Man, the Orkney Islands, the Shetland Islands, the Faeroe Islands, and the Hebrides.

The Reformation in Norway was complete in 1537 when Christian III of Denmark decreed Lutheranism as the official religion of Norway and Denmark. The crown took over church property, and some churches were destroyed or abandoned. This created the integration between church and state that today's arrangement reflects.

After 1660 clergy were appointed civil servants by the reigning monarch, but theological issues were left to the hierarchy of bishops and other clergy.

The pietistic movement in Norway (embodied to a great extent of Hans Nielsen Hauge) served to reduce the distance between lay and clergy in Norway, which persists to this day. In 1873 lay congregational meetings were accepted in church life, though initially with limited influence. Unofficial plenary sessions took place every other year, and after 1982 these became official parts of church life.

After Vidkun Quisling was made head of state by the Nazi occupiers, the vast majoriy of Norwegian clergy and all Norwegian bishops disassociated themselves from the government, stating that they would only function as pastors for their congregations. The bishops were interred for the duration of the war, but congregational life continued more or less as usual.

Since World War II, a number of structural changes have taken place within the Church of Norway, mostly to institutionalize lay participation in the life of the church.

Current issues

There is continuous discussion about separating church and state in Norway, though there appears to be a majority both within the Storting and the public to maintain it. While most Norwegians use the church only for lifecycle events, a great many appreciate the tradition and institutions of the church. The church also functions in many cases as a provider of social services of last resort, and local clergy often play important social roles outside their spiritual and ritual responsibilities.

The church has also weighed in on political issues from time to time, and this has resulted in considerable controversy. In all likelihood, the responsibilities and authority of the Church of Norway will undergo further changes in the years ahead.

See also

External links

fr:Église de Norvège no:Den norske kirke


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