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The separation of church & state – but not really

The separation of church & state – but not really

The Northern Lights Cathedral with the Aurora Borealis.
The Northern Lights Cathedral with the Aurora Borealis.

On 1 JAN 2017, some of the apron strings between the Kingdom of Norway and the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway were cut. Approved by the Norwegian parliament back in 2012, but effective beginning this year, the Norwegian constitution has been amended from referring to the church as the “state’s public religion,” to, “Norway’s national church.” The church remains a state-funded church, but as of 1 JAN its clergy are not considered to be civil employees. The state had earlier ceased being involved in questions of theology or the appointment of bishops & deans. Rather than a full divorce however, which would be disestablishment, it is more like a mutual separation, with the respect of both parties.

The interior of the Northern Lights Cathedral.
The interior of the Northern Lights Cathedral.

There some things which haven’t changed. The King of Norway still must be a Lutheran. And all children are automatically members of the church if either of their parents are a member of the church. In the latest data, which is from 2015, 73% of Norwegians (3.8 million) are members of the church, but only 3% of all Norwegians attend any religious services a minimum of once a month. It’s also reported from a newspaper poll taken earlier in 2016, that 39% of Norwegians say that they are agnostic or atheist. Norway is considered to be the most secular of European nations.

The main image is a rendering by the winning firm for the design of the new parish church in Alta Norway, schmidt hammer lassen architects. Completed in 2013 and affectionately called the Northern Lights Cathedral, although not actually the cathedral in the Diocese of Nord-Hålogaland, which is seated in Tromsø Norway and boasts the only wooden cathedral in Norway and likely the most northern Protestant cathedral in the world. Facts for this story were gathered from the Religion News Service and the Church Times UK. The photos are from architectism.com.

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