A member survey conducted by the Norwegian Church for the sake of a better rapport with its associates has yielded surprising results.
While highlighting a high degree of agreement on matters of climate and poverty, it also revealed that the church and its members are far apart on issues such as euthanasia (or “active death help”, which it's called in Scandinavia) that is supported by 46 percent of church members. The same survey revealed that 14 percent of members of the Norwegian Church “completely disagree” with its public statements.
“It was the most surprising find for me. I would think the bishops have a restrictive relationship to active death help. That is at least my position, although I see that this entails a lot of demanding trade-offs”, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, the chair of the diocesan meeting of the Norwegian Church said, as quoted by TV2.
While the news left her fellow priests puzzled, they are ready to stand by their convictions.
“We should not let ourselves be governed by the fact that church members disagree with us. As bishops, we have made a promise that we should preach the gospel and promote the church's faith and confession. That's where our loyalty lies”, Bjørgvin Bishop Halvor Nordhaug said.
Nordhaug described himself as a “very clear opponent of changing the legislation we have”, but said he is open to addressing the issue of euthanasia at a Church Meeting, as did Byfuglien.
Euthanasia was most recently discussed at a Church Meeting in 1998 and unanimously rejected.
The Evangelical-Lutheran Church of Norway is by far the largest Christian church in the country with over 3.7 million members (or about 70 percent of the population).
In recent years, however, it has been losing members at an alarming rate, a process typical for all Scandinavian countries. Over the past decade alone, membership in the Norwegian Church has fallen by ten percent, together with the rate of baptism and confirmation, with both edging toward 50 percent.
While it is no longer obligatory to be a member, all children who have at least one parent as a church member are automatically registered as members as well. An option to “unsubscribe” from the church online is present and widely used.
Over the last few decades, the Church of Norway has significantly revised its stance on a number of issues, including gay marriage and abortion. Having appointed its first openly gay priest in 2000, the Church of Norway allowed same-sex marriage in 2015.
Earlier this year, Norwegian bishops released a public statement actually apologising for the church's historic pro-life stance and claimed that abortion “promoted women's health, safety, and security”.