Monday April 11, the church council decided that it should include marriage of same sex couples in the church (see fact box). Gunnar Amadeus Syvertsen (22) is on his third year of theology studies at the School of Theology (MF). The decision has caused him to consider his future in the Church of Norway.
– In the church it’s God's rules that apply. But the Church of Norway has stopped communicating a doctrine based on the Bible, Syvertsen says.
He disagrees with the council’s decision and believes marriage in the church to remain reserved for man and woman.
– Marriage is, in the Bible, always described as an arrangement between man and woman, ordained of God, he says.
«The question is whether there is room for a minority in the church» Gunnar Amadeus Syvertsen, theology student and opponent of same-sex marriage in church
Gunnar Amadeus Syvertsen, theology-student
Squeezed out of the church
He says that it is challenging to be a theology student with traditional biblical interpretation in a denomination that is constantly changing. He feels he is becoming a religious minority.
– The question is whether there is room for a minority in the church. The majority fails to protect the minority, so that the minority is gradually squeezed out of the church, Syvertsen says.
He cannot even imagine working in the Church of Norway, as he is doctrinally opposed to their views.
– It is perhaps particularly challenging for those who have started their studies aiming to work in the Church of Norway, and who can no longer imagine working in a church where they disagree with the doctrinal questions, he says.
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– Being put on the spot
Syvertsen feel there is headroom for both views at MF. This tolerance, he believes, is lacking in other parts of society.
Leader of the Student Council at MF Fam Karine Heer Aas, believes that the media especially puts people with opinions like Syvertsen’s on the spot.
Liberal Profile: Fam Karine Heer Aas, head of the student council at the School of Theology, says the faculty has a liberal profile. – Here you can come as you are, she says.
– Several feel that those with traditional interpretation of scripture speaking to the media about their views are not met with respect, but with condemnation. It's the wrong way to enter into the debate. I think many lack an understanding of how deeply personal religion is for people, says Aas.
She describes religion as something vulnerable and personal, which makes it more difficult when society judges the faith. At MF, however, the debates on the subject have a different temperature, says Aas. She believes this is because the environment is built on respect for each other and that students have come to an agreement to disagree.
– I hope that the Student Council and the student priests manage to show that we are here for all students. It should be allowed to not believe the same as the rest. The student Council has chosen to stay neutral on the decision of the church council, she says.
Syvertsen says that debate on MF is more about the future of the Church of Norway, than a single decision made in the church council.
– The possibility to be excused same-gender marriage is a sign that they want to protect the conservative wing of the church. The question is how long this is going to last, Syvertsen says.
He points out that there are several denominations that share his views on marriage.
– Those religious communities also need priests and clergy. The challenge for those who eventually wish to leave the Church of Norway is rather having to leave the church they grew up in.