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THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN DENMARK AND HOMOSEXUALITY

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The Danish Parliament changed laws in 1973 covering inheritance and tax laws to give same-sex couples equality with married couples. On 1989-OCT-1, gays and lesbians a new law became effective that allowed them to register their partnerships. As of late 1995, there were 1449 gay and 634 lesbian partnerships registered. Their subsequent divorce rate is slightly lower than for married couples.

The Bishops of the Church of Denmark established a commission of bishops to study the biblical and theological context of homosexual partnerships, and to recommend whether the church should formally bless these partnerships with a ritual or other means.

In 1997-JAN, about 100 conservative pastors and leaders from the right wing of the Danish Church met to create an alternative commission to fight recognition within the church of gay and lesbian partnerships. Pastor Flemming Baatz Kristensen, a member of the new commission, said: "In case the church accepts registered partnership it is sending out a signal meaning that it legitimates two kinds of married life, and then the church has deserted its foundation."

The original commission of bishops issued their report in 1997-MAY. They concluded:
bullet "As a consequence of changes in the family patterns, marriage is not any longer dominating as a frame around common life."
bullet "The registered partnership does not constitute any threat against marriage".
bullet "Marriage and registered partnership are dissimilar, one of the reasons being that marriage is a relation between woman and man while registered partnership is a relation between two persons of the same sex".
bullet "It is reasonable that the individual member of the church expects a service by the church, not merely in general but also in specific important situations during life."
bullet "There is not in principle anything hindering the introduction of new rituals; the Church of Denmark has, however, a well-founded tradition for showing great reticence."
bullet "A ritual for blessing of partnership will...cause strife and alarm many people."
bullet "The committee has found neither theological nor general moral objections to homosexual practice that are tenable."
bullet "A blessing might take the following shapes:
bullet blessing in connection with pastoral care.
bullet blessing in church according to a free ritual.
bullet blessing as intercessory prayer in connection with the common prayer.
bullet blessing in church in accordance with a fixed ritual."
bullet "...the committee does not find that there are in principle reasons speaking against the introduction of a ritual for blessing of registered partnership."
bullet "To many people it is something strange and offensive, and some will see it as irreconcilable with their conscience. It must, therefore, be decisive that no pastor can be ordered to perform a blessing of registered partnership."

The commission submitted three outlines of how a ritual for blessing of registered partnership could be prepared.

By an unanimous vote on 1997-OCT-27, the Bishops of the State Lutheran Church approved of the blessing of homosexual partnerships within their congregations. Gay and lesbian couples throughout Denmark can now have their marriages sealed as part of the regular church service. The bishops of Aarhus and of Roskilde promoted a new church ritual that would allow gays and lesbians to contract their partnership in church. But the proposal was voted down by the rest of the bishops. There has been considerable opposition to a gay/lesbian church ritual by parish councils and pastors; they feel that it would place homosexual partnership on a par with heterosexual marriage.

The Church of Denmark's Council on Inter-Church Relations commented:

"In the summary of the bishops' discussion it is stated that they 'stand by marriage as God's good plan for the common life between man and woman and as a frame around family life and the upbringing of children. We stand by the view on marriage that is expressed in the Biblical writings and our traditions as a church. This view on marriage is not affected because some people live in registered partnerships. The registered partnership does not get its motivation or identity from marriage but from the wish of the persons concerned and their own responsible decision to live their life joined to a person of the same sex"...a pastor... should in each case seek guidance from the bishop concerning under which form such a service or prayers may be conducted."

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References:

bullet Church of Denmark's Council on Inter-Church Relations: "No ritual for same-sex partnership" at: http://www.folkekirken.dk/interchurch/cn/nov97.htm#2
bullet The commission's report, translated into various languages is at: http://www.folkekirken.dk/udvalg/parnerskab/translat.htm

 

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