THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN
CHURCH IN DENMARK
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:
"As a consequence of changes in the family patterns, marriage is not any longer
dominating as a frame around common life."
"The registered partnership does not constitute any threat against marriage".
"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".
"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."
"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."
"A ritual for blessing of partnership will...cause strife and alarm many
"The committee has found neither theological nor general moral objections to
homosexual practice that are tenable."
"A blessing might take the following shapes:
blessing in connection with pastoral care.
blessing in church according to a free ritual.
blessing as intercessory prayer in connection with the common prayer.
blessing in church in accordance with a fixed ritual."
"...the committee does not find that there are in principle reasons speaking
against the introduction of a ritual for blessing of registered partnership."
"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."