Friday, 26 August 2011

Norwegian “archbishop” defies Parliament

The history of medieval Norway is full of archbishops opposing the political masters of the country, but this was probably not what one expected when it was decided last year to create a twelfth bishop as Primate of the Norwegian Church.
The post of primate had until the 1990s belonged to the Bishop of Oslo and thereafter to any of the eleven bishops elected, but because of complaints that it was difficult to reconcile the duties of primate with those of one’s diocese it was decided that a twelfth bishop without a diocese should be appointed primate. The title Archbishop has not been used in Norway since the reformation and one rather chose the designation “leading bishop”
After a lengthy debate it was decided by Parliament that the primate should be located in Trondheim rather than in Oslo and have her office in the Archbishop’s Palace in Trondheim (pictured above). This was in my opinion only logical, as the only major cathedral in Norway is to be found in Trondheim and the city could well be considered the ecclesiastical centre of the country.
Thus several MPs from the Trondheim area have reacted strongly against an interview with the leading bishop, Helga Haugland Byfuglien, in Adresseavisen yesterday, where she states that she will not move to Trondheim, will carry out most of her work in Oslo and will only go to Trondheim when necessary.
This is a rather blatant disregard for the decisions of Parliament and obviously no individual public servant is in a position to choose to ignore what has been decided by Parliament. If the leading bishop is not prepared to accept the conditions set for her job by Parliament she should not have accepted the post and unless she changes her mind it might soon be time for the government to consider her future in the post.


  1. Strange, coming from Australia which has separation of religion and government, to hear of such control of one over the other in Norway. Has the church no autonomy in Norway? Never heard of the idea of archbishop as public servant.

  2. Please respect the rule that comments should be signed - preferably by a name, but an initial or a nick will also be accepted.

    Norway does not have separation between church and state. We have a state church, which means that bishops are appointed by the King in Council, i.e. the government, and are as such servants of the state.

    The majority of the church opposed the location of the "archbishopric" to Trondheim, but this was the decision made by Parliament, a decision the church is obliged to respect.


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