Thursday, October 5, 2023

Recommended Readings: Methodist Marriage Debates in Norway

There's been a significant debate in Norway in the past month about Methodist marriage, but it has nothing to do with whether the UMC in that country should consecrate same-sex marriages. Instead, the discussion has been among Methodists, the government, and law experts over whether minor changes to the Methodist marriage liturgy since 1991 invalidated the approximately 800 marriages performed by Methodist clergy since then.

Here's the background: In Norway, church bodies are required to submit their wedding liturgies to the government in order to get government approval in order for church-performed marriages to be recognized by the government. The Methodist Church in Norway did that in 1970, and the government approved the liturgy and agreed to recognize marriages performed by the church. Then in 1991, 2009, 2017 and 2019, the church made minor changes to the liturgy to modernize it. The church, however, considered these changes sufficiently minor that they did not require re-approval from the government.

Then, at the beginning of September, one of the major newspapers in Norway, Dagen, published an article which included an interview with a law professor who asserted that these changes to the marriage liturgy of the Methodist Church in Norway could make the weddings performed invalid in the eyes of the state. This set off a debate across multiple publications about the professor's claims.

Methodist theologians and church leaders worked with the relevant government body (Bufdir) to explain the changes and reassure them that these changes did not constitute significant revisions that would require re-approval from the government. The government now seems satisfied with this response, and the marriages should not be invalidated.

This story is worth sharing for two reasons:

1. It's always good to know about and sympathize with in prayer the challenges that fellow Methodists around the world are experiencing.

2. It's a fairly dramatic example of just how differently people think about church, marriage, and law in different national contexts around the world. To many US Americans, the idea of the government approving church liturgies is likely incomprehensible. But it's an accepted reality for Norwegians.

To read more, see the following links (use a web translator to translate from Norwegian):

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