Confessional Lutheran Groups
Form New Network in Norway
Representatives of Confessional Lutheran groups meeting in Hedmark. From left: Dr. Bengt Birgersson (Mission Province), Herman Næss (DELK), Erik A.H. Okkels (Valgmenigheter in the North), Thor Henrik With (FBB), Alf Danbolt (Messiah Church), Knut Alsvag (Carissimi), Richard Skolevoll (Valgmenigheter in the North), Ulf Asp (DELK), and Boe Johannes Hermansen (FBB).
Confessional Lutheran groups in Norway and Sweden have formed a "Network for Evangelical-Lutheran Cooperation," based on the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions. The organizational meeting was held February 24 in Hedmark, southeastern Norway.
Coordinator Ulf Asp said, "We want to promote unity among various Lutheran congregations and mission congregations on a common, classical, evangelical Lutheran foundation. Our desire is to counter the marginalization and isolation of such fellowships." Ulf Asp is a pastor and former bishop in The Evangelical-Lutheran Church (DELK).
Five Norwegian groups were represented, including DELK, For Bible and Confessions, Messiah Church, Carissimi and Valgmenigheter in Northern Norway (see descriptions). In addition, Province Secretary Bengt Birgersson of Gothenburg, Sweden, represented the Mission Province. Several more groups may join the network, but were not represented at the organizational meeting.
"Our experience is that congregations with a classical Lutheran foundation are rapidly becoming small and isolated, and are going in slightly different directions," Ulf Asp noted. "We want to stop this trend, and our forum is open to all who agree with our principles."
The network understands these principles to mean, among other things, that marriage is between one woman and one man and that only men can be pastors. The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church was not invited because it recently decided to allow female pastors and elders. Pastor Asp noted, however, that the network is in contact with some within the Free Church who share the network's stance. The state Church of Norway, though nominally Lutheran, ordains women and those living in same-sex partnerships, and offers a blessing service after same-sex civil "marriages."
The new network's purpose is primarily practical. The groups want to work together and use their resources effectively. Among other things, they may cooperate in developing a new lectionary, hymnals and parish education materials. The network would like to have annual conferences with spiritual fellowship and lectures.
The organizational meeting elected a steering committee consisting of Pastors Ulf Asp, Thor Henrik With, and Erik A. H. Okkels.
Sources: Articles in Dagen Magazine (Norway) on 26 and 27 February 2009, Article in Vårt Land, 27 February 2009, email correspondence with the principals, and various websites.
Translation and summary: Christopher C. Barnekov, PhD, Scandinavia House.