Registration in Iceland’s national church continues to shrink, having dropped from 90% in 1998 to about 66% today, Kjarninn reports. Today, about 120,000 Icelanders are not registered in the national church.
In fact, more people have been leaving the church than joining for several years now. While Bishop Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir has blamed this on an increase of immigrants to Iceland as well as Icelanders leaving the country, the basis for these claims is not backed up by available information.
People who leave the country are not automatically de-registered; they have to fill out the necessary form to do so. In addition, even if people were de-registered upon leaving Iceland, 2014 data from Statistics Iceland shows that only 400 more Icelanders left the country that year than moved to it – at the same time, about 2,000 people de-registered from the national church in that year alone. Further, by the same Statistics Iceland data cited earlier, 2014 only saw an influx of 860 more foreigners entering the country than leaving it. By contrast, some 12,000 people have de-registered from the church from 2010 to 2014.
The exodus from the national church began to pick up a great deal of steam in 2010, in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal and cover-up within the church involving former bishop Ólafur Skúlason. Several women, including his own daughter, came forward saying that not only were they sexually abused by him; the bishop who followed him, Karl Sigurbjörnsson, also actively hid the matter from public view.
All this being the case, the national church is still enshrined in the Icelandic constitution as having the right to government support. The most recent funding allocations to the church total over 2.8 billion ISK, in addition to the parishioner fees that are automatically deducted from registered members. The Bishop herself earns over 1 million ISK per month, while parish priests usually earn about half a million, in addition to what they might charge for services such as weddings, baptisms and confirmations.