The Weight Of Contrition: Icelandic Bishop Apologises To Gay Community -

The Weight Of Contrition: Icelandic Bishop Apologises To Gay Community

Published October 30, 2019

Sam O'Donnell
Main photo by
RÚV

The Bishop of Iceland, Agnes M. Sigurðardóttir, apologised to the LGBTQ community on behalf of the national church. She said they have caused pain, trouble and hardship over the years, and therefore she would like to apologise. This was reported on the news program, Kastljós, where she was questioned about the position of former bishops in regards to homosexuality.

The way of progress

In 2006, a bill was submitted to Parliament on various legal benefits for homosexuals, which, among other things, allowed them to get married and adopt children. The National Church and the bishop at the time, Karl Sigurbjörnsson, objected to the amendment proposal put forward by Guðrún Ögmundsdóttir, which granted the priests of the National Church permission to marry same-sex couples.

“This is naturally the main reason why groups of people, thousands of people, have begun to withdraw from the national church at this time,”

Political scientist Baldur Þórhallsson said that the bishop and priests worked hard against the proposed change. “They were calling Parliament and meeting with them to prevent us from obtaining the same legal rights as heterosexual citizens,” he said. “Dealing with the clergy of the small denominations, that’s one thing. But having to deal with the bishop over Iceland and the renowned clerics who stood with him in this matter, it hurt a man, it was difficult. But that didn’t mean we were going to give up and take this blow.”

Issuing an apology

Einar Þorsteinsson, the host of Kastljós, raised this issue and asked Agnes if the LGBTQ community should be entitled to an apology from the church for the words of the former bishop. “I can totally apologise on behalf of the Church for having come out and hurting people this way. I’m happy to apologise for that,” replied Agnes.

Karl is one of many clergy members who have been outspoken critics of gay marriage. “Everywhere in every church this is disputed,” he said back in 2016. “The truth is that the church has, for a long time, been based on a certain definition in this matter. Now that definition is being changed. But I just want to say this: I think the sanctity of marriage depends on us, that we don’t throw it on the dump without thinking.”

The former bishop’s words were met with harsh criticism. The authority for religious associations to bring together gay couples was in the bill when it was approved in 2006. “This is naturally the main reason why groups of people, thousands of people, have begun to withdraw from the national church at this time,” Baldur said.

Trust in the church waning

It’s true, the number of Icelanders who trust the national church has decreased by half since the turn of the century. Only one third of the nation now trusts the Church, according to the Gallup national poll that was announced on October 28.

Agnes partially attributes the lack of trust in the Church’s to the anomie she believes occurred when the nation’s elementary schools stopped teaching Christianity. “It has become a morass, I think. People do not realise where the things that we would like to live and work for come from. It goes without saying that if the children do not study the Bible at home, for example, or at school, the future will be such that they do not know it exists,” she told RÚV.

It would seem that lack of trust in the church could be attributed more to controversial opinions that are held dearly by members of the church. Furthermore, sex crimes that top clergy members are getting away with, both locally and internationally, do not help the church’s image.

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