The Evangelical Lutheran Church of Denmark is the state church of the country and is blended into the parliament.
In Denmark there is a strong relationship between the national church and the state. Since the establishment of the Danish Constitution of 1849 the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Denmark (ELCD) has been regarded as “the church of the people” as well as an official national church. As “church of the people”, every parish council has to decide on activities in the local context and to select the pastor of the parish. As “official national church” the Danish monarch is the supreme authority when it comes to organisation, liturgy etc. whereas the national parliament (Folketinget) is the de facto deciding body with regard to church legislation.
The titular head of the church is the monarch, currently Queen Margrethe II. In addition, the primary source of income for the church is via taxes levied by Parliament. This means that the church does not have the autonomy that many sects do; for example, when changes were made to allow women to join the clergy, it was legislation that initiated the change.
Denmark has been moving towards equality for same-sex couples for some time, and
registered partnerships conveyed all of the same rights regardless of the gender of the couple. Today, the law granting full access to marriage for gays and lesbians came into force, and it requires the full participation of the state church. Individual pastors may refuse to perform the ceremony, but they must refer the couple to another who will.
The reaction is slightly different than we are accustomed to seeing.
Numerous churches in Denmark are celebrating the new equal marriage laws that were legislated last week, and come into full effect today.
Charlotte Cappi Grunnet, minister of St. Thomas Church in Frederiksberg, said it was wonderful to be able to finally celebrate.
She said: ‘The fact that priests have been prevented from carrying out same-sex marriages has been a violation of the Christian belief, of love and of human equality. Until now I have been forced to treat others as if their love was inferior and second class.’
The church has also developed a rite specifically for same-sex marriages.
While mixing church and state is, on principle, a bad idea. Sometimes it works.