Figures from the Church of Norway show that 4,200 people have withdrawn their membership thus far in 2016, Dagen reported. The numbers are on the rise, as more people left the church through the first half of April than in any of the year’s previous three months.
While an average of 900 people per month dropped their membership in January, February and March, 1,092 have already left the Church of Norway in April.
“I wouldn’t call it dramatic, but every signal withdrawal is unfortunate and sad,” church spokesman Ole Inge Bekkelund told Dagen.
The numbers indicate that 2016 could be a record year for withdrawals from the church. In 2014, roughly 9,000 people dropped their membership.
Now it looks like the Church of Norway’s membership numbers will plunge further on last week’s decision to approve church weddings for same-sex couples, although Bekkelund said that a direct link could not necessarily be made.
“I wouldn’t say it is a natural interpretation because we don’t have any underlying information that can give us a clear indication. It quickly becomes guesswork, so it’s difficult to comment on it,” he told Dagen.
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A recent opinion poll revealed that less than half of the 3.8 million baptised members of the Church of Norway consider themselves Christian. Similarly, a new survey from the annual social-cultural study Norwegian Monitor (Norsk Monitor) showed that for the first time ever there are more in Norway who say they don’t believe in God than those who say they do.
The church’s decline in membership is being mirrored in Denmark, where an atheist society campaign has spurred thousands of Danes to withdraw from the Church of Denmark.
Sigmund Akselsen performs a service at Oslo's Grefsen Church. Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB scanpix