From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Norwegian Lutheran Theologian, Ecumenist, Becomes Roman Catholic

From "Frank Imhoff" <>
Date Thu, 30 Jan 2003 09:21:15 -0600

Keeps Teaching Post at Mission and Theology School

STAVANGER, Norway/GENEVA, 29 January 2003 (LWI) - After making the
headlines in Norwegian church and secular newspapers for weeks,
Norwegian theologian and ecumenist, Professor Dr Ola Tjorhom of
the Norwegian School of Mission and Theology, Stavanger, has
become a member of the Roman Catholic Church with effect from
January 25.

As a prominent Church of Norway representative, Tjorhom was
instrumental in ecumenical developments at both regional and
international levels. He participated in the process that led to
the Porvoo Common Statement, and was research professor at the
Institute for Ecumenical Research in Strasbourg, France. He was
also a Lutheran member of the Anglican-Lutheran International
Working Group.

Tjorhom's decision to become Roman Catholic has drawn considerable
attention not only in Norwegian media, but also in ecumenical
circles. But he has emphasized on several occasions that he
remains a committed ecumenist and stands by what he has
contributed ecumenically as a Lutheran.

The conversion has raised questions about Tjorhom's status as
professor at the School of Mission and Theology, a confessional
Lutheran institution. According to a recently issued statement by
the Board of the School of Mission and Theology, Tjorhom's
conversion is in breach of the school's principles and bylaws. The
board decided, though, to dispense him from the relevant
principles and by-laws, so enabling him to continue as professor
at the school, but to no longer teach dogmatic theology. While
Tjorhom's new teaching profile is still undetermined, research and
teaching in the field of ecumenism will remain an important part
of his responsibilities.

The board, furthermore, proposed that steps be taken to appraise
the school's profile as a Lutheran educational institution of
ecumenical openness.

Speaking to Lutheran World Information (LWI), Lutheran World
Federation Assistant General Secretary for Ecumenical Affairs,
Rev. Sven Oppegaard said, "An ecumenical understanding of the one
universal church belongs to our wide framework for Christian
self-understanding." Conversions, therefore, appear to be becoming
rarer among ecumenically dedicated persons. "But in certain cases
there are individual needs that must be respected," he continued.
"If we as Lutherans take seriously our recognition of the
ecclesial character of the churches with which we are in
communion---or in dialogue, with a view to possible unity---a
conversion such as this cannot be viewed as switching over to an
opponent." Oppegaard pointed out that in cases of conversion, the
Roman Catholic Church no longer requires negation of the church
that was left. He expressed hope that contact and cooperation with
Tjorhom would continue into the future.

(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the
Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund (Sweden), the LWF now
has 136 member churches in 76 countries representing over 61.7
million of the 65.4 million Lutherans worldwide. The LWF acts on
behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as
ecumenical relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human
rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and
development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva,

[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is LWF's information
service.Unless specifically noted, material presented does not
represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various
units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation
(LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]

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English Editor: Pauline Mumia
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