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Pastor Is Suspended for Denying God Exists

June 07, 2003|From Times Wire Reports

COPENHAGEN — The Lutheran church here has suspended a minister for saying that God doesn't exist and there is no eternal life.

Thorkild Grosboel, pastor of Taarbaek, a town of 51,000 just north of Copenhagen, said in a recent interview that "there is no heavenly God, there is no eternal life, there is no resurrection."

The statements have mystified church leaders in the Scandinavian country of 5.3 million, where about 85% of the population belongs to the state Evangelical Lutheran Church, yet just 5% attend church services regularly. The comments raised questions over whether a pastor must profess a belief in God to serve the church.

Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel of the Helsingoer diocese, about 20 miles north of Copenhagen, said Grosboel's comments "caused confusion" within the church.

"There should be no doubt that priests have committed themselves to act within the church's confession of faith," she said.

After meeting with Grosboel on Tuesday, the bishop demanded that he retract his comments and apologize. She also suspended him from his duties as town pastor.

Rebel said it's up to the Danish government's Ministry for Ecclesiastic Affairs to decide if Grosboel should be defrocked. In Denmark, Lutheran pastors are employed by the state and bishops cannot fire them.

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