Norway’s 21,000-member Evangelical Lutheran Free Church has appointed its first woman pastor.
Caroline Vesterberg from Sweden has been called to part-time service as children and youth pastor in the Free Church’s largest congregation in Oslo.
“We are not calling Caroline because she is a woman, but because she is a fantastic human being with gifts and talents for this service,” the congregation’s main pastor, Rev. Reidulf Hanssen, told the Vart Land newspaper. He noted, “The council of elders was unanimous in our nomination.”
Originally a Pentecostalist from Alvsbyn in northern Sweden, Ms. Vesterberg, 28, came to Oslo as a student in 1996. She will combine her new work with further studies, aiming for a master’s degree in theology.
The Evangelical Lutheran Free Church split from the majority (Lutheran) Church of Norway in 1877, due to disagreement about the country’s state church system.
The (Lutheran) Church of Norway has had female priests since the 1960s. The Free Church general synod decided only in July to accept women as elders and pastors. The decision came after a protracted debate, and there are pastors, elders and members in the 80 congregations who are still against it.