New ban on doubting Danish priest

A Danish Lutheran priest who caused controversy last year by saying he did not believe in God has been suspended for a second time and may be dismissed.

Bishop Lise-Lotte Rebel said Thorkild Grosboel had sown “deep confusion” in the Church with his comments, first made in a press interview in May 2003.

Mr Grosboel retracted his comments and was reinstated, but has been observed to repeat his controversial remarks.

He is quoted as saying he did not understand the bishop’s decision.

Bishop Rebel said that after suspending the pastor she had passed his case on to the government, requesting it to “take the necessary steps”.


In Denmark, Lutheran priests are employed by the state and bishops do not have the power to dismiss them.

The bishop had been keeping a close eye on Mr Grosboel since his first suspension, triggered by a newspaper interview in which he said there was no God, no resurrection and no eternal life.

He later said his remarks had been misconstrued and oversimplified.

Ultimatum


But he continued to speak “in a strongly provocative, hurting and confusing way”, the bishop said.

He was quoted as saying in a recent sermon: “God had abdicated in favour of his son, hence in our favour.

“Therefore there is no longer a heavenly guarantee or an interfering might, there is only the godly kingdom that is achieved by us and between us. So if it fails, there is nothing.”

Bishop Rebel gave him an ultimatum to either resign or face suspension and the possibility of dismissal, which expired on Wednesday night.

Mr Grosboel said he did not understand the bishop’s position and would never resign, though he did not deny making the sermon.


Correspondents say hundreds of the priest’s parishioners in Taarbaek, near Copenhagen, have come to his defence, arguing that differences of opinion must be tolerated in the Church.

Some 85% of Danes belong to the Lutheran Church, but only around 5% regularly attend services.

[Keyword: Thorkild Grosboell (alternative spelling)]

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