1-click exodus: Online ‘check out’ option sees Norway Church lose 15k parishioners in just 4 days

The Lutheran Church of Norway in Strommen near Oslo © Daniel Sannum Lauten
The Norwegian evangelical Lutheran Church has seen an unprecedented number of people leaving its parish after it introduced an online option to cancel their membership. Some 15,000 parishioners have clicked ‘out’ within the first four days.

The official Norwegian ‘Den norske kirke’ (The Norwegian Church), which has been repeatedly urged by the state authorities to bring its records into order, set up a web on Monday, August 15, to keep track of its congregation.

The page offers people to indicate and change their religious status, providing them with an option to sign up – and check out.

As stated on the Church’s official website, it received 15,035 resignations from Monday through Thursday, while a mere 549 people decided to enroll. 

However grand the exodus may seem, Church officials say they were prepared for it.

We were prepared for a significant number of resignations and have great respect for the individual's choice,” Helga Haugland Byfuglien, the leading bishop of the Norwegian churches episcopal forum, said in a statement on Friday.

Commenting on the introduction of the online ’in/out‘ option, Church council leader Kristin Gunleiksrud said the Norwegian Lutheran Church “will continue to be the people's Church, open and welcoming, but no one should be a member against his will.

Meanwhile, Church Council Director Jens-Petter Johnsen explained the need for digital congregation registry, saying it will be easier to keep in touch with Church members.

Although it has never been difficult to opt out of the church, many have failed to submit withdrawal forms or correct errors to the registry.

The objective of better digital adaptation is that people see that the church is there for them,” Johnsen said.

The Norwegian Church claims to have some 3.8 million members, roughly 73 per cent of the country's population. It is currently in the process of distancing itself from the state authorities, but so far remains largely state-funded, supervised by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Sports.